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Can you dodge a bullet?

If someone fires a gun at you, can you dodge the bullet by jumping aside? If the target is a loved one or you are someone’s bodyguard whose job it is to protect some major figure like the US president, can you jump in front of the other person to take the bullet instead of them?

Such actions are the staple of films and folklore but is it really possible? According to the Mythbusters, the answer is ‘no’. Bullets travel at speeds close to or faster than the speed of sound so that by the time you hear the sound of gunfire, it is too late. As for a visual sighting of the flash of gunfire, you cannot see a muzzle flash from more than a hundred meters or so, and at distances less than that your reaction time is not quick enough to respond in time.

But to dodge (or jump in front of) a bullet in the first place, you have to see it coming. The Mythbusters estimated that you’d have to witness a bullet fired from over three football fields away in order to have enough time to dodge it. Any would-be hero with a reaction time longer than Jamie’s would need to see the bullet from further away—something that subsequent testing deemed impossible.

The only way to be a hero is to hear an earlier gunshot and then dive away from or in front of someone else before the next shot is fired.

Comments

  1. Ben Wright says

    Or see the firearm’s aim and start to jump before the trigger is pulled. Which is slightly more believable, I suppose.

  2. hyphenman says

    Good morning Mano,

    The standard “ninja” trick is to see the muscles in the shooter’s hand begin to tighten as the trigger is squeezed and react accordingly.

    Do all you can to make today a good day,

    Jeff

  3. Rob Grigjanis says

    With sufficient warning, it may be possible to detect subtle visual clues indicating when the shooter would pull the trigger, and react to those, but the second, third, etc bullets would still be problematical.

  4. says

    The only way to be a hero is to hear an earlier gunshot and then dive away from or in front of someone else before the next shot is fired.

    Or do your diving when you see where the gun is being aimed. That’s what most people do anyway, in movies as well as in reality.

  5. Artor says

    This is explained in Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins. You don’t dodge the bullet, you dodge the aim. You watch where it’s pointed and look for subtle clues like the tensing of the trigger finger. Then you just sway out of the line of fire and voila! Bullet dodged. I’m going to run out and try this myself right now.

  6. says

    Quite. Generally, if you’re ‘putting yourself in the way of the bullet’ the idea is to jump between the gun and the target before the trigger is actually pulled. Likewise, to ‘dodge’ a bullet you try to get out from in front of the gun before the trigger is pulled.

  7. says

    Definitely can attest to a related skill: as a football goalkeeper, I learned many years ago that with most players in possession and attacking the goal, it’s relatively easy to spot when they’re going to shoot, as there are only a few motions that allow the particular motions of a shot to happen – the hips start to close aspect, the off-side arm goes out to balance the mass-shift involved in shooting, head goes down, plant foot sets, and sometimes even the shooting foot is taken back extra far, all happen from the keeper’s POV maybe a second before the foot gets near the striking point, more time if they’re not really good players (and I mean top, could sign pro contracts for low-level teams type players). A player who is able to shoot hard out of their natural running motion is by far the hardest to stop, or who is able to fake the hip movement while still running, freezing the keeper for a shot that’s not coming, and making the keeper look a right git in doing so while the shooter dances past with the ball.

    So yes, definitely it is possible to train yourself to recognize the muscle movements that indicate something anticipated will happen, and train specifically to counter that particular small set of somethings, but even so, I find it unlikely that a first shot from anywhere close enough to recognize those movements could be dodged even by the most expertly-trained and superb-reflexed shooter.

  8. DsylexicHippo says

    @ CaitieCat, #8: I am assuming you were talking about soccer when you said football. I too used to be a goalie back in the day. When it came to defending certain shots at close quarter, like penalty shootouts, given the lack of sufficient reaction time, I’d simply dive toward one side based on whatever observation I could draw a fraction of a second before the ball was kicked or else it was too late for any good.

  9. says

    I was, yes, sorry, grew up calling it football, have a hard time not doing so.

    Anyway, on PK: I actually belong to the growing school of keepers who believe that there’s no reason to treat a PK as different from an open play situation, and in fact several reasons to show why it should be at least as easy a save as any other made on the line:

    – you know who’s shooting (and with any league knowledge at all, since penalty takers tend to be the oppo’s best shooters, you should know which foot is likely and thus have an edge in direction)

    – you know when (pace the panenka, or stutterstep penalty, which should be ruled out, but hasn’t been yet)

    – you know where from, and thus angles are pre-set

    – you have no pressure on you, because no one actually expects that you’re going to save it.

    In this style, then, you use all the same tools you’d use in making regular saves, but have some advantages in that some of the variables are much more limited than open play. It was my varsity GK coach who taught me this, and if I say it myself, I became (stopped playing at 46) easily in the top three goalkeepers in my city’s women’s league for probably ten years.

    Granted that it was indoor, but my very best two-game stretch in the game was a semi-final and final which, and I swear I’m not making this Roy of the Rovers shit up, both went to penalties (0-0 and 2-2 aet respectively), and in each, I saved all five opposing penalties, and scored the only one for my own team, winning both shootouts 1-0 and thus the championship. Easily the best two games I’ve ever played. :)

  10. keresthanatos says

    Simple answer…NO! The only thing is to cause the shooters reflexes to betray him…and chuttering if you are close enough.

  11. says

    It would in theory be possible – if the shooter were far enough away, the area between them and the target were blanketed with gunfire-locating microphones, a sufficiently fast computer were processing the data, and the person moving had an earpiece feeding them the warning and good enough reaction time to go sideways.

    But the need for such sophisticated counter-sniper tactics is fortunately extremely limited.

  12. freehand says

    There is another reliable method which only requires normal reflexes. Just persuade the shooter to stand several hundred meters away, at night, and use tracer rounds. Of course, under those conditions she could easily miss, and you might step into the bullet if you misjudge the aim. If you had a sturdy wall you could step behind (no more than one step!) it should work. If Artor survived the first trial he might try this technique. (Handgun speed of a bullet is about 350n/s, while a sniper bullet is perhaps 500 m/s). At 300 meters you’d have half a second or more to react.)

  13. Curt Cameron says

    I’ve never had the impression that any movie was implying that the bodyguard was jumping while the bullet was already on its way – of course that’s impossible!

    I always just thought that the bodyguard jumped as soon as he saw the gun being pointed, to get in front as soon as possible.

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