I need to know how they do this magic trick!

Most magic tricks (even the fancy “illusionist” stuff) I can figure out. However, I have no idea where to even begin with this one.

Here’s the setup.

There is a line drawn down the center of the audience and the stage. Penn and Teller start out on opposite sides of the line and never cross the line during the entire trick.

They go into the audience, each with one .357 Magnum “magic wand” revolver. They each have one bullet with them. Going into the audience, they each pick a random person, who then pick markers of a random color. Each person writes their initials on the shell casing, and draws a small picture on the actual bullet part. The audience members then load the revolvers such that their bullet is the next one in the chamber. (This is all in plain view of the TV camera.)

Penn and Teller then put on bulletproof vests and safety goggles. They place a pane of glass between them, then face each other. They fire their weapons almost simultaneously at each other’s mouths, “catching” eac other’s bullets in the mouth. The glass breaks in two places, indicating a bullet has gone through.

They then go back into the audience, and confirm that the pictures are identical on the bullets, and on the shell casings (still in the chamber.)

Now, here are some theories of mine:

  1. Though Penn and Teller never cross the line, they are very close to each other during the audience part, and could easily exchange things. I don’t know if it’s possible to remove the bullet from the casing and exchange them while no one is looking, however.

  2. The bullets could have been fired at the glass, but aimed away from P&T’s heads. (The revolvers were equipped with laser sites; I assume it is possible to intentionally mis-align them cause this.)

  3. The glass could have small explosive charges built in.

  4. The bullets could be blanks (in conjunction with point 3). I don’t know if it is possible to tell this by looking at them.

  5. The audience members could be plants, who are instructed to draw specific things in specific colors, which are replaced with replicas later.
    Right now, I’m thinking 5 is most likely at least part of the trick, but P&T have a reputation for not using plants.

Any ideas?

Try this site: http://www.foreworks.com/bullet2.html

There are a lot of sites, both applauding P&T and wondering how the heck they did it. I used Google.

Hmmmm. Interesting. I hadn’t thought of a person backstage faking the initials, but I suppose it’s possible. I recall that there was a closeup of the bullet after it was fired, but I couldn’t tell you if it was exactly the same.

It seems I was right about the glass. Obviously, if this guy is correct, the laser sights are just for effect.

By the way, here is a first-hand account of someone who was a volunteer for the trick. He kept the bullet and casing and says they are indeed his marks, not a replica. Also, he says the glass felt real (breakaway glass is very light and brittle.)

The guy has pictures of the actual bullets on the page. It certainly makes the other link a lot less credible.

I’m beginning to think that perhaps the first method mentioned on the other page (small charges with fake bullets, etc) is more likely.

Okay, I don’t usually post how tricks are done but this is a little different. This is not a trick that you want to be figuring out on your own, so I’ll explain it a little.
It’s true that the old way this trick was done was with wax balls instead of the actual shot that was supposedly fired (as linked in Ice Wolf’s link). Even that version was very dangerous, and it killed twelve people. Penn & Teller are different from that version, in that…well, if I told you wouldn’t believe me. I’ve heard from a few magicians how they do this trick and I still don’t believe it myself. I’ll go through it slowly.
First off, they don’t use plants from the audience. Here’s a quote from Penn from an article (sorry, I had trouble linking this article) on them and this trick:

Here’s a page from a guy who was one of the helpers when this trick was performed: Bob Helps Penn Shoot Teller
The page includes pictures of the bullets that this guy got to keep (and it was spat directly onto his hand after the shots were fired)

This says it all, really. It’s not the bullet, but the gun really is a magic wand. I’m not going to come right out and say it, but there are ways to slow bullets down with smaller charges and the mechanism in the gun…hey, I said you wouldn’t believe me! I will say that what you’re seeing on stage is pretty close to what actually happens. The audience members get the real bullets spit directly onto their hands. Suffice to say that Penn & Teller are insane as far as doing this goes.

Whoops, my bad. This should say that it “is the bullet and the gun…”

sigh I must be tired. Also, both quotes in my first post are from Teller.

there is a extra chamber in the gun which hides a blank before the trick they hide a casing in their mouth after the shot they use a device called a thumb tip to put your initials on the bullet

I saw this routine from front row center, and I can add one tidbit–off in the wings, upstage of P&T, there were two things that looked like trampolines set up on their sides. They may have been there the whole time, but that’s the first time I noticed them.

My original speculation was that they fired the guns at these backstops, thus generating the holes in the panes of glass. Still doesn’t explain how the bullets get into their mouths, though.

By the way, if you get a chance to see Penn and Teller, take it. Their show is brilliant.

Dr. J

The bullet trick was shown on Fox Magician’s Mysteries Revealed series. I didn’t tape it, but I recall they had two bullets, and neither one was fired. The main thing is the hand-off, wich is done to a nobody who seems just to be rotating the props.

I saw this live and on TV. I figured it out this theory after seeing the TV version (But that one it was only Penn getting shot). If you notice, there are assistants that hand them things, or take things, or are setting up the glass panes, etc. Also note that they are re-loads (they are not factory bullets) - at the show in Colorado one of the helpers pointed that out to the audience, which made P&T nervous. I think that this is important for two reasons- 1) the bullets that are chosen are not crimped in tightly 2) the bullets that are shot are not full-power- in fact, they might not have ANY powder in the casings- the primer is strong enough to propel a bullet through a glass pane and across a stage I bet.

OK, somehow the bullet and casing are seperated and an assistant gets the bullet slipped to him. A few seconds later Penn goes for the bullet proof jacket, helmet, goggles, etc. that are hanging on the edge of a little stage stand. My theory- the assistant glass-pane setter-upper gets the initialed bullet, quickly walks around to the other side of the stage behind the curtain and slips the bullet into a set pocket of the jacket, or sticky-tacks it to the side of the goggles or something. While Penn was getting ready, he slips the bullet to his mouth. Teller aims the gun with the laser that is off-set- everyone thinks he is shooting into the mouth, but it is going to the side or above or whatever to the trampoline catcher thing behind Penn. Teller pulls the trigger, a bullet with just enough energy to go through a glass pane shatters the glass, and Penn spits the bullet out.

It is either that, or that close-up of the bullet allows someone to copy what is on the bullet, and that gets slipped into the jacket or goggles or ???

Just my theory, because I know they use assistants to pull off tricks- remember the Dave Letterman show with his watch and the fish? There was a guy inside the fish stand quickly gutting a fish and sticking the watch into it from underneath- I saw a picture of the guy afterwards- he was covered in blood and was soaking wet from the ice.

dave316- Wha? I use thumb tips all the time, when did they become magic markers? And the bullet is immediately spit into the peoples hands.

He’s talking about a thumb writer, not a thumb tip.

Dr. J