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Can Bullets Really Shoot Underwater?

Posted by Justin on

Ever watched a movie where the bad guys try to shoot at a hero desperately swimming underwater to avoid the bullets?

In most action films, the bullets stream through the water and miraculously slow down or miss the hero entirely.

But is this real? Can bullets truly shoot underwater and act this way?

Well… Yes and no.

In fact, bullets can be fired underwater, at least as long as you are using a modern firearm. However, bullets behave differently when shot underwater, or even when hitting water after being shot from the ground.

Let's take a closer look at this Hollywood stunt and explore what happens in real life:


How Do Bullets Still Fire Underwater?

Modern firearms and their bullets don’t use loose gunpowder anymore. Modern bullets are totally sealed capsules that include the gunpowder they need to fire.

So long as the seal is maintained, water can’t get in and compromise the oxygen-based reaction that results in an explosion.

Similarly, guns don’t use any electrical parts (unless you have a really fancy firearm, that is). So there’s nothing mechanically wrong with shooting your gun underwater.

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What Happens When a Bullet is Fired Underwater?

However, were you to try this stunt yourself, you would probably find that your bullet behaved differently than you expected. 

It all stems from the fact that water is about 800% denser than air. As a result, any bullet you fire has to travel significantly faster and harder in order to cross a distance and present a physical threat to someone. 

Here’s an example:

You can take an MG 42 machine gun, which is incredibly powerful, and fire one of its regular rounds. The bullet will leave the gun’s barrel at 3000 ft./s if fired from a regular environment.

As soon as it contacts the water, it will slow down rapidly and come to a total halt in less than a yard. 

In other words, the water totally absorbs the kinetic energy surrounding the bullet and may render it totally harmless if you are far enough away from the gun.

Furthermore, if a gun fires a bullet from above water, actually impacting the water could change the angle of the bullet and cause it to travel at a different trajectory than you anticipate.

Is Being Shot Underwater Still Dangerous?

Well, yes. If you're close enough, of course.

If someone were to put a gun right next to you and pull the trigger underwater, the bullet would still leave the barrel with enough kinetic energy to do serious harm, likely penetrating your body in the process.

However, guns lose most of their effective range when they are used underwater or when their bullets hit water.

As a result, movie protagonists jumping into lakes or pools to escape the gunfire is actually quite a smart idea! It’s a great way to negate the effectiveness of any bad guy’s gun.

Hopefully, you can take this lesson and keep it in mind when hunting waterfowl or if you ever need to escape a dicey situation yourself!


Thank you for reading, stay strong patriots.

Justin | FamTeeWorld
Maine, USA

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