Gun-related deaths and injuries occur around the world everyday. In the United States alone, there are more than 100 gun-related deaths daily. And 200 more people are shot and wounded.
The amount a damage a bullet can do to a human is devastating. A 14-year-old boy was shot in the abdomen. While the wound didn’t look life-threatening from the outside, the bullet changed course inside the boy’s body.
It tore through his intestines, pancreas, spleen, stomach, diaphragm, and a lung before planting itself in the boy’s spine. Thankfully, after four hours of surgery, and a couple of follow-up visits, the boy survived.
It’s estimated that you’ll have an 80 to 90% chance of survival if you’re shot in a non-fatal area. But not everyone will be as fortunate as that 14-year-old boy. And if you survive, you could end up with serious, life-changing injuries.
Some of the damage is due to the bullet piercing your body. But the bullet’s momentum can be deadly. Bullets come in different shapes and sizes, and each bullet has different characteristics of energy transfer.
A 9 mm (35 caliber) bullet, which is usually used by law enforcement officers, can travel up to 1,450 kph (900 mph), and will hit you with a force of about 470 joules,(4,160 in-lb). If we go up a few sizes, the 5.56 mm (21.89 caliber) rifle round is often used in assult rifles like the AR-15 and the M4. It travels at a speed of 3,300 kph (2,050 mph).
When it hits its target, it delivers a whopping 1,760 joules (15,577 in-lb) of energy. That’s more than four times the energy of a 9 mm (35 caliber) bullet. When you get hit with all energy, your skin will absorb it. But then the energy has to be transfered somewhere. The bullet’s entrance hole will form a large cavity, and then it will fall back on itself.
The trauma from this impact alone can cause serious damage. So, if you’ve been shot, or you see someone get shot, what’s the next step to help them survive?
Step 1: Stop the bleeding
The first, and most important step, is to try and stop the bleeding. Put pressure on the would using whatever you have available, like a shirt or bandages. A former Green Beret, Connor Narciso, says that of all the preventable deaths that can occur on the battlefield, 90% of them are due to blood loss. So keep as much blood in your body as possible.
Step 2: Look for an exit wound
After putting pressure on the entry wound, look for an exit wound. If there is one, there will be a large cavity. Apply pressure to the exit wound too. If it’s a large wound, you’ll need to make sure that air doesn’t get sucked in. This could cause a lung to collapse. Try to fill the wound with gauze or bandages, then find tape or something that can make a solid seal around the wound to keep air out.
Step 3: Call for Help
After the shooting, you should immediately call for assistance. Getting an ambulance on site as soon as possible is critical to surviving a bullet wound. After being shot, if a patient can make it to an emergency room in the next 60 minutes, they are more likely to survive. It’s called The Golden Hour.
Step 4: Watch for Shock
Shock usually occurs when blood has been lost. This can happen if there isn’t enough pressure applied to the entry or exit wounds. Going in to shock can loss of consciousness.
If the bullet wound’s position allows it, lie down and try to elevate your legs. Loosen any tight fitting clothes or belts. And try to stay warm. If you’re helping someone else who’s been shot, watch for warning signs like pale and clammy skin, dizziness, and rapid breathing. Put your coat or sweter on the person.
Step 5: Prevent infection
Usually, you wouldn’t remove the bandage, because taking it off can tear open the wound. But again if you can’t call for help, or you’re in a disaster situation where medics can’t get to you, try to make sure that the wound is clean. If the wound isn’t dressed correctly, or re-dressed after some time, you run the risk of getting an infection. This can cause on many complications.
Step 6: Rest
When you’re shot, your body has a lot to cope with. Rest, and allow your body to recuperate and repair itself. Being shot can be a terrifying experience, and you might not look at life the same way afterwards. But it is possible to survive a bullet wound if you act quickly, safely, and effectively. But what if the danger isn’t a gun? What if you’re near an exploding grenade? Would a grenade cause more damage than a bullet?
- “Shock: First Aid”. 2021. Mayo Clinic.
- “What a bullet does to a human body”. 2018. PBS Newshour.
- “The Simple Physics That Makes Some Bullets Deadlier Than Others”. Alex, Yablon. 2017. The Trace.
- “What Happens When You Get Shot And How To Survive It”. Patrick, Allan. 2021. Lifehacker.
- “How to treat a gun shot wound”. 2016. Safe & Sound.
- “Ar-15 Round” 2021. rifle-ammo.com.
- “What Does 1000 Joules Mean?”. 2021. findanyanswer.com.