How Dangerous Is A Bullet Shot Up In Air?


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We’ve all seen the videos of well-armed militia celebrating with some good old-fashioned gun fire, after all nothing says I just run 10K or we just overthrew the government quite like pointing your gun to the sky and letting it rain.

Could it be possible that this seemingly innocent expression of joy could be actually dangerous?

So there you are excited over the victory of your preferred political candidate. You grab whatever loaded firearm you have handy rush outside and start gleefully firing in the air when suddenly a thought- this bullets have to finally come down. And surprisingly the answer to this question is an infatic yes.

When a gun is fired a number of factors determine the bullets path. One of the first things to consider is a muzzle velocity simply put as the speed at which a bullet is moving when it leaves the gun barrel. This can vary considerably depending on the type of gun used. The ever-popular AK-47 for instance is capable of firing around 750 metres per second while in modern rifles fastest high performance cartridges can reach a muscle velocity of about 4,000 feet per second due to the effects of air resistance bullet slow down pretty quickly other factors include atmospheric pressure humidity temperature and gravity.

Now celebratory gunfire differs from regular gunfire in that it’s generally not directed towards a person or an object but rather in the air. Not long ago it was believed that bullets shot upwards somehow achieve escape velocity. We now know all bullet shots on the surface of the Earth do not even leave the stratosphere.

In reality when a bullet is fired directly upwards the upward Force accelerating the bullet drops off entirely the bullet is at its maximum velocity. It has its maximum kinetic energy as it leaves the gun barrel. From this point downward forces like gravity and air resistance slow the bullet’s ascent.

The bullet reaches it highest point when it’s kinetic energy has been transferred to heat and gravitational potential energy. Here it’s velocity is zero. The only Force now been exerted on the bullet is gravity. Which pulls the bullet back to Earth It’s velocity which increases by 9.81 m per second, every second. As the bullet accelerates downwards its velocity increases as does air resistant. And when a bullet Falls naturally it will often spin and tumble in the air increasing it air resistance and further slowing its acceleration considerably. When gravity and air resistance balance out the the bullet achieves terminal velocity meaning it will no longer go any faster. The question is are bullets falling at this speed still dangerous? The short answer is yes. Very dangerous and they have been known to kill as a bullet falling downwards is more likely to hit you in the head and this is often fatal.


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