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View Full Version : What would happen if you threw bullets into a fire?


cjepson
01-05-2011, 04:13 PM
Thread title basically says it all. Long ago I was in a cabin heated by a wood stove, and there was a box of .22 rounds nearby, and I felt one of those paradoxical urges to throw it in. (I didn't, of course.) But I've wondered since -- how much harm would those bullets actually be capable of doing, with no gun barrel to build up pressure? I presume the shell itself would allow enough pressure to build up so that the slugs would in fact go flying, but would it be anything like the velocity of a slug actually shot from a gun?

dmatsch
01-05-2011, 04:16 PM
try it and find out. I'm pre-filing the Darwin Award paperwork for you.

running coach
01-05-2011, 04:22 PM
Nothing, it's the shell casings that would fly. Might put an eye out.

Mythbusters did this one.

Finagle
01-05-2011, 04:26 PM
As you may have guessed, Mythbusters have tried it. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nfoJAwlUopI) Would it be lethal? Probably not. Painful? Oh, yeah.

CalMeacham
01-05-2011, 04:30 PM
Michael Caine's character "Peachy" Carnahan did this in The Man Who Would be King. The shell went off, creating a distraction, which is what it was meant to do.


Not a good idea to use movies as a guide, but this seems a likely result. I'd expect the heat to set off the powder, but without the gun barrel to guide it, you'd get shell and casing going off in random directions.

Machine Elf
01-05-2011, 04:36 PM
Nothing, it's the shell casings that would fly. Might put an eye out.

Ayup, wear some safety glasses and stand a good distance away if you want to try this one. The propellant in each cartridge will ignite, and the pressure will drive the brass and the bullet apart. Not with a ton of velocity, since the seal is lost as soon as the two items completely separate (or as soon as the brass splits due to overpressure); it's like having a gun with a barrel a 1/4-inch long.

The two items will part ways with equal and opposite momentum, where momentum equals mass times velocity. The brass, having a much lower mass than the bullet, will end up with a much higher velocity, and the bullet won't go very far.

If the propellant is still burning when the two items separate, then the brass may gain additional velocity due to the escaping jet of propellant; in effect, it could become a tiny rocket, albeit with a very short burn time.

Anyway, yeah, the brass would get launched. If a blunt surface of it hits you, you might get a good welt. If the open (or split) end hits you, you might get a cut. I wouldn't expect anything fatal, but it's conceivable you could end up needing a couple of stitches.

Oh yeah, you'd also blast hot coals from the fire all over the place. Anyone who has tossed a brick of firecrackers into a campfire understands this.

XT
01-05-2011, 04:37 PM
I remember the Mythbusters episode on this. To me it looked like the .50 Cal casings would have hurt pretty bad, and if it hit you in the wrong place, well...

Of course, no one sane is going to throw .50 Cal cartridges into a fire since they are so expensive. ;) I'm guessing .22 would probably just sting unless you were really unlucky and got on in the eye or something like that.

That said, kids...don't try this at home...

-XT

Shagnasty
01-05-2011, 04:41 PM
You wouldn't have to wonder this if you grew up in a redneck prone area. People throw cartridges and shotgun shells in bonfires as a (terrible) prank fairly often. True, it probably won't kill anybody but it could hurt somebody maybe even permanently and it is startling to those around the fire. In short, it is a good joke to result in an ass kicking. Not recommended.

cjepson
01-05-2011, 04:47 PM
Nothing, it's the shell casings that would fly.

Oh right :smack:

thelurkinghorror
01-05-2011, 04:48 PM
Nitpick: nothing, because bullets are only made out of some combination of lead, copper, steel, and other metals. There is nothing ignitable in them. If you throw whole rounds in (bullet+casing+powder+primer), then it would proceed as above.

Philster
01-05-2011, 04:55 PM
I see what you did there.

friedo
01-05-2011, 04:57 PM
Michael Caine's character "Peachy" Carnahan did this in The Man Who Would be King. The shell went off, creating a distraction, which is what it was meant to do.


There's a great scene in Red where Bruce Willis drops a handful of shells in a frying pan to create a diversion.

Projammer
01-05-2011, 05:04 PM
Years ago the hospital I was working at had an "interesting cases" bulletin board outside the doctor's lounge, in a hallway not accessible to the public.

One posting was an x-ray of a man's forearm with a .22 shell casing embedded in it. The official story is that he was burning leaves and there was a .22 bullet on the ground under the pile. I couldn't tell from the x-ray the angle of entry or how deep, but Ow!!

