#1  
Old 05-11-2005, 09:58 AM
safeinthisskylife safeinthisskylife is offline
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shooting in the sky

If i had a normal hand-gun and shot it into the sky...how high would the bullet go?

I don't own a gun but i wondered whether i would hypothetically be in any danger of accidentally hitting a (low-flying?) aeroplane...
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Old 05-11-2005, 10:50 AM
Mangetout Mangetout is offline
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The chance of it accidentally hitting an aeroplane you hadn't noticed would seem rather small - it's hard enough to get a bullet to hit something you are aiming at.

But if you stood below the end of a busy runway and fired lots of shots in the air, the chance of an accidental hit would increase a fair bit; there's nothing to stop a bullet hitting a low-flying plane.

Despite the low risks, it's probably still not a great idea to fire a gun into the air without a good reason to do so; even small risks should be avoided if they derive from pointless actions.
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Old 05-11-2005, 11:10 AM
safeinthisskylife safeinthisskylife is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mangetout
The chance of it accidentally hitting an aeroplane you hadn't noticed would seem rather small - it's hard enough to get a bullet to hit something you are aiming at.

But if you stood below the end of a busy runway and fired lots of shots in the air, the chance of an accidental hit would increase a fair bit; there's nothing to stop a bullet hitting a low-flying plane.

Despite the low risks, it's probably still not a great idea to fire a gun into the air without a good reason to do so; even small risks should be avoided if they derive from pointless actions.
Thanks for your reply Mangetout but what I'd like to know is what distance a bullet would travel if shot vertically into the sky? (the plane part was the result of me pondering this question whilst looking out of a plane window).
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Old 05-11-2005, 11:18 AM
mittu mittu is offline
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According to wiki the escape velocity from Earth is 11,200 m/s and according to some other site the muzzle velocity on a USP .45 is 420.624 m/s so that sucker is coming back to Earth one way or another.

According to my calculations it would take about 43 seconds to reach it's greatest height, which would be around 17,800m. Those figures sound pretty excessive to me so they could be wrong but hey, at least I had a shot at it (so to speak). If those figures are correct(ish) then I would say you certainly could hit a plane, though of course it's highly unlikely. I would be more worried about where the bullet is going to land when it comes speeding back to Earth.
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Old 05-11-2005, 11:24 AM
mittu mittu is offline
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Just saw somewhere I went wrong, the greatest height would be more like 9,000m, the design ceiling of a 747 is quoted as around 13,700m so it wouldn't hit one flying at maximum altitude but could on take-off/landing.

That is assuming my calculations are accurate of course.
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Old 05-11-2005, 11:29 AM
safeinthisskylife safeinthisskylife is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mittu
Just saw somewhere I went wrong, the greatest height would be more like 9,000m, the design ceiling of a 747 is quoted as around 13,700m so it wouldn't hit one flying at maximum altitude but could on take-off/landing.
That is assuming my calculations are accurate of course.
So we're talking about 9km eh?

That's quite high.

Thanks for that Mittu!
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Old 05-11-2005, 11:37 AM
mittu mittu is offline
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On a side note people have been killed during "Mexican fireworks" type celebrations, usually at New Year. Of course it would be very difficult to arrest someone for the crime unless you did tests on the all the guns used and the offending bullet.

I know you said you don't own a gun but I think a good piece of advice when dealing with guns is: If you don't know where the bullet is going to land, don't pull the trigger
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Old 05-11-2005, 11:39 AM
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mittu that does seem very high. Are you taking the atmosphere and the drag it causes into account?
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Old 05-11-2005, 11:41 AM
Mr. Krebbs Mr. Krebbs is offline
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I cannot answer the question posed in the OP adequately, but I can explain why mittu is way off in his calculations. A .45 automatic round that has a muzzle velocity of 1,000 fps will diminish in velocity rapidly; at 50 yards it will be down to 938 fps and at 100 yards it will have slowed to 888 fps. Obviously, the bullet will decelerate even more rapidly from there. Cite.

