Man Drops Dumbbell on .22 Cartridge, Shoots Self

502px-TwoDumbbellsThe Modesto Bee reported that a 56-year-old Modesto man was shot Wednesday night while weightlifting inside his residence. But the shooting didn't stem from a domestic violence incident, a home invasion or even an errant bullet from a drive-by shooting. According to the man's statement to police, he was shot when he accidentally dropped a dumbbell onto a .22 caliber cartridge.


Modesto Police were dispatched to the 600 block of Ninth Street at about 9:15 p.m. When police arrived, they found a man with a gunshot wound to his shoulder.

The man claimed, "The weight of the dumbbell activated the propellant powder in the bullet," which shot him in his shoulder.


Modesto Police Officer Chris Adams was skeptical of the man's account but acknowledged it was possible that impact to the rim of this type of cartridge could have caused the bullet to fire in the direction it was pointing.


Investigation at the scene of the shooting revealed no firearm, only an expended .22 caliber casing. The man's neighbors told police they did not see anyone running from the man's residence.

The case was closed as a "suspicious circumstance."

As a police officer, I would be highly suspicious of this man's story. It would be interesting to inspect the casing that investigators found at the scene and to see if the man's wound was consistent with having been caused by a bullet fired from a nearly vertical upward trajectory, as would have had to occur if the man's story were true.

Of course, we all know that if an object impacts the rim of a rimfire cartridge, the priming compound could ignite the powder in the cartridge. In fact, this is how a rimfire cartridge is designed to be fired — with the firing pin striking the rim. However, without the round being chambered in a firearm, the gasses that would typically propel the bullet from the barrel would be dissipated such a degree that it would seem insufficient to fire the bullet.

Even though the man's story is conceivable, it seems highly unlikely. What are the chances of the cartridge being oriented in such a way as to shoot him in the shoulder or for the dumbbell to fall precisely as it would have had to in order to initiate the far-fetched chain of events that lead to the man being shot?

I've heard stories of "intellectually challenged" folks striking the rim of a rimfire cartridge with a hammer and having a piece of the casing fly through the air. But for the bullet to actually travel any considerable distance or with enough force to injure seems unlikely -- I'm no scientist though, so don't try this at home.

Just to be safe, I'd recommend keeping ammunition in another room when working on your "guns."

Do you believe the man's story?

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