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Thread: Getting Shot vs Getting Stabbed in the Stomach

  1. #1
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin S.A.Michel's Avatar
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    Getting Shot vs Getting Stabbed in the Stomach

    Hi, there!

    I'm writing a novel where one of the characters gets either shot in the stomach (close range) or stabbed, but I need some factual information to decide which is more feasible.

    1. What would it feel like/What would be the symptoms?
    2. How long would the person (healthy female, around 18 or 19) have to live after that?

    3. I read once that a shot to the stomach is one of the slowest and most painful deaths a human being can endure (I believe it was in a forum concerning the movie "The Invisible", where this girl, Annie, gets shot in the stomach and then lives for a while after that, presumably in a lot of pain)... how factual is this?

    Thanks in advance,

    »Sam.

  2. #2
    A Gentleman of a refined age... thothguard51's Avatar
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    Remember, pain is a relative term. Some people can tolerate incredible amounts of pain and others cannot. If the pain is too severe, your body has a self-preservation mechanism where you pass out, thus you don't have to handle the pain.

    A stomach wound of any sort is very dangerous because it can lead to peritonitis, (Sp?), where the stomach acids and bile will poison the system.

    As to which is worse. Depending on caliber of the gun, I would rather be shot that gutted with a knife, which does much more damage. Gun shot wound have been know to seal themselves because of the heat involved from the projective. A knife wound, does not close itself, and if its a large enough knife wound, your intestines can spell out.

    As with all information, the outcome will depend on what you are going for...

    Good luck...
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    Professor of applied misanthropy Drachen Jager's Avatar
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    Gunshot wounds do not close themselves thoth. The projectile may be hot if you are at close range, but it passes through far too quickly to cauterize the wound. Whatever you read to the contrary is simply wrong.

  4. #4
    Sever your leg please. Canotila's Avatar
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    I'd rather be shot with a small caliber gun. For one thing, the bullet would probably be a lot more sterile coming out of a hot muzzle than a random knife blade. The amount of damage varies a lot depending on the size and type of round. Some are designed to expand once they hit their target. Does it hit any bone? Spine? Ouch. At close range if it's all soft tissue the bullet may just pass totally through.

    Does the person receive any medical attention afterward? You can pretty much decide how long you need your person to live and how functional they need to be during that period and tailor the injury to that. It's possible to even be shot in the abdomen and survive if it misses major organs. One of my ancestors fought in the civil war. He was the son of a midwife, and learned from his mom that something they couldn't see made people sick (she noticed if she boiled sheets and things between patients her mortality rate was much lower). Anyway, he was gutted by a mini ball, and according to the story boiled some water, washed his guts off and bound them back into this abdomen. Later he found a confederate kid in the same predicament and treated him the same way. Both he and the kid lived. They became really good friends after the war and corresponded for years. My aunt has a tintype of the kid in one of the old albums. I'm guessing what happened was the mini balls grazed their abdomens and basically cut them open without actually damaging any internal organs.

    A stomach shot that kills is probably going to be from blood loss and infection. Even if the bullet going in is sterile, a punctured colon or something is going to spill a lot of nasty bacteria into the abdominal cavity. Infection would make it hard for someone to do very much because the high fevers that go along with it are pretty debilitating.


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    Unban Opty now, m'kay? Rufus Coppertop's Avatar
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    I'm assuming by stomach, you mean the actual stomach, not just the abdomen generally?

    I imagine it could be like being punched hard in the stomach but worse. She'll probably curl up and start howling and groaning, possibly writhing and rolling up.

    As far as I know, it is possible to survive a bullet in the stomach. If she's shot by a small gun and the bullet makes a neat little hole, she might last hours and she might even survive if an ambulance is available.