The maximum range of a .45 ACP fired from a pistol is estimated at 1,600 yards. The effective range of such a round (ie, the range at which it could still cause sufficient damage to a target) is 100 yards. Cite.
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Old 05-11-2005, 11:47 AM
safeinthisskylife safeinthisskylife is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mittu
I know you said you don't own a gun but I think a good piece of advice when dealing with guns is: If you don't know where the bullet is going to land, don't pull the trigger
I couldn't agree more Mittu. The question itself was the combination of too many hours looking out of the window of a passenger plane and an over-active imagination.
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Old 05-11-2005, 11:50 AM
mittu mittu is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Metacom
mittu that does seem very high. Are you taking the atmosphere and the drag it causes into account?
No I didn't do anything fancy like that, just assumed a vacuum. The numbers seemed very high to me as well which is why I was careful not to quote them as being fact and pointed out that they may not be correct. The equations I used are:

* Final velocity = initial velocity + (acceleration x time)
* Distance = (initial velocity x time) + (˝ x acceleration x time˛)

Of course the friction caused by something moving so fast would be considerable but I don't know how you work that out as you would have to take into account the shape of the projectile.
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Old 05-11-2005, 11:52 AM
Mr. Krebbs Mr. Krebbs is offline
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I would also like to note that there is no way in hell that a .45 ACP is going to penetrate the fuselage of a plane enough to cause significant damage, even at point-blank. I doubt that even if the round were to hit a window at 25 yards that it would break through. Normal handguns (that is, a handgun that isn't a single-shot, bolt-action, rifle-powered abomination) are, as Eddie Vedder would say, "a glorified version of a pellet-gun."
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Old 05-11-2005, 04:51 PM
Omphaloskeptic Omphaloskeptic is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mr. Krebbs
I would also like to note that there is no way in hell that a .45 ACP is going to penetrate the fuselage of a plane enough to cause significant damage, even at point-blank. I doubt that even if the round were to hit a window at 25 yards that it would break through. Normal handguns (that is, a handgun that isn't a single-shot, bolt-action, rifle-powered abomination) are, as Eddie Vedder would say, "a glorified version of a pellet-gun."
What about a .44 Magnum round? In that case, the airplane was estimated to be a few hundred feet above ground level, and the round went through the window and injured the pilot.
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Old 05-11-2005, 06:33 PM
Valgard Valgard is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mr. Krebbs
I would also like to note that there is no way in hell that a .45 ACP is going to penetrate the fuselage of a plane enough to cause significant damage, even at point-blank. I doubt that even if the round were to hit a window at 25 yards that it would break through. Normal handguns (that is, a handgun that isn't a single-shot, bolt-action, rifle-powered abomination) are, as Eddie Vedder would say, "a glorified version of a pellet-gun."
I'm no firearms authority but I would love to see the source for these claims.

Anyone who thinks this is true is more than welcome to stand behind a sheet of glass and let me fire a .45 at them from 25 yards. I would recommend updating your will and life insurance first.

The skin of an airplane is thin aluminum. While I have never shot at one I'll bet you a beer that a pistol round will punch right through at close range.
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Old 05-11-2005, 06:40 PM
Mr. Krebbs Mr. Krebbs is offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by Omphaloskeptic
What about a .44 Magnum round? In that case, the airplane was estimated to be a few hundred feet above ground level, and the round went through the window and injured the pilot.
Your link requires registration, but I imagine that this was not a commericial aircraft. Nevertheless, I almost certainly overestimated the thickness of an aircraft window. I would like to point out, however, that a .44 mag is really big gun. Check out it's muzzle velocity and foot-pounds of energy here.

