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Thread: 22. Blank At Point-Blank Range

  1. #1
    figuring it all out Alsikepike's Avatar
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    22. Blank At Point-Blank Range

    I have a scene in mind where one of my characters tries to commit suicide by shooting themselves in the center of the chest with a .22 caliber handgun. The thing is, the gun is loaded with blanks. I want my character to survive, but I'm not certain of the kind of injuries that would result from such a situation. I'm well aware that blanks at point-blank range can be very deadly, I'm sure we've all heard what happened to Jon-Erik Hexum. The difference is that Hexum used a .44 caliber, and his gun was against his temple, which is about 4 millimeters thick. My character uses a .22 caliber, and their gun is against their sternum, which is around 1.5 centimeters thick. The main thing I'm worried about is the shockwave itself, as that's what causes most of the damage—e.g., internal bleeding. I'm fine with having my character seriously injured, so long as death in this kind of situation isn't guaranteed. Is this something that's survivable? If so, what kind of wounds could I be looking at?
    Last edited by Alsikepike; 09-14-2017 at 05:37 PM.

  2. #2
    Mostly harmless SuperModerator dpaterso's Avatar
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    With ammunition, the period goes before the number, e.g. .22 caliber.

    Really hard to say for sure if the effect you want would happen, but I'm willing to accept that it could result in a painful wound but not death. I remember reading a news story about an irate driver shooting at a guy with a .22 handgun, and the guy just getting angry and giving the shooter a whupping. So to hear of someone trying to kill themselves with a .22 shooting blanks sounds like a half-hearted suicide attempt at best, and at worst, a stupid comedy skit. If this is actually serious, if they're trying to kill themselves, your character really has to up their game.

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  3. #3
    figuring it all out Alsikepike's Avatar
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    Dammit, I knew there was something wrong with how I was writing the caliber, but I just couldn't figure out what it was! Anyway, the character isn't aware the gun is loaded with blanks, they steal someone else's gun on a whim. But thanks for the input!

  4. #4
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    A .22 long rifle is very anemic round. A chest shot even with a .22 hollow point could certainly be fatal depending on shot placement, but would more likely than not be survivable with prompt treatment. A chest shot with a .22 blank would almost certainly be survivable, absent exceptional bad luck.

    Guns kill by inflicting two forms of damage: a direct wound channel (the hole created by the passage of the bullet) and the a much larger temporary cavity (the area of tissue damage surrounding the direct wound channel caused by the bullet dumping kinetic energy). A .22 pokes a very small hole and carries very little kinetic energy. By contrast, high-powered rifle like a .270 might poke an initial hole only a few hundredths of an inch wider than a .22, but dumps orders of magnitude more kinetic energy into the target. Where a .22 is limited in practical application to use on very small game like squirrels, the similar-circumference .270 can be used on elk and bear--the difference being the much, much greater depth of penetration and temporary cavity inflicted by the .270 round.


    This can be seen in ballistic gel. Here is a .44 magnum round (itself much less powerful than the .270 example given above), with the gel capturing both the direct and indirect channels: https://i.ytimg.com/vi/o3iloqIj-qM/maxresdefault.jpg

    Here, for comparison, is a .22 round: http://lofigunandgame.com/wp-content.../image0024.jpg

    All of that is context to say that getting shot is getting shot--but if your character has to get shot and plausibly survive, a .22 is the way to go. The .22 is so anemic that it would be a challenge to kill an adult human with a single shot from the .22 to the chest, if the person was able to seek treatment after being shot.

    A point-blank .22 blank to the chest would certainly cause painful injuries--probably a couple of inches of penetrating wound and some burns. But absent a freak occurrence, it wouldn't be fatal.

  5. #5
    Learning to read more, post less cmhbob's Avatar
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    .22s are poo-pooed by a lot of people, but I personally don't want to be shot by one if I can at all help it.

    I've seen an NIH report that 4 people have been fatally shot with a .22 caliber air rifle, so it's not necessarily about the velocity.

    At close range from a handgun, they're easily fatal. They're relatively quiet, so a shooter can fire multiple shots quickly without attracting a lot of attention.

    You might post this to the Yahoo Crime Scene Writers list. There's at least one forensic pathologist there who's very good about answering medical questions like this one. The archives there are just a tremendous resource as well.

  6. #6
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    .22 is poo-poo'ed by a lot of people because it is not a reliable killing round for anything much larger than a squirrel. Can a perfectly placed .22 round kill something large, like a person or a black bear? Sure. Can and has. Is it likely to? Nope.
    Last edited by JNG01; 09-14-2017 at 09:56 PM.

