Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Bulletproof Vests and Injuries When Shot With a Hand Gun

My cop hero is shot with a hand gun while wearing a bulletproof vest. I want him to be injured, enough that he has to see a doctor, but not enough that he requires hospitalization. What kind of injuries could he have?
I’m assuming you want him to be hit in the vest. Let’s consider the factors involved.

The force of the bullet is going to depend on the type of vest, how close your hero is when the shot is fired, and the type of round/bullet.

First, the vest. Most police issue vests are made of Kevlar, a synthetic fiber woven into a dense fabric. Multiple layers strengthen the vest. The weight is proportional to the thickness, therefore these vests are generally not too heavy and very reliable in preventing perforation of small caliber hand gun bullets.

Distance: consider a small caliber hand gun at relatively close range. With a trajectory perpendicular to the chest, the bullet can hit with enough force to knock the cop backward. He could sustain injuries related to falling on a hard surface. The bullet can also hit hard enough to injure the chest wall beneath the vest, including bruising, abrasions, and cracked ribs.

The bigger the round, the more damage. The average law enforcement vest isn’t designed to handle a rifle round. This kind of round can pierce the vest and do as much damage as it would without the vest.

With a cop shot by a hand gun at a short distance, I’d expect him to be knocked backward and possibly fall. He’ll be seen in the ER, and get a chest X-ray to check for broken ribs. If he’s just banged up, he’ll be discharged. If he has cracked ribs, he’ll be sent home with cautions relative to treating this (pain control, deep breathing to prevent pneumonia, follow-up doctor’s visit). In the rare case of a severe rib fracture puncturing a lung, he’ll be admitted.

Good luck with your scene!

Questions? Comments?
Kelly has worked in the medical field for over twenty years, mainly at large medical centers. With experience in a variety of settings, chances are Kelly may have seen it. Sometimes truth seems stranger than fiction in medicine, but accurate medicine in fiction is fabulous.
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  1. Thanks so much for sharing this, Kelly. I'm continuously fascinated with your knowledge and wisdom:)

  2. Kelly, I love this blog and the knowledge you impart.