Hydrostatic shock, what's your opinion?

ATH

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The problem I have with discounting shock and saying it's only hemmorhage through a direct wound channel is that you are essentially saying that a bullet and arrow kill the same way. As someone who has shot dozens of animals with all manner of legal firearms as well as modern archery equipment, I can say there is a distinct difference. While it is not unusual for animals to drop from a rifle shot even when the CNS is not hit, it is extraordinarily rare for this to happen with an arrow. Obviously, there is a difference.

I would contest that you don't just get a direct wound channel. Shoot a deer through the shoulder with an arrow, you get a broadhead-shaped hole with very little damage to tissue even 1/2 inch away. Shoot a 300WM through that same shoulder, and even if it is the entrance side and the bullet has not had time to expand you might as well throw everything within 6-7 inches radius of the bullet's path in the trash.

You can further see evidence of shock by comparing rifle wounds with shotgun slug wounds. Shotgun slug wounds leave large holes due to the size of the projectile; having grown up in a shotgun-only zone I have a lot of familiarity with shotgun/ML wounds. I must saw I was in awe the first time I shot a deer with a high-power rifle, the damage in an a whole other league; I attribute this to the much higher energy and energy transfer of rifles as compared to shotgun slugs.
 

MontanaRifleman

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Hydraulic shock or Hydrodynamic shock would probably be better descriptors.

I read an article written by Jim Carmichel (used to be - maybe still is - Gun Editor with Outdoor Life). In his article, he presented the findings of bison or cows that were culled with high powered center fire rilfes on a ranch setting. These animals were center-shot through the rib cab with broadside hits, best as I remember. A person might be able to do a Google search and find the article. These animal's reaction to the bullet were observed and recorded. After the cull, veterinarians performed pathological examinations (autopsy) of the animals. Some percentage of the animals dropped at the shot - instant lights-out deaths. Others died over variable periods of time, same as big game animals do in response to similar bullet hits. The interesting part? All of the animals that expired instantly were observed to have suffered massive strokes. Vessels and arteries ruptured in their brains, and it was more or less concluded that the hydraulic pressure peaks that were transmitted through the blood vessels and arteries overpressured and ruptured arteries/vessels in the brain. Mr. Carmichel surmised that if the timing of the bullets impact coincided with the peak animal blood pressure that the added hydraulic pressure might be enough to kill by massive stroke. While another animal stuck very similarly, but when blood pressure was at a lower level might avoid massive stroke, and not produce an instant body-slam kill.

I've hunted for a long time. Seen quite a number of large game harvested by bullet. I have no doubt that high velocity impacts (with bullets of weight reasonably proportionate to the size of the game animal) can cause immediate death. Death can be so instantaneous that I personally concluded that bullet impact caused shock must be disrupting or short circuiting the nervous system. Then I read the Carmichel article. I'm not completely sold on that explanation, but the Vets carefully autopsied all of these animals shot during this study, and massive brain strokes were observed on the ones that collapsed dead on their feet.

The most dramatic instant death from a solid body hit I ever observed was a large boar brown bear I shot from a distance of 130 yds with a 338 Imperial Magnum. I used 225 grain Trophy Bonded Bear Claw bullets, one of the Jack Carter bullets before the company was sold to Speer. A 338 Imperial Magnum is virtually identical to the 338 Edge. This bear was standing broadside. I aimed center of the ribs just behind the front shoulder muscles. He collapsed so quickly I missed most of it due to rifle recoil. The way he dropped, and without so much as a twitch on the ground, I thought I might have brained him. This bear was standing on three feet of snow pack, and he was completely visible from my position. He squared 10' 5" and I could only estimate his weight at around 1000-1100 lbs. I couldn't believe a lung shot could put down a 1000 plus pound bear - instant lights out - like that. Because of these doubts, I waited and watched for a good 15 minutes before even getting up from my shooting position. I never saw any movement. About 25 minutes after the shot I was finally standing next to him, half expecting to see a head shot bear. Upon completely skinning this bear out, I can say with confidence the bullet struck right where I'd aimed, mid-height in the ribs on a completely broadside shot. I cut into the heart lung cavity forward of the diaphram and could find no impact on the inside ribcage of the offside ribs. The bullet never made it to the far side ribs, yet the animal was dead on impact.
Paul, That's an interesting post. I could see where the force and shock of a bullet could cause the body to react by bringing on cardiac arrest or a stroke. But I would say that this is not the normal experience. In my experiences, I think I might be able to attribute about 10% of my kills to something like this. Hard to say.
 
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liltank

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Just out of curiosity, why are humans impervious to this type of shock when hit? We generally last for hours if it is not a heart, artery, or brain shot. But there are instances and accounts by snipers that Humans explode on impact. Just wondering. I would imagine there has been instances of stroke. This is and interesting topic. Not trying to sound morbid, just curious.

