PDA

View Full Version : Firing squad mythbuster?



Rising Sun*
11-22-2008, 02:50 AM
The practice of randomly issuing one rifle loaded with a blank to a firing squad is supposed to allow each member of the squad to remain uncertain whether they fired a fatal shot.

Wouldn't the difference in recoil on a blank be apparent to an experienced rifleman? (Not having fired a blank without a blank firing attachment, I have no idea what recoil a blank produces in a military calibre rifle with a clear muzzle.)

tankgeezer
11-22-2008, 09:34 AM
The practice of randomly issuing one rifle loaded with a blank to a firing squad is supposed to allow each member of the squad to remain uncertain whether they fired a fatal shot.

Wouldn't the difference in recoil on a blank be apparent to an experienced rifleman? (Not having fired a blank without a blank firing attachment, I have no idea what recoil a blank produces in a military calibre rifle with a clear muzzle.)
You are correct,in a modern firearm there is no way to miss which you are firing.even with a blank adapter, the only sense of recoil comes from the rifles action cycling. Without an adapter, there is no recoil (at least in the Nato 5.56 round.) The practice was begun in the muzzle loading days, when it would not be possible to tell the difference if the weapon was loaded sans ball. The modern infantry rifle, of any mark using a metal cartridge, will NOT have any significant recoil, as the bullet leaving the barrel is what causes recoil in any firearm. The Black powder guns would have a thick bit of wadding to hold the powder, and that would be enough to cause the recoil adding that modern cartridge guns use smokeless propellant, which is not an explosive, Black powder however, is a low order explosive.(will produce recoil without a projo.) Although I have no definite knowledge about it, perhaps there is a special cartridge made for just this purpose, one that can produce some believable degree of recoil. Maybe our man Tony has some insight on this question. The blank round was a mechanism to spare the firing party the psychological distress of knowing they had killed a comrade by providing a reasonable doubt as to who actually had service ammo loaded. (this last bit for the benefit of our younger members who maybe do not know about this practice.)

pdf27
11-22-2008, 11:15 AM
Perhaps more plausibly as a way for them to deny it to themselves BEFORE they pulled the trigger. If they were certain they would be more likely to aim off, etc. while afterwards the army (any army) wouldn't really care very much.

tankgeezer
11-22-2008, 11:40 AM
Perhaps more plausibly as a way for them to deny it to themselves BEFORE they pulled the trigger. If they were certain they would be more likely to aim off, etc. while afterwards the army (any army) wouldn't really care very much.
Very possibly so, a little reasonable doubt does go a long way. Though I dont think misses particularly intentional misses would would be tolerated without some questions.. dereliction of duty or some such. Its a rough bit of work to execute someone especially if the party knows the condemned. (except of course in the case of Hanoi Jane, I think there would be an application line miles in length to get onto that firing party.)

pdf27
11-23-2008, 01:52 AM
Maybe so, but the whole point of a firing squad is that there are quite a few people in it. Each guy can tell himself that they´ll never prove it was ME who missed....

navyson
11-23-2008, 07:48 AM
A couple of stories from American Civil War about botched executions:

"Adding to the apprehension were the stories which many of the men had heard, of muffed executions. The average soldier was not an able marksman, and when about to shoot a defenseless comrade his aim could be even more unsteady."
"When Frank McElhenny deserted in 1862, going over to the enemy, and then deserted them to go back to his own lines, he had the misfortune to run right into his own old regiment. Tried and convicted, he was set for execution on August 8, 1864. His hands bound, his eyes blindfolded, he stood before a firing party a scant few paces away. When they fired, he fell to the ground with five bullets in him. But still he lived. Another squad sent another eight slugs into his chest before he died."
Others fared even worse.
"In the Army of Tennessee in 1862, twenty Confederates stood twelve paces from a man and only slightly injured him. Four more soldiers came forward and fired and still he breathed. Finally all twenty-four reloaded and managed to kill him with a volley that might have mowed down a whole squad of the enemy."
And all the while, the other men were lined up at attention to watch, then had to file past the executed to see the price of justice.

"Fighting Men of the Civil War" Page 166 William C. Davis

That's a thankless job to have to do, to be on an execution squad. And it seems by the accounts that many of the men may have intentionally missed their target. They all could not have been that bad of marksmen.

P.S. Sorry this doesn't have much to do about "blanks", just thought it was interesting.

Rising Sun*
11-23-2008, 08:26 AM
One of the best, or worst, firing squad scenes in cinema.
http://au.youtube.com/watch?v=A5vOqz2EjhI

The firing squad carries their rifles near the muzzle, which is an odd drill. Is there something about the occasion or military tradition which requires that arms not be shouldered or even trailed on such occasions?

