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Being shot while wearing a bulletproof vest
lotus0kid wrote in little_details
Hello! I have a character who was shot at close range in the chest while wearing a bulletproof vest. I know when that happens, he'd have some severe bruising- how likely is it that he'd crack/break a rib as well? The bullet hit right over his heart, I would hope those ribs are pretty tough, but if a rib is damaged, would he be able to feel/see where the fracture was through his skin after it has healed (this character is definitely on the scrawny side)?

I've Googled "healing cracked ribs," "injuries after being shot while wearing a bulletproof vest," and "rib anatomy."

The results depend on many factors, the main ones being the design of the vest (they come in various grades of protection and styles) and the cartridge of the gun.

A police officer acquaintance of my got shot and said he knew he was all right because it felt no worse than getting play-punched by our karate instructor (we were both black belts in that club). I didn't hear what caliber gun was used.

A lot depends on the type of vest and what they're getting shot with.

A with a simple Level II or III (typical under the shirt style vest) and your average handgun the chances of secondary injuries of the type you describe are moderate. At the very least your character will get the wind knocked out of them. Heavier, faster, rounds increase the chances of the vest being compromised. Assuming the vest actually stops the shot, your worst case scenario would be busted ribs and maybe a collapsed lung, but I wouldn't expect that from your average Joe blasting away with a .38 or 9mm.

I googled on "Ballistic Vest Injuries", and got a fair number of hits, including Injuries to Law Enforcement Officers Shot Wearing Personal Body Armor: A 30-Year Review, and

Edited at 2014-03-30 11:30 pm (UTC)

The character probably won't be able to feel where the fracture was, even if he's scrawny, because ribs are held in place by extremely strong muscles. Even a badly fractured rib that needs surgery (and also has muscle damage) will be put back in place carefully and is likely to heal well with normal medical care. He may have ongoing pain to remind him exactly where it was, though!

Some good advice above, on further advice and research.

From the old fashioned .38 Police Special, going up to Dirty Harry's .50 Caliber Magnum...

And the type of bullet. Everyday round nose - hollow point - armor piercing - explosive nose...???

Not to mention the differences between pistol, intermediate, and rifle calibers, or an under the shirt "soft vest" vs. full "armor", and so on.

Late to this but if you WANT an injury but nothing too serious - google "Sternum Injury" because if he got shot in the sternum, they'd do slightly different things and increase your woobie quotient.

I'm not sure about in the context of bullet proof vests, but for general anatomy the sites where a rib joins to either the sternum or the spine are generally the strongest points- i.e. right over the heart isn't really a super fracture-able place, when compared to the distal areas (the bits on the sides). Not saying that it couldn't happen, but most cracked ribs occur at the sides (maybe if you really wanted a cracked rib he could take a seriously heavy fall due to the shot? Particularly exciting are fractures to the Left 10-12 ribs, as they can perforate the spleen. The spleen has high blood flow, so that could be super dangerous/life threatening and gory-looking, fun times.)


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