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View Full Version : Surviving Self-Inflicted Gunshot (Rifle) Wound



hillcountryannie
03-30-2013, 11:04 AM
I know I posted something similar last fall, but my story has changed. I'm completely re-writing it. When I originally posted, my character shot himself with a rifle by putting it in his mouth. The story is told through his childhood friend and neighbor who is 15-16 years old. She might not know all the details, but I feel as the writer I need to know them.

Now, my character lives. He will end up with, of course, a very serious injury (with complications), but in the long run be able to function.

Based on a lot of gory Internet research, I've learned it's much more plausible to survive a gunshot wound to the head if the bullet travels through one side of the brain. So, I have him hold the gun to his forehead. But, then I got to thinking if someone would even do that-- put a long gun up to his forehead. I mean, this kid (17) is a ranch kid. He's also a hunter and a good one. My MC mentions how he never missed his mark before. Based on his background, I would think he'd know how to get the job done.

I found a law enforcement report that shows that most rural suicides are with long guns and surprisingly shots to the forehead and side of head are very common.

So, I think how he does it is believable, but is it believable for this type of character? I see his hands shaking or maybe getting startled, which helps him survive. But, why wouldn't he put the barrel in his mouth? Maybe he just couldn't do it that way?

With help from my last post, I settled on a .22, and I think that would probably still work. The reason he didn't use a deer rifle is covered. His dad didn't hunt (MC's dad was the one who took him hunting), so all that was around his place was a .22. He didn't use MC's dad's gun, because he didn't want to put that on her family. He figured his own father was dead, so it didn't matter.

The whole story is so realistic, since I'm writing about places and people I'm so familiar with. I just want this important part to be as believable.

Canotila
03-30-2013, 11:15 AM
My cousin's ex accidentally/on purpose (he was drunk at a party) shot himself in the head with a .22.

He stuck it under his chin and the bullet went straight out the top of his head. This was before she met him. Apparently before he shot himself he was a huge type A jerk. The bullet lobotomized him and he became really sweet and gentle after that.

He functions just fine. Has a good paying job, is a great dad, etc. They aren't married because of infidelity, rather than him being abusive or something like he was before the accident or anything related to the accident itself.

One of my friend's mom was a paramedic and when we were high school kids she told us horror stories of botched suicide calls. She'd responded to more than a few calls for people who'd stuck a gun in their mouth and just ended up making themselves quadriplegic instead of dead.

hillcountryannie
03-30-2013, 11:20 AM
Thanks for that insight. I've never known anyone whose survived a suicide attempt, so I'm in uncharted waters here.

I think that sort of thing happens too often. Getting drunk around a firearm is such a dangerous combination. Family friend of mine did the same thing. Different gun. Different outcome.

alleycat
03-30-2013, 11:41 AM
The easiest thing would just have the character botch the suicide attempt. Since he's using a rifle, and naturally nervous, have him put the barrel in his mouth, have him fumble to reach the trigger (rifles have long barrels anyway, so it could be difficult), and then have the gun go off before he was really ready. The bullet doesn't go through main area of the brain. Say, the bullet then takes out part of his jaws, or just enough to be serious but not deadly.

Canotila
03-30-2013, 11:53 AM
My ex worked in the ER as a patient sitter for patients on suicide watch. There was enough people who botched it for him to have full time hours in a city of a million. You wouldn't believe what people can survive. He told me about one guy who lost half his face with a large caliber gun, eye socket completely blown out, and he survived. Another who slit his throat from ear to ear. That patient lived too.

All I can say is they brought Gabrielle Giffords to the right hospital when she was shot, because those ER docs have had a ton of experience saving people who have close range bullet wounds to the brain.

slhuang
03-30-2013, 05:44 PM
(expertise in guns, not medicine or gunshot wounds)

I'm sure it's not impossible he'd survive shooting himself with a .22 -- I've heard stories of people surviving ridiculously crazy things -- but I wanted to give you a heads up about .22's. One reason* they're often used for assassinations is that a .22 bullet has the velocity to enter the skull but is usually not powerful enough to exit, so can bounce around inside the skull and . . . well, scramble up the person's brains, so they make very effective assassination weapons. Anyway, be aware of this when you're building your scenario if you get into any detail.

*The other reason is that they're quiet enough to be silenced completely with a suppressor.

