"Barroom brawl" scenario: Breaking chairs/barstools over somebody's head?

Quite often in old westerns, there will be an extended fight sequence set in a bar or saloon with cowboys going at each other like crazy. Almost invariably, at one point in the fight, somebody gets smashed over the head with a chair or barstool. The wooden object shatters and the guy usually goes down for the count.
I was wondering how this would work in real life – if you did smash a heavy wooden chair over somebody, would it really shatter from the impact? Also, the effect on your opponent – would this type of blow knock someone out, or kill them?

Any comments/information would be appreciated!

I really believe that the stereotypical western Barroom Brawl choreography is the riumph of effects over reality. Breakaway chairs and “candy glass” bottles look impressive as all heck breaking over the heads of stunt cowboys. Real bottles and real chairs (not flimsuily built of pre-sawn for effect) swung onto heads would, I suspect, cause concussions.
Look at it this way – would you hit someone on the head with one of your stools or a glass bottle unless you meant them serious harm?

I know of a case where one guy hit another in the head w/ a pool cue. The victim died after several days in the hospital and the guy swinging it is probably still in prison. Happened, in a bar, in Coquille, Or. in 1970.

My college theater professor told an anecdote about the break-away chairs. Apparently, you have to take care to hit the subject with the legs. If you catch him with the edge of the seat, you can do serious harm. He claimed to have been knocked unconscious by just such a blow.

No. Generally, chairs don’t break when you hit someone with them, and it also doesn’t sound like a big reverberated slap when you punch someone in the face.

I have to say that I find the anger & stress management ads at the bottom of this thread to be quite a propos.

Perhaps I can share a relevant anecdote. An aquaintance of mine got married last year, and the whole thing was themed, complete with fancy dress, banquet and a bunch of professionals staging a couple of big fights. At the end of the event the chief ‘baddie’ was supposed to insult the bride and for a bit of comic relief she would smash a bottle over his head.
She was supplied with a sugar-glass bottle, just like the ones used in the movies, and instructed on how to whack him. In the stress of the event she got it a bit wrong and instead of holding it by the neck and belting him on the corner of the forehead, she held the body of the bottle and smacked it into his forehead just above the eyes.

The extremely realistic collapse, moaning and dragging out by his henchmen wasn’t entirely staged, and he apparently had two black eyes that lasted a week and a bunch of minor cuts.

Once again, thats from a sugar-glass bottle, applied in slightly the wrong way by a woman who probably weighs less than 100 lbs. If she’d used the REAL bottle she at first picked up, she’d have easily put him in hospital - thank god the best man spotted that and gave her the right one :eek:

A chair? As in, a big solid crudely wooden number intended for heavy commercial use? You’d probably struggle to lift it, and if you hit someone with it they’d not get up in a hurry. Next time you are in a bar with wooden chairs, take a good look at one and imagine a drunken farmhand whacking you with it. Ouch.

Look around your home for a heavy wooden chair. Take it out in the street. Smash it down into the pavement as hard as you can.

Did it shatter? Didn’t think so.

Don’t want to ruin your furniture? Just take a 1-inch dowel and see what happens when you try to break it across your knee.

If you were tremendously lucky and caught it just right, a flimsily made chair might collapse, or at least rack, absorbing some of the impact. But bar furniture isn’t typically made to be flimsy, it’s designed to be sturdy and durable. If you get hit with a stool constructed with mortise and tenons and with stringers at the bottom for rigidity, then you are going to stay hit.

If it’s a chair with a back and you get hit with the back of the chair, you might stand a better chance because that’s not where the mass of the chair is concentrated and the slats are often thin. So the back of the chair might break, but it would hurt like hell.

Well, I suspected that chairs are much sturdier than depicted on movies/TV! (They have to be pretty sturdy to hold us up, what with the growing obesity rate!) Thanks for the replies!

In my experience, chairs seem to be a lot sturdier than stools. Or maybe the stools are just less durable, and wear out faster than a good chair. Either way, its an experiment I am sometimes tempted to test on my roommate…for the benefit of mankind and sd readers of course.

I used to work for an ambulance company and we transported many bar fight victims who had drepessed skull fractures from bottle blows. Sure, occasionally the bottle will break and not a lot of serious damage is done, but more often than not, the blow results in serious injury or even death. Don’t try this at home.

I generally assume that every depiction of head injuries in movies or TV is going to be wrong, often dangerously wrong. I am rarely disappointed.

Hitting someone right over the top of the head (as in the chair over the head), with the blow aimed downward, is actually not a reliable way to knock someone unconscious. Kill somebody, yes; but to cause unconsciousness you want to move the head, not just hit it. That’s why boxers aim for the jaw; the blow flings the head sharply backwards and/or sideways, and that acceleration causes the concussion.

(Of course, if you hit anyone’s head hard enough you can make them too dizzy and pain-wracked to fight, but that’s not the same as a knockout. Also, they’ll eventually pass out, or even lapse into permanent coma, thanks to swelling of the brain, bleeding inside the cranium, etc… But this can take a while.)

Damn few people who’ve been knocked unconscious quickly regain consciousness, shake their heads a bit, and then jump up and resume fighting, shooting, running or whatever they were doing before they were knocked out. Even if they can, their friends shouldn’t let them, not until they’ve seen a doctor.

Unless a chair is already coming apart at the joints, it is unlikely to come to pieces just because you hit someone with it. Bottles, especially full ones, are potentially lethal. Even if they shatter, the blow can still do a lot of harm.

Don’t crack people on the head with gun butts, either. The gun may go off; you may damage the gun’s action; and you can fracture the person’s skull and do just as much prison time as if you’d shot him.

most cowboy movie cliches are bull. :stuck_out_tongue:

Take an empty wine bottle and tap it on your knee. Increase the force of the tap until you are at your comfort limit. Notice how lightly you’re tapping, and that’s not even your head.

Don’t keep us in suspense. Did they get on America’s Funniest Videos or not?

I personally have been in bars when the S**T hit the fan and I’ve seen the effects of chairs, a stool, a beer bottle, a liquor bottle and pool cues used.

Chairs don’t shatter. This one didn’t even break. The recipient went straight down and stayed there.

The stool- same thing.

The beer bottle shattered and required 8 sutures in my friends right wrist.

The liquor bottle bounced off the victims head and the recipient went down.

Pool cues varied. Some snapped across a back or a forearm. Some held up well. Once one was used more like a fencing foil to great effect.

The one you rarely hear about but is very dangerous is one of those old glass ashtrays they used to have in such places. You know, the big square one that weighed about two pounds.

Mind you, these observations were not in one viewing on one occasion but spread out over many years and many miles.

I haven’t ever been hit by a stool in a bar. I usually jump on top of the piano and swing bythe chandelier onto the top of the bar, so they usually miss me.

This was in the UK, and there was no video camera, only stills. Sorry.

Did your travels perhaps take you through the delightful English town of Sidcup, where they still practice The Way of the Ashtray?

I have been hit with a stool. I came off worse.