Were people on the ground ever killed by bullet casings?

Discussion in 'Aviation' started by Soundbreaker Welch?, Feb 20, 2009.

  1. Soundbreaker Welch?

    Soundbreaker Welch? Active Member

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    When a plane fires it's guns, all the casings fly off the bullets into the air through little holes beneath the guns. If the plane was say 5,000 feet in the air, those little casings have got to fall a long way. Even something tiny like that can have a powerful impact when it hits. And there are tons of them from even 15 seconds of firing.

    Was any soldiers on the ground, or even civillians ever killed or injured by this tiny pieces of metal?

    Just curious.
     
  2. Amsel

    Amsel Active Member

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    I wouldn't think that the velocity of them falling is fast enough. Objects that fall from high up tend to slow down to terminal velocity. The tumbling causes drag lowering the terminal velocity as well.
     
  3. BombTaxi

    BombTaxi Active Member

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    Actually, I have wondered this. I have no answer, but I would have thought the odds of them hitting anyone were infinitely small. Having said that, I'm sure if they did hit someone, they would do some damage, terminal velocity not withstanding. A flying chunk of brass is, after all, a flying chunk of brass :lol:
     
  4. Soundbreaker Welch?

    Soundbreaker Welch? Active Member

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    That's right!

    I wouldn't like to be hit by it if a friendly plane flew over my lines and dropped a shower of metal on me. But still, it's better than an enemy plane shooting bullets at you!
     
  5. Sweb

    Sweb Member

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    I was on the island of Yap in the Western Caroline Islands some years ago (80-81) and there were .50-cal and 20mm casings everywhere along with shrapnel from American bombs littering the area. The island had changed very little since the end of WWII and the Japanese aircraft were still where they were when the war ended. Anyway, I picked up a bunch of brass from American .50-cal and Japanese 20mm. There wasn't much 7.62 because the islanders took it all to use as slingshot projectiles. They used rubber strips cut from the aircraft tire inner tubes to make the slingshots. The .50-cal and 20mm casings are pretty sizable pieces of brass. I can imagine the .50-cal could do some damage as they were fired at low altitude by Hellcats while strafing the airstrip and revetments. I'm pretty sure they didn't strafe at near-stall speeds but rather as fast as they could scoot across and through the AA fire. A shell casing traveling at 300 plus MPH at tree-top height probably slows down significantly before hitting the ground but still... Ow?!
     
  6. Amsel

    Amsel Active Member

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    I bet that was an interesting trip.
     
  7. Trebor

    Trebor Well-Known Member

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    show som pics?
     
  8. Flyboy2

    Flyboy2 Member

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    how much do you think a shell casing weighs?
     
  9. phas3e

    phas3e Member

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    I remember seeing photos of a Drop tank that went through some poor Dutch guys roof (I think it was Dutch)
     
  10. Flyboy2

    Flyboy2 Member

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    Well I just ran a few numbers assuming a plane is 100 feet of the ground and used the equation vf(squared)=vi(squared)+2ad where vf is final velocity, vi is initial velocity, a is acceleration due to gravity as this is vertical so 9.8m/s squared and d is distance from the ground.
    A shell casing travelling has a velocity of approxiametly 54 mph. Now this is a very rough number and does not account for aerodynamics or even wieght but is gives you an idea of the ranger of speed.
     
  11. Bill G.

    Bill G. Banned

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    Not only were shell casings falling, but bullets and cannon shells. Hey, only a very few bullets fired ever hit anything! I imagine that these rounds still had the energy to kill even after traveling miles and miles.

    Any one have any thoughs or stories???

    Bill G.
     
  12. FLYBOYJ

    FLYBOYJ "THE GREAT GAZOO"
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    If I'm not mistaken I believe that the Soviets tried Erich Hartman on the basis of his shell casings or rounds landing on soviet soil and killing innocent Soviet citizens, at least according to his book The Blond Knight."
     
