How do gun ricochets work?

Are there any general rules to help avoid a ricochet? I’m sure they’re not very common (if they even happen at all?) Do soldiers get any instructions on how to avoid a ricochet? If I fire at a steal door with a handgun, shotgun, or rifle, will the bullets always crumple on the door, or am I at risk?

I would assume that with as much energy as most bullets have that they don’t often ricochet, they just crumple up and deposit their energy as soon as they touch a solid surface.

If you have ever played pool, then you know that the bank shots are just deflections off the rail. When you have a fair amount of energy in a projectile going at around mach 1, that energy has to go some where , its either gonna be absorbed by some mass, like a bullet entering walls or some other medium, or ricochet off , if the medium is dense hard , or the projectile is coming in at a grazing angle then its going to be redirected.

You want to shoot at any medium , you are at risk. Just some more than others.


So I’m five feet in front of a solid steel door, I can empty the 100 round drum of a 9mm Calico M960 on full auto without fear of injury?

Does muzzle velocity or caliber come into play?

Sounds like a good way to really hurt yourself to me.

I’ve certainly never been in the military, but I did used to shoot quite a bit at targets when I was younger. Usually there is something behind the targets to stop the bullets. It’s not just something solid to make sure you don’t overshoot the range area, but it’s something specifically designed to absorb the bullet and not let it ricochet.

If you are shooting at something hard (like a steel door) then they are much more common than you seem to think. There’s a video that gets played on those reality TV shows periodically where a guy shoots something hard (a rock or a piece of steel maybe) and the bullet ricochets almost straight back and hits his girlfriend, who was standing beside him with a video camera at the time.

In order:

Don’t fire weapons.

They happen a lot, especially with supersonic ammunition (which is nearly all military ammunition).

No, they don’t.

The bullets will rarely on a steel door, they may penetrate or ricochet or simply lodge. The shotgun rounds (especially slugs) may do the best job at “crumpling” on a steel door, but they will rarely just roll up at anything except extremely close range.

You are at considerable risk if you shoot as a steel door at anything closer than maybe fifty yards, depending on the munition.

I LOVE shooting at steel :smiley:

But yes, it can be dangerous. I know someone who was injured by one of his own ricochets.

Try shooting some tracers - you maybe suprised bywhat you see. You can get .22 tracers at a reasonable price from

Metal targets (any thing heavier than sheetmetal, which bullets will go right through) should be at least 50 yards away, and should be shaped to direct ricochets away from you . This means either hinged, usually atthe top, or slanted such that the top is closer to you than the bottom, so the bullets will be deflected down into the dirt.

Bullets can also penetrate the steel and have their metal jacket peel off and come back at you. The jacket can peel off and come back at you while the bullet doesn’t as well. You can also just catch fragments of bullets and jackets when shooting steel. I have a nice scar on my left hand from catching the jacket of a 30-06 from under 10 yds (my muzzle wasn’t high enough :rolleyes: ). It hit with enough force to make my hand swell to about double its size in addition to the torn skin. Sports involving shooting steel have pretty good rules as to distances, bullet types ( lead doesn’t ricochet like jacketed bullets ), velocities, and shape of targets to minimize richochet danger.

Ricochets happen all the time, extremely common. Anytime a bullet hits something at an angle, tree, rock, water, dirt, it will deflect. Shooting over open water(if you can find a safe place to do it) clearly shows how bullets bounce. Regular geometry defines how bullets angle off objects.

Shooting straight on at any solid object can be dangerous, since the impact will have similarities of an explosion. The harder the object, the more chance that fragments can spatter straight back. For example, if you shoot at a concrete wall, the concrete and rock will spatter, in all directions, including straight back at the shooter, and so might some of the lead from the bullet. Impacting/colliding fragments from the impact point can at least certainly put your eye out.

A softer target, like a normal green tree, or sand, if not shot at an angle, will absorb the bullet. A safe place to target practice is into a steep, high sand hill.

