Curiosity doesn't just kill cats

In the wake of the shoot-out with the alleged Boston bombers in the streets of Watertown, Esquire has some timely advice from Lt. Col. Robert Bateman who actually knows a thing or two about bullets:

If you are in a place where you hear steady, and sustained, and nearby (lets call that, for some technical reasons, anything less than 800 meters) gunfire, do these things:
  • Go to your basement. You are cool there.
  • If you don't have a basement, go to the other side of the house from the firing, and leave, heading away from the firing. Do not stop for a mile.
  • If you do not think that you can leave, get on the ground floor, as far from the firing as possible, and place something solid between you and the firing. Solid is something like a bathtub, a car (engine block), a couple of concrete walls (single layer brick...nope).
  • If you are high up (say 4rd story or higher) just get away from the side of the building where the firing is taking place. You will, mostly, be protected by the thick concrete of the structure.
But for cripes sake, do not step out on to your front porch and start recording a video on your iPhone, unless you actually have a death-wish, or are being paid significant amounts of money, in advance, as a combat journalist/cameraman.
He points out that nearly everything you see in movies and TV about gunfire and bullet impacts is completely wrong. Bullets don't just get absorbed by walls; anything with a reasonable amount of gunpowder behind it will smash multiple bricks with ease, and sheetrock (plasterboard) will barely slow it down. This is why, when EMS crews pull up to the scene of a shooting, they are very careful about positioning the engine block of their vehicle between them and anyone holding a gun (civilian or police).

Remember the Empire State Building shooting last year? Nine bystanders got nailed by bullets fired (16 rounds in total, from handguns) by the responding police officers, and the associated ricochets and fragments when those bullets hit walls, pavement and street furniture. That only the two Boston gunmen and one police officer were hit in the exchange of over 100 rounds of gunfire at Dexter and Laurel is a minor miracle:

David LaRocca, a local sculptor, was in the kitchen of his Laurel Street studio, where he lives and works, when he heard the first series of pops.
Instead of ducking for cover, he went outside to see what was happening, certain that he was too far away to be hit.
"I heard the pop, pop, popping. I could see the activity," LaRocca said, who stood on the sidewalk outside his house while looking down the street to site of the action. "I heard whizzing sounds. But then I later figured it was bullets going by me that I was hearing."
David LaRocca has hopefully learned how much he didn't know about gunfire, and he's lucky that it wasn't the last lesson he ever learned.

The sound of gunfire should be a cue to anyone to get low, get behind cover, and get the heck out of Dodge.


  1. 40+ years ago when I was a kid I used to dig bullets out of Maiden Castle. These included 0.5cal heavy machine gun rounds.

    I was amazed how heavy these unjacketed lead rounds were, and the thought of being hit by one travelling at several hundred miles an hour was pretty boggling.

  2. Worse, just imagine what it would do to your iPhone... bet the Apple Store won't cover that under the warranty.


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