Does A Bullet Shot Into The Air Come Down With A Force Strong Enough To Kill?

Celebratory gunfire, also known as happy firing, is a part of human tradition in different countries since the invention of guns. This celebratory practice is an act of shooting a firearm into the air in celebration. We often witness this kind of tradition during New Year’s Eve, mainly in European countries, Middle East, United States,and Russia.

However, in contrast to the definition of celebratory gunfire, this so-called happy firing often produces undesirable results. Specifically, the act of firing guns in the air sometimes causes accidental property damage, injury, or even death. That is why many countries outlawed this practice to avoid such accidents, although there are still some countries wherein it is still culturally acceptable.

Based on these records, we can say that a bullet shot into the air is lethal. In this article, we are going to look into how firing a gun in the air could lead to fatal results.

What happens when you fire a bullet into the air?

The result of firing a gun into the air mainly depends on the firearm used, wind speed and direction, and the shot angle. All of these factors contribute to the force produced by the bullet.

Experts conducted various studies regarding the movement of bullets fired into the air. Studies show that if a person is on the moon and fires an AK-47 vertically, in precisely ninety degrees, it would go straight upwards faster than the speed of sound – roughly 1,500 miles per hour until it reaches its peak of up to 10,000 feet. On its peak, it will tumble and starts to fall at the same speed of 1,500 miles per hour, making it as lethal as when the bullet came out of the gun. However, this is only applicable if the person made the shot on the moon.

If a person fires a bullet in the same manner vertically here on Earth, its movement will not be the same because of our planet’s atmosphere, which means there would be air resistance. Provided there is no wind; if a person fires an AK-47 into the air, it will still burst straight up at 1,500 miles per hour. When the bullet reaches its peak, it will fall back down at only 150 miles per hour, which is roughly ten percent of its original speed and only one percent of its energy when initially fired. This speed is enough to potentially break the human skin, but not strong enough to land a lethal blow.

However, this is not the reality that we have in the world that we are living in today. It is evident that we live in a world that has winds flowing at different speeds and directions. Meaning to say, even if a person fires a gun straight up, the bullet could still travel sideways for up to two miles away because of the wind. If this happens, the bullet will maintain its angular ballistic trajectory, reducing its chances of engaging in a tumbling motion. Furthermore, when a bullet travels in this manner, it will continue to burst at extreme speeds depending on the angle of the shot, which is potentially fatal most of the time.

More about celebratory gunfire

Due to these reasons, a bullet fired into the air created awareness for some people, mainly to government authorities. In the early 2000s, celebratory gunfire became common in western countries, and at the same time, produced adverse effects. Its hazardous effects are evident to the public because of the several news about accidental property damages and fatalities caused by this inappropriate gunfire tradition.

These casualties are what prompts country leaders to ban the practice of celebratory gunfire. Interestingly, the cases of deaths caused by happy firing significantly declined over the years after the action of government officials. Several political leaders all over the world showed support in ending the wrong practice.

Whatever the reason, randomly firing a gun into the air is improper and could only lead to harmful effects. These harmful effects not just only occur in humans, but also to properties, including vehicles, houses, and other objects exposed outside.