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What should Abdullah do?

There’s a big wedding this weekend in Gaza and Abdullah has been given the task of arranging the post-nuptial festivities. Abdullah takes this as a great honour and is a diligent man so he has a problem. It is of course traditional for the party to involve expending a fair few clips of AK-47 ammo into the air but Abdullah is also aware that recently this resulted in some nasty injuries so he’s in a quandry. How can Abdullah honour this fine tradition going back literally decades without the prospect of death or injury spoiling the big day?

Hint: The solution is very simple in principle but very hard to put into practice especially with an AK-47 and on fully auto you would need the musculature of the Incredible Hulk to even attempt it.


  1. nbc says:

    He could always let off some rockets…

    That seems to be traditional around there as well, though they might not appreciate the finale.

  2. Bod says:

    I don’t think that when Edward de Bono came up with the whole ‘Lateral Thinking’ concept, that he considered that it might have life-or-death implications quite like this.

    But I’m game. Does your solution involve kevlar burkhas?

  3. Locke says:

    shoot into the ground?

  4. NickM says:

    You tease me.

    I can’t say anymore.

    Hint folks: This is a pure physics question.

  5. Fraggle says:

    err, would the answer be to fit a blank firing adaptor (BFA) to his trusty 47 and blast of a few blank rounds? A BFA is basically a simple restrictor valve that mimics the presence of a bullet in the barrel of a weapon by letting the gas pressure in the barrel build up to sufficient levels to operate the automatic reloading mechanism. never seen one on an AK (but I never got my hands on one) but they work a treat on the 7.62 mm general purpose machine gun and the Brit army’s current assault rifle.

  6. HSLD says:

    I’ve got something very like an AK – it’s a Saiga-12 which is basically an AK which fires 12 gauge shotgun rounds. No full auto capability, just semi.

    I am also willing to particpate in any kind of stupid experiment involving firearms

    Well, most kinds :)

  7. NickM says:

    C’mon folks!
    This is an elegant puzzle. Locke got closest yet was furthest away if you see what I mean.

  8. El Draque says:

    Fire every bullet exactly straight up?
    No, because gravity brings them down again. Catch them in a bucket?

    No idea.

    It is a dangerous celebration.
    When the PLO were driven out of Lebanon, they fired off guns in defiance and killed four Lebanese.
    It’s a little know fact,I tell you, some of them have no respect for human life.

  9. JonB says:

    Assuming that the injuries are as a result of the bullets coming back down, then you’d want your bullets to achieve a nice stable orbit. I’m not really sure the AK-47 has enough punch to get them that high….

    But if he’s firing straight up, then Abdullah will need his bullets to reach an altitude above the planet’s surface where the tangential velocity necessary to achieve a stable orbit corresponds to the tangential velocity of Gaza. So that’ll be higher than a geostationary orbit, but lower than the moon (assuming no wind effects on the way up).

    This might need a very big AK-47.

  10. NickM says:


    Bang on.

    You should trust yourself more sir!

    If you fire a round straight-up then it comes down purely under gravity. It will go up, it will stop and it will drop with Sir Isaac in the driving seat and if it hits your noggin then it’ll hurt a bit but… If on the other hand you fire it at an angle to the vertical then you have the horizontal velocity component from the round’s detonation in the chamber to contend with as well.

    The clue I gave should have been enough. The AK-47 (for all it’s many plus points such as ease of service and simplicity of construction) is noted for kicking like a mule. That is why firing them straight-up is easy in principle but difficult in practice.

    My bro fired one in Las Vegas and it was apparently like that scene in Pulp Fiction where Travolta and Sam Jackson are unloaded against and everything is hit but them.

    Don’t trust me on this. This is based on “Mythbusters” which I watch quite a lot because I simply can’t believe they pay people to do what I’d gladly pay to do!

  11. Pa Annoyed says:


    Good idea. But you can’t get a bullet into orbit. Orbits under gravity are ellipses, and if you fire a bullet along an ellipse it has to come back to its starting point – obviously it will hit the ground first.

    But getting it to escape velocity – 11 km/s – would work. I saw a calculation once indicating that a ramjet accelerator could reach escape velocity with a barrel about a kilometre long. This involves a barrel that you fill with hydrogen and oxygen gas, and an inert projectile shaped so that it effectively forms a jet engine in combination with the sides of the barrel. At the projectile moves, the gas flowing around its edges is compressed, and then ignited immediately behind it. It thus pick up its fuel as it goes, it doesn’t have to carry it with it, (and hence accelerate it at an exponentially rising cost in more fuel).

