HOW DANGEROUS ARE BULLETS IN THE AIR?
What goes up, must come back down: in the case of a 9mm bullet fired into the air and travelling at a speed of 350 metres per second, the turnaround would happen at a height of 1,100 metres. Bullets shot into the air usually fall back to Earth with terminal velocities far lower than their muzzle velocity (the speed of a projectile when it leaves the gun). But when shots are fired at shallow angles, the risk of dangerous ricochets rises – the bullet maintains its trajectory and is less likely to go into free fall. If a human was standing where it fell, it could shatter their skull. In fact, people are often killed by celebratory gunfire – in 2011, falling bullets left three dead on New Year’s Eve in the Philippines. For that reason, blank ammo is always used for official gun salutes.
The fatality rate for celebratory gunfire is five times higher than for other types of gunfire, because falling bullets often strike victims in the head.
AIR SHOT Unlike ricochets, bullets do not deform when shot into the air. They retain their aerodynamic shape and fall silently back to Earth.