A bullet fired into the air will eventually fall back to earth. It can fall with sufficient energy to cause injury to an unfortunate person at the wrong place at the wrong time. This can be a significant problem in certain parts of the world where guns are fired into the air during celebrations.


Celebratory gunfire may occur:

(1) on New Year's Eve

(2) on the nation's day of independence

(3) at a wedding

(4) after a sports victory


Criteria of Ordog et al:

(1) The victim or bystanders do not hear a gun fired (or else it is sounds remote.)

(2) The victim or bystanders do not see anyone nearby with a gun.

(3) The source of the bullet is subsequently identified as a person who fired a weapon at a significant distance from the victim.

(4) The wound is consistent with a vertical or high incident angle projectile impacting an exposed body part.

In addition, the injury was unintentional (the shootist was not aiming and did not intend to hit the victim).


The presence of powder burns or blast markings would exclude the diagnosis.


The spent bullet may land thousands of feet from the gun, depending on the powder charge and the angle of discharge. The terminal velocity of the bullet ranges from 300 to 600 feet per second, impacting with a kinetic energy of 30-60 foot pounds (Ordog et al). This is sufficient to cause a lethal injury if the bullet strikes the skull or thorax.


Sites of injuries if the victim is standing:

(1) head

(2) foot

(3) shoulder or upper back


Sites of injuries if the victim is supine:

(1) face

(2) front of the chest or abdomen

(3) front of an extremity


Sites of injuries if the victim is prone:

(1) back of head

(2) back

(3) back of an extremity


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