Bosda Di'Chi of Tricor
01-05-2011, 05:36 PM
Well, Bill Cosby says it proves that your Mother is pretty low-down.

Fubaya
01-05-2011, 05:58 PM
It may not be fatal but I wouldn't want to be anywhere nearby. When I was about 19, three of us at work were standing in a semicircle talking. One of them had found a .22 shell and said "I wonder what happens if I do this!" and threw it hard to the concrete floor at our feet before anyone could protest. BANG! It went off and something, whether casing or bullet I don't know, took a half inch deep chunk out of a concrete wall a good 50 feet away, made a "twang" ricochet sound and flew off never to be found.

Luckily, we were evening shift and our boss was a big fat guy that liked to sleep at work. He came running "What the **** was that!?!?"

I'll never forget the guy who threw the shell saying, "Oh, it was one of those Snap-n-Pop firework things."

And my disbelief at the response,
"Alright, don't throw them in the building."

Kevbo
01-05-2011, 06:50 PM
when gun shops catch fire, the bullets are typically found within a few inches of the casings.

Gary Robson
01-05-2011, 07:07 PM
The OP specifically mentioned throwing the rounds in a wood stove. I would guess that a wood stove with a solid door would completely contain the explosions of .22 cartridges, although I can cite no research to back that up.

As a side note, back when I was young and stupid some friends and I set up shotgun shells on a log with the primers facing us, got back about 40 feet, and shot at them with our .22s. When we managed to hit a 12-gauge primer the noise was impressive but the effect of the explosion was underwhelming.

Crafter_Man
01-05-2011, 07:46 PM
Ha. Been there, done that.

After a day of shooting on my range, some buddies and I were sitting around the campfire, drinking beer and whatnot. One of them took a 7.62X39 round and threw it in the fire. We all ran. About 10 seconds later we heard a BANG! And then walked back to the fire to drink more beer.

Par for the course in rural Ohio. LOL.

Crafter_Man
01-05-2011, 07:48 PM
I remember the Mythbusters episode on this. To me it looked like the .50 Cal casings would have hurt pretty bad, and if it hit you in the wrong place, well...

Of course, no one sane is going to throw .50 Cal cartridges into a fire since they are so expensive.
Hmm, will have to try that sometime. What more fun could you have for three bucks?

griffin1977
01-05-2011, 08:23 PM
The OP specifically mentioned throwing the rounds in a wood stove. I would guess that a wood stove with a solid door would completely contain the explosions of .22 cartridges, although I can cite no research to back that up.

.

Mythbusters did that one too (actually it was a regular oven with a glass door) and, yes, the exploding bullets could not penetrate that. The only way they could replicate the results of the myth (someone being killed by putting ammunition in the oven) was by putting the entire gun, loaded, cocked and with safety off, in the oven.

mbh
01-06-2011, 08:20 AM
Well, Bill Cosby says it proves that your Mother is pretty low-down.

"I didn't put the bullet in the furnace and stop talking about my mother!"

:)

One of Mr. Cosby's better monologues. Do you remember which album it's on?
I wonder if my turntable still works.

Crotalus
01-06-2011, 09:22 AM
"I didn't put the bullet in the furnace and stop talking about my mother!"

:)

One of Mr. Cosby's better monologues. Do you remember which album it's on?
I wonder if my turntable still works.
I think it's the track called "Shop" on Why Is There Air?

ghostman
01-06-2011, 09:31 AM
We had a fire in a popup trailer a while back. While extinguishing, we all heard popcorn and thought that the guys must have had a huge tin of popcorn that was popping from the heat. When the fire was out and we were sifting through the carnage, we found 3 ammo boxes that had a bunch of outward facing dents.

Fun times.

BwanaBob
01-06-2011, 10:11 AM
I'm glad someone asked this. When I was in elemantary school, akid had set ifre to a small pile of leaves and tossed a small bullet into the flames. Another kid stomped on the fire and yelled at the firestarter for "almost killing someone". I've spent almost 50 years thinking I could have been killed (as I was one of the bystanders). Guess I was pretty safe all along.
Scratch that anecdote from my memoirs. :)

kopek
01-06-2011, 10:35 AM
I'm glad someone asked this. When I was in elemantary school, akid had set ifre to a small pile of leaves and tossed a small bullet into the flames. Another kid stomped on the fire and yelled at the firestarter for "almost killing someone". I've spent almost 50 years thinking I could have been killed (as I was one of the bystanders). Guess I was pretty safe all along.
Scratch that anecdote from my memoirs. :)

Back when shells were sometimes loaded with black powder there was a little (trace) more danger but then as now the big danger is from the coals of the fire getting tossed everywhere and starting one Hades of a fire - especially in a forest/camping situation. Fought a fire started that way ages ago.

