Start a Fire with a Gun: Is it a Myth?

This one comes from the MythBusters show. In this particular episode the crew decided to test the story that you could light a fire using a gun. An interesting idea and one that seems plausible given the power of most bullets.

The steps taken to test this fire starting idea are as follows:

  • Remove the bullet from its casing.
  • Pour the gun powder on to kindling.
  • Put the empty casing in to a gun and fire it at the gun powder / kindling mix.
  • Sparks from the blasting cap should light the gun powder.

Unfortunately, repeated tests revealed that a fire can't be started in this way. The problem is that once the bullet is removed from the casing, the pressure that keeps the blasting powder in place is removed and so the powder just scatters. To remedy this, the MythBusters team tried stuffing cloth in to the bullet casing. This didn't work either.

So there you have it. According to the MythBuster folks you shouldn't rely on a gun to get a fire started. There are better things to do with your gun and bullets in a survival situation anyway!

Update: Note that in the Arctic Survival episode of Suvivorman, Les Stroud successful starts a fire using a gun.

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  1. A saw bear grylles do it with a bullet on Man vs. Wild.

  2. What would happen if you fired it at a Vaseline soaked cotton ball or char cloth??

  3. Never having watched either show, the procedure described in this post makes me wonder if MythBusters would have gotten a different result had they simply used two bullets instead of one. Use the powder from one bullet, fire a different bullet at it. It might not help, or it may have defeated the purpose of the experiment, but now I'm curious.

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    I too was surprised that they had trouble with the gun firing technique. Les Stroud of Survivorman fame was able to do it on one of his shows although it did take many tries.

  5. The mythbusters team couldn’t start a fire with a bow and drill either. Even when they placed the spindle in an actual power drill! Is this a myth then also?

    • I must agree with you the mythbusters dont seem able to do a lot of things and assume that no one else can do them either
      maybe they need to practice a little more before calling them busted lol

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