Tank
 

Joaquin B

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I have killed 3 mule deer at distances beyound 200 meters with my 25-06 Ackley, using 100 grain Barnes XCL bullets. This puppy generates 3540 fps muzzle velocity. All 3 deer dropped instantly when hit. Two of them were hit through the chest and fell with their head turned in the direction of bullet impact, with their mouths wide open. The other one was hit at the base of the neck, with the bullet shattering its spine. It fell straight down.

I removed the skulls to retrieve the antlers from all 3 deer and made some interesting observations:

First, when I removed the skulls of the 2 deer hit in the chest cavity, the brain was colored red, as if there had been some sort of hemorraging.

Second, the brain of the buck hit through the spine did not show this.

While I am not a veterinarian and don't claim to be an expert on hydrostatic shock, the fact that the 2 deer hit through the chest showed what appeared to be cerebral hemorraging and died with their mouths wide open and their necks twisted leads me to believe that speed does indeed produce hydrostatic shock and instant kills.

Just my $0.02 worth.
 

MontanaRifleman

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Does the heart keep pumping blood if the spine where somehow shutdown or the line of communitcation from the brain cut off? If not, then if there is significant bleeding the death could be attributed to hemoherrage, if there isnt then it died from the shock to the spine. But that's based on that an animal keeps pumping blood after the spine is hit by a shockwave like this (not sure if it is, just building on that).
Bleeding would be a big clue. Instant death would mean the heart would stop beating with very little blood. I'm not a doctor, but it's apparant that in some cases spine damage will lead to paralysis while the heart still beats.


The problem I have with discounting shock and saying it's only hemmorhage through a direct wound channel is that you are essentially saying that a bullet and arrow kill the same way. As someone who has shot dozens of animals with all manner of legal firearms as well as modern archery equipment, I can say there is a distinct difference. While it is not unusual for animals to drop from a rifle shot even when the CNS is not hit, it is extraordinarily rare for this to happen with an arrow. Obviously, there is a difference.

I would contest that you don't just get a direct wound channel. Shoot a deer through the shoulder with an arrow, you get a broadhead-shaped hole with very little damage to tissue even 1/2 inch away. Shoot a 300WM through that same shoulder, and even if it is the entrance side and the bullet has not had time to expand you might as well throw everything within 6-7 inches radius of the bullet's path in the trash.

You can further see evidence of shock by comparing rifle wounds with shotgun slug wounds. Shotgun slug wounds leave large holes due to the size of the projectile; having grown up in a shotgun-only zone I have a lot of familiarity with shotgun/ML wounds. I must saw I was in awe the first time I shot a deer with a high-power rifle, the damage in an a whole other league; I attribute this to the much higher energy and energy transfer of rifles as compared to shotgun slugs.
Based on my own experiences as well as what I hear and read I would say that there is a lot of similarity between killing and animal with a bullet and an arrow. In most cases, a gun shot animal bleeds to death just the same as an arrow shot animal. It will usually take anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes.

I think in some cases, shock can contribute to the kill by rendering the animal unconscious or cause cardiac arrest or stroke. But in most cases it's hemoraging that kills the animal.

Almost all organs are vital to life. So why do we call the heart, lungs and liver the vitals in hunting terms and not the stomach and intestines? Because shots to the stomach and intestines result in very slow death while shots to the heart, lungs and liver result in much quicker deaths. if you shoot an animal in the gut, it will almost certainly linger for a long time. The reasonis because it's bleeding very little. The only case I've heard of an animal being dropped DRT with a gut shot is shooters report. Maybe in that case the shock caused cardiac arrest or or a stroke. But other than that, I have never heard of such a thing. It's a well known fact that gut shot animals need to be finished off and sometimes will run for along way.

This is a good discussion and I've changed my thinking on the subject a little. But overall, from personal experience, I see animals dying from catastrophic wounds in vital areas which lead to a lot of blood loss. And BTW, you dont necessarily need a lot of blood loss to reduce blood pressure to the brain. I have seen some animals go down very quick, and I have seen others take a lot of shock.

I will say that hydraulic shock can be a factor in killing game but that it is a somewhat rare occurance and nearly impossible to predict. And at long range, it becomes less of a factor. You will get very little shock value from bullets impacting at lower velocities.

My primary strategy will be to use a controlled expasion bullet placed into the "vitals". I freely admit that Berger type bullets will often do a much quicker job because of the massive cavitation they cause. But I feel more secure with the controlled expansion bullet for the less than ideal shot that may arise requirng a lot more penetration than the standard boiler room shot, as well as less meat damge.
 

MontanaRifleman

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Just out of curiosity, why are humans impervious to this type of shock when hit? We generally last for hours if it is not a heart, artery, or brain shot. But there are instances and accounts by snipers that Humans explode on impact. Just wondering. I would imagine there has been instances of stroke. This is and interesting topic. Not trying to sound morbid, just curious.

Tank
Tank, I think humans react very similar to animals to gunshot wounds. Animals are generally a lot tougher though and in some cases can travel quite far with fatal wounds.

The whole subject is a very complex one, because of the complexity of animal anatomy and the complexity of bullet terminal perfromance. No two cases are the same. Some one may DRT an antelope with a 243 shot to the boiler room. And another guy shoots one with a 300 RUM that leaves a 6" exit hole and that antelope runs for a 100 yds.
 