Chris P
03-30-2013, 05:55 PM
I knew a guy who survived a self-inflicted shotgun blast to the head. He put the barrel under his chin and pulled the trigger with his toe. The reason he survived is, being a small guy, he had to tilt his head backward to fit the gun under his chin. When it went off it blasted away his chin, upper front teeth, and part of his nose, but missed his eyes and brain completely. Had he been taller and able to lean forward so his brain was over the barrel it would have worked. Many years later, his chin is sunken in and scarred, but his speech is fine except for a slight lisp.

If you're having trouble picturing this, try it with a broom stick while viewing your profile in a mirror. It's quite easy to see how he missed.

hillcountryannie
03-30-2013, 06:24 PM
(expertise in guns, not medicine or gunshot wounds)

I'm sure it's not impossible he'd survive shooting himself with a .22 -- I've heard stories of people surviving ridiculously crazy things -- but I wanted to give you a heads up about .22's. One reason* they're often used for assassinations is that a .22 bullet has the velocity to enter the skull but is usually not powerful enough to exit, so can bounce around inside the skull and . . . well, scramble up the person's brains, so they make very effective assassination weapons. Anyway, be aware of this when you're building your scenario if you get into any detail.

*The other reason is that they're quiet enough to be silenced completely with a suppressor.

Yeah, I thought about that. Any suggestions on a specific gun? Don't want to use a shotgun.

Thanks everyone else on your input.

jmare
03-30-2013, 08:34 PM
Bullets do funny things sometimes. I've heard of stories where bullets have been deflected by random objects. For example (http://www.sanluisobispo.com/2013/01/03/2345417/chp-officer-deflected-bullet-with.html). Not that this is particularly useful for your scenario as it stands right now, but it's something to think about and it may give you insight into creating what you feel is a more plausible scenario.

hillcountryannie
03-31-2013, 12:28 AM
Bullets do funny things sometimes. I've heard of stories where bullets have been deflected by random objects. For example (http://www.sanluisobispo.com/2013/01/03/2345417/chp-officer-deflected-bullet-with.html). Not that this is particularly useful for your scenario as it stands right now, but it's something to think about and it may give you insight into creating what you feel is a more plausible scenario.

Crazy stuff!

Through all the reading I've done, I've learned that each scenario, each wound, each injury are all so different. No two situations are the same when it comes to head trauma.

melindamusil
03-31-2013, 01:09 AM
Based on a lot of gory Internet research, I've learned it's much more plausible to survive a gunshot wound to the head if the bullet travels through one side of the brain. So, I have him hold the gun to his forehead. But, then I got to thinking if someone would even do that-- put a long gun up to his forehead. I mean, this kid (17) is a ranch kid. He's also a hunter and a good one. My MC mentions how he never missed his mark before. Based on his background, I would think he'd know how to get the job done.

I found a law enforcement report that shows that most rural suicides are with long guns and surprisingly shots to the forehead and side of head are very common.

So, I think how he does it is believable, but is it believable for this type of character? I see his hands shaking or maybe getting startled, which helps him survive. But, why wouldn't he put the barrel in his mouth? Maybe he just couldn't do it that way?


If he's a hunter, is it possible that he shoots himself in a particular way because he *thinks* that is a better "kill shot"? I am not a hunter but it's my understanding that every hunter has a different definition of what is a good kill shot (aim for the head/shoulder/abdomen/etc). For whatever reason, maybe he thinks he will be more successful by shooting himself in a certain way.

Something else - the subconscious drive to survive is a powerful thing. It is very possible that on a subconscious level, he has convinced himself that it is better to shoot himself in a certain (less damaging) way.



Getting drunk around a firearm is such a dangerous combination. Family friend of mine did the same thing. Different gun. Different outcome.

Perhaps he had a couple of shots of whiskey to steady his nerves, and as a result his judgement is impaired.



All I can say is they brought Gabrielle Giffords to the right hospital when she was shot, because those ER docs have had a ton of experience saving people who have close range bullet wounds to the brain.

I'm a TBI survivor and was taken to the ER in the "bad part of town". Ironically it is also the BEST ER in town, because they deal with gun shot wounds and such on a regular basis. It's pretty amazing what they can do.


Bullets do funny things sometimes. I've heard of stories where bullets have been deflected by random objects. For example (http://www.sanluisobispo.com/2013/01/03/2345417/chp-officer-deflected-bullet-with.html). Not that this is particularly useful for your scenario as it stands right now, but it's something to think about and it may give you insight into creating what you feel is a more plausible scenario.

