Man drops dumbbell on bullet, shoots self

UPI reports

Modesto Police said the 56-year-old man, whose name was not released, told them he was working out Wednesday night when he accidentally dropped a dumbbell on a rimfire .22-caliber bullet, causing the propellant powder in the bullet to be activated and sending it into his shoulder, The Modesto Bee reported Friday.

This man is lying to the cops. No chamber, no forward momentum of the bullet. A cartridge ignited outside a chamber will just blow a hole in, or blow apart, its brass case.

I know of an incident where a box of .22 LR was dropped on the highway and vehicles were setting them off, but as far as I can remember no tires were blown.

He was probably shot by a jealous wife or girlfriend, or as a warning from his dealer to pay up.

UPDATE: Mythbusters tried dumping a 100 rounds onto a fire, including .50 BMG rounds. They concluded that some of brass casings, not bullets, were thrown around by the explosions, but that even they might not have had enough force to penetrated skin, let along do serious harm. (Thanks to JM for the link).

You can’t cheat physicts.

[ Many thanks to jdun1911 for emailing me the link. ]

Steve Johnson

Founder and Dictator-In-Chief of TFB. A passionate gun owner, a shooting enthusiast and totally tacti-uncool. Favorite first date location: any gun range. Steve can be contacted here.


  • Muhr

    The only thing from a 22LR unchambered discharge that is dangerous is the brass, being lighter than the projectile it is the only thing that will gain any significant velocity.

    And even then it will not go fast enough to cause any significant injury.

  • Reminds me of the cute little incident a couple years prior in the UK, a lone .22 LR round was found on the side of the street. Concerned passers-by were voicing worries about how dangerous it was, just lying there. “It could have magically gone off by itself, and brutally killed an innocent child holding an ice cream cone,” was the general tone of their observations.

    • Brian P.

      You know why they had that kind of mentality? Because they’ve grown up in a society of fear, and without proper education on the matter.

      • jdun1911

        That’s not it.

        Today society can’t tell between fantasy and reality. People believe what they watched or played on TV is real. This type of metal diseases has no boarder.

      • TATim

        I’ve lived in the UK most of my life and this “society of fear” doesn’t seem to exist, at least where I live. Most people I went to school with started shooting as soon as they were old enough to hold a firearm. This might be surprising to
        some Americans who have been brainwashed into thinking firearms are banned in the UK but I can assure you there are plenty of shooters over here (and long may that continue). 🙂

  • lex

    Why do you always assume that drugs are involved in these kinds of things?

    • Brian P.

      Because, sadly, it’s very likely, given the man’s story.

      • lex

        Nothing about his story suggests drugs involved. Maybe, if you really stretch things, you could say he’s lying. That’s it.

  • Samopal

    Oh bullshit. This reminds me of that Iraqi woman who went to reporters saying that US forces were shooting at her house, and showed the a couple complete, unfired cartridges that she said she dug out of her wall.

    Dumbasses gonna dumbass.

  • JM
    • JM

      Whoops, turns out those hits were casings. Posted too soon.

      Although I imagine that a heavy enough dumbbell could pin a cartridge to the ground and project a bullet. Odds are not in favor of that happening, but I’d believe it.

    • I just posted the video.

      • JM


  • jdun1911

    Like I argued here a few month back with a kid that doesn’t understand basic physics. You cannot cheat physics. If there nothing to contain the gas, the gas will dissipated. That means the lost of all energy. The lost of velocity.

    • Mike Knox

      Hah!, nice one. You replied that your way of getting rid of loose rounds(in whatever condition) is in an open fire like in the video. You just made yourself look stupid..

    • W

      now hold the press. just because the gas escapes, not allowing the bullet to be projected at a respectable velocity, does not mean all energy is lost.

      there was a DOD safety advisory going around when i was in the army and i believe thefirearmblog posted it about a soldier using a 50 caliber round for a “hammer”. Predictably, the round went off and literally fileted the soldier’s hand. despite the gases not being contained, there is still the energy being created, which can cause severe injury. In the case of the smaller 22 cartridge, it could undoubtedly injure somebody if their hand is in close proximity of the explosion.