Another powerful cinematic firing squad scene. http://au.youtube.com/watch?v=5K6BWgUNKYk

tankgeezer
11-23-2008, 12:35 PM
One of the best, or worst, firing squad scenes in cinema.
http://au.youtube.com/watch?v=A5vOqz2EjhI

The firing squad carries their rifles near the muzzle, which is an odd drill. Is there something about the occasion or military tradition which requires that arms not be shouldered or even trailed on such occasions?

Another powerful cinematic firing squad scene. http://au.youtube.com/watch?v=5K6BWgUNKYk
Just a guess, but it would make it difficult to check to see if one's rifle had a blank, or service round chambered. This is a very sloppy way to execute someone, but given the way things were done in traditional military proceedings it was expedient, and provided for the reasonable doubt of who actually delivered a bullet.Those of the party have to live with it for the rest of their lives. My thought is that it should be officers, not enlisted men who constitute a firing party. Yes you are correct, in a large party it would indeed be difficult to determine who deloped, and who fired true.

Man of Stoat
11-24-2008, 07:34 AM
This blank cartridge business does appear to be a complete myth -- I have never read about an account of an actual firing party in which it is conclusively mentioned.

For rising Sun, there is a portrayal of an Australian firing party post war executing a Japanese officer who had, under orders, beheaded Australian prisoners of war (I can't remember the name of the film...). There is an interesting addition to the film, in that the Japanese officer was a Christian rather than Shinto, a fact that was brought up in mitigation during the court martial.

Anyway, it is particularly interesting in that the drill is shown. If I remember correctly, from the "order arms" position, it goes along the lines of:

Slope arms... Port arms... load (the magazines already contained at least one cartridge, hence "load" only resulted in working the action)... present... fire... unload... slope arms

I could be entirely wrong though...

World War I British firing parties were actually a rather more ad hoc affair, and despite the relatively large number of them carried out, there was never any official drill instigated for it. I can also not believe that Commonwealth soldiers in a firing party would not have loaded their own weapons.

tankgeezer
11-24-2008, 08:29 AM
Okay, I looked on the net, and most things related to the subject are variations of each other,so I copied it, and here it is. not a great piece to quote, but its all about the same. It seems that the blank cartridge was not mandated, or at least optioned case by case.

Quote from the net: "Execution by firing squad is a method of capital punishment, especially in times of war. A firing squad is a group of people (usually soldiers) who are ordered to shoot at the condemned person simultaneously.

No single member of the firing squad can save the condemned person's life by not firing, reducing the moral incentive to disobey the order to shoot (see diffusion of responsibility).
Executions are usually carried out with high-caliber rifles to facilitate a quick death. The condemned may be seated or standing but is usually restrained. The condemned is often hooded or blindfolded.

In some cases, one member of the firing squad is issued a gun containing a blank cartridge instead of one with a bullet, without telling any of them whom it was given to. There are two theories supporting this practice. First, each can hope beforehand that he will not be one who contributes to the killing. This is believed to reduce flinching and to make the execution proceed more reliably. Second, it allows each of the soldiers a chance to believe afterward that he did not personally fire a fatal shot. While an experienced marksman can tell the difference between a blank and a live cartridge based on the recoil (the blank will have much lower recoil), there is a significant psychological incentive not to pay attention and, over time, to remember the recoil as soft.

The firing squad is commonly used to execute spies. It is often considered a particularly honorable method of execution, and as such is intentionally not used for war criminals, who are often hanged--a penalty associated with common criminals. Firing squads were, however, used by some countries to execute war criminals after World War IIWorld War II was the most extensive and costly armed conflict in the history of the world, involving the great majority of the world's nations, being fought simultaneously in several major theatres, and costing tens of millions of lives. The war was fough, most notably by PolandThe Republic of Poland a country in Central Europe, lies between Germany to the west, the Czech Republic and Slovakia to the south, Ukraine and Belarus to the east, and the Baltic Sea, Lithuania and Russia (in the form of the Kaliningrad Oblast exclave) t and RussiaThe Russian Federation ( Russian: , transliteration: Rossiyskaya Federatsiya or Rossijskaja Federacija , or Russia (Russian: , transliteration: Rossiya or Rossija , is a country that stretches over a vast expanse of eastern Europe and northern Asia. With.

