You might have seen this photo before, along with a caption saying, “Two bullets collided in mid-air.” But is it true? Have these two bullets collided really in mid-air? And what is the probability of this phenomenon occurring?
Throughout history, many wars happened, and millions or trillions of bullets have been fired. Even though the probability for two bullets to meet in the air is very low, this huge amount of bullets fired in wars could make this phenomenon occur.
So does this mean that this picture is real? It is 100% real! So these bullets collided in the air? Maybe yes, maybe no… We will discuss that later. How many times did this happen throughout history? And what about modern weapons and the bullets speed difference?
Did they collide in mid-air?
Going back to our initial photo, this photo is real! But it seems that they didn’t collide in mid-air. Let’s explain why:
Looking closely at the two bullets, we would say that one bullet did really hit the other without any doubt. However, you could easily notice that the one on the left has no rifling at all.
If you don’t know what rifling is, it is the spiral grooves inside a gun barrel, and when the bullet is fired, those grooves leave signs on the bullet itself. Going back to the two bullets, the one on the right does really have riflings (grooves).
This means that they really did collide, but the one on the left was traveling at a much slower speed than a normal speed of a fired bullet. Or maybe it was at rest, perhaps in an ammunition storage area. This is the most realistic explanation for this event.
So did they collide while both of them were fired? Most probably NO!
But the question that comes to my mind: is this possible? Can two bullets collide in mid-air? Sure! And this has happened throughout history during wars. But is it a frequent event? No, this doesn’t happen easily.
Mid-Air Bullets Collision in History
This photo from a museum shows a real two bullets mid-air collision that happened at the battle of Petersburg, or “The Crater” in the American Civil War. Take a note that the projectile speed of bullets was much slower at that time than today.
So this low probability phenomenon happened before! Speaking of probability, what is the probability for this to happen?
What is the probability of two bullets colliding in mid-air?
This question is not easy to answer since there are many factors to consider in the calculation process. This depends on the bullets types, speed, and firing angle, are the bullets fired with the intent to collide? And many other factors.
Who knows what exactly the number is, but what we are sure about is that this is an astonishing event that never happens easily.
But what about modern bullets and the massive speed improvements?
Some people believe that modern bullets will break apart and leave a very little trace if they hit in the air. However, another opinion says that if two modern bullets met, the force would be sufficient for them to split apart or bounce off the other bullet.
Due to the fact that black powder bullets were often made of soft lead, they had a much larger potential of merging than current copper-clad bullets. As a result of their increased speed and increased likelihood of bouncing, modern bullets are more dangerous than black powder bullets.
Two modern bullets colliding in mid-air is still feasible, although I haven’t seen any new photos of such a case. The fact that it hasn’t happened before doesn’t rule out the possibility. Still, it does suggest that modern bullets probably will bounce off of one other or collide with something else and don’t fuse together. A fired bullet striking an unfired bullet is the most common occurring event.