    I imagine a knife wound would be almost as agonizing yet, a teenager I met in psychiatric nursing once, had stabbed himself in the upper abdomen. I saw the wound and something along the lines of "God mate! That must've been agony!" He shook his head and denied that it had been.
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    practical experience, FTW GregS's Avatar
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    As is so often the case when you're talking about wound dynamics, "worse" and "lifespan" are completely relative concepts. As is shock and emotional trauma. I know that's not the answer you want, but--on the upside--it means you can paint the picture you're looking for.

    Shortish versions: Death by abdominal gunshot can come in as little as several minutes or as long as never (assuming medical attention for infection), but averages a few hours. There are dozens of variables to determine why, including shot placement, type of bullet, protection and range between shooter and victim, etc., etc. Regardless, it is excruciatingly painful, primarily due to the effects of the shockwave through the body (called a temporary wound cavity), the invasion of sepsis and its cousins, and because of the muscles involved. As anyone who's been punched in the gut (or worse) will tell you, everything you do uses your abdominal muscles. Everything.

    Death by stabbing is close to identical, though has three notable exceptions. First, because blades can cut easily (few people stab and withdraw straight into a body) it creates longer wounds. Second, unless we're talking swords or long daggers, it is rarely as deep as a GSW, so it is less likely to do massive internal damage. Third, blades really don't cause temporary wound cavities.

    So, as I've said numerous times on this forum, it is far easier to tell us what effect you want and have us help create your scenario than it is to ask abstracts in search of concretes.

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    Sever your leg please. Canotila's Avatar
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    Oh, I asked my dad what it felt like to get stabbed in the abdomen because he was knifed in a barfight years back. He said he honestly didn't feel it until after they took him to the hospital, stitched him up, and the painkillers and adrenalin wore off. That might have had something to do with him being really drunk, though the adrenalin probably helped.


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    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin S.A.Michel's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by GregS View Post
    So, as I've said numerous times on this forum, it is far easier to tell us what effect you want and have us help create your scenario than it is to ask abstracts in search of concretes.
    The scene itself takes place in a dark alley... one character is keen on revenge and is led to believe that the woman in front of him is the same one that killed his parents years back... She's just lying there, pinned down, so she provides no resistence to his shooting/stabbing... the idea is he gets taken away (after discovering it wasn't really the murderer, but his wife) and believes she's dead... but she survives, which he doesn't find out until much later.

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    USA: 239 years & a day Chase's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by thothguard51 View Post
    Gun shot wound have been know to seal themselves because of the heat involved from the projective.
    Expect that factoid to be jumped all over . . . and rightly so.

    The projectile is often hot, but not branding-iron hot, and doesn't stay in contact with entrance (or exit) tissues long enough to have any such effect.

    It's just one of the many gross exaggerations about guns and ballistics . . . which needs to be called BS in a writers' forum.

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    I think your scene setting makes a big difference on the shot/stab decision. With quarters that close, the knife seems way more of a feasible weapon. It is also a more personal weapon because he would have to get really close to use it.

    Whereas, the gun is more of a distance weapon. It really makes no sense for him to get that close when he could just simply shot from a distance. Unless you add in some sort of revenge/dialog scene that explains the reasoning for very close contact, then the knife makes a little more sense.

    Another thing to consider, the knife is a hot emotional weapon, while the gun is basically an emotionally distance and meticulously planned type of weapon.

    I also wanted to add that a gun is easier to trace than a knife. Ballistics can match the bullet of the gun. But with a knife, they can only determine the type of knife.
    Last edited by Blue236; 02-25-2011 at 04:58 AM.

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    practical experience, FTW GregS's Avatar
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    I agree with Blue--the emotional context of the knife is way, way more intense. Even at point blank, a knife lets you feel the assault in a way that a gun doesn't.

    And, while yes, ballistics are easier to trace, he could screw up and leave the knife in her, or hit her pelvis and break off the tip in her.

    In terms of where, if he's off-center, more towards the victim's side (either because he's not focused or because she twists) he would probably think she's dead but it would only get her muscles and colon or intestines.

