A Realistic Look At Gunshots

No big philosophy here today, just — a video that shows what can REALLY happen when someone gets shot.

Now, the lead-up here is: people have been conditioned by decades of Hollywood movies that when a person gets shot, it’s a tremendously devastating event… the person who’s shot is usually depicted as immediately collapsing to the ground (or sometimes shown as being lifted off their feet and blasted through the air).  The perception that’s given is that handguns are overwhelmingly powerful, and that people who get shot are instantly devastated.

Getting shot is nothing to take lightly.  Handgun bullets can indeed be fatal, depending on where they hit and what vital organs they impact.  Sometimes a single bullet from a handgun can destroy vital organs and have a horrific effect on the victim’s body.

But sometimes, they just don’t.

And I think it’s important that you see a couple of examples of live video of people actually being shot.


Because it’s important to see what can really happen in case you are ever forced into the position of having to fire upon a human attacker to save your own life.  You should understand the real-world impact that a bullet may have on a person, so that you’re best informed on how to use a gun to save your own life.

That said, here’s the first example, from a CNN news report.  The actual gunshot takes place at about 30 seconds into the video.  A robber takes aim and fires a gun into the leg of the store clerk.  This is real security-camera video of a real person, shot by a real bullet from a real gun.  What happens to the gunshot victim?

Not a whole lot.  I mean, seriously — watch the video.  The man who is hit doesn’t even react.  In fact, after being shot, he then puts up a fight and wrestles the gun away from the robber, and even chases after him — running on a leg that’s got a bullet hole through it!

Did it hurt? I’m sure it did, I’m sure it hurt a lot.  Was it life-threatening?  If left untreated, it may very well be.  But the salient point here is: it didn’t stop the clerk.  It didn’t incapacitate him.  It didn’t make him collapse to the floor, it didn’t knock him unconscious, and it certainly didn’t paralyze or kill him.  Watch the video — he acts like it never even happened.

Ladies and gentlemen, that’s what you may be up against.  If you’re ever forced to defend yourself against an attacker with deadly intent to harm you, you cannot expect that just firing a gun at them will somehow miraculously render them incapacitated.  It just doesn’t work that way.  It MIGHT work that way, depending on what you hit (if you hit them in the spinal column or brain stem, for example, they’re going to immediately stop).  But it may not work that way — they may not even be slowed down.  You might have to fire again and again and again in order to get them to stop.

Let me show you another example, from a presentation by anesthesiologist Andreas Grabinsky M.D.  The whole presentation is well worth watching, but do be prepared that there are some very, very graphic images that could be quite disturbing (especially around 8:20 to 10:05).

The part I want to point out in this video starts at about 14:00 to 15:10.  In it, Dr. Grabinsky shows another shooting victim, this person shot twice in the torso.  Does he get knocked to the ground, blown away, immediately incapacitated?  No… in fact, he runs away.  Then comes back in the scene, then gets up and walks away.

I gave several other examples in my recent post Shoot Until The Threat Stops.  But I think actually seeing the impact (and non-effect) of some example bullet hits, really drives the point home.

Watch these incidents.  See why the notion of “shooting to wound someone” is such a dangerous fallacy; these people who were shot remain very much able to attack and hurt you.  See why you should never think that you’ll get a “one shot stop”, or that a bullet is some sort of magical death ray of immediate incapacitation.  Now, don’t underestimate a bullet either — any bullet can absolutely be fatal, and all handguns and bullets need to be properly respected and you simply MUST constantly adhere to the Four Rules Of Gun Safety.

Handgun bullets ARE capable of killing.  You have to respect that.  But they’re also capable of being pathetically ineffective in stopping a determined attacker, and you have to know that too.  If you’re going to be a responsible gun owner, you should have a proper idea of what the possible results of inflicting a gunshot could be, if you’re ever involved in a defensive encounter.  It’s possible that a single bullet might immediately stop an attack, but it’s also possible that your attacker may not even know that he (or she) has been hit (or they may know it, and they may just not care; it may not affect their ability to continue attacking you).

These videos show why shot placement is so important — if the bullet impacts nothing but muscle or fat (such as in the clerk’s leg) then it may have very little real-world stopping power.  However, a bullet to the heart or brain will likely have much more detrimental effect against an attacker and either would be much more likely to FORCE the attacker’s body to stop.  WHAT you hit (in the attacker’s body) is the most important factor in stopping an attack quickly.  Careful aim is important, but so also is proper-performing ammunition (a good-performing hollowpoint can do much more damage than a round-nose FMJ, for example) and so is a proper determined mindset that causes you to fire and continue firing until the threat against you is neutralized.  If the situation is so dire that you’re called upon to use deadly force to defend yourself or other innocent life, then you should understand just what it may take to neutralize that threat and be prepared to take action until the threat is no longer a threat.  It MAY happen with a single shot, but it is my opinion that you would be foolish to think that it will; I think you would be much better served to be prepared to shoot until the threat stops.