RockyMtnMT

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I have experienced the drt quite a few times. Most all of them showed damage to the spine. One with a GS bullet that did not show spine damage, and shot was quite a ways away from the spine.

I experienced the drt with almost all of the animals that I shot with 30-378 running Hawk bullets. The 220g semi spitzer. Every animal that I hit in the middle dropped. Everything from antelope to mule deer. Not one exited, from 50yrds to 300yrds. I shot an antelope dead center thru the gut, it dropped. I stopped using this bullet because of the massive meat damage and the accuracy seemed to drop off drastically after 300yrds.

I am in the camp of permanent wound channel/blood loss. I never really had a good explanation of how these animals died, other than they were hit with a large bullet going quite fast that did not exit. I'll buy the stroke theory. Blood pressure instantly too high for organs to cope.

I will say this. When I shot animals in the lung cavity with the Hawk bullets, the paunch was almost always blown up. I never found bullets, and made the assumption that they completely fragmented. I know that I was running them faster than they were designed to go. I ran the 220g bullets at 3100fps mv. This may also have something to do with the lack of accuracy beyond 300yrds. It was after moving on to other products that I got interested in how they work and shooting long range.

Good thread,

Steve
 

Oliveralan

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Phorwath,
that's a very interesting study.

So my position now is that hydraulic shock or hydrastatic shock can cause death by inducing massive stroke, or knockout an animal by disrupting the CNS and the animal then expiring from hemoherrage. But it is very hard to bring by this effect on purpose. It seems none-controlled expansion bullets such as the Berger bring this effect bout better because of massive cavatation caused through violent fragmentation.
 

ATH

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Tank, I think humans react very similar to animals to gunshot wounds. Animals are generally a lot tougher though and in some cases can travel quite far with fatal wounds.

The whole subject is a very complex one, because of the complexity of animal anatomy and the complexity of bullet terminal perfromance. No two cases are the same. Some one may DRT an antelope with a 243 shot to the boiler room. And another guy shoots one with a 300 RUM that leaves a 6" exit hole and that antelope runs for a 100 yds.
I think the difference with humans is relatively straightforward. #1, in the civilian world most human gunshot wounds are handgun wounds. I think if we went around shooting deer with 9mm rounds we'd experience similar results.

#2, it's a difference in physiology and resulting shot placement. When we shoot deer and the like, we go for a broadside shot, as it's the biggest target, and shoot through both lungs; all oxygen uptake capacity is lost immediately and they are down in seconds. With humans, the largest target is to shoot at the front of the chest or the back. Unless the heart is hit, they typical result would be to hit one lung or the other but not both; many times one lung will remain functional and, with basic first aid, life extended until help arrives.

I have shot a small number of deer through the front of the chest and hit only a single lung. Each time, the result was a much longer than normal run, a couple times several hundred yards. Enough to make me avoid such shots whenever possible.


I won't argue over what to call it, but I believe energy transfer/shock etc does play a big role in the way a bullet kills. I've never had a DRT with archery, but I had DRTs with every deer I shot with my muzzleloader for 5 years straight (about 13 deer). Even bullets that don't fragment create jellied meat well outside the actual path of the bullet. Something is different to me!
 

bigngreen

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This has been a very interesting thread. I had never really thought of a stroke but it does seem plausible and may explain some things. I have killed coyotes by just stomping right on there heart, it actually works real good but I always though that it just stopped the heart or lungs but it is so fast maybe were causing a stoke and hemorrhaging in the brain.
I really think that shock plays a role but it can not be relied on to deliver constant or fairly predictable kills.
 

liltank

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I think the difference with humans is relatively straightforward. #1, in the civilian world most human gunshot wounds are handgun wounds. I think if we went around shooting deer with 9mm rounds we'd experience similar results.

#2, it's a difference in physiology and resulting shot placement. When we shoot deer and the like, we go for a broadside shot, as it's the biggest target, and shoot through both lungs; all oxygen uptake capacity is lost immediately and they are down in seconds. With humans, the largest target is to shoot at the front of the chest or the back. Unless the heart is hit, they typical result would be to hit one lung or the other but not both; many times one lung will remain functional and, with basic first aid, life extended until help arrives.

That definitely makes sense. I never really considered body position.

Tank
 

Oliveralan

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ATH,
the body position thing was real smart, never thought of that and explains why we have never heard of the shock causing death in humans before.

I agree that shock can cause kills, but it's very hard to define it as a reliable method or not. We would have to agree on a spot that we think would induce the shock->stroke->death effect and then shoot a number of animals with different calibers and bullets at that spot. I think the high shoulder shot, above the heart and lungs and below the spine would be a good place to test this. I have been shooting high shoulder on 4/5 if my last pigs I killed and all of them were DRT with a .308 shooting 178a-maxs.

I never thought this threa would bring up such a wealth of inormation. I really understand this effect a lot better now.
 

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