    Next wedding I go to, I’ll try it out.


    I did see the Mythbusters on dropping a coin off a skyscraper, but bullets are a bit heavier. Are you sure?

  12. El Draque says:

    Nick – does the Coriolis force (or is it an effect, not a force?) come into it?
    Is that negated by it being absolutely vertical?
    Intuitively I think that if you’re not at the Pole or on the equator, there’d be some effect even without wind resistance.
    For the bullet to fall back down on your head, it would have to travel east faster than you do while it was the thousand feet up or whatever it did. So you’d have to aim a little to the east to counter the effect.
    But on reflection, I don’t think that’s anything to do with the Coriolis force.
    But yes, almost impossible to do. I’ve not fired an AK, but I’ve tried a Lee-Enfield, an M14, an M16 and an Uzi on auto. (And I’m a civilian).
    You’d need a vice to fire straight up, for even one round.

  13. HSLD says:

    Nick – the AK is a pussycat in terms of old school battle rifles, I’ve fired them with the original 7.62X39 chambering and the recoil isn’t anything to write home about.

    A Lee Enfield in .303 or 7.62 NATO knocks you around a lot more.

    If you want to do the maths on an AK round fired vertically then just off the top of my head it’s about 125 grains travelling at something like 2300 feet per second.

  14. Bod says:

    I completely missed the point of the posting.

    I have no idea why I missed that Nick has specified Gaza rather than somewhere less civilized – for example just about anywhere else I can think of where wedding receptions and AK-47′s go together like a catamite and an Afghan warlord.

    Naturally, outside places like Gaza, the greatest danger to the wedding party would be getting a brace of Hellfires up the Khyber. Puts the danger of a few falling ounces of inert metal into perspective.

  15. ADE says:

    I hope I’m not paraphrasing Locke, but why can’t our shooter abandon the symbolism and go straight for the action and have a wank?

    So much more enjoyable, and essential given an inability to deal with girls.


  16. NickM says:

    Pa, yes I am.

    I’m playing a hint fast and loose here. The analysis is based on the idea that it’s a perfectly still day but also undoubtedly includes the idea that it isn’t in the sense that the bullet’s potential energy is not just converted strictly downward but it will tumble and spin a bit as well. Related issue. If you turn-stall a fighter plane and go into a flat spin it’s a difficult postion to recover from but the sink rate is remarkably low so youhave time as long as you can figure out in what direction you are spinning. Then it’s throttle-back, nose-down and hard on the rudder.

  17. John B says:

    Silly. Fire it at an Israeli security guard. Kill several birds with one AK – Increase the celebratory element.
    Or is that simplistic?

  18. NickM says:

    I was running a deception but I did say the answer was purely physics…

    The antics of our Palestinian pals was mere window dressing.

    As to Afghani catamitism… Well my vague understanding is the straw that broke the camel’s back and ushered in the Taleban in that beshitted land was an argument between two warlords over a young lad they both wanted to bugger so they did the rational and honourable thing and fought a duel, in downtown Kabul, on market day, in tanks. If only they had decided to meet over the backgammon table…

    Oh and Pa, Mythbusters did do this specifically. That’s where I got it from.

    Coriolis force. Oh dear, that’s taking me back. I could be wrong but I suspect it’s fairly weak in the context.

  19. El Draque says:

    Ballistics does have to take into account the Coriolis effect.
    If a large naval gun – like the 15″ units of battleships – is fired out to 10 miles, due north or south, you have to allow for the shift caused by Coriolis, as it amounts to 100 yards or more.
    East/west, it doesn’t matter.
    I’m sure it’s very weak over the ranges involved for an AK. Disregard the comment.
    But I still hold that mathematically speaking, a bullet fired straight up won’t come down on its launch site.
    The towers of the Humber bridge, say, are a few inches further apart at the tops to allow for the curvature of the earth.
    So the forward momentum of a bullet fired straight up won’t bring it forward to be directly over the firing point by the time it comes down. It’ll be a bit to the west.
    I just can’t be bothered to work out how far the firing point will move east at the latitude of Gaza.

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