Underwater Shooting
Tests & Evaluations

Review by
Robert Wilfred Franson

Executive producer: Lenny Magill
Director / editor: Brian Eveland

  • Lenny Magill — demonstrator / evaluator

Gun Video: 1999

90 minutes October 2011

Cordite & Chlorine trials

Underwater Shooting I am one of a lot of shooters who have wondered and speculated about the real results of discharging firearms under water. There are occasional scenes in novels and movies, but how realistic are these? In Underwater Shooting: Tests and Evaluations, firearms expert Lenny Magill conducts experiments with handguns in a swimming pool, and films what happens. In addition to Magill as shooter (and scavenger of spent ammo and brass off the pool bottom), there are two cameramen above-water and another underwater to record the action. Magill tests both revolvers and semi-automatic pistols in a variety of calibers. Each model is not only introduced verbally, but the action sequences at full-speed and different slow-motion speeds are subtitled to facilitate keeping track.

What are we looking for in Underwater Shooting?

  • The most basic worry might be whether a handgun will explode if fired underwater? — No. Of course, these are modern guns in good condition.
  • Will the ammunition function when wet? — Depends.
  • More subtly, will the semi-auto pistols cycle, that is: after firing a round, will they reset for firing the next round? — Depends.

The test distances are all very short, because — I'll give away this much — handgun bullets do not travel far submerged. One question we do not deal with is accuracy of aim. Water has a surface refractive index of about 1.33 versus air's 1.00, which makes difficult aiming into water, as when fishing with spear or arrow. In all these tests, the guns are held and fired underwater.

In the course of the film, Magill interleaves the water-shooting sequences with poolside examination of the spent rounds for each firearm, and with desk sequences where he analyzes misfires. Many considerations are just what any range-master might be looking at in ordinary shooting:

  • the shooter's felt recoil
  • reliable auto-pistol cycling
  • bullet reach and penetration
  • bullet deformation

Water-related considerations with the guns and ammunition, brought out by the tests:

  • the double-tap interval (quick second shot) while auto-pistols are immersed
  • effects of any customized components
  • the trigger pull & hammer fall in resetting the auto-pistol cycle
  • waterproofing of factory ammo & factory-reload ammo

As usual, Lenny Magill delivers his material in Underwater Shooting in a well-organized, thoughtful, and safe manner. Do notice the clouds of bubbles in slow-motion. Definitely both educational and entertaining.


© 2011 Robert Wilfred Franson

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