CookingWithGas
01-06-2011, 11:18 AM
Explosions and fire in munitions plant (http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/40931079/ns/us_news-life/). No reports of what caused the explosions, or whether the fires sent shells flying in all directions.

Man With a Cat
01-06-2011, 12:16 PM
There's a great scene in Red where Bruce Willis drops a handful of shells in a frying pan to create a diversion.

Really? Because maybe the movie got it from a P.J. Tracy book called Dead Run, because they did the same thing there.


ETA: Depending on who was first, the book came out in 2005.

jharvey963
01-06-2011, 01:04 PM
When I first got interested in handgun shooting, I remember reading an NRA handgun manual. This manual claimed that, if you put a cardboard box around the fire (assuming it's large enough and far enough away from the fire itself to not catch fire) that cartridges in the fire that exploded wouldn't even be able to punch through the cardboard box.

J.

Toxylon
01-06-2011, 01:08 PM
Just the primer powder will send an empty shell flying with quite some force. Once as a kid I heated a bunch of used .308 casings on a stoveplate to melt a little solder on the bottom to make extra-heavy blunt arrowheads. I'd never had a problem doing this, but once there was a couple of casings with intact primers in the batch. As soon as the casing heated up sufficiently, the primed ones flew straight up with a loud bang and stuck deep in the ceiling paneling some six feet above the stove. The solder-weighted casings had a mass of over 200 grains a piece. The force they hit the paneling told me they would've easily made a hot, circular puncture wound into flesh at close range. Never again did I heat up casings without first checking the primer was actually blown.

thelurkinghorror
01-06-2011, 03:48 PM
Never again did I heat up casings without first checking the primer was actually blown.

With a vise, hammer, and chisel? ;)

Ah, youth.

control-z
01-07-2011, 01:52 PM
I'm glad someone asked this. When I was in elemantary school, akid had set ifre to a small pile of leaves and tossed a small bullet into the flames. Another kid stomped on the fire and yelled at the firestarter for "almost killing someone". I've spent almost 50 years thinking I could have been killed (as I was one of the bystanders). Guess I was pretty safe all along.
Scratch that anecdote from my memoirs. :)

Well you never know. How about the scenario where the round is resting pointing upwards and the primer (bottom of the round) is resting on a rock? That could potentially propel the bullet upwards with considerable force.

skdo23
01-16-2011, 04:07 PM
About 25 years ago, when I was a kid growing up in Vermont, a local sporting goods store burned to the ground. It was during the fall, just before deer season, and there were tens of thousands of rounds of ammo in the basement. I was not there myself to watch it happen, but according to local newspaper coverage, as well as people I know who witnessed it, there was a constant "pop pop" both during the fire and for about half a day afterward. All of the emergency personal, press, gawkers, etc. that should up for the event would have been more than close enough to the fire that there would have been a bloodbath if someone had started firing off randomly from the location of the store, yet there were no injuries. However, I'm not sure if the responding firefighters took any special precautions with regards to entering the building b/c of the ammo - but it was probably a moot issue as it was an old wooden building and it was completely engulfed when the fire department arrived, even though the fire station was practically across the street..

wewesley
09-02-2014, 07:01 PM
sereously if you have something with a good cap that can build pressure and have a giant fire if someone pisses you off a can of soup for instance would work well a beer bottle or six pack of odules worked well for me. someone pisses you off just throw something that is sealed well into the coals and heat will make the air expand and ka-boom. coal glass or mainly burning embers everywhere.

Chefguy
09-02-2014, 07:12 PM
"I didn't put the bullet in the furnace and stop talking about my mother!"

:)

One of Mr. Cosby's better monologues. Do you remember which album it's on?
I wonder if my turntable still works.

I'd go look, but just sold my 50-year-old Cosby LPs at a garage sale.

Colibri
09-02-2014, 07:23 PM
Given that this is an old thread, and it has been raised rather pointlessly, I'm closing it.

Colibri
General Questions Moderator