  7. #7
    down the rabbit hole of research... CWatts's Avatar
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    My husband's college roommate was murdered by multiple shots with a .22 ETA: handgun. He was delivering pizzas in a high-crime neighborhood (this was the early 90s) and the customer decided to rob him. He ran from the townhouse door to his car on the street, so a distance of 10-20 feet from the shooter, though possibly closer as I think the killer chased him. Apparently he bled to death in his car before 911 could respond.

    ETA: From a news article about the murder:
    One .22-caliber slug hit him in the arm as he ran to his car and dived in. He tried to hide, but the gunman fired through the window. By the time the sixth bullet struck, [he] lay slumped over the steering wheel.
    What made those .22 shots particularly deadly in his case is that they entered his torso but did not have enough energy to exit, so they bounced off his ribs etc. like pinballs wreaking havoc on his vital organs.

    Your suicidal character would likely have researched this. I could see him aiming at his heart to the left of his sternum. I don't know much about blanks but could the explosive gases burn him (maybe similar to an airbag)?

    p.s. The killer, then a teenaged gang member, was caught and is still serving a life sentence.
    Last edited by CWatts; 09-15-2017 at 12:43 AM.

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    That's an awful experience. Glad they caught the criminal.

  9. #9
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    About .22 caliber rifles: They most certainly can kill people, and do. A high school friend of mine accidentally shot another acquaintance (whom I did not know), while they were outside target-shooting tin cans. Struck him in the chest. By the time medical people could get there, he was dead.

    Now, the OP specifies "handgun", and it's worth noting that the favored firearm of many known hired killers is exactly that: a .22 caliber handgun.

    One further note: Back in the 1980s a popular young TV actor named Jon Erik Hexum was fooling around on the set with a pistol loaded with blank cartridges, which he knew to be the case, playfully pointed it at his head and pulled the trigger. The blank cartridge charge penetrated his skull, and he died.

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  10. #10
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    But OP, you said the gun was loaded with blanks. There is no bullet. The subject would get a nasty powder burn to the skin. I suppose a powder charge could penetrate the skull as previously cited, but I wouldn't expect that to be the normal case. I suppose it depends how close and tight you held it to your head.
    Last edited by Al X.; 09-15-2017 at 12:48 AM.

  11. #11
    down the rabbit hole of research... CWatts's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by blacbird View Post
    One further note: Back in the 1980s a popular young TV actor named Jon Erik Hexum was fooling around on the set with a pistol loaded with blank cartridges, which he knew to be the case, playfully pointed it at his head and pulled the trigger. The blank cartridge charge penetrated his skull, and he died.
    Speaking of Hollywood accidents, there is also the improperly loaded prop gun that killed Brandon Lee while filming The Crow in 1993:
    The gun was supposed to fire a blank cartridge. Bob Rosen, the executive producer of the movie, told the Times that when the blank is fired, a “piece of soft wadding normally comes out of the gun. But this time a metallic projectile came out.”...
    That crew loaded the gun that eventually took Lee’s life with dummy bullets for a close-up shot taken prior to the scene. They then replaced those with blanks for the infamous flashback that would explain how Lee’s character had been killed prior to his resurrection.


    But according to Moyer, a portion of one of the dummy bullets had become dislodged from its casing, remaining in the gun’s cylinder. When Massee pulled the trigger, he unwittingly discharged a live weapon.
    The dummy bullets were used because it was a revolver, where the bullets are visible in cylinders - but it was also a larger caliber, I think a .44.
    Last edited by CWatts; 09-15-2017 at 01:52 AM.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Al X. View Post
    But OP, you said the gun was loaded with blanks. There is no bullet. The subject would get a nasty powder burn to the skin. I suppose a powder charge could penetrate the skull as previously cited, but I wouldn't expect that to be the normal case. I suppose it depends how close and tight you held it to your head.
    Exactly right. Of course a .22 blank can kill someone. But it is not likely to.

  13. #13
    ever seeking GeorgeK's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by CWatts View Post
    I don't know much about blanks but could the explosive gases burn him .
    Yes, and powder burns hurt and the powder continues to burn while in your skin so hope there's some water handy. It can even tattoo the skin

    Quote Originally Posted by JNG01 View Post
    .22 is poo-poo'ed by a lot of people because it is not a reliable killing round for anything much larger than a squirrel. Can a perfectly placed .22 round kill something large, like a person or a black bear? Sure. Can and has. Is it likely to? Nope.
    I know of a guy who killed a moose with a plain old wimpy 22 rifle. He managed to shoot it through the eye.
    Last edited by GeorgeK; 09-15-2017 at 02:07 AM.

