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hillcountryannie
10-17-2012, 05:59 AM
Hi, Iím looking for someone to give me some insight about self-inflicted gunshot wounds to the head. I apologize that this is so lengthy and gruesome, but Iíve been storing up these questions

A little bit about my novelóHarper, a 16 year-old girl growing up on a ranch in Central Texas, is in love with her neighbor and childhood friend, Riley. One afternoon, Riley comes home from school and shoots himself in the head in his familyís barn. Harper doesnít see it happen and isnít the one who finds him (her Dad does), but she does catch a glimpse of him dead before her Dad can stop her. Itís all written through Harperís point-of-view, so there is a lot of speculation as well as her imagining/picturing different aspects of his suicide.

Most of what Iíve written so far is because Iíve pictured it all this way, but Iím open to change to make my work more realistic. Iíve also read a lot of journal articles, looked at photos, read first-hand accounts, and even watched a video of Budd Dwyer killing himself on camera. Yeah, I pretty much gave myself nightmares, but I want to really get into Harperís pain and make this all as plausible as possible.

I pictured Riley using a rifle or a shotgun, since these would be the sort of working guns that a ranching family would own. I went with the rifle because I thought the shotgun would be extra gory. In the Dwyer video, he puts the gun in his mouth and there is a lot of blood but his face is still recognizable. He used an entirely different gun though, a .357 Magnum. So far, I have not gotten into specifics about the rifle Riley uses.

So my questions/issuesÖ
-If he used some sort of hunting rifle, what would the damage be like? Of course itís disturbing, but is it severe-massive blood loss trauma or no head sort of trauma?
- Basically, Iím looking to write in a rifle that would be the former, one where the family could have an open casket. This is important, because this disturbs my character. Iíve read about people using a .22 and there being no exit wound, just blood loss and major bruising.
- Harper is pretty sure that Riley didnít die right away and that her Dad tried to help him in some way. What would you even attempt to do for someone with this kind of injury?

Thanks for any insight you can give. If you have any additional info, please share.

thothguard51
10-17-2012, 06:30 AM
1...Rifles are hard to pull the trigger on if the barrel is in your mouth. Not impossible though. Will depend on how long the victims arms are.

2...Most farms have 22 rifles to kill rodents and crows. While a 22 long rifle slug can kill, it does very little damage. Nice neat hole. The mod was once known for using 22 caliber hand guns on hits. But a hunting rifle, say a 30-30 or larger is going to do a lot of damage when it exits the head. Bigger hole coming out than going in. There is also going to be a recoil so the victim may have his teeth knocked out, lip split, that sort of thingy.

Bits of brain and skull will be splatted on anything behind the victim and he will bleed a bit, but in a barn, unless its on a concrete floor like a dairy barn, the straw or dirt is going to soak a lot of the blood up quickly.

Good luck on this, gruesome...

jclarkdawe
10-17-2012, 06:54 AM
Realize that there are a wide range of results here. At least one person used a shotgun and merely succeeded in blowing off his face, not killing himself.

Rifle or shotgun is usually done with the barrel in the mouth, as it gives you an anchor point. Triggering is done with long arms, a toe, or a piece of string. All are easily jiggled, resulting in a wide range of trajectories.

A .22 is unlikely to have an exit wound. There are pictures of John F. Kennedy's head wounds during the autopsy, as well as others. Exit wounds are messy. Brain, skull, hair, and blood can (and probably will) be splattered against the wall behind the individual. Cleaning will be a long, labor-intensive process.

As an EMT I had a patient with a self-inflicted .22 shot to the side of the head. No exit wound. Patient had a blood pressure of 60/nothing, pulse was just barely readable, breathing about 6 per minute. Massive blood loss. Two high flow IVs, max O2, airway management and rush him to the hospital. Hospital checked out the situation for about five hours, and then with consultation of family, allowed the patient to die.

Abraham Lincoln is also another good example of a gunshot to the head.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

hillcountryannie
10-17-2012, 07:27 AM
Thanks for the input. From personal experience I know it can be done, because a friend of mine killed himself with one in high school. He lived long enough to be air-lifted to the hospital but died when they landed.

I looked up various total lengths of rifles and some were as short as 34 inches. I just don't buy this family having a .22 for that reason you mentioned. A compact rifle would work well in my story. It's good for when you're on horseback and this is a ranch, not a farm. Maybe I should write in a youth rifle?? There could be a whole story around the gun. But maybe it should be a shot gun? I don't want it to be just gore...that's not the point.

Thanks, it's difficult to write, but I really want to be honest.

hillcountryannie
10-17-2012, 07:45 AM
Jim, thanks for the info. Someone was telling me that the type of damage can vary so much based on trajectory. And like you said, a flinch or jiggle can change everything.

