In a segment from National Geographic Ultimate Soldiers we look at one of snipers attribute, that is “mind control“. A well-trained sniper uses mind over matter to control his own physiology. A situation that many snipers find themselves in the middle east is operating in a hot climate.
In this test to highlight a long range precision shooter ability to shoot between heartbeat. Researchers build a sniper coffin with a gun port, 100 feet away sits a target. Increasing the heat temperature is another simulation to increase the stress on the sniper. Increased heat can raise your heart rate and with longer period exposed can instill dehydration. See how cool this sniper does on this test.
Doug: Ok, today we’re gonna be doing some Sniper testing, and we have secured the services of a United States Marine Corps Scout Sniper, who is still operational, and he’s gonna be wearing a balaclava, and for that reason, we’re going to introduce him only as Mike.
Narrator: Mike’s missions are so critical, we must obscure his identity for the test.
Mike: One quiet professional, at the right place, at the right time, can end wars before they start. One shot, one kill. Marine Scout Sniper.
Doug: Well what we’ve done here is, we’ve made a sniper coffin. We’ve got over here this plexiglass box, and we’re gonna put you in this box. It’s got a gunport right here, you’ll put your gun through the gunport, and you’ll be shooting at a target 100 feet away. Explain to me this ‘pulling a trigger off between heartbeats’ thing.
Mike: You can feel your heartbeat basically rebounding off the surface that you’re resting on.
Doug: And I guess you’re just timing the shot between the beats that you’re already feeling.
Doug: Now you’ve operated over in the middle-east, right? So you’re used to the heat.
Narrator: To test the sharpshooter’s breaking point under the combat conditions of the Middle East, the Fight Science crew will raise the stakes, and the temperature.
David Sandler: Extreme heat does a lot to the body. Obvious things like dehydration are some of the first things that come to mind, and that of course increases heart rate, breathing rate–”
Doug: Pretty hot in there, David?
David: It’s up at 130 degrees. It’s right up there.
Narrator: Doug Martin assembles the safety team, and reviews the dangers of firing live rounds in the Lab.
Doug: Shooting guns indoors is not exactly a safe endeavour. Eyes and ears. Everybody needs to have eye protection on, if there is a safety violation or if there is an emergency where there’s an injury, I’ll call Ed in, the medic– alright, let’s have a safe shoot.
Narrator: The sniper wears a bio-harness to monitor his heart rate and breathing, so the scientists can measure his performance under extreme combat conditions. He will also be swallowing a pill that measures his core body temperature.
Mike: I was a little worried, swallowing a white pill before they throw me in a box called a Sniper Coffin.
Narrator: High-tech thermal imaging will project the sniper’s core body temperatures onto a monitor, so scientists can track his vitals. If his core temperature rises, so will his heart rate, leaving him less time to shoot between beats.
Doug: You know what’s interesting is, under all this stress your heart rate’s still nice and baseline, nice and mellow.
Narrator: The sniper’s been in the 130 degree heat chamber for 20 minutes. His core temperature has risen by one degree, but he’s not focusing on the heat, he’s focusing on his breathing.
Doug: Ok, this is a live shot!
David: Now we’re gonna see if we can distinguish truth from legend, and see if a sniper can actually shoot between heartbeats.
Doug: Three, two, one, fire.[Shot]
Doug: Weapon on safe?
Doug: Whew! Ok, wanna see how you did?
Doug: Alright, can you run the high-speed please? Phew! Nice. Nicely done!
Narrator: The shot is dead-on. An easy distance for a sniper, but was it between heartbeats?
David: Well you actually did it, and our rhythm shows it smack between heartbeats, like you had it perfectly timed.
Mike: I was able to keep my heart rate under control by relaxing, diaphragmatic breathing, clearing your mind, thinking about nothing but what’s right around you.
Narrator: So how did Mike shoot between heartbeats? In the 130-degree coffin, Mike’s heart beats 135 times per minute. With each beat, a surge of blood fills the vessels. As the blood reaches the trigger finger, it swells with each pulse. This pulse is enough movement to cause a slight deviation in the sniper’s shot, making the difference between a direct hit, or a missed target. To pull off an accurate shot, Mike must slow down his heart rate. First he decreases his respiratory rate, by taking extended full-diaphragmatic breaths. He gradually reduces his breathing from eighteen breaths per minute to approximately six. within a few minutes, he lowers his heart rate to eighty-four beats per minute. This creates more time to shoot between heartbeats. Timing is everything. Immediately after Mike feels his heartbeat reverberate off the surface he’s resting on, he pulls the trigger. Shooting his weapon between beats, and hitting his target dead-on.
Sources: National Geographic Youtube
Anyone that has trained as a marksman in the military or law enforcement will remember that to quickly neutralize a bad guy, is to aim your weapon at their facial area inside the T area.
Firing any caliber into the T area of the face will pretty much shut you down.
This T section wasn’t just taught to only snipers but to operatives and street cops, using your assault rifle and handguns. Drills were devised called “double tap” to the T box to quickly stop the threat.