The .44 magnum produces around 1,200 foot-pounds of energy vs. a .45 ACP's ~330 foot-pounds. We're getting into the range of rifle-power with a .44 mag. As I said, I cannot answer the OP's original question very well, but I was under the impression he was talking about a centerfire semi-auto of average capability.
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Old 05-11-2005, 06:43 PM
Mr. Krebbs Mr. Krebbs is offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by Valgard
The skin of an airplane is thin aluminum. While I have never shot at one I'll bet you a beer that a pistol round will punch right through at close range.
Am I correct in assuming that aircraft fuselage is thicker than a car door? If so, a .45ACP in my experience will not penetrate it. And yes, I have shot broken-down automobiles with mine.
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Old 05-11-2005, 06:50 PM
mittu mittu is offline
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I hope people aren't getting too hung-up on the gun needing to be a .45 because of what I said. I only used the USP .45 in my post because I know squat about guns and that happens to be a gun used in a computer game I play. The OP didn't specify what type of handgun should be used so it could equally be a Desert Eagle .50 which if the game I play is anywhere near accurate packs one hell of a punch.
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Old 05-11-2005, 07:29 PM
Omphaloskeptic Omphaloskeptic is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mr. Krebbs
Your link requires registration, but I imagine that this was not a commericial aircraft. Nevertheless, I hink thalmost certainly overestimated the thickness of an aircraft window. I would like to point out, however, that a .44 mag is really big gun.
Gah, sorry about that. It didn't require registration when I got to it via Google News. Maybe this link will work. The airplane was a Cessna 150, and the bullet apparently went through one of the side windows (not the windshield). I doubt if any bullet would have problems going through these; I don't think they're particularly thick or strong. Likewise, the aircraft skin is, as far as I know, primarily designed for aerodynamic flow and (in pressurizable aircraft) supporting internal pressure and is thus pretty thin (Googling says 0.016-0.032" aluminum is common).
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Old 05-11-2005, 07:51 PM
DustyButt DustyButt is offline
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Aircraft skin is very thin.

The skin of the aircraft is for aeordynamics... other than that an airplane is just a spiderweb of hydraulic lines and wires.

If it were as thick and heavy as a car door the aircraft would use most of it's available power just getting off the ground... forget about adding passengers and cargo.

A .45 round would penetrate the skin of an aircraft easily if it's within range.

as far as the energy in a round if it's shot in the air... I've never done the math but i GUESS that it won't pack much of a punch past 1 or2 thousand feet depending on the angle.
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Old 05-11-2005, 07:56 PM
Mr. Krebbs Mr. Krebbs is offline
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Eh. Well, given the information on aircraft skins, I'll retract my statement. For some reason, I was under the impression that they were far thicker than that on commercial airliners. Likewise, I assumed that the windows were made out of thick plastic so as not to allow them to be easily penetrated.

Thanks for making me feel that much less safe when flying
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Old 05-11-2005, 08:06 PM
mittu mittu is offline
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Aren't the front windows of a plane subjected to the chicken gun test described in one of Cecil's columns? A chicken travelling at 180 m.p.h. is going to take some stopping as it would surely have considerably more momentum than a bullet.

My advice, learn to fly and sit in the cockpit.
  #22  
Old 05-11-2005, 08:32 PM
enipla enipla is offline
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WAG….

A .38, 9mm , .40 or .45 weighing about 140-200 gr. would probably go right through the windscreen of a light plane, if the plane was moving at say 100 kts or better, and caught the bullet at it’s apex (not moving at all).

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mr Krebbs
Am I correct in assuming that aircraft fuselage is thicker than a car door? If so, a .45ACP in my experience will not penetrate it. And yes, I have shot broken-down automobiles with mine.
Never shot at old cars before. But I have seen .22 lr go through a lot more than a little sheet metal.

And would bet that a .22 lr or certainly a .45 would puncture any car door.