  12. #12
    It was a dark and stormy night hammerklavier's Avatar
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    Guns are often employed at close range as a necessity and just as "emotionally" as a knife.

    This said, a shot to the abdomen... if it hits a vital organ (liver, kidney), major artery or the spinal column, you are in serious trouble. With the knife, kidneys and spine are usually out of range, but the others still apply. With a knife you can also stab upwards through the diaphram and possibly into the heart.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sammychel View Post
    Hi, there!

    I'm writing a novel where one of the characters gets either shot in the stomach (close range) or stabbed, but I need some factual information to decide which is more feasible.
    Quote Originally Posted by Sammychel View Post


    1. What would it feel like/What would be the symptoms?

    2. How long would the person (healthy female, around 18 or 19) have to live after that?

    3. I read once that a shot to the stomach is one of the slowest and most painful deaths a human being can endure


    Hi Sammy. First off, I have never been either shot or stabbed myself. However, I have heard accounts of such incidents.

    1 Feels like, symptoms: This runs the gamut from "didn't feel it at the time", through "felt like kicked by a horse followed by numbness" all the way to "It felt like a red hot iron was shoved through me and then sest my insides on fire around it".

    Symptoms, equally diverse. There's been examples of people literally ignoring wounds getting massive fever som eday later and still surviving. However, there are a few things to count on.

    Gunshot damage: A bullet will destroy flesh in a wound channel about .7 to 1.2 bullet diameters. This will mean that muscles penetrated will work poorly and will be painful to flex. Even with adrenalin up the subject might fall over because the muscles doesn't respond and doesn't offer torso support.

    Bleeding. If a bullet traverses a blood vessel subject will leak. How much depens on the angle, the blood vesssel, shock and many other factors. Sometimes the bullet wound will close up and not bleed much at all while hte body cavities fill with blood. Blood loss usually results in nausea, vertigo, confusion and drowsiness, lack of coordination and eventually loss of consciousness.

    Hydrostatic shock is not an issue with handguns. Really, don't bother with it.

    Sepsis. What will kill you. Sepsis is caused by bacteremia (bacteria inside the blood stream). When shot, debris and pieces of clothing follow the bullet inside the body. These contain bacteria. If the bullet perforates intestines, bacteria from these will enter the blood stream as well.

    If this happens and the body can't handle it, sepsis results. It is a state of fever and inflammation that kills you. (Longer version is on wikipedia, look at sepsis and sirs)

    Stabbing, Same variation of pain level and bleeding. Knifes tend to be twisted sideways when the assailant wants to pull the knife out, they tend to bleed more but not be as deep. this is bad/good. If the bleeding can be stopped survival chances are higher unless internal organs have been damaged. On the other hand, sideways gash means more damaged muscles which means even lesser control over body and hence difficulty to stop bleeding on your own. Also, it is less likely but not unheard of for knifewounds (stabings) to close up so you might lose blood faster.

    How long they have to live: All the way from "healed on their own" (
    Alexis St. Martin comes to mind) to Nicole Winnett who dropped a kitchen knife on her leg and bled to death before paramedics could arrive.

    3 Everyone knows that the most painful way to die is within the bowels of a sarlacc.

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    Shot? What caliber? What range?

    Stabbed? By a short blade, long blade, dagger? Two-edged, single-edged, smooth edge, serrated? Blade left in the body; pulled straight back out; stab, twist, pull?

    The specifications of the weapon are of crucial importance to the experience.

    Shot: the bullet entering the body will not be hot enough to cauterize [as mentioned above], but it will be hot enough to prevent carrying bacteria into the wound on the bullet itself, although it's equally important how clean the skin is at the time of getting shot, since 'surface' bacteria can wreak havoc in open wounds. However, the kinetic energy of the bullet will cause the path of the bullet to cause more damage than the actual bullet itself and suck debris into the wound.