The method is also the supreme punishment employed by courts martial for crimes such as desertionDesertion is the act of abandoning or withdrawing support from someone or something to which you owe allegiance, responsibility or loyalty. In a military unit, it is the act of leaving the unit without intention of returning. In the U. military, a person such as in the execution of Private Eddie SlovikEdward Donald "Eddie" Slovik ( February 18, 1920 January 31, 1945), a private in the United States Army during World War II, was the first United States soldier to be executed for desertion since the American Civil War. While 21,049 soldiers were sentence by the U.S. Army in 1945Events January January 5 The Soviet Union recognizes the new pro-Soviet government of Poland. January 7 British General Bernard Montgomery holds a press conference in which he claims credit for victory in the Battle of the Bulge. January 12 World War II: (Slovik was the first US soldier executed for desertion since the Civil War). It has also been employed for crimes such as mutiny as well as ordinary crimes carried out by soldiers such as murder or rape.Execution by firing squad is distinct from other forms of execution by firearms such as the "single shot from a handgun to the back of the neck" practiced by the People's Republic of China."


So, I guess barring a few central points, there was alot of leeway in how an execution by firing party could be conducted. I'll see if the U.S. military had a "drill" for the practice, and post it if I find it.

Krad42
11-24-2008, 04:12 PM
I've found this discussion rather interesting. I also thought that the blank cartridge issue was a myth. I suppose that being in a firing squad wouldn't be a job that many would like or want. I would have to wonder how many actually shot to kill just to get the guy out of his misery quickly. In a situation like that, perhaps a quick death is preferable to be filled with bullets and having to be shot again because the guy is still alive as in the examples that have been given.

tankgeezer
11-24-2008, 04:54 PM
Although not many people would want the responsibility, or memory of being in a firing party,the case of Gary Gilmore was very different. there, a couple hundred people sought to be in the party. As I recall (hopefully accurately) most didnt care about the $175.00 fee paid to the party members. Note, one account of the Gilmore execution states thet the firing party was all volunteer, so I dont remember where the $175. fee came in.

TheBeam
11-27-2008, 02:52 AM
I know that 306 soldiers were executed by the British in WWI and have read several accounts of this, and one stands out in my memory as the soldier described his rifle returning from a dark room and being handed to him...as it was loaded by an officer who didn't emerge from the room until after the rifles he had loaded had been handed out.

The blank cartridge was mentioned in most accounts I can remember, as was a piece of paper pinned to the chest to provide an aiming point (hit here, not just pick a random spot on your buddies' chest and fire.

As for the recoil...yes it is less, but not by a huge degree or 'none' as some claim. The expanding gasses that shoot out the end of the barrel do have mass...and more importantly, velocity (as the recoil is a function of the mass X velocity squared. Note the squared. a 1 gram mass produces twice as much recoil as a 2g mass fired at half the speed). The gasses themselves pack enough punch to KILL if you are careless and assume the blank is harmless enough to fire point blank. But those gasses will certainly produce enough force to cause recoil.

If you don't believe me, look at film sets (aka any random TV show) do the weapons recoil? Well, they are shooting blanks too. Unfortunately, I haven't fired blanks myself on set. I did handle an MP5, but for my scene, only one good guy fired -- and it wasn't me so I can't give an definitive answer on comparative amounts of recoil.

Blanks for executions may be loaded with significantly more powder than a standard load to offset the recoil.

I don't think this is a myth at all.

OK, having scene 4 executions in my life (rifle and swords)...I'm done with this subject.

TheBeam
01-18-2009, 11:26 AM
I just came across following description of an execution from Kenneth Foster, and I thought of this thread. He was a Canadian who wrote about his experience after WWI, and I retyped it:

(The man had been court martialed twice previouses and was let off before this.)

The third time he met his doom and the execution was carried out in this manner. The prisoner, a man of about 35 years of age, was placed in a chair, tied and blindfolded, with a piece of paper over his heart. The rifles, previously loaded with half live rounds and half blanks, were placed on the ground about 30 feet away. The firing party then marched in, for it took place in an old farm yard. No verbal command was given, the party acting on the blast of the Officer's whistle. We were first reminded that failure to carry out instructions would mean the same fate. In the event of no one hitting the mark, the Officer in charge would carry out the ghastly deed. Not being murderously inclined, it can be readily understood when I say that it was some time before I could get the disagreeable subject off my mind. Such is war. The ways of mankind are strange. At war, the penalty for not killing is death, in peace, the penalty for killing is death.

Panzerknacker
01-18-2009, 11:47 AM
The practice of randomly issuing one rifle loaded with a blank to a firing squad is supposed to allow each member of the squad to remain uncertain whether they fired a fatal shot.



