MYTHBUSTERS Recap: Revisiting Bullets, Bombs, and Drifts

MythBusters Recap "Failure Is Never an Option" Episode

Each episode of this final season of MYTHBUSTERS so far has been an homage to something from past seasons. This week in “Failure Is Not an Option,” MYTHBUSTERS tipped their hats to fans, always in their quest to find the more perfect test for the hundreds of myths attempted over 14 years.

It’s been a signature of MYTHBUSTERS that even when they have done their utmost to test a myth, when fans have called foul over a result, when feasible the crew have tried it again. This week was the last time for three fan favorites: What Is Bullet-Proof, What Is Bomb-Proof, and San Francisco Drift.

What Is Bullet-Proof?

The first time Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman tested this myth – to see if a brass cigarette lighter would stop a 22-caliber full metal jacket bullet – was in 2004. It didn’t stop the bullet. But a fan suggested there may have been a way that a bullet could have been stopped by a bullet — by a ricochet shot.

Adam and Jamie first replicated their original experiment and duplicated the results. The bullet went right through the lighter and almost all the way through their ballistics gel “Buster.” Then they set up a ricochet shot.

Setting up a concrete paver, which in the past proved to be the best substance for a ricochet, they positioned it at a 45-degree angle to a target to see where the bullet would hit so they could then set up their Buster and lighter. But the bullet flew off at too high an angle and totally missed the target. Adam reset the angle at 25 degrees, but the bullet shattered into bits. Finally, Adam reset the angle at 15 degrees, which proved to be perfect, resulting in the bullet hitting the target dead center.

Replacing the target with Buster and the lighter, Jamie took his shot and the results were textbook. The bullet hit the lighter and bounced off. “Almost like we knew what we were doing,” quipped Jamie. “Now we know how it can happen,” said a gleeful Adam.

  • Revised Conclusion: Plausible

But the MYTHBUSTERS crew weren’t finished. Oh, no, there was one more bullet-proof myth to test. It seems someone was saved from a 12-gauge shotgun blast by a 30-gallon fish tank that sat between him and the shooter. Only, Adam and Jamie didn’t know what kind of ammunition was used.

So first they tried bird shot. Adam’s shot blasted through both sides of the tank, but the pellets didn’t reach Buster. Instead, shards of glass hit Adam. The slow motion camera showed that it was the shock wave of the gun blast that shattered the back of the tank, not the bird shot.

Next, Jamie tried buck shot. The front of the tank blew away but not the back. The larger pellets are designed to hurt flesh, not hard surfaces, and when they hit the water in the tank, it took away all their energy.

Finally, Adam used a deer slug. This shot made it all the way through the front and the back of the tank, but still didn’t reach Buster. The slow motion camera showed that the slug was flattened, producing a drag effect that made the slug fall far short of Buster once out of the tank.

It seems a 30-gallon tank can save you from a shotgun blast.

  • Conclusion: Confirmed

What Is Bomb-Proof?

The MYTHBUSTERS crew have tested lots of myths about the effects of bombs on survivors. This one suggested that you can survive a blast by being equidistant between two identical explosions. The idea was that the pressure waves from the two blasts would cancel each other where they intersect in the middle.

To test the myth, Adam and Jamie set up a raft on the lake at Ione, one of their favorite sites for testing explosions. Not only is it far from civilization for safety, but the lake is perfect for shooting aerial shots to show the shock waves.

The raft contained seven sensors, which would test the blast pressure at one-foot intervals. The control test used one 5-pound round of TNT at one end of the raft, suspended 3 feet above the raft.

After the explosion, the data showed that at the closest sensor the pressure was 135 psi, the center pressure was 50 psi, and the furthest pressure was 25 psi.

Then Adam and Jamie reset the raft with two 5-pound rounds of TNT, one at each end set equidistantly, to be set off simultaneously. After an initial failure to explode, they reset the charge and then BAM! they enjoyed the blast and a very interesting set of pressure data. Seems that the center pressure didn’t go down as predicted by the myth — it doubled to 100 psi. “Like two hammers hitting,” said Jamie, “and that’s a bad place to be.” You wouldn’t survive the blasts by being equidistant between them.

  • Conclusion: Busted

San Francisco Drift

When MYTHBUSTERS first tested this myth, the question was which was faster, slowing down for curves in a race through a two-mile course, or drifting through curves on the same course. The results showed that drifting wasn’t any faster. But a fan suggested that driving on a dirt course might change the results.

Adam and Jamie set up a course back at the Ione lake setting, its clay base seemingly perfect for testing this myth.

First, Jamie drove the course of twists and turns as the control, slowing and not drifting for each curve. His times through the course were 2 minutes and 20 seconds and, in a second run, 2 minutes and 22 seconds.

Then Adam drove the course drifting through all the curves. Taking the course as fast as he could twice, his times were 2 minutes and 24 seconds and 2 minutes and 23 seconds. Not any faster.

Emerging from the car all excited and learning of his times, Adam reacted with disappointment, “No way! That was awesome.”

Looking at the aerial footage, it was apparent that while Adam drove faster than Jamie in some curves, in others he lost traction and was slower. So drifting was no advantage on a dirt course.

  • Conclusion: Busted

Missed all the excitement? See the replay on the Science Channel Wednesday at 9:00 p.m. ET (6:00 p.m. PT) and midnight ET (9:00 p.m. PT).

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