How do you think she survived?
November 12, 2006 12:54 PM   Subscribe

I was just reading this article about a Brazilian woman shot 6 times in the head and surviving with no mental damage. In fact, somehow the bullets didn't penetrate the skull. What type of gun can fire 6 bullets (assuming he didn't reload a Derringer or something) and do so little damage? I don't plan to use this knowledge for nefarious purposes, I'm just a curious dude.
posted by ktoad to Education (27 answers total)
One that's not working properly? If it was only one hit, I would guess that distance was a factor, but that seems unlikely for seven.

FWIW, the article does say that the doctors were at a loss to explain why the bullets did not penetrate her skull.
posted by winston at 1:02 PM on November 12, 2006

I'm one of those left-wing nuts who loathe firearms, etc. Still, I had a ton of experience with them thanks to a rich boy scout leader who didn't serve in the military, but really liked the romance of war movies.

Sometimes the troop would head to the police station to use their firing range. We'd shoot .22 caliber revolvers at FBI style body targets. The bullets are only slightly bigger than bb's and don't contain much powder. At any range over a few feet I suspect they wouldn't penetrate a human skull.

Though it'd undoubtedly be extremely unpleasant.
posted by aladfar at 1:03 PM on November 12, 2006

Oh and before I'm excoriated: I noticed that the article mentioned that the bullets were .32 caliber. I meant to add that it's possible that the doctors and/or the writers made a mistake or typo.
posted by aladfar at 1:05 PM on November 12, 2006

.32ACP (the most likely candidate) is not significantly more powerful than .22LR.

Check the Wikipedia entry on handgun cartridges: .32ACP is second from the right on the top photo, smaller than every picture round with the exception of .22LR.

Still and all, she's extremely lucky or has quite the, uh, thick head. .22LR can certainly pierce the human skull.
posted by Ryvar at 1:18 PM on November 12, 2006

Oh hey, the story is referenced right here in Wikipedia's .32ACP article. Interesting note - this was the round used in the assassination of Archduke Francis Ferdinand (the start of WW1), and supposedly Hitler used .32ACP to commit suicide.
posted by Ryvar at 1:24 PM on November 12, 2006

They would have had to have been very low velocity rounds, probably cheap rounds designed for target shooting.
posted by SpecialK at 1:26 PM on November 12, 2006

Maybe she was shot at an angle, rather than perpendicular to the skull, and the bullets glanced off. Not to be gruesome, but I've read that some suicides fail when the person puts the gun to their temple since the bullet can catch in the bone, be deflected, or otherwise fail to penetrate.
posted by Addlepated at 1:29 PM on November 12, 2006

If the bore of the barrel has significant wear it can lose power bigtime.
posted by Iron Rat at 1:38 PM on November 12, 2006

I don't think you can really hit someone at an angle seven times...
posted by Paris Hilton at 1:39 PM on November 12, 2006

Bullets do strange things. It's hard to know exactly what saved her, but it would help that it's a small, low-velocity round being fired from a handgun. A .22 round, for instance, has a much lower muzzle speed out of a handgun because it hasn't had much time to speed up. So if, as others have said, the bullet hit her at an angle, if it was fired from several metres away, and if she happens to have a good, thick skull, it's not at all inconceivable that the bullets might not get through. Still, I wouldn't want to take my chances.
posted by Dasein at 1:41 PM on November 12, 2006

If the angle of incidence was too shallow it would be like skipping stones across water -- they would just skim the surface of the skull and not penetrate it.
posted by Rhomboid at 1:54 PM on November 12, 2006

I read a story in a gun magazine once of someone being shot with a .25 caliber ghetto blaster and the round not penetrating the skull. So I'll go with small caliber pistol round + poorly functioning gun.
posted by bob sarabia at 1:57 PM on November 12, 2006

poorly functioning gun.

Gas leaking past the cartridge due to a severely worn chamber could create this effect, much like underloaded rounds.
posted by IronLizard at 2:27 PM on November 12, 2006

Keep in mind too that some parts of the skull are stronger than others. E.g. the top of the forehead is very resistant to blows, whereas the temple and the base behind the neck are easily penetrated.
posted by randomstriker at 2:45 PM on November 12, 2006

When I was on a ride-along in the South Bronx back in the early 90's, I saw a woman get shot right in front of me with a .22. She not only survived, she was completely conscious the whole time, even talking to the paramedics after they arrived.

That's not to say that a .22 couldn't kill you, by the way. But people get lucky. And some people get really fucking lucky.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 2:50 PM on November 12, 2006

The .32-caliber bullets didn’t break through her skull and didn’t even need to be immediately extracted, doctors said.

If they arent in her skull, but are in her head, then where are they?