Honestly i dont know if that practice is real, but for the shooter with some experience is painfully easy to recognize when you are shooting blanks instead live ammunition.

TheBeam
01-19-2009, 12:45 AM
I thought the interesting part of my last post was that HALF of the men got issued rifles loaded with blanks.

HAWKEYE
01-19-2009, 01:11 AM
As for the muzzleloaders recoiling more that is a myth. As an active Rev War reenactor and an active WWII reenactor who has shot live ammo in many different rifles and muskets they don't kick like a loaded weapon...placing wadding enough to make it kick like a live round would just send a 500 grain wad of burning paper into the person. They might have done it, as was mentioned, more for psychological purposes than for anything else. I would even hazard to speculate that they let the men believe that they would put in blank rounds and then put in all live rounds.

forager
01-31-2009, 02:36 PM
The difference in recoil in a modern weapon using blanks and live ammo is unmistakeable.

A ratio of like 100 to 1. Maybe greater.

Recoil is based on backpressure created by the fit of the bullet in the barrel and the size of the propellant charge.

A gas operated semi will have less notable recoil due to the system using some of the pressure.This requires a bullet, or in the case of blanks an adaptor.

Man of Stoat
02-02-2009, 02:30 AM
Forager,

Sorry, but no. Recoil is a function of conservation of momentum: (Bullet mass x bullet velocity)+( gas mass x gas velocity)=( Rifle mass x rifle velocity in the other direction).

Nothing to do with backpressure at all, since there is an equal and opposite pressure acting on the base of the bullet and the case head. (Layman's terms)

Rising Sun*
02-02-2009, 05:54 AM
A gas operated semi will have less notable recoil due to the system using some of the pressure.This requires a bullet, or in the case of blanks an adaptor.

Is there a difference between the recoil perceived by the shooter and the gas pressure required to actuate the ejector mechanism?

If I understood Man of Stoat's last post correctly, there is an element of the Newtonian 'for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction' effect which will produce recoil with a blank even if it won't actuate a gas operated ejector.

Although I'm unclear on how this operates equally on different masses such as a bullet and a wad.

I await re-education. :D

Man of Stoat
02-02-2009, 07:01 AM
Rising Sun,

Put all thoughts of wads from your mind, since neither modern ball ammunition nor modern blank ammunition has them.

A gas operated rifle typically offers less perceived recoil than the same weapon with the gas switched off. However, the measured recoil impulse is the same. something moving within the system cannot by definition affect the total recoil impulse, but it can change its rate of application to the shooter's shoulder. The opposite, however, is true for most recoil-operated mechanisms, since the departing projectile conserves momentum with (to all intents and purposes) only the recoiling parts, which are stopped abruptly.

With ball ammunition, you have a projectile departing at velocity, along with the combustion gases at high-pressure, and therefore high velocity. the momentum of everything going downrange equals the momentum of the weapon backwards.

With blank ammunition, you have no projectile and a lesser amount of combustion gases leaving at much lower pressure. To all intents and purposes, the recoil is zero, or at least I have never felt any. Put a blank fire adapter on a self-loader, and all you will feel is the working parts being operated.

Does this answer your question?

Schuultz
02-02-2009, 08:39 AM
Just wondering, Man of Stoat: Are you an armourer or weapons expert? How do you know all that stuff, is it really just your hobby?

Man of Stoat
02-02-2009, 08:47 AM
It is a serious hobby viewed through a master's degree in engineering, and a lot of background reading.

Schuultz
02-02-2009, 09:27 AM
Cool. I was just wondering, because you're obviously pretty well informed about all that stuff...

Cuts
02-03-2009, 05:44 AM
Rising Sun,

Put all thoughts of wads from your mind, since neither modern ball ammunition nor modern blank ammunition has them.

A gas operated rifle typically offers less perceived recoil than the same weapon with the gas switched off. However, the measured recoil impulse is the same. something moving within the system cannot by definition affect the total recoil impulse, but it can change its rate of application to the shooter's shoulder. The opposite, however, is true for most recoil-operated mechanisms, since the departing projectile conserves momentum with (to all intents and purposes) only the recoiling parts, which are stopped abruptly.

With ball ammunition, you have a projectile departing at velocity, along with the combustion gases at high-pressure, and therefore high velocity. the momentum of everything going downrange equals the momentum of the weapon backwards.

With blank ammunition, you have no projectile and a lesser amount of combustion gases leaving at much lower pressure. To all intents and purposes, the recoil is zero, or at least I have never felt any. Put a blank fire adapter on a self-loader, and all you will feel is the working parts being operated.

Does this answer your question?

