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Bizarre and Improbable Ballistics
Sometimes bullets behave in very, very strange ways. Shots from one direction hit from another, for a start.
A distant cousin to the Macross Missile Massacre
and the TV rules governing Energy Weapons
Compare Magic Bullets
, Murphy's Bullet
, and Homing Boulders
(for those cases where it's not a bullet). Pinball Projectile
describes a specific variant, when something ricochets off multiple objects before hitting its target. A Little Useless Gun
is when some bullets are inexplicably harmless.
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Anime and Manga
- Energy/laser weapons in many anime (such as Transformers Armada and Energon) will often curve and even zig-zag in extremely sharp angles on their way to their target. One such extreme example is the lasers of The End from Eureka Seven, which will not only curve and move in sharp angles, but home into their target despite being just energy.
- In Black Cat, Saya managed to master a technique called the "Reflect Shot" after five years of practice. The technique is pretty much ricocheting bullets to hit the opponent. Train eventually decides to learn the technique too, and uses it a couple times.
- The impressive amount of laws of physics broken in Grenadier somehow manages to make allowing a normal single shot revolver to shoot all six bullets at once seem plausible. And if you think that was bad, the main character also fires a single bullet at a deluge of Gatling gun bullets, manages to hit one of the bullets dead on with her own bullet so that it splits in half, and the halves both hit other bullets, splitting them in half, which then ricochet and split other bullets in half...it results in this becoming a chain of exploding bullets all the way up into the Gatling gun and causing it to explode. Chaos-Theory be damned.
- JoJo's Bizarre Adventure
- Hol Horse's Stand, The Emperor, was a six-gun and its bullets, so he could control them. Once he even curved a bullet neatly around a sword, which would have blocked it otherwise.
- Guido Mista's Sex Pistols are six small intelligent and talking dwarves that ride the bullets and can kick them to change their trajectory. Freaking hilarious but also fearful.
- Anyone who use a handgun in part 6 can fire a cluster of bullets. Examples:   
- Vampiress Rip Van Vinkle in Hellsing was armed with a vintage musket with magical bullets that "punished all without distinction", zigzagging around at impossible trajectories and hitting several targets in a row or one target several times.
- Hitting fighter craft from outside their missile range, when the effective aimed range of a flintlock is about 100 yards (meaning that by rights she shouldn't have been able to hit someone on the other side of the flight deck).
- It seems that she was directing the slug with the force of her will, seeing that it always hit exactly where she wanted it to. She hit Alucard several times over with the same bullet, trying to make him fall in the sea where vampire's powers would be useless.
- In the One Piece anime, Van Auger can shoot a bullet with a bullet. Which then cuts the bullet in half and hits the gun that fired it through the barrel.
- Mana Tatsumiya from Mahou Sensei Negima! once bounced some bullets off of a building to hit targets that were behind cover from where she was shooting.
- In the Marvel Universe, X-Men mutant Domino has the power to alter probability, and prefers to use that ability in conjunction with firearms. She can thus perform outstandingly improbable trick-shots, including multiple-ricochet bulls-eyes against moving targets.
- Dreamkeepers uses hyper compressed springs loaded into rifles to fire bullets hard enough to punch through concrete.
- When the Runaways traveled back in time, they encountered a superpowered gang war. One of the gang members had a gun that could never miss: The bullet would ricochet until it hit it's target.
- Darkseid's "omega beams" (which come from his eyes) are basically what amounts to "death vision". They're depicted as a pair of pinkish-purple rays that obey no known laws of physics, being able to make sudden, sharp turns to go around corners and pursue a fleeing target. Fortunately for the heroes, for something that's repeatedly referred to as instant and certain annihilation, they're remarkably ineffective against non-mooks. Sufficiently fast and clever targets have managed on occasion to curve them around so that they hit Darkseid himself.
- There's a minor Spider-Man villain called the Tracer; his gimmick is that once he's targeted you, his bullets will follow you until you're hit. Thankfully, they seem to move a fair bit slower than your average bullets, but their piercing power doesn't appear to be compromised by this.
- In Invincible spinoff Guarding the Globe, one of the Guardians of the Globe is a Chinese gunslinger called Best Tiger. Best Tiger is introduced surrounded by enemies with only one bullet to spare, so he shoots it just so that it will incapacitate all of his assailants non-fatally via a series of ricochets. One bullet, five ricochets, about fifteen men taken out. And the bullet clearly retains its shape throughout all this.
- A Russian joke, riffing on the stereotypes of the Russian Army and its rules:
Student [at a military academy examination]: A shell launched from a cannon will fly in an arc towards Earth.
Examining officer [with a cunning grin]: And if a cannon lies on its side, will a shell from it fly around the corner?
Student: Yes sir, it would! But that's against regulations!
- The Spanish version, riffing on the stereotypical poor academical qualifications of Army NCOs:
Sergeant: A bullet fired from a rifle will fly in an arc and fall to Earth in application of the law of gravity.
