Can a Dirty Harry 44 Magnum Kill a 1973 Cadillac?

A new program on Speed TV called ‘Car Science’ performs scientific experiments on . . . wait for it . . . cars. It’s Mythbusters on Wheels, mostly. Car Sience’s tests are more entertainment than Nobel science, but they are fun in a conversation-over-a- few-beers-what-if sense. They decided to test whether Dirty Harry’s favorite handgun really could terminate a 70s sedan with extreme prejudice. The movie said yes, but the producers of ‘Car Science’ were not convinced that the .44 was up to the task . . .

As you can see in the video above, they rolled a 1973 Cadillac Coupe de Ville onto the firing range and shot it. The car’s engine shrugged off the bullet like Superman himself.

The explanation was actually quite simple: a standard issue .44 round does not have enough force or inherent strength to kill a cast iron Detroit big block. The bullet will fly through the radiator with the greatest of ease, but it will lose velocity on the way. Plus lead points have no chance to penetrate iron engine blocks.

So the boys upped the ante on firepower. They dragged out a Smith and Wesson 500 to kill the Caddy. The 500 will drop big game from 200 yards away in the hands of a skilled shooter. It will give a guy a fighting chance to drop a thick-skulled grizzly if unrestrained panic doesn’t compromise his aim.

But can a 500 kill a 1973 Cadillac? Sorry Joe, but the short answer is no, based upon conventional rounds and the kinetic science behind the Smith and Wesson cannon when its discharged bullet hits the engine block.

Needless to say, a 1973 Caddy big block is not completely bullet-proof. The TV guys moved up to a 50- caliber rifle that made the handguns seem like BB guns by comparison. The big rifle dropped the old Caddy in its tracks on the first shot.

So unless you’re staring down the sights of a Barrett, ArmaLite, MacMillan, etc. 50 (or something tastefully chambered in Lapua), it’s best to step out of the way when Murilee Martin-era whips are trying to run you down. Ford Focus? Different story. Which ‘Car Science’ didn’t tell . . .

None of this will be a great surprise to TTAG’s Armed Intelligentsia. But the experiment raises some interesting questions beyond the scope of ‘Car Science’.

We know that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives let more than a few .50 caliber rifle walk across the Mexican – American border (thanks guys). Could they be used to shoot down a DEA/ICE/ATF/DHS/CIA/National Guard helicopter? How hard would that be? What about a Predator drone?

What else might the narco-terrorists do with a 50 cal.? Are they significantly more effective for an ambush? Are the rifles actually useful in a firefight (as opposed to a sniper attack)? How much skill is required to use them? How does a 50 cal change the assault group’s strategy? Do defenders need different tactics to repel a narco attack with a 50 cal?

Clearly, the longer the nation goes without a TTAG TV show, the more befuddled American foreign policy will get. And the more entertainment-starved we gun enthusiasts become. TV producers are advised to contact RF at guntruth@me.com.

comments

  1. avatar Bob H says:

    You can kill a “Smart For Two™” with a .32 snubbie. No need to actually fire it, just drop the gun on top to crush the entire car.

  2. avatar Lance says:

    A .50 will take down a helicopter, provided it is in the right hands. Taking down a flying helicopter with a .50 would be a tough shot that would take a very well trained marksman. A Predator drone would be impossible to shoot down with a .50 cal sniper for all intents and purposes. And they are heavy, especially the Barrett. You more or less have to be prone to use them with any accuracy, so their usefulness in a close range fight is pretty limited.

    1. avatar rosignol says:

      You don’t need a .50 BMG to take down a helicopter. All you need to do is hit the pilot- very few helis are armored.

  3. avatar CUJO THE DOG OF WAR says:

    I know my .45-70 can stop the driver! Seriously, why didn’t they just allow M2 Browning MG’s and Stingers too. They confused countries and their initials with CIA!

  4. avatar William Ratajczyk says:

    Our FOB had four overwatch positions, three armed with a heavy machine gun. The two facing the main entrance had Ma Deuces, while the rear approach was guarded by a Mk19. Our lone-up armored Humvee, dubbed the “Armadillo” (scrounged from an Air Force unit on an airfield in the Green Zone – thanks guys!) also had a M2 permanently mounted in a turret.

    On VCP duty, however, the firepower was usually just the Armadillo and a M240G, plus the standard complement of pistols, rifles, M203s, and M249s. I hope the 240 Golf would have been able to dispatch one of the many Suburbans and Caprices common to Iraqi roads, had the need had arisen, but I doubt it would have stood much of a chance against the big MAN, DAF, Volvo and Mercedes lorries regularly passing through.

  5. avatar Esteve says:

    Maybe a lucky shot and hit the fan belt or water pump. It’s gotta stop before long. My mom proved the point with her 64 Olds 98 LS and a ruptured water hose. What red light?

    1. avatar CUJO THE DOG OF WAR says:

      LOL! Classic!

  6. avatar Christopher says:

    Colt advertised the .38 Super as a carkiller back in the ’30s. It could to a certain extent… it penetrated better than the .45 ACP the car bodies of the time and would knock out the radiator but they could still run til the car died.

  7. avatar Gerald says:

    Just one nit-pick: The Cadillac in the video is not a ’73. Looks closer to an ’83.

    1. avatar Patrick B. says:

      At least not a ’73 – rectangular headlights didn’t appear until ’75. Blog’s starting to sound like TTAC!

  8. avatar JOE MATAFOME says:

    Cujo’s right, just shoot the driver and the car will be useless. I didn’t think the 500 would do anything to the engine block because you’re only shooting big chunks of lead that will expand on impact.

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