What kind of car was this?
  #23  
Old 05-11-2005, 08:52 PM
Sam Stone Sam Stone is online now
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Wow, is there ever a lot of misinformation flying around this thread... Let's start from the top:

Mittu said:
Quote:
No I didn't do anything fancy like that, just assumed a vacuum. The numbers seemed very high to me as well which is why I was careful not to quote them as being fact and pointed out that they may not be correct. The equations I used are:
When talking about lightweight bullets at high speed, you cannot ignore air resistance. It's a major factor. Calculating how high a bullet will go is not a trivial exercise. One number that's already been offered is that a .45 round has a maximum range of 1600 meters. I assume that's the distance would go if fired at an optimum angle. Does that mean if it's aimed straight up it will go 1600 meters? Not necessarily, because as the bullet goes higher, the atmosphere gets less dense, and the drag on the bullet decreases. Calculating how high the bullet will go would then require figuring out the change in atmospheric density, the weight of the bullet, and its effective flat-plate area (total drag). I think a good WAG would be a mile to maybe five miles. Note that the speed it comes back down at has almost nothing to do with how high it goes, because the bullet will certainly go high enough that it will reach terminal velocity on the way down.


Quote:
Mr Krebbs said:

I would also like to note that there is no way in hell that a .45 ACP is going to penetrate the fuselage of a plane enough to cause significant damage, even at point-blank. I doubt that even if the round were to hit a window at 25 yards that it would break through.
A bullet of almost any reasonable caliber will go through a typical aircraft fuselage like butter. Airplanes have to be light, and that means you can't use thick steel. For example, a Cessna 150 weighs about 1100 pounds empty, and yet it has a 36 foot wingspan. Even a small car will weigh close to 3000 lbs. Car bodies have to take all kinds of loads that airplane fuselages don't, and they have to exist in an environment where they get banged and dinged. Hell, you can dent a Cessna fuselage by pushing into it with a finger.

And in any event, a .45 will go through a car body, with the right type of bullet and the right type of car (even though it's not the best caliber for this, due to the typical type of ammunition used and its large cross-sectional area). If I shot my old 67 Impala with .45 ball ammo I don't know if it would penetrate the body, but give me a Datsun 510 body and a box of FMJ, and I'll bet I can ventilate it good.

As for aircraft windows, they are made of plexiglass, and they are very thin and light. A .22 will go through one with no problem, let alone a .45.

Quote:
Normal handguns (that is, a handgun that isn't a single-shot, bolt-action, rifle-powered abomination) are, as Eddie Vedder would say, "a glorified version of a pellet-gun."
It would be a good idea to not use Eddie Vedder as your firearms expert. A 'normal handgun' is orders of magnitude more powerful than a pellet gun. A typical Daisy-type pellet gun has a muzzle energy of under 10 ft/lbs. Even high powered, .22 caliber air guns made for hunting have muzzle energy somewhere around 20-30 ft/lbs. A .45 ACP round, on the other hand, will have 15-20 times that amount.


Rotordog said:
Quote:
Aircraft skin is very thin.

The skin of the aircraft is for aeordynamics... other than that an airplane is just a spiderweb of hydraulic lines and wires.
Almost never true. Most aluminum-skinned airplanes are of 'monocoque' or semi-monocoque construction, which means that the skin itself carries the load. It is stretched over formers to hold its shape, and the stressed skin transfers the aerodynamic loads from the wings through the fuselage. There will be hard points for gear attachment, engine mounts, seat rails, and other pieces that make up an airplane, but no heavy frame like a car. In a semi-monocoque aircraft, there are stiffeners and sometimes lightweight frame members and trusses to stiffen the structure and make it stronger, but the skin still plays an active role in the strength of the aircraft.
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Old 05-11-2005, 09:56 PM
DustyButt DustyButt is offline
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True as it maybe that aircraft skin does serve as a load bearing structure, the sheets of metal that cover the aircraft are about as thick as two CD's pressed togther.

The monocoque design is simply a honeycomb structure of thin metal filled with foam sandwiched between two thin sheets of metal. The metal that serves as the honeycomb structure is maybe just at thick as the aluminim foil that you find in the kitchen.