Conscript: And what if there's no gravity?
Sergeant: Then... it'll still fall under its own weight.
- Given a Shout-Out in the BattleTech novel Assumption of Risk during the assassination of Ryan Steiner. The author describes the flight of the sniper's bullet in loving detail, including the way it just happens to tumble while passing through the victim's head in just the right way to later cast suspicion on the latter's assistant, alone with him in the same room at the time.
- Used almost gratuitously in Strength & Justice: Side: Justice given the protagonist's innate ability to plot out a bullet's path in his mind before firing the gun. So the bullet is completely capable of passing by the intended target, and then turning a 180 without any external influence and returning to hit the target in the back wherever the protagonist chooses.
Live Action TV
- In The Bill, when Kerry Young got shot by Gabriel Kent's sniper rifle, the bullet goes through her back and out her front. She slumps to the ground and the camera pans to reveal Gabriel, standing on a rooftop — at a 70 degree plus horizontal angle from where Kerry was hit.
- Parodied in an episode of the Australian comedy series Bligh. John Macarthur has challenged Governor Bligh to a duel, but plans to shoot him while his back is turned. Macarthur's wife lambastes him for this cowardice, and to demonstrate her own skills shoots a vase...by pointing the pistol in the opposite direction and firing. The bullet ricochets all over the room and, of course, ends up smashing the vase.
- A common plot-point in the various incarnations of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.
- Doctor Who, Nightmare of Eden: In the scene where Della is shot with an Energy Weapon, the shooter is clearly aiming way over her head, the special effect shows the shot hitting her face, then she clutches her stomach and keels over.
- On True Blood, Marianne managed to deflect a bullet from the front with her hand into someone behind her.
- Parodied in Seinfeld, when both Kramer and Newman claimed to have been spat on by Mets player Keith Hernandez at the same time. Jerry's response: "That must have been one magic loogie!"
- The references here are to the movie JFK.
- In the fifth season of 24, Curtis Manning is using an accused terrorist Jack Bauer is protecting as a human shield. When Jack is forced to kill Curtis, his gunshot hits Curtis in the middle of his chest, which would mean it would have to pass through the hostage. Then again, this is Jack Bauer. The laws of ballistics know better than to get in his way.
- In an episode of Hotel Babylon, a man who has taken people hostage fires a bullet. We see the bullet in slo-mo head towards some of the regulars, who get out of the way. The wine guy chucks an urn to one side and then the bullet turns 45 degrees in mid-air to hit the urn, covering the entire room in dead person. (For some reason Anna, in the vent above the room, gets it in Slo Mo).
- Similar to the Doctor Who example above, the small hand-held phasers in Star Trek: The Next Generation were often pointing at very weird angles when they fired and uniformly hit their targets in the chest.
- In fact this irritated the staff so much that the tiny phasers were slowly removed in favor of larger weapons.
- Parodied in an episode of Supernatural (Season 3 episode 3: "Bad Day at the Black Rock") where there is a magic rabbit's foot which gives the owner good luck (until they lose it, which they do and then horrible deadly luck follows). There are many examples where people (the holder) dodging bullets or someone else missing hilariously throughout the whole episode. But the best example has to be near the end when Dean gets hold of it and while it technically doesn't involve the firing of a gun, it is bizarre projectile skills involving a gun, ''a pen and a remote''. At 6 minutes into the 5th part of this video is the scene in question.
- The Angel episode "The Magic Bullet": Fred breaks Jasmine's spell on Angel by deliberately shooting him with a bullet that first had to pass through Jasmine, since it is exposure to Jasmine's blood that breaks her glamour.
- In the pilot of Alphas Hicks performs a virtually impossible shot in order to kill a witness. He fires the bullet from the roof of a neighboring building, into an air duct that connects to the windowless room where the witness is. The bullet has to pass through a narrow slit in the outside vent cover and then has to graze the vent cover in the room just enough to tumble a the right angle to hit the witness in the forehead. Hicks Alpha power allows him to perfectly plan and then execute shots like that.
- Averted in The State Within, when a forensic detective is called upon by a foreign spy to cover up the shooting of a politician. She pries a bullet out of the hole it made in the wall, crosses in front of the victim, aims for the hole - and then has the spy lift the body up until the prior entry wound lines up. Her bullet ends up in the wall just about where the other one was. Given her occupation, it figures that she'd know a good cover-up from a bad one.
- Played with on Almost Human. A man is murdered by a sniper bullet and the initial assessment of the scene suggests that at least three bullets had to have been fired to cause the damage to the surroundings. Since no other bullets are found, a theory is raised that a single bullet caused all the damage by ricocheting at least twice at bizarre angles before killing the victim. Dorian disputes the ricochet theory as being just too improbable and is later proven correct when the "bullet" is revealed to be actually a next-gen miniaturized guided missile. This makes the scenario much more plausible but the missile still performed turns that should not have been possible for it.