    Stabbed [something of my expertise, but don't ask]: a blade is much worse than a bullet. Even the biggest caliber bullet won't make a large entry wound when compared to getting stabbed with a knife. Perhaps the smallest stab wound would be with an ice-pick, screwdriver or spike dagger. However, these items are often long enough to reach vital organs. If you stab and leave the blade for the paramedics, chances are the flat of the blade will seal the arteries slightly [not enough to prevent bleeding, of course, but flow will be impeded]. If you pull straight back, there will be a difference between an artery being sliced or ripped. Most damage comes from stab>twist>pull techniques, especially with serrated/hooked blades.
    Bacterial infection is always a problem with stab wounds - the blade will almost never be sterile, so you'll carry bacteria into the wound. This is also why a bullet removal by a back alley doctor can be a problem - a non-sterile scalpel will be much more dangerous than the bullet that's to be removed...
    Last edited by AmsterdamAssassin; 03-05-2011 at 01:35 PM.

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    practical experience, FTW Dandroid's Avatar
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    any calibre will create a cavitation wave which has the secondary effect of sepsis due tot eh junk brought in...there is a much greater degree of force, and therefore damage 1:1...the wounds are messier and terribly disfiguring...i would take a knife over a gunshot wound without question...
    Last edited by Dandroid; 03-05-2011 at 02:31 PM.

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    I've been cut, but luckily not in the abdominal area.
    A shot wound to the abdominal area would be crippling, perhaps even lethal.
    A serrated blade stab>twist>pull wound in the abdominal area would most likely be lethal.

    Take your pick, I would avoid either...

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    practical experience, FTW Dandroid's Avatar
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    bullet also has a greater chance of bouncing around...hitting other organs, abdominal aorta...spinal cord...

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    Quote Originally Posted by AmsterdamAssassin View Post

    Stabbed [something of my expertise, but don't ask]: a blade is much worse than a bullet. Even the biggest caliber bullet won't make a large entry wound when compared to getting stabbed with a knife.
    Nope. Sorry but the stats do not back you up. Surviving a knife attack is two to five times more likely than a handgun attack.

    http://www.thehighroad.org/archive/i.../t-294886.html

    It is entirely possible that YOU kill much more efficiently with a knife than I do with a hand gun. I have seen some Kali practitioners I wouldn't want to dance steel tango with, but generally speaking, guns are far more dangerous.

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    Quote Originally Posted by KQ800 View Post
    Nope. Sorry but the stats do not back you up. Surviving a knife attack is two to five times more likely than a handgun attack.

    http://www.thehighroad.org/archive/i.../t-294886.html

    It is entirely possible that YOU kill much more efficiently with a knife than I do with a hand gun. I have seen some Kali practitioners I wouldn't want to dance steel tango with, but generally speaking, guns are far more dangerous.
    Oh, I agree with you. I'm just telling you that chances of surviving a serrated knife ripping your abdomen and getting a .32 shot in your abdomen, chances are the bullet does less damage...

    Furthermore, the reason more people die from getting shot than people die from getting stabbed is easy: stabbing someone is much more difficult than shooting someone - a fact backed up by the following statement from the thread you just quoted:

    Stab wounds have declined by 30%
    whereas gunshot wounds have increased by more than 800%. The ratio of
    stab to gunshot wounds admitted to the intensive care unit reversed
    within the 5-year period 1987-1992. Direct admission to the mortuary was
    three times as common in cases of gunshot compared with stab wounds. The
    hospital mortality rate for gunshot wounds was 8 times that for stab
    wounds. The establishment of dedicated trauma centres is essential for
    the treatment of these injuries, and strategies to control the use of
    firearms are vital.
    Knifework is extremely difficult, but ask a few experienced 'gunfighters' if they would like to take up their guns against an experienced 'knifefighter' at a distance of less than 15 feet/5 meters and most would decline.