  • Joseph

    “I was lifting weights so hard I caused an explosion.”

    • Martin

      I laughed pretty hard at that.

    • spencer

      I was lifting weights with these “guns” and they went off.

  • ed

    I’m from the Modesto area…..this was no accident.

  • W

    Bullshit. gas that isn’t sealed escapes. The space between the dumbell is not enough to allow the gases to compress.

  • Randy

    Well when I was 5 I used to set off .22lr with a hammer on the side walk. you could hear the bullet whizzing away and the sound of it hitting the homes and trees on my block….I stopped when a pcs of sidewalk impacted my finger. of course I couldn’t tell mom how it happen so I hid it. that pcs of sidewalk the size of a BB is still in my finger it has broke down mostly but you can still feel it in there. So I wasn’t there when it happened to mister barbell and neither was any one else….. best not call a man a liar, there are plenty of things that may be hard to believe…… but sh*t happens.

    • Randy, it just does not work that way. Bullets are not magic, they can’t cheat physics. I stand by my statements.

      I can’t speak to what happened when you were five years old and hitting the sidewalk with your hammer.

      • Rob

        This absolutely does work, as I used to do the same in middle school with my buddies.

        If you are so certain the .22LR won’t detonate, why don’t you throw some safety glasses on and give it a shot? (pun) Its a simple test, and if it results in just some hot gasses blowing through the brass, you shouldn’t be harmed.

        I have since grown up, and now realized how absolutely-stupidly-dangerous this is… so I except myself from performing any tests.

      • Rob, yes, of course the primer will detonate and some of the powder will burn, but the gas (and energy) from the explosion will disperse in the air, not be forced by a barrel and chamber to push a bullet.

      • Rob

        *I can attest that this absolutely does work, as I…

      • Kdawg

        I can also verify that this does work.

        As a teenager, I was at my friend’s cabin and found a brick of .22 ammo. Well boys will be boys, so I placed a bullet on a 2×4 and took a hammer and struck the back of the case. The bullet did travel about 10-12 feet in the general direction it was pointed. The cases were obviously left right under the hammer with the back was crimped from the blow of the hammer. I did this about 50 times, and thought it was great fun. Yes, I realize now it was incredibly stupid, but as a teenager you think you’re invincible, and I didn’t think about the repercussions.

        Thinking back, I really don’t think the bullet had enough velocity to break the skin, but I can’t say for sure. The article doesn’t state what kind of ammunition it was, perhaps it was high velocity .22 LR, or less likely a .22 WMR.

  • Jester

    The reason why the bullets don’t move with any velocity in the Mythbusters test is because they’re sending the (less massive) casing flying the other way. In the case of the dumbbell, it’s not unlikely that the casing was jammed under the weight, meaning that most of the energy went into hurling the bullet. Is it the same as being shot as a .22LR gun? No. Could it happen? Yep.

    • jdun1911

      That’s not how it works. What matter is the gas is contained so pressure will built up.

      The gas pushed the bullet out of the barrel because it is the only way for the gas to escape. If it couldn’t that means pressure will built up and it will cause a KB!.

      The dumbbell ignited the powder. Turn the power into gas. Gas push the bullet out of the case but immediately lost all pressure because there is nothing to keep the gas contain. The gas filled the empty space. That means lost of velocity. That means energy is gone.

      You can’t cheat physics.

      • Woodroez

        I think it’s totally plausible that non-magnum rimfires could, in the right circumstances, send the bullet flying.

        The .22 Long Rifle cartridge is not sealed very tightly into the case mouth the same way that a centerfire cartridge’s bullet is. We’ve all seen centerfire ammunition with the bullet seated so tightly into the brass that it actually deforms the brass a bit. Meanwhile, have you ever taken a .22lr cartridge in hand and twisted the bullet within the case mouth? I have. That bullet just isn’t in there very tightly, in the typical .22lr construction.

