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Keyboard Hound
06-10-2008, 04:40 PM
Does anyone know what would happen if a bullet was thrown into a fire? Back when I was very small this happened in our neighborhood, but according to what some people are telling me, my memories are skewed. What I remember is talk that the bullet went off and whizzed past someone's head. The bullet would have been from a rabbit or squirrel hunting rifle.

I want to use it in a story, but want to be sure of what would happen first.

BarbaraKE
06-10-2008, 05:05 PM
I'm pretty sure it doesn't do much of anything. The tiny bit of gunpowder explodes (making the 'bang' noise) but the force of the explosion just dissipates since the bullet is not in a confined space (i.e. there's nothing for the force of the explosion to 'push' against).

Reminds me of the movie 'Armageddon' where the scientist (played by Jason Isaacs) explains why they have to drill on the incoming meteor.

"What happens if you hold a firecracker in the palm of your hand and light it?"
"You burn your hand."
"What if you make a fist around it before setting it off?"
"Your wife will be opening your ketchup bottles for you."

(Somehow it sounded a lot better when he said it.)

PattiTheWicked
06-10-2008, 05:19 PM
I don't know about one being thrown into a fire, but back in the day, when I worked for a fire department, we had a huge house fire. It was fully involved by the time we got there, and the homeowner was worried because he had a lot of ammunition in the house. Sure enough, things started popping and exploding, once the ammo heated up to the point where it would ignite.

So you could throw a bullet it, but it does take a while for it to reach the hot-enough point.

tallus83
06-10-2008, 05:40 PM
Yes, the bullet will fire. The gunpowder explodes from the heat of the flames or the flame itself.

Light a firecracker and lay it in the palm of your hand and it will do more than burn your hand when it explodes. That is gunpowder in the firecracker, barbaraKE

JimmyB27
06-10-2008, 05:56 PM
Yes, the bullet will fire. The gunpowder explodes from the heat of the flames or the flame itself.

Light a firecracker and lay it in the palm of your hand and it will do more than burn your hand when it explodes. That is gunpowder in the firecracker, barbaraKE
Yeah, you really don't want to be watching Armageddon for its scientific accuracy.

A little bit of conjecture here, but I'm fairly sure that the enclosed space that's relevant in the firing of a bullet is not the gun's chamber, but the round casing. So, it should still fire when it gets hot enough for the gunpowder (or whatever the current equivalent is) to ignite.
However, we need to remember that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. In the gun's chamber, this manifests itself as recoil. Without the gun's chamber to contain it, the casing would also fly off in the opposite direction to the bullet.

C.bronco
06-10-2008, 06:07 PM
Please: do not try this at home!!!!

C.bronco
06-10-2008, 06:09 PM
Yes, the bullet will fire. The gunpowder explodes from the heat of the flames or the flame itself.

Light a firecracker and lay it in the palm of your hand and it will do more than burn your hand when it explodes. That is gunpowder in the firecracker, barbaraKE
Ditto.

It only takes a tiny hammer and tiny spark inside a firearm to set off the bullet.

WriteKnight
06-10-2008, 07:03 PM
AS Jimmy points out, the round will explode- but since there is no chamber or barrell to direct the projectile (bullet) while restraining the casing - the various parts of the bullet will fly off in different directions. So yeah - the bullet goes one way, the casing goes another - and possibly the casing fractures into shrapnel as well.

wordmonkey
06-10-2008, 07:24 PM
My source for all things strange and potentially plot-tastic.

Mythbusters!

And sure enough, they did a variant on this question (http://kwc.org/mythbusters/2007/08/episode_85_red_rag_to_a_bull_h.html).

jclarkdawe
06-10-2008, 08:30 PM
One of my fire calls was a result of one of the locals expressing his displeasure with the police for providing him with jewelry and a room for a couple of days. He decided that burning the town's police cruiser would be a good way of showing his displeasure.

We arrive to find the cruiser fully involved. Needless to say there is ammunition in the trunk. The guys on the hose not quite as aggressive as usual. Personally I enjoyed being pump operator.

Until we got everything cooled down, we were getting lots of popping sounds from the trunk. The cruiser did have a couple of holes in the trunk, and some bulges. Most of the ammo stayed in the trunk. Even the two that got out didn't go more than a couple of feet.

Two reasons why a bullet in this type of situation wouldn't have much force. The first is the casing has nothing to push against (recoil). Instead of the butt (I don't know the technical term) and your shoulder, the casing goes backwards. The second is the bullet starts wobbling immediately after it pops off. The result is it just doesn't have much force.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

Julie Worth
06-10-2008, 09:43 PM
They did this on mythbusters. Not enough energy to kill, but probably enough to take out an eye.

C.bronco
06-10-2008, 09:52 PM
Thanks Wordmonkey! Here's the Mythbusters result:

"Hot Bullets:
Bullets in an oven: Bullets stored in an oven can fire with lethal consequences: bullets busted, but a loaded gun confirmed
Bullet on a campfire: Bullets thrown into a campfire can kill: busted (injuries, but not lethal)
Aerosol cans on a campfire: busted (injuries, but not lethal)
Fire extinguisher on a campfire: busted (safety release valve triggers)
Beer keg on a campfire: plausible (big boom) "

Injuries, but not lethal seems a good deterrant to me.

As for "Beer Keg in Campfire," it is lethal. This http://www.emtbravo.net/index.php?showtopic=14120&st=0&p=69029&#entry69029
is from my dear old hometown.

Linda Adams
06-11-2008, 02:10 AM
When I was Saudi Arabia, the batallion sergeant-major's tent caught fire. His driver was trying to fill a kerosene lantern and didn't realize that it was still lit. The fire went up the kerosene can, and he threw it away and ran from the tent.

The tent went up fast, and the one next to it caught on fire--they had tied the tents together, so the fire just crawled across the rope. As soldiers ran to drop the next tent before it went up, the ammunition in the tents starting popping--almost like popcorn in the microwave. Everyone, of course, ran for cover like someone was shooting at us, though looking back at now, the only danger was close to the fire. One of our cooks, who used to be a Marine, hopped in the shower water truck, roared over to the fire, and used the water to put the fire out.

The sound of the bullets going off was more like firecrackers, rather than a round fired from a rifle or gun.

The Grift
06-11-2008, 07:03 PM
It's called cooking-off, and as mentioned it's more like a bunch of firecrackers than having bullets shoot themselves off. Even if one was oriented in the correct direction, they would not fly with even a fraction of the energy they would if fired from a weapon. There is danger, of course, but mostly from shrapnel and at close range.

ALLWritety
06-11-2008, 07:23 PM
No one told the writers of "Shoot 'em up". Clive Owen in the movie put 4 bullets between his fingers and fired them perfectly in to the chest of the bad guy.

I guess in a movie it is all make believe!!!

Kevver

Keyboard Hound
06-13-2008, 04:14 PM
Thanks all!