Then why does the dipso-bigot, (you know, the misogynistic wannabe-Strine, Gibson,) flinch when he's shooting blanks* ?




* From a firearm, I have no idea as to his Jaffa (whoops) comparability.

Schuultz
02-03-2009, 06:28 AM
I would say, maybe he's just a good actor? Or he flinches because of the flash?

It is also possible that they added a recoil adapter, but you would only be able to do that in certain scenes...

Man of Stoat
02-03-2009, 06:42 AM
He flinches because it goes bang and he's a pussy.

People who are competent with handguns don't flinch even with live ammunition.

By the way, the adaptations made to get recoil-operated handguns to function with theatrical blanks are nontrivial. First of all, the locking surfaces have to be machined off, and a restrictor has to be placed in the barrel. It will then run as a straight-blowback, although often not very reliably. The only recoil the actor feels is the slide moving.

Schuultz
02-03-2009, 06:54 AM
Well, maybe the flinching is just for dramatic effect?

Just a question of concept: Wouldn't it work for a 'blank', to have some kind of breakable, but not too fragile cover over the gunpowder, as to simulate a recoil?

The gunpowder would still have to break the cover, which could require the same amount of energy as the propelling of a bullet?

Or would the gun just blow up in your face?

Also, how does the muzzle blast compare between a blank and a live round?

Rising Sun*
02-03-2009, 07:06 AM
Also, how does the muzzle blast compare between a blank and a live round?

My recollection from warnings is that in blank firing exercises a blank could be lethal at very short ranges.

Man of Stoat
02-03-2009, 07:07 AM
The vast majority of the recoil is due to the momentum of the bullet, and the rest is due to the momentum of the gases. End of story. Nothing to do with energy, nothing to do with defeating a crimp, nothing to do with a wad, nothing else. M1V1=M2V2

If you read up the thread, you have an answer to your muzzle blast question although it is not described in such terms, namely that the muzzle pressure of the gases is vastly higher with a live round than a blank. Muzzle blast is merely the effect of feeling the muzzle pressure.

Now, recoil operated handguns modified as above spit like crazy out the top of the ejection port, which also contributes to actor flinching since occasionally a bit of kak will hit them on the forehead.

Schuultz
02-03-2009, 07:14 AM
Cool, I was just wondering. (I almost failed physics, so that should explain a lot :D)

Thanks for the info!

Rising Sun*
02-03-2009, 07:17 AM
(I almost failed physics, so that should explain a lot :D)

I almost did physics, but I left school too early, so that should explain a lot. :D

Schuultz
02-03-2009, 07:51 AM
Kind of...

Nickdfresh
02-03-2009, 03:17 PM
My recollection from warnings is that in blank firing exercises a blank could be lethal at very short ranges.

In the 1980s, an American TV actor was killed when at the end of a scene as he took a .44 magnum revolver filled with blanks and placed it to his temple and said jokingly, "this ones for me!" The blast drove a section of his skull into his brain killing him almost instantly...

Cuts
02-04-2009, 05:50 AM
I would say, maybe he's just a good actor?
http://img214.imageshack.us/img214/6899/laugh03nb6.png
That's really made my night, thanks !

Got any more like that ? :D

Schuultz
02-04-2009, 06:55 AM
I got a lot where that came from. :D

But to be honest, there's actually quite a couple of his movies which I like...

HAWKEYE
02-04-2009, 10:59 AM
The reason they flinch and shut their eyes is that the gun still goes "boom" and it makes them jump. You can see it in most every actor's eyes. Ever see "Alias" where super kick-*** spy Sydney is shooting on a range? with every shot she closes her eyes and flinches.

Jon-Erik Hexum was the actor who blanked himself to death, also Brandon Lee, Bruce Lee's son, was killed with a blank. Even if it's a blank there are expanding gases leaving the muzzle. Brandon Lee was killed by Hollywood stupidity. Pulling bullets from live rounds and putting them back in the caseing so they look like real ammo, getting a real bulet stuck in the barrel and then shooting said bullet with a blank into the actor's chest...

While filming "The Patriot" they loaded the cannon with two 5 pound bags of flour, taped to hold shape but sliced by the SFX crew while loading so they would split open on firing. This gave the cannon a 10 pound "shot" to make it jump backwards realistically but the "shot" disintergrated on leaving the muzzle so there was little chance of injury.

Oh, and Mel can't ride a horse either...well he can sit on one while it moves, but he can't RIDE!!.

http://inlinethumb09.webshots.com/30664/1020899238029349952S600x600Q85.jpg

The two streaks in the extreme left hand side of the photo are the two bags of flour.