Maybe she had a really fat head.
posted by lalochezia at 3:00 PM on November 12, 2006

That means they broke through the skin, were deflected off skull and ended up in between the two. Which isn't unheard of.
posted by bob sarabia at 3:22 PM on November 12, 2006

Maybe she had a really fat head.

Maybe she did. She could have Paget's disease, which can cause a really thick skull, and which apparently allowed 10th century Viking Egil Skalla-Grimsson to survive a battleax blow to the head, and may have been the cause of Beethoven's deafness.

The article doesn't show a picture of the 21 year old victim, and although Paget's is mainly a disease of older people, it's not unheard of in the young.
posted by jamjam at 4:31 PM on November 12, 2006

The story also isn't clear as to how many bullets lodged in her skull and how many bounced off or merely grazed her. The Brazilian media isn't exactly known for its accuracy and thoroughness.
posted by frogan at 5:31 PM on November 12, 2006

There were quite a few stories from World War II of soldiers getting shot in the head, the bullet entering one side, exiting the other, and turning out never to have penetrated the skull -- it just bored around the skin. I've also heard many stories of people getting shot in the head and the bullets just bouncing off.

The skull is pretty damn tough.
posted by Astro Zombie at 5:57 PM on November 12, 2006

Astro Zombie, my father knew a guy who got shot like that. He and some friends were shooting rabbits, some guys standing behind a car shooting, the others kneeling in front. The idiot in front saw a rabbit, leapt to his feet and was shot in the back of the head.

The bullet exited near the front, and everyone was CONVINCED it had gone right through his head. Instead it had tunneled between the skin and skull and popped out the front. They were only using 22s, and it hit at the right angle.
posted by tomble at 7:16 PM on November 12, 2006

.32ACP (the most likely candidate) is not significantly more powerful than .22LR

A .32 actually has much better penetrating power than the .22 handgun. A .25 is another likely candidate. A .32 has a small round with much more powder than a .22 Short. A .22 Long actually has a great deal of penetrating power due to it's tiny point of impact.

I was witness to an incident outside a bar one night where a bouncer had thrown a patron out. The angry patron returned with a gun at closing and shoved it in the bouncer's face. A struggle ensued and a show was fired, directly into the bouncer's forehead. The assailant ran and we turned to the victim, covered in blood and slumped to the ground. All of us were certain that we had just seen a murder.

In a couple of minutes, the bouncer came to. The bullet had simply stopped on his forehead. He had a nasty cut, a welt, and a cuncussion, but that was it. The gun was a .25.
posted by Pollomacho at 9:33 PM on November 12, 2006

Uh, Pollomacho, the article says she was hit by a .32 - it just doesn't say which of the (many) brands of .32. .32ACP is, of them, the most likely candidate.
posted by Ryvar at 3:24 AM on November 13, 2006

I saw a case like this once, when I was working in ER in Cape Town. A woman came in with a bullet lodged in her frontal sinus. The trauma docs there were unsurprised, and suggested the reason she wasn't dead was because of home made rounds, rather than a faulty gun.
posted by roofus at 6:19 AM on November 13, 2006

.22 Short is pretty rare these days.
posted by electroboy at 6:31 AM on November 13, 2006

Uh, Pollomacho, the article says she was hit by a .32 - it just doesn't say which of the (many) brands of .32. .32ACP is, of them, the most likely candidate.

Um, the question was not, "what kind of gun was used in this article?"

What type of gun can fire 6 bullets (assuming he didn't reload a Derringer or something) and do so little damage?
posted by Pollomacho at 10:17 PM on November 13, 2006

Here in Brasil the only handguns which the public are allowed to own for home defense are .38 calibers and below.
The 32 is a common caliber however it a bitch trying to find ammunition here as such most are reloads and the quality varies tremendously. 99% of the reloads are made with hand poured lead molds and of a quality so low that they cannot be honestly compared with even target rounds or wadcutters. Military Police ammunition, (Policia Militar) is also typically lead reloads and often fragment greatly on impact leading to one of the reasons many brazilian gunshot victims here have multiple gsw´s and yet still live.

The typical homemade remedy to "upgrade" penetrating power is to coat ammunition with candle wax or melted plastic, (although this is rare among none crimminal types in my experience), combined with the poor weapons cleaning / maintenance engaged by most brazilian gun owners coating does not tend to help much.

Although I am sure they are around I have yet to run into any .25s and the only .22s I have run across are usually stolen showpieces. The lack of calibers outside of .38 is due to the lack and difficulty in finding ammunition. 9mm, 10 / 40mm are now slowly being brough into service by the civil police in various areas, however this is still uncommon.
posted by zona_sul at 5:30 AM on November 14, 2006

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