Is it possible to dodge a bullet?

In this thread, TN*hippie and The Mick claimed to have dodged real bullets. But I thought the speed of your typical bullet was faster than the speed of sound, meaning that the bullet would hit you before you heard the gunshot.

So is it possible to dodge a bullet? If I hear a gunshot, should I even bother ducking?

You can only dodge a bullet if you’re Joel Grey or Fred Ward in the movie Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins. Or maybe Ozymandias in The Watchmen.

A good round number for velocity of a bullet is 800 feet per second. A person with quick reflexes may have a reaction time of 300 milliseconds. A further .06 seconds is required to move approx. 2 feet. Under optimal conditions, you could dodge a bullet fired greater than 48 feet (14.7m) away, provided you saw, not heard, the firing (or the 1092 feet/second sound would not arrive in time over any reasonable distance). Back of the envelope calculations say it is possible.

But that assumes you can see a bullet to dodge, which you cannot. So what are you actually doing then? There is going to be no evidence that the bullet would have hit had you not moved, nor can you have seen the bullet to consciously move away. If all you intend to do is sidestep, there is also no guarantee that you aren’t dodging right into the path. Better to just take the opportunity to get down, and out of the way of the 2nd and 3rd rounds.

I think the best explanation is that those who have successfully ‘dodged’, have actually read a clear intent to fire and moved in such a way so as to disrupt the aim of the individual firing - this opposed to detecting and avoiding a bullet in the air.

I suppose it’s possible in that you could see a person point the gun at you, realize he intends to fire, and jump a split second before he pulls the trigger. He still pulls the trigger anyway, thus firing at where you just were. So it’s not really dodging the bullet as it is dodging the person’s aim.

CalMeacham, how about Keanu Reeves and the agents in the Matrix?
And how about tracer bullets? Do they travel slower than regular bullets? If not, how about if we substitute those into the equation, so that the dodger CAN see them coming?


Perhaps this example could be applied, although I’m not certain.

I’ve read a number of accounts of Napoleonic-era soldiers describing a similar experience. Soldiers in formation appeared to be pretty decent judges of when a cannon was being aimed at them. At least one survivor records being able to watch the solid-shot cannonball bounding directly toward him. However, in the tight formations of the era, soldiers were physically and mentally constrained from moving out of the way of the ball. The result was that when the shot was fired, those who were looking directly down the barrel of the cannon (and apparently, those were often a small part of the formation) would tense up and leeeaaaan to one side or the other, before the ball hit. Some eyewitnesses had time to resign themselves to their fate, only to discover that the people next to them were the ones to be hit.

The point is that soldiers knew when a cannon was being pointed directly at them. Can we make similar assumptions about rifles and pistols? I think it might be possible, given the proper circumstances.

The important thing is that if a soldier can tell when a gun is pointed directly at him, he has a chance to anticipate the firing of the gun itself. Such an anticipation might be compressed in time with the firing of the gun, giving the guy on the receiving end the impression that he reacted when the gun was fired, when in fact he was already on the move before the trigger was pulled.

Waverly: I loved the first half of your post (the calculations and answer) but could have done without the second half.

You assume some Hamilton-vs-Burr-type duel scenario and you poo-poo the idea of trying to dodge the bullet on the grounds that the practical unknowns of the situation make bullet-dodging as dangerous as standing your ground. That is, you can’t know for certain if said bullet is heading for where you’re standing or where you’re “dodging” to. True but…

Why not imagine the entirely reasonable wartime scenerio of poking your head up from a trench/foxhole or out from behind a brick wall? If you can react fast enough (…and your post seems to show that it is possible…) dodging the bullet seems entirely worthwhile.

Re: the duel scenario: I was just illustrating that since you could not see the bullet, there could be no objective evidence that you dodged it even if it missed you. Since you want to get out of the way of additional rounds or in the case of noting a gun pointed in your direction not wanting to remain in position, quick movement seems to be advisable, but I would not define it as dodging.

Re: Poking of the head: The soldier is not waiting to see if there are bullets headed in his direction, his poking and retraction are independent of detecting a bullet that must be dodged. He is just using common sense and not remaining a target.

I can see a number of way to successfully avoid being shot at the last moment, but none of them involve actively discerning an incoming bullet and moving out of it’s path. This would be my definition of dodging.

How about this quick thought experiment: would you react differently to gun being pointed and a live round fired than to a blank under identical conditions and without your prior knowledge? I think not. You are reacting to different cues than the projectile.

I get your drift, Wav. Essentially you’re saying:

Dodging1 = seeing/discerning the bullet that is headed toward you + purposefully evading it

But, personally, I think that’s too strict a standard. I’d say that this looser definition works too:

Dodging2 = detecting a shot has been fired and is likey headed your way + reacting in time to get out of danger.

Definition 2 reduces the question to a matter of raw detection and reaction speed which, I would argue, is what “dodging a bullet” is all about – regardless of how artless. Yes, it assumes that 1. you are the bullet’s intended target and 2. that the bullet is properly aimed such that it would hit you if you did not vacate your space pronto.

Of course none of this applies to the OP who asked about detecting the incoming shot by sound. As you point out in your post that appears to be just about impossible under my definition or yours.

typo mna While I agree with you about the Matrix, I’m not so sure about the next bit

Think of the bullets as cars in a line on a motorway (freeway), all travelling at 800 feet per second. Now think of every tenth car driving much slower than the others. It’s not going to work, is it?
Just to add another dimension to this, there is always the classic question of the hunter shooting straight at a monkey in a tree. The monkey lets go as soon as it hears the shot, and falls to the ground - does it get hit or not?

RusselM – before some anal physics type comes along (who, me?), you might want to change your question to have the monkey let go as soon as he sees the gun go off (how about the muzzle flash), rather than hearing it.