One drawback from this type of implementation is that it is an extremely difficult shot and requires practice. This type of close quarter shooting and sniping is usually dedicated to the elite SWAT or operative from Special Forces. The budget requires more ammo for operative to be train to achieve a deadly level of competency.
The Mythical Head Shot
Even though the T area is considered the most vulnerable part of the head. In reality other areas of the head shots do not stop an individual in their track. Other head injuries that can ensue such as face deformity and brain damage. There are some that survive with a fully functional brain.
Why the T-box is Lethal
The T-box covers the nose and behind the eyes. These sensory organs don’t actually matter themselves, but are simply the target area. What makes the T-Box different from any other area is the part of the brain which rests directly behind it. Beyond this point is the lower brain, the parts most responsible for the processes that cause us to continue living. It houses the brain stem which is responsible for our organs functioning automatically, namely our heart, lungs, our central nervous system, as well as controlling the rest of our brain itself. This means that losing it guarantees a complete and instantaneous loss of consciousness and life.
The truth is, the T-Box can actually be much larger depending on the caliber of the round. This is because ballistic effects on soft targets have cumulative effects which help to guarantee a complete loss of lower brain function. A bullet doesn’t just pass through a medium. Another movie myth would suggest that a bullet just punctures at a given point of entry then bores a bullet sized hole all the way through. Reality is much more graphic than that.
Like any kinetic object, a moving object will release its energy into the medium with which it travels. My examples will be with a standard issue 9mm Beretta pistol, commonly issued throughout the military and law enforcement, as well as widely available to the common buyer. The energy of that weapon can be measured as an 8 gram mass moving at around 381 meters per second generating about 3 Newtons of force. Those three or so Newtons of energy will be released into a target proportionally to the resistance it gives the bullet as it travels. A good analog for what 3 Newtons is would be the force of 3 apples falling. This doesn’t sound extremely powerful, but it must also be emphasized that this is a massive amount of force being emanated from a very narrow channel, the cavity created by the bullet. This transition of force results in the bullet slowing down as the cavity it created expands explosively.
This is what explosive expansion looks like on ballistics gel, the best analog for human bodily tissue. Ballistics experts even measure this property, referred to as “cavitation” or the measurement of the cavity produced by ballistics. This gel features a larger bullet than the 9mm, but showcases the effects within the human body. This is an especially potent event in the brain. It can’t be communicated enough that most of a bullet’s damage doesn’t center on the direct path it takes through the body, but through the absorption of energy. The most important factor to consider is that that cavity you see above shouldn’t just be smaller; it shouldn’t exist. We are talking about cells which once touched being violently propelled from one another. Within the brain, that represents cells and neurons that exist and operate within nanometers, momentarily separated by a space of several inches, and never able to return to their original structure.
Placing this event anywhere near the lower brain, namely the brain stem, will result in the violent and immediate fragmentation of all necessary working processes providing both awareness to the victim, as well as control of all bodily functions. That means they are instantly dead.
But Will We Know It’s Coming?
So we have shown that any bullet placed within this area will result in death, absolutely and non-negotiably, but are we sure we wouldn’t be able to realize we had been shot, or even shot at, first?
Now we are asking a question about the comparison of the speed of a bullet in flight and the cognitive capabilities of the human perceptive system. Our 9mm Beretta fires a round which has a muzzle velocity, the speed it travels through the air when it leaves the weapon, of around 1,250 ft/s or 381 m/s.
Reaction time for people is something like 0.2 seconds if you are skilled and practiced at very certain tasks which you are prepared for and expect to occur. That isn’t the case here. Under normal conditions, you could expect to be able to react to something, given about 1.5 seconds notice. Using our metrics from the Beretta, at the velocity the bullet is moving, you would have to be capable of watching it moving for over 570 meters, or over a third of a mile, just to have time to react to it. Considering the size and speed of the round in question, I am going to consider that, for all intents and purposes, impossible.
You also won’t be able to hear the bullet fire either. The speed of sound is 1,126 feet per second, or 343.205 m/s. Looking back at our old numbers, the 9mm Beretta clocks in at 1,250 ft/s or 381 m/s, we see that the bullet itself is supersonic. For that reason, you would never hear it coming until long after it has done its job. For argument’s sake, in the case of the slowest bullets out there travel at 339.7504 m/s. This means they are actually only 4 m/s slower than mach 1. Given that this difference makes the slowest rounds only .01% slower than sound and the fact we still require another 1.5 seconds to process that sound, this bullet would still have had to have traveled over a fifth of a mile before you could possibly hear it in time to recognize and process. Being that no handgun firing such a slow round is even effective at that range, and also that there is no way to know if you are diving to a safer location than you already occupy, we could say that it too is rhetorical. There is no chance that you will ever hear a round with your name on it.
The Bullet that has your Name on it
Having said all this, you can safely know that any unfortunate victim of being shot with any caliber round aimed directly to the imaginary T-box area of the face will be dead. In fact, they will die so thoroughly and immediately, that the last cognizant thing their mind registers will be the sight of the barrel of the weapon which was about to kill them… before their brain explodes.
This topic originally appeared as an answer by Jon Davis on Quora.
Sources: Jon Davis, Quora, Business Insider