Imagine this... a strip of foil standing on edge about 3/4 of an inch tall. Side by side with thousands of other strips criss-crossing until you have millions of 3/4 inch tall tubes about 3mm in diameter. Then fill the tubes with foam. Glue it between two sheets of wafer thin metal and... voila. You have a monocoque sheet. Believe me it's not the stuff you want to hide behind in a gun fight!

While very rigid it is very light and not dense at all.

The aircraft wings connect at hard points that bear the weight of the aircraft in flight while the body of the aircraft is subject to torsion and flexing.

To say that an aircraft body is strong is a misconception. It's actually very pliable and in flight it will wiggle. Kind of like holding a hot dog in the middle and and shaking it up and down. It's resiliant but not rigid like a car for instance.

The formers, stringers and sheets of metal that make up the aircraft were designed to be that way. That's why during a preflight inspection the pilot has to take note of any buckling or rippling in the aircraft skin because it indicates that the aircraft has bent been beyond structural limitations (even though it's supposed to flex and twist).

For the most part, most non-exotic aircraft are built with aluminum or magnesium/aluminum sheets of alloy which provide virtually no ballistic protection.

So comparitively speaking (to a common oblect like a car) an aircraft isn't too strong. I've seen golf carts destroy helicopters.

So once again I state aircraft skin provides hardly any balistic protection, but it will push air out of the way pretty good tho'.

Sorry I didn't go into detail in the last post...

and actually I spared you from the really boring stuff.
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Old 05-11-2005, 10:18 PM
enipla enipla is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mr Krebbs
If so, a .45ACP in my experience will not penetrate it. And yes, I have shot broken-down automobiles with mine.
I'm still wondering what kind of car door can take a .45? Or a .22.

You had a .45acp bouncing off a car door?
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Old 05-11-2005, 10:24 PM
DustyButt DustyButt is offline
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Boy am I a horrible typist.

(just an observation.)
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Old 05-11-2005, 11:45 PM
Xema Xema is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sam Stone
When talking about lightweight bullets at high speed, you cannot ignore air resistance. It's a major factor. Calculating how high a bullet will go is not a trivial exercise. One number that's already been offered is that a .45 round has a maximum range of 1600 meters. I assume that's the distance would go if fired at an optimum angle. Does that mean if it's aimed straight up it will go 1600 meters? Not necessarily, because as the bullet goes higher, the atmosphere gets less dense, and the drag on the bullet decreases.
The decrease in air density with altitude will give some additional height, but it isn't a huge factor. A crude rule of thumb is that density decreases 2% per thousand feet.

But, as you note, air resistance plays a major role. I checked some ballistics tables and found that a typical .45 ACP round when fired horizontally loses about 11% of its velocity in the first 100 yards. That would make a height estimate of even a mile look like something of a tall tale.
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Old 05-12-2005, 03:06 AM
Princhester Princhester is offline
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This site gives some figures. It is sadly lacking in any explanation as to how they are worked out so you have to take it on trust. But they say for a .22 lr bullet (m=40 grain, v0 = 1150 ft/s) the summit will be at 1164 ft, and for a SS109 military bullet (m= 55 grain, v0=3200 ft/s) the summit will be at 2650 ft.

For what it's worth.
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Old 05-12-2005, 03:48 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mr. Krebbs
Am I correct in assuming that aircraft fuselage is thicker than a car door? If so, a .45ACP in my experience will not penetrate it. And yes, I have shot broken-down automobiles with mine.
I can assure you that a .45ACP will penetrate any unarmored car door at ranges exceeding 50 meters (assuming a low-deflection angle). I have probably fired more rounds of .45ACP than you have ever seen (25,000+ and counting) as a US Army Military Police Specialist, military pistol team member, and serious hobbyist. The same goes for 9mm although I can only state with authority that it is capable of penetration at ranges up 20 meters; I never tried from farther out.