        If that impact deformed the case mouth – which is not difficult to imagine, considering how easy it is deform the case mouth of a spent case with your fingers – then the gaps between the now-warped case mouth and the heeled bullet are certainly the path of the least resistance for hot gasses. With the already-tenuous crimp on the bullet’s heel comprised and gas jetting out around it, the bullet spitting out is incidental, in that scenario.

        Now, did that happen here? Maybe, but I’m interested in how that bullet managed to get up into that guy’s SHOULDER.

      • SpudGun

        jdun is 100% correct, without anything to contain and direct the pressurized gas, it will just dissapate.

        Mythbusters also set off a loose .22 LR round inside a truck cabin based on a hunting myth. They got the primer to ignite, but the bullet basically fell out of the case.

        Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to work on my guns.

      • Sian

        @spudgun I don’t recall the specific mythbusters test, but was the case held solidly so it wouldn’t go flying? I’m guessing no. Physics says that if you set off a round independant of all else, the heavier part (the projectile) will stay relatively still while the lighter element (the case) will go flying the opposite direction.

      • Sid

        jdun1991 is correct.

        A .22LR fired in a .22 WMR gun will explode because the sidewalls of the chamber allow the casing to expand sideways. A dumbell dropped on a bullet is not going to form a 30,000 PSI seal around the bullet.

        Without significant resistance around the entire bullet, all that will result is a small explosion. The bullet is going to travel but not with the velocity and force than would be expected from the same bullet fired from a gun. Remember, the shorter the barrel the lower the velocity of the bullet. In this situation, there is no barrel.

        Could the bullet have hit him? Yes. Would it have looked like a normal GSW? Hell no.

  • Nadnerbus

    The article says that the officers didn’t find the case, or presumably pieces of it either. For the guys that were hammering .22s in their youth, did all the cases disappear at detonation? Was the “evidence” scattered so thoroughly that it wouldn’t be found in a casual inspection? Honest question, not snark.

    Modesto is not the nicest town. I’d put a dollar in the meth-related-mayhem scenario with the limited information provided. Who knows though.

    • Woodroez

      The article said officers did have the case.

      • Nadnerbus

        I need to start wearing my glasses. Good call.

  • Netforce

    Apart from all the argument here, who in the right mind would do weight lifting in the same area as bullet rounds? That itself is just weird. And I agree. This is definitely no accident.

  • Mike Knox

    I didn’t see that episode, but who would put a loaded gun in an oven?

    • chris

      I believe it was a 44 mag- had to avert my eyes. The tears were making it hard to see.

  • Reg

    Having seen first hand a severe injury result from whacking a .22 LR shell (powder, no bullet) w/ a rock, I will assert that discharging cartridges outside of guns can be quite dangerous. I was standing a few feet away at the time. There was a lot of blood and his entire hand was bandaged when they got back from the ER.

    I had replaced the bullet with paper wadding and intended to set if off when I figured out a “safe” way to do so. The guy took it from me, put in on a wooden shelf and whacked it. Tore his hand up quite badly. Were it not for his vigorously assuming responsibility for the mishap, I would have been thrown out of summer camp. To this day I’m amazed and grateful no one was blinded as the cabin was full of boys.

    The canonical work on discharge of cartridges outside of a firearm was done by Julian Hatcher (cf. Hatcher’s Notebook) who used electric discharge to set off various rounds inside a cardboard box. Generally the box was undamaged, however, that’s not the same as whacking a rimfire w/ a hammer.

    Physics is a theory. Reality may or may not conform to the postulates. Engineering is the practice of making sure the postulates are close enough to reality for the theory to be accurate.

    • W

      i think with the case you mentioned, the hand was closer to the exploding cartridge, which would cause injury. with a dumbell, at least the hand is somewhat more protected than if you use a rock.