I envisioned there being an exit wound. My MC has nightmare about skull fragments and that sort of thing. However, there doesn't actually have to be any there in the barn, because this is just what she perceives.

Trebor1415
10-17-2012, 11:39 AM
If you want him dead, but you don't want excessive gore and you want an open casket, I agree that you should go with a .22 LR rifle.

.22's are very common around farms. The three most common "farm guns" are probably .22 rifles, 12 or 20 gauge shotguns, and some sort of centerfire rifle like a .30 - 30 Winchester.

Any of those would work for a suicide, but, of those, I think a .22 would work best for what you want to have happen story wise.

Another choice might be a .410 Shotgun. That's also a "pest control" shotgun with a smaller bore than a 20 Gauge or a 12 Gauge so it could be a bit more believeable that he could kill himself with it but not mess himself up enough for a closed casket.

hillcountryannie
10-17-2012, 07:54 PM
Trebor, Thanks.

I think I'm going with the .22 though my MC never says what type of gun specifically. It's something that I need to know to write the details, but my MC wouldn't know the specifics. No one would mention that to her and it was a gun that belonged to his Dad.

His Dad wasn't a hunter, which is important because it's something that the MC's father and him do together. So, the .22 would be the sort of gun someone like his Dad would've had around, maybe a gun from when he was a kid.

hillcountryannie
10-23-2012, 02:48 AM
Okay, one more question. As mentioned above, I'm going to have my character put the rifle in his mouth. Now, is him kneeling, using the ground as a sort of prop feasible?

Also, it doesn't have to be exact, because my MC isn't there when he does it, she images what it might have been like.

Vaulted
10-23-2012, 06:47 AM
Okay, one more question. As mentioned above, I'm going to have my character put the rifle in his mouth. Now, is him kneeling, using the ground as a sort of prop feasible?

Sure, but would make more awkward to pull the trigger. Maybe use a stick or something.

Rifle bullets do more damage than pistol bullets because they move faster. A bullet through the brain would distort the tissue surrounding its path, and its velocity together with gas build-up behind it would make the skull pop open at the back. Autonomic functions might linger but the person would be brain dead. There would be spatter behind the person, possibly bone fragments, though it's also possible that the skull frags would be retained to the scalp (the 'flap' effect).

A careless person might angle too low and blow out their neck, in which case brain function might persist for a short time before massive rapid blood loss had its effect.

With rifle in mouth, only the back of the head should be visibly effected, making open casket possible. I don't know what the effects of a shotgun would be - more unpredictable, I think, with that shot potentially bouncing around the mouth and skull.

Hope this is useful.

spottedgeckgo
10-23-2012, 07:14 AM
with shotguns much depends on the ammo. Birdshot (probably common for a 410 someone mentioned) Is going to make a mess, because the instant it hit's soft tissue the small beads dump their energy very quickly. A slug will behave more like a normal bullet.

A 22 is also ammo dependent. Hollow points are going to actually have a shallower penetration from a rifle. If you want a detailed explanation of why then pm me. Solid point will penetrate and pass thru with a very clean hole.

A ruger 10/22 has a short 18-20" barrel is can be around 30" overall (check ruger's site for exact dimensions). Most 22s tend to be smaller so they are close to the legal limit for rifle length. Part of the reason for this is the ammo as well, but I'm not getting into it. A taller fellow standing on his knees will have to stretch a bit but should be able to reach the bangswitch.

--oh yea, ranchers tend to use .22s to dispatch cows before butchering. Don't know if you were still looking for a "reason" for the gun to be there. They also typically keep a side arm with them for coyotes and such, either in the tractor/truck, or on their hip.

hillcountryannie
10-23-2012, 05:32 PM
With rifle in mouth, only the back of the head should be visibly effected, making open casket possible. I don't know what the effects of a shotgun would be - more unpredictable, I think, with that shot potentially bouncing around the mouth and skull.

Hope this is useful.

Thanks for the help. A shotgun can blow everything a part-- the kind of gore I want to stay away from.

hillcountryannie
10-23-2012, 05:36 PM
A 22 is also ammo dependent. Hollow points are going to actually have a shallower penetration from a rifle. If you want a detailed explanation of why then pm me. Solid point will penetrate and pass thru with a very clean hole.

--oh yea, ranchers tend to use .22s to dispatch cows before butchering. Don't know if you were still looking for a "reason" for the gun to be there. They also typically keep a side arm with them for coyotes and such, either in the tractor/truck, or on their hip.

Thanks for the help. Turns out that going with a .22 made a really interesting side-story.

spottedgeckgo
10-24-2012, 12:16 AM
Glad to hear it, good luck with your WIP