Gun folklore has it that the .22-250 and .220 Swift rounds don’t ever ricochet, due to their extremely high velocity and relative length/width of the slug. I would imagine that one could still happily ricochet them off of water or something else if done right. Hot factory loads of .223 will do it, and that’s not a hugely different situation than a .220 Swift IIRC (IIRC, about 3200 fps versus 4100 fps).

The few gun ranges I’ve seen have an angled wall behind the targets and a box in the floor to catch the bullets. Seems to work well.

Ricochets are very common with military weapons. When firing tracer bullets, one will notice quite a few rounds going off in weird directions after touching an obstacle or the ground. It is not at all unusual to see weird-shaped holes in targets where a ricochet has passed sideways after hitting the ground in front of the target. (It’s considered good practice to aim low when you have to make a snap judgement of the distance. Apart from the possibility of hitting the target with a ricochet, it’s easier to correct your aim when you can see your bullets hit the ground. Plus your average enemy would rather not advance into terrain that’s being chewed up by bullets…)

I can’t speak for other armies, but we were certainly trained to think before firing our weapons in urban combat. The combination of modern building materials (hard concrete surfaces) and modern infantry weapons (assault rifles) increase the risk of ricochets tremendously. (Apparently some of the traditional field manuals for urban warfare were written based on WWII combat experience with submachineguns in brick buildings.)

Hey Spiny, and others, can you confirm this? A friend of mine used to tell me that whether advancing or retreating down a city street in a firefight, you should always keep well away from the walls. He claimed that not only would pieces of debris become projectiles, but bullets have a tendency to run along the walls.

I tried to explain this away with geometry (someone shooting down the street at a guy leaning against the wall is going to benefit from a shallow-angle ricochet), but he seemed pretty insistent that the angle of impact didn’t really matter so much–bullets tend to run at a narrow angle along walls no matter where they come from. The advice is actually repeated in the film Black Hawk Down.

I still think the observation is suspect, but I’ve never been shot at, and one guy who was is insisted it’s true. It’s apparently taught to American soldiers, formally or informally, to this day.

Count me as another who says “ricochets are common.”

A couple years ago I witnessed the biannual Machine Gun Shoot at Knob Creek Gun Range. At night the full autos are loaded with tracer rounds. What a sight! Anyway, the neat thing about a tracer round is that it allows you to see where the bullet ends up.

You’d think the .50-cal bullets would simply burrow deep into the backstop. Not so. Bullets were ricocheting everywhere. I’d estimate 10% of the bullets would hit the ground, then deflect straight up.

I would not wager either my eyes or my life on folklore.

Bullets have a tendancy to defy the laws of physics? Unlikely. More likely that shooters hugging walls have a tendancy to get very low angle ricochets.

I wouldn’t spend a lot of time on it. Unless you need to make a living dodging bullets it will have no puropse.

The observation is suspect and, having spent more than a quarter century in uniform, I can tell you that it is not taught to American soldiers, formally or informally, except perhaps in a few units where folklore is encouraged, and I was not in any of those.

it actually is true that shots tend to “run along the walls” in a street. The reason though is fairly simple. When a bullet hits brick or stone at an angle, the bullet rarely will ricochet at a direct angle like it would hitting a mor solid surface like iron. The wall gives and the bullet deflects but not as much. If a bullet is fired down a street and hits a wall at an angle say of 45degrees or less, the ricochet is going to come off the wall at even less of an angle as the wall first gives then repels the bullet. The angle of the bullet coming off the wall will be even shallower than the angle it hit at leaving the bullet to fly closer to the struck wall. The bullets may not actually “follow” the wall but a machine gun burst directed at a wall up the street is going to send ricochets primarily down that same side of the street… The softer the material of the wall, the flatter the ricochet is likely to be.

Neither would I, which was pretty much the point of my post. Or did you have something else you meant to say?

to quote canibus, “anything that can’t penetrate ricochets”

basically, if the bullet can’t penetrate the surface, its gonna ricochet

Not if they hit head on, then they crumple up if the object is sturdy.

(By the way…be careful on the SDMB, hiphop lovers are an oppressed minority here. I’m glad I’m not the only JMT fan!)

No they don’t. If they can’t penetrate, they either ricochet or splatter.