  • Sian

    I would say plausible, considering the dumbell would hold the pinched cartridge case in place. If it was a low pressure .22lr, it could well have fired without rupturing. You wouldn’t get good velocity, or any reasonable direction, but it would be enough to cause a wound.

  • Media bah

    This has been done in the past and on a much larger scale…

  • chris

    Mythbusters also inserted 22 rim-fire cartridges into to the fuse block of an old vehicle, applied power to said cartridge with a 12 volt battery and ka-boom. Pieces did fly about & one did hit Buster near his junk. Don’t remember if it was he case or the bullet. Of course they kept at it until they obtained SOME results but it was fun to watch.

  • Fyrewerx

    I’m more a fan of their “throw the aerosal can or beer keg” video made on the same day:

  • jimmy h

    The folks who claim that physics makes this story implausible need to step back and think about the real physics in this situation. If the dumbell hit at just the wrong angle it would pin the rim of the case to the floor but not crush the bullet. That would make a narrow, wedge shaped space around the 22 cartridge which would act as a partial chamber. The burning gases would have been trapped in this narrow wedge, not free to expand in any direction except out through the wide end. The bent but not broken case sides would have confined the gases even more, and propelled the bullet out with enough force that I wouldn’t want to try something like this again.

    I say again, because I did smash some 22s when I was a kid. Most of them made little pops and just sat there. The last one we tried, the bullet (not the case) ricochetted off the brick wall behind us.

  • Mr Mxyzptlk

    I just did a quick experiment myself to check that this was likely BS as I originally though. I clamped a .22LR (Eley Club) against a table with a G clamp, put a cardboard box full of compacted shredded papers in front of it (I use this as a makeshift air gun backstop) and hit the base with a mallet. The bullet was clamped top and bottom but the side were unsupported which bulged and split, and the bullet was lodged side ways in the cardboard without having gotten through into the box. This was from about 6 inches away. Try this yourself, results will be the same.

    • Martin

      hi – I don’t really disagree with you. No barrel to contain the gasses, etc. etc

      but. think for one moment about all the weird stuff that happends?

      A lady on a bus in Poland was decapitated by a cable that fell off a telephonepost, and somehow found it’s way into the bus, formed a loop, and that loop caught her head, and took it off.

      is that “possible”? before I red the report (in national media), I’d say no – too many circumstances that have to occur in the right (wrong) place, and time. But it still happened. Will it ever happend again? I doubt that.

      could that dumbbell somehow help to contain the gasses, and hurl the bullet with enough speed for this to happend? I tend to say no, but once in a… million? maybe?

      however, at the same time I think this is like explaining a wife’s cheating by that she fell and landed on someones dick!

  • Mike

    Mythbusters or not It could have worked… (no I did not read the 900 posts before mine)

    If a weight heavy enough to activate the charge fell on it, it’s probably heavy enough to hold the casing still and force the bullet to propel forward.

  • Ok, dammit this is embarrassing, but I can say with first hand experience that this could definitely happen.

    When I was about 13 (I can’t remember exactly how old I was, it’s been too many years ago now), I decided it would be a good idea to put a .22lr round on the garage floor and whack it with a hammer.

    To be fair, the garage door was open, and there was about 5 miles of untouched field on the other side of the street (all houses now, but it was my shooting range back then).

    I don’t really know what possessed me to do this, it just seemed like the thing to do on a hot summer afternoon.

    So I put the bullet down pointing across the street, told my two friends (who both thought this was a banner idea and were cheering me on in the name of SCIENCE I’m sure) to stay behind me, and gave the rim a good whack with a 16oz estwing framing hammer (which I still own).

    It fired. The bullet struck the field across the street throwing up a nice puff of dust, the point of impact was probably 60-80 feet away, and the time from when I hit the round with the hammer to the impact of the bullet was virtually instantaneous (so I’d assume it was moving at a pretty good clip).

    The casing was still sitting right near where it started out, only one side was blown out.

