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A gun specialist and a trauma specialist gives us an answer by reproducing a scene from the 1986 war film, Platoon. With the assistance of a fast camera, we will get a good idea on the degree of harm. The M16 slug 5.56 (.223) is known for its “tumble” which is essentially what causes the harm.
Nonetheless, while most lead center slugs do this after they enter the tissue, the M16’s speed also adds to the injuries. From a distance of 30 feet, what will happen to the ballistic gel mannequin? What will be the impact to the imperative organs? Let’s see!
Paul Dalby is a weapon’s expert with more than 30 years’ experience testing firearms and explosives.
“What I’m holding here is the iconic M16 Assault Rifle. This particular example being a Vietnam veteran. It’s a 5.56 caliber weapon, fed from a 20-round box magazine. It’s accurate to 500 meters, and fires at a rate of 700 rounds per minute.”
To show the damage caused by a single M16 bullet to the human body, Paul will fire into a block of Ballistic gel that has the same density as human tissue. A high-speed camera shows the extent of the damage caused by the bullet.
Adam Brooks is a trauma surgeon and expert in ballistic injuries. He’s treated similar wounds on the battlefield and will be examining the extent of the bullet’s impact.
“This Ballistic Gel is very much like incising tissues of the body, and I’ll try and cut along the track of this round, so we can get an idea of the damage that it’s done. So here’s the entry of the bullet, for the first five or six centimeters, very little in the way of destruction or damage to tissues, but then as the round slows down and turns on its side in the tissue, we get this cavitation effect. All the energy’s dumped into the body, and you get tearing and huge amount of trauma to tissues. And then finally, you can see how the round has twisted, turned on its axis to the point where it’s pointing backwards here and come to rest, still within the body.”
If just a single shot from an M16 rifle causes such devastation to a human body, what will be the effect of tree direct hits to the chest?
To recreate the scene from Platoon, this Ballistic gel mannequin will represent Sargent Elias. Inside are representations of the vital organs: The heart and lungs, liver, and kidneys. Paul will be firing in semiautomatic mode from a distance of 30 feet. The same shooting distance as in the movie.
Every one of Paul’s bullets hit their mark, but have they missed the vital organs, as they did in Platoon?
“He’s been hit low down, just taking the edge of the kidney out, and that’s going to bleed, you can see the blood around the model. He’s got two other injuries, here and here. Both of which have caught the edge of the right lung. Although the lung has been deflated a little bit, it’s not an immediately life-threatening injury.”
So Elias could have survived Barns’ assault, to later reappear from the jungle, only to meet his maker at the hands of enemy fire. But after surviving three bullets to the chest, would Elias really have been able to run into the clearing?
“Elias could have got up and run, for a period of time.”
Sources: Smithsonian Channel, Paul Dalby, Adam Brookes