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11 thoughts on “A Realistic Look At Gunshots

  1. Marshall Savage

    I don’t know where else to post this. First, I’d like to say that I find your ammo quest series’ very impressive & informative. I’ve learned a lot from them.

    And if you haven’t seen this yet you may be interested in the following link: http://www.gun-tests.com/news/ammo/BrassFetcher-dot-com-FMJ-JHP-bullets-designs-handguns_4869-1.html#.U_YvYWOPTB8
    You may need to log in as a subscriber to view this. And I think your tests are a lot more useful. I can’t say I understood all that I saw on this GunTests web page.

    Also, I found a very minor error on your 9mm Federal HST 147 grain test video. The sample expanded 124 grain HST bullet, through denim, that you compared the 147 grain with, looked like it didn’t expand quite correctly. This was an illusion due to the packed in denim in the front of the expanded bullet. A better choice would have been one of the other 124 grain HST denim expanded bullets.

    1. Shooting The Bull Post author

      Interesting video from Brassfetcher. I’m not sure why he persisted in calling the temporary cavity the “total wound volume” when he (rightly) repeatedly said at the beginning that temporary cavitation from a handgun usually doesn’t result in any wounding at all, but it was still interesting to see the slow-mo comparison, and of course I do agree with his final conclusions at the end.

      1. Marshall Savage

        I think your handgun ammo tests are setting a new higher public standard in the industry. I have found them very educational. Interesting but to the point without wandering around. Containing relevant additional information but not excess verbiage or graphics. Unfortunately I am too poor to contribute.

  2. Pingback: The Best Ammo Test Ever | Shooting The Bull

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  4. Josh in Champaign

    It seems to me that stopping power comes down to three things, in order of effectiveness: CNS failure, psychological defeat and hypotension. I’m to the point that I don’t think wound channels mean that much anymore where stopping a threat reliably is concerned. Being that creating sufficient hypotension quickly enough, on a predictable scale isn’t something to hang your hat on. We saw in the one diagram the doctor presented that the climax of damage can occur after the bullet has passed through the body, to say 15″ is the golden depth is relying on coming up against an assailant of a model size…which is to say rediculous to expect or anticipate. Whereas in another case a .40 sw was stopped an inch of depth because it hit the sternum. I also don’t think the mm’s of difference in permanent wound channels between calibers make that much difference. If you’re not using a soft point .308, you basically need to put as many hits on taget as possible and pray they stop.

  5. Josh in Champaign

    Oh yeah, there was also another video that I watched as a recommendation from YouTube. It featured an internal camera view of surgery being performed on a gunshot wound to the small bowels. It was very interesting to see but also very telling, the lack of blood loss that you saw and small size of the wounds that were created. Unfortunately they didn’t tell us what caliber bullet was that had struck the patient. In any case it was impressed upon me the limited wounding power of a handgun caliber, in any case.

  6. Josh in Champaign

    Sorry I should have added this in the first comment but I’m just now thinking of it. I remember listening to the Zimmerman trial and hearing the defenses medical examiner explaining that a subject can withstand a direct hit to the heart and still manage to function for up to 15 seconds. If a human body is capable of functioning that long with a direct hit to the most important organ for circulation, think about how much longer a person can function when hitting less crucial areas of the circulatory system.

    1. Shooting The Bull Post author

      I think all your comments are pretty much spot-on. It’s possible that people are overly optimistic about what a handgun can do, after seeing them portrayed in movies and hearing about so many shootings. It’s true that handgun shots can be fatal, but fatality is not the same as “stopping an attack immediately.” Your point about the doctor’s statement in the Zimmerman case is spot-on — yes, medical experts have said that even with the heart completely destroyed, the body retains enough residual oxygen to be able to function voluntarily for up to 10 to 15 seconds. That’s a long, long time if we’re talking about the amount of time a bad guy could be pulling a trigger at you, or plunging a knife at you.

      Barring a CNS hit, there just really isn’t anything to speak of as far as a handgun’s “stopping power”. Which is why, as you said, you need to shoot until the threat stops. Multiple hits are better than one hit, obviously, and a high percentage of folks will stop voluntarily once they’ve been shot (whether the bullet had the “power” to force them to stop, or not). Putting as many shots on target as possible, as fast as possible, is really the only strategy we can employ.


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