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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.

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