This reminds me of US President Theodore Roosevelt. After his presidency, he was giving a speech in Wisconsin when he was shot by an assassin. The bullet passed through his eyeglasses case and a thick copy of his speech. Bullet pierced his skin, but was slowed down enough that it didn't pierce his heart or lungs.

James D. Macdonald
04-01-2013, 08:53 PM
The bottom of the cranium is sloped, seen from the bottom.

It's entirely possible (and recorded more than once) for the bullet (or shotgun pellets) to bounce out forward, removing the person's face but not killing him.

MVK
04-01-2013, 10:46 PM
This reminds me of US President Theodore Roosevelt. After his presidency, he was giving a speech in Wisconsin when he was shot by an assassin. The bullet passed through his eyeglasses case and a thick copy of his speech. Bullet pierced his skin, but was slowed down enough that it didn't pierce his heart or lungs. Teddy Roosevelt went on to give his speach before being taken in for treatment. Yet one more reason he's one of my favorite presidents.

hillcountryannie
04-02-2013, 07:08 PM
This reminds me of US President Theodore Roosevelt. After his presidency, he was giving a speech in Wisconsin when he was shot by an assassin. The bullet passed through his eyeglasses case and a thick copy of his speech. Bullet pierced his skin, but was slowed down enough that it didn't pierce his heart or lungs.

So weird. I was just thinking about this....I wrote a report about him in fifth grade. Love Teddy!

And, about the subconscious thing...exactly....I was thinking that maybe my character just couldn't put the gun in his mouth.

melindamusil
04-03-2013, 12:08 AM
One more idea... he may also choose to shoot himself in a less damaging way because he wants to leave behind a better corpse for his family. Like, he figures that if he blows his head off, it will be too hard on his mother/wife/sister, but if he shoots himself *like so*, there will only be a small bullet wound.

Plus he may not want his mother/wife/sister to find him lying on the ground in a pool of blood and brains, so he needs to shoot himself this other way.

(Keep in mind that suicides are not logical. That's one reason why you can use the subconscious... people who attempt suicide can convince themselves of all kinds of completely illogical things.)

WeaselFire
04-03-2013, 09:14 PM
Two thirds of the head is useless space, and only a very small part of the brain stem is 100% terminal, so any shot could be survived if that's what's needed for your character. Work backwards by picking what scarring/disability/problem he has and how the attempted suicide affects him, then find the situation that meets this.

If he has personality changes, frontal lobe damage. Facial tics, maybe a jaw/cheek shot. Loss of taste or smell could be sinus destruction. Speech could be any oral structure, tongue or throat damage. Eyesight, hearing, memory loss -- all can be doable.

Good luck.

Jeff

hillcountryannie
04-05-2013, 07:55 AM
One more idea... he may also choose to shoot himself in a less damaging way because he wants to leave behind a better corpse for his family. Like, he figures that if he blows his head off, it will be too hard on his mother/wife/sister, but if he shoots himself *like so*, there will only be a small bullet wound.

Plus he may not want his mother/wife/sister to find him lying on the ground in a pool of blood and brains, so he needs to shoot himself this other way.

(Keep in mind that suicides are not logical. That's one reason why you can use the subconscious... people who attempt suicide can convince themselves of all kinds of completely illogical things.)

That's exactly what I was thinking. I don't know if he'll reveal that to the MC. But it's something the MC could mention. This would fit his character. He's always very concerned with his family, which is one reason why no one would've ever thought he'd do something like this.

hillcountryannie
04-05-2013, 08:04 AM
Two thirds of the head is useless space, and only a very small part of the brain stem is 100% terminal, so any shot could be survived if that's what's needed for your character. Work backwards by picking what scarring/disability/problem he has and how the attempted suicide affects him, then find the situation that meets this.

If he has personality changes, frontal lobe damage. Facial tics, maybe a jaw/cheek shot. Loss of taste or smell could be sinus destruction. Speech could be any oral structure, tongue or throat damage. Eyesight, hearing, memory loss -- all can be doable.

Good luck.

Jeff

I can visualize the damage that has been done, so that's what I'm working off of. I see him with what will become noticeable scars, though nothing too disfiguring, which is why I didn't want him to use a shotgun.

Oddly enough after I started re-working this my childhood love, who I'm still good friends with, was in a bad accident. There were a few days he was on a vent in ICU and I didn't know if he would make it. He has traumatic brain injury. His long term memory is great but short term isn't. He is also agitated very easily and is now kind of obnoxious. His personality shifts from that to perfectly normal. This has really put me in my MC shoes.