  13. Airframes

    Airframes Benevolens Magister

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    Sounds about right FB2. A casing falling from, say, 10,000 feet, should reach terminal velocity at approximately 120mph. However, this would, of course, depend on it's actual 'flight attitude' during the descent; if stable, it would approximate the above speed. If tumbling, it would probably exceed that speed but, in certain attitudes, it could well 'float', therefore descending at a much slower velocity, but still fast enough to do damage, however small, to structures, and certainly to humans. This would be true of a rifle-calibre casings, such as .303 or .30 calbre, and more so with a .50 cal or cannon casing such as 20mm.
    Although I don't know positively of any fatalities caused by falling cases, I have heard of injuries being caused, and I have actually seen evidence of structural damage, albeit minor, to a building.
    Up until the late 1960's, there was a building on the banks of the River Tyne, at Newcastle upon Tyne, in the north east of England, that still bore the patches, on its corrugated metal roof, where the holes caused by falling .303 cartridge cases had been repaired. A friends father had witnessed the damage as it occured, during I think September 1940, when Spitfires intercepted a Luftwaffe daylight raid on the warehouses, and, I believe, what was then a Vickers armaments factory, that ranged along the banks of the river. The falling cases from at least one of the Spitfires were seen to shower down in a stream, as related by my friends father, some splashing into the river, whilst a fairly high number hammered through the 'tin roof'.
    I have no reason to doubt this account, having seen the evidence with my own eyes. There used to be a small boat moored near this particular building, which bore the legend 'Wreck' in large, warning letters, which, allegedly, marked the spot where the (remains of the) bomber, I think a Dornier 17, had 'gone in'. This 'local folklore' tale was reinforced, IIRC, in the late 1970's, when some, I think, 250kg German bombs were recovered from the river.
    I hope this has proved interesting, and gone some way to answer your original question.
    Terry.
     
  14. Elvis

    Elvis Member

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    If you take that velocity and convert it to feet/sec., and convert the weight of the empty shell casing to grains (7000 grains = 16 oz.), then you can determine the amount of force the casing possesses at that speed by running the converted numbers through the formula - velocity squared, divided by the constant 450240, multiplied by the weight of the casing in grains.
    The number you'll end up with is expressed in foot-pounds.

    Found that one in an old reloading manual.

    Since these casings are all fairly long and narrow and most of the weight is at the head of the casing, given enough room, it will most likely end up in a "head-down" ( or "primer-first", may be easier to imagine) attitude.



    Elvis
     
  15. GrauGeist

    GrauGeist Well-Known Member

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    I just dug out an old .50 cal casing and it's weight is close to 3 ounces. That's alot of brass free-falling!

    It measures 3 7/8" long by 13/16" at the base...

    I'd be willing to bet that even if someone just dropped it out of the cockpit at 1,000 feet it would easily kill someone!

    I grabbed a photo of it with a .223 round for comparison.
     

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  16. syscom3

    syscom3 Pacific Historian

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    The spent bullets would kill someone too. It happens here every New Years eve when some idiots fire their guns into the air.

    And dont forget about the flak shrapnel. I heard from some veterans of the London Blitz that even after the all clear signals after a bombing raid, they would stay in the shelters for some time to give the metal in the air a chance to get back to earth.
     
  17. BombTaxi

    BombTaxi Active Member

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    I have read an account of a British officer being wounded by a spent bullet during New Year 'Celebrations' in either 1914 or 1915. He was some distance behind the lines when he was knocked unconscious by a German rifle round reaching the end of it's flight. The round had originally been fired into the air.
     
  18. evangilder

    evangilder "Shooter"
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    I have inert .50 Cal and 20MM rounds with the brass. It would be difficult to have a burst of 20mm not cause some damage or injuries from the casings. The 20mm casing is pretty good size. Here is a 30mm projectile, 20mm and .50 cal inert ammo from my collection of stuff.
     

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  19. JoeB

    JoeB Member

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    It wouldn't be safe to be outside without a helmet where spent a/c casings might fall, not wise to do if avoidable, but likelihood of being killed would be small; with a decent helmet extremely small, unless maybe quite large caliber a/c guns.

    Even for a bullets if fired at high altitude (like a combat between bombers and fighters at 20k ft, say) the bullet tends to tumble once spent and the terminal velocity is not very high. Again a helmet would reduce the chance of serious injury to very small v. a rifle caliber bullet, likely same v. a .50 cal bullet too. At some larger caliber, a non-explosive AP round would be so much bigger it might penetrate a helmet or break a bone hitting somewhere else.

    In cases where holiday revellers are killed by stray rifle shots it's when the gun is discharged at an angle higher than a normal aimed shot at a ground target but still much less than straight up. At say 30-40 degrees, the bullet retains its spin and long axis orientation, and still can kill quite far away. But if fired straight up or close to, the bullet comes back down long axis parallel to the ground not going very fast, and the threat is much less.

    An explosive round is a different story obviously. If the combination of speed, angle and nature of its fuze is such that it detonates when it hits the ground, of course it could be lethal. Large caliber point detonating light AA shells (fired from a/c or the ground) like 30-40mm, often had end-of-run fuzes to detonate them before they hit the ground. 20mm HE shells or 12.7mm explosive bullets some AF's used, usually didn't have those.

    Joe
     
  20. GrauGeist

    GrauGeist Well-Known Member

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    I'm sure that common sense would tell a person to take cover in the event of aerial combat above because of the debris raining down...even if a tumbling bullet or casing impact weren't fatal, it sure would hurt like a b*tch!

    Figure that not only are hundred of casings falling all over the place, but you'd have stray rounds, aircraft parts, fluids of all sorts and the occasional aircraft itself...
     
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