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    Quote Originally Posted by AmsterdamAssassin View Post
    Oh, I agree with you. I'm just telling you that chances of surviving a serrated knife ripping your abdomen and getting a .32 shot in your abdomen, chances are the bullet does less damage...
    I think you are cheating a bit there. On one hand a deep thrust "ripping the abdomen" and on the other hand a small, rather slow caliber round. How bout a .357JHP?

    A completely different subject, would a serrated blade really make much of a difference? Perhaps for infection, but the T-shaped wound in itself wouldn't be any bigger i would think. Do you have any info that I have missed?

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    practical experience, FTW GregS's Avatar
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    Serrations (whether kitchen or tac-knife style) allow for easier cutting, and so a comparable slice could go deeper or wider, but the wound itself is really not any more heinous than a normal knife.

    Conversely, they do get caught up in cloth easier, so on long slashes can work against you.

    Relatedly, for those interested, all of the assumed benefits to "serpentine" patterns of ancient sword designs have been thoroughly debunked.

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    Derailed WriteMinded's Avatar
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    Surely the question is what exactly gets damaged by the bullet or the blade. I knew a guy who got himself shot in the stomach with a shotgun through a door. Bad wound, that. A belly full of Buckshot and door splinters. He lived but it was iffy for a long time and he was over a year in the hospital.

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    Quote Originally Posted by GregS View Post
    Serrations (whether kitchen or tac-knife style) allow for easier cutting, and so a comparable slice could go deeper or wider, but the wound itself is really not any more heinous than a normal knife.

    Conversely, they do get caught up in cloth easier, so on long slashes can work against you.

    Relatedly, for those interested, all of the assumed benefits to "serpentine" patterns of ancient sword designs have been thoroughly debunked.
    Sorry for derailing the thread, but I think this is wrong. If you look at practically all the social stabbing tools used in the past they are all thin and straight edged. Slashing tools, butcher knives, Kukri, falchions and so forth are also straight edged. I think you will find a serrated blade is more difficult to stab or slash deeply with.

    If you use the serrations to create a jagged edge to the wound when you pull it out, the wound might bleed more but I doubt it.

  24. #24
    practical experience, FTW GregS's Avatar
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    KQ800: First off, I think you misread my post. I didn't say serrations would cause a worse wound--in fact, I said the opposite.

    Serrations, especially combat knife serrations, do make for easier cutting against semi-resistant materials. As a lifelong knife fighter who primarily carries a semi-serrated blade, I can tell you that a surface cut against dense materials under tension occur easier with the serrated part of a blade than the straight edge. If you'd like to replicate this on your own, you can try using a matching set of serrated vs. non-serrated steak knives on different calibers of raw meat.

    That said, I said slashes "could" go deeper, not "would/do" go deeper. Anytime you're talking about a cut there are simply too many factors to create concrete formulas. I once, as part of a team including a number of doctors and a medical examiner, tried to help develop a flesh analog that could be used for knives the way ballistic gel is used for bullets (to determine force required to create fixed depths in penetration). It can't be done. The surface tension in skin is too variable across the body.

    So do I believe that there are places on a person that serrations cut better against? Yup. Do I believe that it does more damage? Nope. I certainly respect that you may disagree and/or know better, though.

    But since we are way off topic, that's the last I'll say on it.

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    I'll put my two cents in via an example. Not tailor made to the situation, but it might help. I treated a dude who had been shot in the guts with 5.56mm at a range of about 200m. It wasn't an extremely bad wound as in it didn't destroy any major organs, however it was enough for some guts to burst out of the entry wound. There was only a small amount of bleeding. He was in a fair bit of pain but wasn't screaming or anything, just irregular breathing, wincing and mumbling incoherently. His consciousness was at a pretty low level though. Anyway, the end of the story is he died of internal bleeding a couple of days later. If he had been in a situation that gave him the type of medical care you'd expect in a first world country, I dare say he would have survived.

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