All my life I’ve heard tales of mighty magnums flinging deer and elk “ten feet backwards,” flipping them onto their backs, spinning them 180 degrees and otherwise flooring them like the Hammer of Thor. Impressive. Where can I experience this?
Strangely, I’ve never observed any of this dramatic activity myself. Not with elk, as shown in this video, not with whitetails, not with pronghorns, as seen in this video, not with coyotes or even 12-pound African dik dik. The only animals I can honestly say I’ve seen a bullet move have been the size of jackrabbits and groundhogs — or smaller.
I’ve noticed the same thing on dozens of hunting videos. Unless hit in the central nervous system, game absorbs thousands of foot-pounds of impact without being knocked back, usually without even falling. Sometimes it leaps and runs. Sometimes it stands as if trying to figure out what just happened. Sometimes it continues eating. Sometimes it walks, even attempts to mate. This is why I maintain that knockdown power is so much advertising hype.
To build a foundation for this potentially explosive topic, let’s pay homage to Newtonian physics. According to Newton’s third law of motion, simplified, “For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.” This is why a rifle recoils upon firing, why a blast of air from a rocket engine pushes it upward, why your fist hurts when you put it through a wall in anger.
If you fire your rifle and it doesn’t knock you back ten feet, how can it drive a deer back ten feet? It doesn’t matter how heavy the bullet or how fast you drive it. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. If the gun doesn’t knock you back or spin your around, the bullet can’t knock an equal-sized animal down. Watch how a 416 Rigby dangerous game rifle firing 400 grain bullets 2,500 fps knocks the shooter in this video around.
So then what terminates the game we shoot, sometimes instantly, sometimes dramatically, sometimes only after several seconds and a mad dash? We’ll investigate that mystery in our next blog post.
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