One mile is the oft-stated maximum range of a M1911A1 pistol. I don't have my old Army TM handy or I'd look up the official number. That assumes optimum elevation of the barrel for distance. 90 degrees of elevation is obviously not optimum so it is safe to assume that maximum altitude is somewhat less than 1500-1600 meters. My WAG is that the maximum altitude possible from a M1911A1 pistol is 500-750 meters but depending on your altitude ASL, YMMV.
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Old 05-12-2005, 08:36 AM
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Also the plot of a CSI episode, possibly CSI Miami
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Old 05-12-2005, 10:09 AM
Mr. Krebbs Mr. Krebbs is offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by enipla
You had a .45acp bouncing off a car door?
No. I was stating that it wouldn't fully penetrate, that is, the bullet (which was a Winchester Silvertip, 185g JHP) would stop somewhere inside the vehicle's door at approx. 25 yards. As to the sort of car, it was an older Buick boat. My original statement was that a .45 should not penetrate an aircraft enough to do significant damage. There is no question in my mind that the bullet would penetrate the first surface.

Obviously, using hollow-points has a lot to do with the penetration issue.
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Old 05-12-2005, 10:22 AM
Uncommon Sense Uncommon Sense is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pushkin
Also the plot of a CSI episode, possibly CSI Miami
Holdup. You can get you some CSI in Ireland?
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Old 05-12-2005, 11:37 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mr. Krebbs
Obviously, using hollow-points has a lot to do with the penetration issue.
Yes, it does have a lot to do with it. 230gr FMJ, the load of record when referring to the .45ACP, will easily penetrate two car doors at 25 yards: the near side door and the far side door, excepting such conditions such as any intervening interior structure like the dash or the seat. You did not mention JHP bullets before. I didn't state that my experience was with FMJs but any knowledgable shooter could easily infer that I was speaking of FMJ bullets since the US Army doesn't use any other kind of ammunition.
JHP's probably won't penetrate more than one layer of sheet steel at 25 yards since the jacket tends to fragment when it hits a solid object and the bullet lacks the integrity to deal with a second layer.

As far as not causing damage to an aircraft, I read a notice in Flying within the last couple of months that a common GA/light commercial aircraft (IIRC, either a Citation or King Air) experienced a hitherto unknown hydraulic failure that was eventually attributed to a single rifle bullet. Although the plane landed safely, the damage presented a signifigant hazard to safe operation. Airplanes (god forbid we bring up helicopters) can be surprisingly fragile under certain conditions. A pistol round could easily cause damage to some critical system on the aircraft, particulary when you consider that thin hydraulic tubes, wire bundles and thin steel cables make up the actual operational systems under the skin of an airplane. All of these types of materials are vulnerable to small arms fire. To suppose otherwise is not consistent with the facts.

Even a 185gr JHP .45 bullet is sufficient to penetrate the thin aluminum skin of any commercial aircraft and damage some sensitive component inside. Imagine a nearly-spent bullet penetrating the skin and hitting a breaker panel, even with only 100 lb-ft of energy. That situation would make any pilot I know ingest his seat cushion, if you catch my meaning.
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Old 05-12-2005, 02:28 PM
Mr. Krebbs Mr. Krebbs is offline
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Heh. Yes, I do know that the US Army only uses full metal jacket rounds. I was a PFC in the 173rd Airborne Brigade. However, I was unaware that the penetration of .45 ACP was that adequate when using FMJ rounds.

Not too long after my discharge I took my P13.45 to a friend's house where we shot up a sheet of steel with FMJ. I was not impressed with how those rounds performed, as none of the pistol rounds penetrated, leaving nice mushroom-shaped chunks of lead at the base of the target. AK-47 rounds (7.62x39mm) and 7.62N penetrated just fine, FTR.

I apologize for basing my opinion of .45 ACP on that experience.
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