Can You Shoot A Gun Underwater?

Have you ever wondered what happens when you shoot a gun underwater? Do you question the accuracy when a bullet is fired underwater and travels in the same way as it does above ground? 

There are many scenes from movies and TV shows that show people jumping into water to avoid being hit by a bullet.

Can You Shoot A Gun Underwater?

It is a huge mystery as to whether being underwater can save you from bullets and TV shows and movies show no consistency in the matter either.

Sometimes it saves you, and sometimes it doesn’t. So, let’s clear up this matter once and for all. This article will answer all your gun-underwater related questions so that you don’t have to try them at home! 

What Happens When You Shoot A Gun Underwater? 

When a gun is fired underwater, the gun will still go off in the same way it does when you’re on land. The difference, however, is that the bullet will not travel at the same speed as it does through the air.

When it hits the water, it will travel very slowly, sometimes even changing direction midway through its journey.

Norwegian physicist Andrew Wahl put his life on the line to prove this phenomenon. He got into a swimming pool and stood in the direct line of fire to a loaded gun.

He set up an experiment where, using a cord, he pulled the trigger on himself. You can take a look at what happens on youtube, but the fact of the matter is that he is not harmed, and the bullet does not make it very far at all.

Why Does A Bullet Travel Slower Underwater? 

The reason that a bullet travels slower underwater is because water is a lot more dense than air. It is 800 times denser to be precise. 

So, with water being 800% more dense than air, as soon as the bullet hits the water, it immediately slows down.

While on land, the bullet would speed forwards, cutting through the air, in water, the bullet slows rapidly and starts to fall towards the bottom of the pool.

Underwater Resistance 

So, you’re probably aware that everything offers resistance when an object moves through it.

The air around us produces some resistance to our movements, which is noticed when we walk or run through the air. Liquid has this resistance but at a much higher level. This is often known as a ‘drag’.

Drag is the force that slows you down as you move through the water. The difference between the resistance in the air and the resistance in the water is demonstrated by the way a ball travels through the air vs the way a ball travels through the water.

A ball, when thrown, travels very easily through the air, but as soon as it hits the water, this changes. This is the same for a bullet.

It must work much harder to work through the natural resistance of the liquid, resulting in the bullet not traveling further than a few feet. 

What Happens? 

What Happens? 

So, are you wondering what happens when you pull the trigger? These are the stages that will occur:

  1. The bullet will initially fire at the same speed as it would on the land. There is high pressure behind the bullet which pushes it out the gun. 
  2. When the bullet comes into contact with the water, it will begin slowing down immediately. This is because there is low pressure behind the bullet. 
  3. Because of the pressure, a partial vacuum is formed in front of the bullet. If you watch a bullet being fired underwater in slow motion, you will be able to see the bubbles forming in front of the bullet which is the water boiling. 
  4. Under the water, bullets will travel several feet because of the resistance of the water. 

Explaining Some Myths 

Have you ever watched the scene in Saving Private Ryan where soldiers are being hit by bullets under the water? In this scene, the gun fire has the same effect underwater as it does above ground.

The soldiers are being hit and killed by the bullets underwater. So after reading how guns travel underwater, you’re probably now questioning the validity of everything, ever. And you should be. 

It is almost impossible for the bullets to retain their deadly power under the water.

This has been tried and tested, and, even at point blank range, you are safe from the damage a bullet can cause when you are underwater. 

There are also many other scenes in TV and film which use the shots underwater for added drama. Well, now you know, they’re inaccurate. 

Underwater Guns 

Now, it felt quite relieving that you couldn’t fire a gun underwater, didn’t it? One more place where you’re safe from firearms.

Well, sorry to burst your bubble in this respect, but I’m afraid this is not completely true! In the 1960’s, the Americans and the Soviets both developed a gun that can be successfully fired underwater so that they could arm their navy men more effectively.

The SPP-1 underwater pistol has the power to fire underwater. This gun creates a gas bubble that the bullets fly inside of while they travel through the water.

This reduces the friction on the bullets and means it can travel rapidly through water.

However, this still doesn’t explain the scenes from the movies you so love. Saving Private Ryan was set in WWII, long before this gun was designed. Also, these underwater guns are not very common.

Final Thoughts 

So, to conclude, while you can fire a gun underwater it will have entirely different effects to a gun being fired about ground. Essentially, the gun shot will be ineffective.

The resistance underwater due to the density of the water means that the bullet will slow down as soon as it hits the water.

The bullet will leave the gun in exactly the same way as it would above ground, however, it will then become obsolete as soon as it hits the water. 

Matthew Osborn

Matt is an entrepreneur who has created and successfully exited multiple companies and brands. Now, he dedicates his time to Legionary, where he produces content on guns, family, and freedom.

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