  14. #14
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    The Hexam case was actually used in a death investigations class I took once. Crazy stuff.

    Actual bullet wounds are highly variable. Everybody has an anecdotal story about somebody getting killed right there by a .22, and everybody else has one about a guy getting shot with a .44 Mag that just shrugged it off.

    Based on my training and experience as a former cop, I think it would be reasonable and believable to write a scene where somebody suffers a contact wound from a .22 blank and survives. If the muzzle was pushed against the chest, I would expect to see burning and tattooing from gunpowder residue at a minimum, with possible stellate tearing of the skin as a possibility. It's certainly the sort of thing that COULD kill somebody, but it wouldn't cause me to shake my head in disbelief if I was reading a story where it didn't, if that makes sense.

    Warning: if you google "stellate tearing" and look at the images, you might see stuff that will keep you up at night.

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    Ex everything; trying something new DrDoc's Avatar
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    FYI the US military M16 and CAR 15 use a 5.56 mm round, almost the same as a .223 caliber bullet. The bullets, while technically interchangeable, should never be interchanged. The 5.56 round is too powerful for a .22 gun or rifle, assuming the cartridge fits.
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  16. #16
    ever seeking GeorgeK's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DrDoc View Post
    FYI the US military M16 and CAR 15 use a 5.56 mm round, almost the same as a .223 caliber bullet. The bullets, while technically interchangeable, should never be interchanged. The 5.56 round is too powerful for a .22 gun or rifle, assuming the cartridge fits.
    Exactly, military rounds won't fit in a 22 plinker

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    Quote Originally Posted by DrDoc View Post
    FYI the US military M16 and CAR 15 use a 5.56 mm round, almost the same as a .223 caliber bullet. The bullets, while technically interchangeable, should never be interchanged. The 5.56 round is too powerful for a .22 gun or rifle, assuming the cartridge fits.
    A 5.56 cartridge is is like 3 times the size of a .22 round. A 5.56/.223 cartridge won't chamber in a .22 LR. The ogive probably wouldn't go past the chamber mouth and the bolt would end up stuck way open. Firing pin won't operate in that condition.

    Here's a picture to demonstrate the difference (scroll about halfway down the page to see the cartridges side-by-side); http://www.thefirearmblog.com/blog/2...lr-vs-223-rem/
    Last edited by JNG01; 09-15-2017 at 07:51 PM.

  18. #18
    Benefactor Member WeaselFire's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Al X. View Post
    But OP, you said the gun was loaded with blanks. There is no bullet.
    But there is a projectile. It's just usually cotton or plastic wadding. At close range, it can be dangerous.

    Except, a .22 blank may not give you any real wound. Held in contact, it will at best penetrate the chest wall and likely not quite do that. If you need a physical wound., have it loaded with snake shot instead, pellets like a shotgun. Hurt like hell, fairly serious wound but not penetrating into the heart or critical arteries. It's not uncommon to load a .22 revolver with snake shot for two rounds and standard rounds in the rest of the chambers.

    Or, simply use a standard .22 caliber round and have it miss anything vital. Have it pass the heart, maybe clip a vein so there's bleeding, but it doesn't need to kill. Unless you're going for the irony of a suicide attempt with blanks, in which case you will need to use blanks.

    By the way, John Eric Hexum shot himself playing Russian Roulette with a .44 Magnum and the pressure blew skull fragments into his brain, killing him. Bandon Lee was shot with a gun that was actually loaded with blanks, but had a bullet stuck in the barrel from a previous squib load and that bullet is what killed him.

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  19. #19
    Learning to read more, post less cmhbob's Avatar
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    .22 blanks don't have a wadding. The end of the brass case is crimped closed. See images here.

  20. #20
    Benefactor Member WeaselFire's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cmhbob View Post
    .22 blanks don't have a wadding. The end of the brass case is crimped closed. See images here.
    Depends on the blank.

    There are a number of loads for .22 blank cartridges. The standard ones are used in starter pistols, not much powder and a simple crimped case. Others have plastic, wax or even wood wads, depending on exactly what they are, or were, used for. Many .22 blanks are used in non-rimfire weapons using adapters. Wax plugs used to be common in quick-draw demonstrations and practice. Draw against yourself in a plate glass mirror and the wax shows where the hit would be.

    .22 rimfire blanks without wadding still can cause injuries and have even caused deaths. In contact with the flesh, the gasses will force through flesh, even penetrate chest cavities. Several contact shots using rimfire blanks against the temple area have caused severe injury and even death over the years.

    But the effect all depends on what's needed for the story. Death, severe injury, moderate injury, light injury or just embarrassment.

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