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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I just finished reading John Ringo's post-apocalyptic novel, "Under a Graveyard Sky". I usually enjoy John Ringo's fiction, although I must admit that this one seems a bit rushed and many aspects of the premise aren't entirely believable. It's still a fun read, though. In this novel, he frequently mentions the risk from "bouncers" when clearing boats and ships of "zombies" (aggressive infected who have lost high cognitive function).

This wouldn't bother me so much if it were just a single reference. But, it is mentioned so frequently and influences the character's actions to such an extent that it becomes a significant plot device.

Reading the term in context, it's clear that he is not referring to ricochets striking a solid object at an angle and being deflected at an angle. He seems to be referring to rounds which strike a hard object (a steel bulkhead, for example) then bounce back towards the firer. He implies that these "bouncers" present a serious threat to the firer and those near the firer, even at ranges measured in tens of yards. So, his "bouncers" apparently strike the hard surface at nearly zero deflection angle and follow a return path nearly identical to their trajectory to the target.

I'm sure those of us who have shot a lot, especially at steel targets and at indoor ranges, have been struck (albeit very rarely) by a portion of a bullet that came bouncing back from the steel or backstop. But my experience is that such a "bouncer" doesn't retain enough energy to penetrate normal clothing, much less cause significant damage. The worst I could see would be damage to unprotected eyes, and perhaps a slight cut if a sharp piece of brass jacket hit bare skin at the wrong angle. Heck, I've been hit in the forehead, and squarely in the middle of the sternum, with no harm.

I'm sure a physicist could present a formula which, taking into account the "elasticity", weight, and velocity of the bullet (7.62x39mm ball, 7.62x51mm ball, and unspecified .45 ACP in most cases in the novel), and the hardness and elasticity of the surface struck, to prove that a "bouncer" wouldn't retain enough energy to present a serious threat. But of course it would be more fun to prove it with a demonstration. Perhaps by firing through a large piece of paper or cardboard, or through a hole in a piece of plywood, set a couple of yards in front of a steel target angled at about 90 degrees (it may be necessary to angle the steel slightly upwards to get any fragment to "bounce" back at all). I doubt any fragment would penetrate even thick cardboard, even at a couple of yards.

I'll be happy to pay the cost of ammunition for this test, via PayPal or something.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Wow, I just looked that up, and you're right. It happened in Texas in June of 2012. The 17-year-old shot a butane tank with a .380 and was killed when the ricochet hit him in the head. I wouldn't have thought there would be enough energy left. It doesn't give the range at which he shot it, but I'm guessing it was point-blank.

I still think, though, that the danger is almost non-existent. I mean, competitors shoot steel targets all the time, and although they follow certain safety rules (minimum range depending on caliber, frangible ammo only if they must shoot from closer range in a tactical shoot-house, must shoot straight-on to the target, eye protection of course mandatory), I'm pretty sure nobody has ever been killed or seriously injured while shooting steel targets. In the books, the characters are afraid to fire at "infected" on the decks of yachts, fishing boats, and warships, from the deck of their own vessel, over concern about "bouncers". That seems pretty unrealistic to me. I saw a video just now of a ricochet coming straight back from a .50 (presumably .50 BMG) rifle, which struck the shooter in the head. It startled him, and obviously hurt. But he asked his friend if he was bleeding and apparently he wasn't.
 

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I shoot bowling pins at a range which has a steel backstop and uses a steel setup for the pins. There are occasional ricochets coming back from pistols ranging from .22lr through to .45ACP and .400 Corbon. I've been hit once in the last year so that it bled, and a couple of time with no visible result.

My take on it is that so much energy is expended in deforming the bullet, generating noise and so on that anything flying back is at a vastly lower energy level, and also so unaerodynamic that it loses what energy it has really quickly. If you're wearing good eye protection your prospects of any wound requiring treatment greater than a kiss from mama to make it better are truly minute unless you're practically up against your target.
 

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A steel tank that is hit by a non deforming bullet will flex and ring like a bell and send the bullet right back where it came from in absolutely ideal circumstances.

I have an experience. I was once blasting at a concrete column over the course of a few weeks, just tearing holes in it with my 9mm. Apparently at one point, I developed a lead buildup in a corner of stone. When the next bullet hit it, guess what? that caused an elastic collision between a bullet and a layer of lead that fired that bullet directly back at me. I was hit in the face, about 6 inches off of the direct line of the shot.

Since this was a high kinetic energy round of soft lead that expended enormous amounts of energy deforming both bullet. lead glob, and putting shock and momentum into the column of stone, there was very little energy left when it hit me. Using a .380 FMJ and a steel plate that was exactly perpendicular to the line of the shot would have sent it straight back with little loss of energy. A person would be able to duplicate this effect any day of the week, but I'd use a remote gun to do so.

It can also be duplicated by shooting bbs at a stop sign. You'll shoot your eye out.
 
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