Shooting a 38 into the air............

If I shot a 38 calliber weapon straight up into the air, howlong will the bullet fly until it slows and down and stops and falls back to Earth?

Let’s say for argument that we are in a place near sea level on a clear day.


By a remarkable coincidence, I just happen to have a papper by Lucien Haag, an Arizona Firearms Examiner, on the very subject of falling bullets.

Natually, it is securely locked away in my storage unit with all my other ballistics papers, safely out of reach. sigh

Bypassing the question then, I will go straight to the subsequent point someone will raise: how fast will the bullet be going when it hits the ground? That I know to be somewhere in the range of 150fps-250fps.

More specific answers to both questions will follow tomorrow evening.


Dude, isn’t that carrying gun safety a little far?

I shot a 38 into the air
and where it fell I know not where…

Whew! See what a vacation does to one’s response times?

From Falling Bullets: Terminal Velocities and Penetration Studies, by Lucien Haag of Forensic Science Services, as presented to the International Wound Ballistics Association Conference, March 1994.

Cartridge Bullet Wt Muzzle vel Max Alt Terminal Vel
(gr) (fps) (ft) (fps)

38 Spl Lead 158 950 4,040 241 (base first)
Round Nose 182 (tumbling)

38 Spl SWC 158 950 3,296 238 (base first)
167 (tumbling)

For comparison:

.30-06 JSP 180 2700 10,103 323 (base first)

These figures were determined using the Baltec 1 ballistics computer program. Differing velocities reflect the different manner in which a bullet may return if fired straight up.


Curse you, formatting problems! Curse you!!!
Cartridge…Bullet Wt… Muzzle vel… Max Alt …Terminal Vel
…(gr)… (fps)… (ft)… (fps)

38 Spl Lead…158…950… 4,040… 241 (base first)
Round Nose… 182 (tumbling)

38 Spl SWC…158…950…3,296… 238 (base first)
…167 (tumbling)

For comparison:

.30-06 JSP…180…2700…10,103…323 (base first)