    The missing pieces of that case were embedded in the fingers of my right hand. At the time I thought they’d hit my hand and just torn the skin as they blew past. Fast forward about 8 years to a wrist injury at work, and a very curious doctor asking me how I got metal embedded in the fingers of my right hand. It took me a minute to put two and two together, but the doctor agreed that is most likely exactly what the metal on the xray was, and not to worry about it if it had never bothered me as my body would eventually either break it down or reject it (since it had been like 8 years he thought it would just stay there and be broken down).

    I don’t know if it’s still there (haven’t had to have my hand xray’d in the last 10 years), but I do most certainly know that you can indeed cause a .22lr round to “fire” with enough force to break human skin by hitting the rim with something heavy at the right angle, assuming that the round is sitting on something solid (I’m thinking that a dumbbell dropped onto a carpeted floor with a thin pad would just about cover it).

    God I feel stupid every time I have to explain to someone why this story is fully plausible.

    • William O. B’Livion

      Ha! I was smarter than you!

      I *cut* the bullet off where it stuck out of the casing so it couldn’t shoot me.

      Somehow a richochet bit my knuckles pretty good. Dad was *PISSED*.

      I probably shouldn’t have done it in the basement.

  • NickB

    As I read some of these comments I have to ask, HOW DID SO MANY OF YOU GET AMMO AND A HAMMER SO YOUNG???? I come from a family that had no interest in guns, but I though keep your kids away from things that will hurt/kill them is a parental rule for all? First thing I do with ammo is keep it one shelf under the gun(Inside safe), even though I don’t have kids doesn’t take a genius to know boys love things that go boom.

    • jdun1911

      We came from an age where kids were allow to be kids. We came from an age where kids are allow to make mistakes and take high risks. Kids that understand risks at an early age will understand how to manage risks when they are an adult.

      Pain is also a great teacher.

      • NickB

        I come from a latter generation(I guess that shows pretty badly) so it’s hard to cross the generational gap. But since I wrote that artical I looked into it farther and there are no reports that I’ve ever read where a child died from setting off a .22 round or was even seriously injured. I guess my suprise is just over thinking the danger of live ammo. But sadly my only defence for over thinking is reading articals like this one online and being shocked by the “Dangers of live ammo”
        Thanks though for the responce it changed my view from hazardous parental neglect to a normal thing I definatly would have done at that age and time, and I relize also a small charge firework has more odds of seriously injuring a kid.

  • jdun1911

    This thread is a perfect example why we need to abolish the teacher unions and allow school vouchers. The lack of understanding basic 101 physic is pathetic.

    • James

      Looks like we have several first hand accounts that disagree with your physics interpretation.

  • It would be easy for the police to verify his story. Just take the bullet to their lab and see if it went through a barrel for parking in his shoulder.

  • Kolon

    I wonder. A 22lr bullet was hit by a dumbbell which was dropped. Shouldn’t that bullet were lying on the gym floor? I mean, if that bullet was on the floor and a dumbbell on top. How could any pieces end up on a man shoulder? Is he lying on the floor and do dumbbell floor press?

  • JohnJake

    I am a little tired of the whole Mythbusters thing. Especially those that use Mythbusters to prove that they themselves are more knowledgeable. The only time Mythbusters “proves” anything is when they show something IS possible. Since when does the inability of one person to do something prove that no person can do it.

    Example, I am 6 foot, but completely lack any real ability to jump. I could go out and try to dunk a basketball and under no circumstances would I be able to. I cannot conclude from this that it is impossible for anyone to dunk a basketball. But, that is what Mythbusters does every week and everyone lauds them for being brilliant. The logic is flawed and transparent to the most basic of review. The only thing that I could prove it that if I successfully dunked the basketball, then it would be indeed possible for someone to dunk.

    Worst part is, the show is awesome! Tired of people misusing it a “scientific” proof. In reality it is just the coolest job around. Finding out cool new ways to try and blow stuff up.