As a child, I was always into the army and police. I used to love everything about them, their uniforms, their attitude, their patriotism, their courage, and of course, one thing that I cannot forget is their guns. Guns and physics behind them always make me curious. I mean dealing with them seems to be so easy watching in movies.
The hero used to deal with the guns like a superman, the way he fires the bullet towards the villain. God alone knows how they show the speed of the bullet and the bullet moving and then at the very moment when the bullet was about to hit the hero. By using his extraordinary unbelievable powers far beyond the human imagination escapes.
This is obviously crazy to believe but then, I was fascinated and it did arouse curiosity in me about guns. What would happen to a bullet fired in space? is one of the questions which kept my attention for a long time.
After research, I found a fascinating answer but to understand it, first, you need to understand the How does a gun work? or how fast and how far the bullet travels? That’s why let me begin with actually how does a gun work?
What would happen to a bullet fired in space?
Practically there is no difference between the bullet speed fired in the space and its speed on Earth but the distance it travels would be very, very different. On Earth, due to the gravitational force, the bullet travels a few miles before falling to the ground.
Earth gravitational force act on the bullet and pull it down to the ground, that’s why it need much more force to continue flying. In space, you can expect the bullet to go on and on, possibly forever, since there is no strong force acting to pull it down or slow it down.
As we know most part of the universe fills with vacuum and this does not affect bullet travel speed. A vacuum doesn’t have friction to slow the speed or alter the course of the bullet.
“An object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force“This reminds us Newton’s First law.
Since there is no friction the bullet would keep traveling for an infinite amount of time until something hits it and slows it down. Consequently, the universe is not fixed, it continues expanding at a rapid rate, the bullet would keep traveling for an infinite amount of time.
For better understanding remember a rakshas who disguised himself as god and drank the immortal nectar (Amrit), and then the Lord Vishnu with his Sudarshan chakra cut his head off from his body but as he had already had the nectar, he was immortal and it is said that his head still floats in the universe as there is no gravitational force, in the same way, the bullet will go on and on wandering in the universe.
How does a gun work?
There are many types of guns, so let us have a look at them one by one.
How does a Revolver work?
In the year 1830 Samuel Colt, left his home when he was only 16 years old and took a job on a merchant ship. In his spare time, he would make designs for a new gun. This gun was different from the traditional old guns of that time. It’s a kind of gun that could be fired repeatedly without reloading again and again. This was not the first time anyone built such a firearm but they did not get success as Colt’s gun did.
The inspiration for this first revolver was the nautical capstan design. These cylindrical barrels are used to distribute degrees of force to ship sheets and anchor chains. As a sailor Samuel Colt often encounter them in his work.
He found inspiration out of them. These barrels helped Colt to make the guns that we have today. This consisted of a barrel that had 6 chambers to house ammunition, which is self-contained explosives.
Colt’s gun was one of the most advanced guns of that time which change the whole firearm industry. This gun has four major components propellant (Gun Powder), the primer, extractor and a case which holds the entire unit together. All these are loaded into the aforementioned barrel chambers individually. Applying explosive pressure behind the projectile is needed to force it down the barrel, which is the driving principle of every firearm available today.
The trigger-hammer is very important as when squeezed, the trigger forces down the hammer, which in turn strikes the firing pin with a spring force, directly striking the bullet primer on the ammunition round in the chamber. When the primer is compressed, a chain reaction is set off, igniting the gunpowder in the bullet causing to extract the slug from the cylinder and down the gun barrel. The ratchet then turns the cylinder and aligns the next live round of ammunition with the firing pin.
Different parts of a bullet
Unlike guns, bullets generally work the same way. A modern bullet cartridge contains 5 parts:
- The bullet itself
- The case
- The propellant which is usually the gunpowder
- The Rim
- The primer
How does a bullet work?
If you pull the trigger of a handgun then a sequence of operations happens in a sequential way. First, the hammer snaps forward and a pin strikes the primer with enough force to create a spark, igniting the gunpowder.
Then the gunpowder creates an explosion. This explosion propels the bullet in extreme force and the bullet goes out from the gun at high speed. The same rule applies in the case of a semi-automatic pistol but in this case addition of that, the extractor grabs hold of the rim and eject the empty casing from the gun which makes room for the next round.
What is the average bullet speed?
Well, there is actually no average speed of a bullet because it depends on the particular caliber and cartridge used. It also depends on the bullet weight and gunpowder charge. For example, a .22 long cartridge is capable of inducing up to 1600 SFT of velocity at the point of exiting the barrel, given the proper barrel length and rifling.
However, the surprising fact is most .22 caliber bullets induce average speed in the range of 1200 to 1400 SFT. Now, this .22 itself has variations, and therefore each brand/make/type of cartridge may have different velocities. Small changes like the length of the barrel in the gun design can also affect the velocities.
How far can a bullet go?
A bullet travelling through the air will hit the ground in the same amount of time as an object that is just dropped from the same height. A fairly high velocity 9 M M will travel at the speed of 1300 feet per second. It has 0.6 seconds to travel, so it will travel around 780 feet.
How far does .22 travel?
A high-velocity .22 LR fired at a 30-degree angle from a rifle will travel approximately a mile or so, maximum range listed is at 1 1/2 miles.
How does a gun work in space?
Ever thought of this?? well firing a bullet in space is not different than what it is on the Earth. The process of shooting is exactly the same; however, the journey of the bullet is very different than we think. Thus, when anyone fires a gun on Earth, the obvious thing one expects is to hear the sound of the gunshot, i.e., the sound of the bullet leaving the muzzle of the gun, but as there is no sound in space, as you see, sound waves cannot travel in a vacuum, you would not hear the blast of gunshot in space.
How fast would a bullet travel in space?
So when you are on Earth and fire a bullet, there is a recoil from the gun, due to Newton’s third law of motion: for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Therefore, when you fire the bullet and it goes forward. It exerts the force of the same magnitude in the opposite direction of its motion, which is backward, making you feel a sudden and violent force pushing you back on your shoulder when you fire.
But you will see even after being impacted by such a strong force, our feet stay on the ground due to the force of gravity. On Earth, the gravitational force helps us to stand upright on the ground. However, since there is no force of gravity in space, what would happen? Yes, you are right, you will begin flying in the opposite direction of the bullet’s motion.
There is a one-in-a-million chance that as the objects in the orbit of a planet experience a weak gravitational force exerted by the planet; therefore, they may be in a state of constant motion and ultimately hit the shooter after completing one revolution around the planet. Although the conditions would have to be accurate to an insanely high degree for this to happen, it is certainly not impossible.
However, if the bullets and the gun are identical to “muzzle velocity”. The speed at which the bullet leaves the gun will be the same on the ground and in the space. For a regular pistol, this is somewhere around 1000 feet per second.