- In the Table Top Role-Playing Game Exalted, the Sidereals have 2 charms based on this effect, one that lets them shoot around cover, and another that clones an arrow and makes the resulting arrows behave as Reverse Shrapnel.
- Sidereal Firearms Charms in Shards of the Exalted Dream include one that allows you to shoot one bullet through multiple people or even through the same person multiple times. Sidereals own this trope.
- Sidereals aren't alone in this; Lunars have Riding The Secret Wind, which enables them to hit any target within range, ignoring any obstacles in the way so long as they can perceive it. They also have charms for instantly claiming territories, and another that makes them aware of everything in their territory...
- MERP. You shoot someone with a bow from his front and score a perforation Critical Hit. Table result: arrow enters through one ear, exits through the other.
- The strange ballistics didn't end with projectiles, either. It's quite common to stab someone in the back and break their leg.
- One special Ork vessel upgrade in Battlefleet Gothic involves altering their weapons batteries so they teleport the shells immediately after firing, leading to things like armor plates in front of the guns.
- Warhammer 40,000. In the Grey Knights codex, some units have "Astral Aim" that negates even complete cover. Those units usually carry heavy weapons. So keeping with the norm with the 40K 'verse, you now have super-psychic super-soldiers in power armor (that can get into BIGGER power armor) firing mini-RPG-like chainguns around corners.
- Available for all ranged attacks in Mutants & Masterminds by taking the Ricochet feat for each time you want your attack to be able to bounce. Also sometimes used as a descriptor for powers with the Indirect feat, describing the ability to bypass cover by describing multiple improbable deflections.
- In the Double Fine XBLA game Iron Brigade certain Sniper Cannons with the RICOCHET and RICOCHET+ can act like this.
- The "Rise of the Martian Bear" DLC adds all sorts of oddball weapons, including RICOCHET+ Machine Guns (the "80-UNC 3 Indirect MG"), of which the flavor text says, "One would think that years of technological advances were involved in the creation of this weapon. In actuality, we just filled it with spring-loaded bullets, and somehow it worked."
- The strange nature of hitboxes in Combat Arms can result in a player aiming at another players' lower body and ending up with a headshot.
- They address this in an update, it seems. Instead of them being random headshots when aimed at a lower body, they now become nut shots. Instant kills on the male character models. (Instant kill on females too so it's fair, but it's not announced)
- In World of Warcraft, it appears that the program assesses whether or not a ranged attack hits at the time that the attack is started, even if the attack takes time to prepare. So if the target moves during the buildup this can result in bullets and arrows curving around corners to hit. Even if the target stays put, arrows often have terrain-following trajectories.
- The target moving out of range or line of sight when casting will cancel the ability. However if the target moves only after the ability has been cast but before the projectile hits, the projectile will follow them until it hits.
- This becomes even more absurd when the projectile is slower than your character. A thrown axe will pursue you over half a zone if that's what it takes.
- One player flew around a zone for five minutes, trailing half a dozen arcane missiles. He got far enough ahead to land and take a taxi mount to three zones away. He landed and started running in circles yelling 'The end is coming!' then after about two minutes, they nailed him.
- There is a quest where the character tosses a boot at lazy peons and it boomerangs back. However this can be done while flying an epic mount which is faster than the boots. The scene of an adventurer mounted on a dragon with twenty boots flying after him is hilarious.
- If projectiles are approaching you, and you die and release spirit, the projectiles will chase your ghost.
- Something quite similar happens in StarCraft. If a projectile fires, it will hit and do damage. This is usually OK with bullets and missiles; bullets hit instantly and missiles track their targets. Although, missiles will follow a fast target to hit it even if it's already out of its normal range. The Vulture's grenade attack, on the other hand, will go to where the target was at the time of firing. Given the movement speed of some units, this causes the rather slow grenade to miss quite often. The target still takes damage, of course.
- It's even better in Warcraft (the RTS) if you teleport when a ranged attack is launched a glitch will make the projectile will follow you forever. It can be amusing or annoyingly lethal.
- Another Blizzard example: arrows in Diablo II move rather slowly, meaning an Amazon with sufficient running speed can outrun her own arrows (which eventually just evaporate). Furthermore, in the early days of the game using the Guided Arrow attack with sufficient Piercing could cause an arrow to pass through a target, make a 90 degree turn and hit it again (and again, and again, and again).
- This happens in both Mech Commander games as well, with an interesting new twist. A fast 'Mech can run far enough to the side to cause missiles, autocannon bullets, and laser beams to curve sideways and follow the target.
- League of Legends has many homing-projectile-delivered spells. Most of them follow the target regardless of movement - including instantaneous movement and teleportation.
- City of Heroes has the same effects. The exception seems to be the Sniper abilities. If the target runs behind something during activation, the power fails.
- This also applies to projectiles being shot/thrown by enemies; you can take damage seemingly out of nowhere, and then only a few seconds later see the boulder actually impact you thanks to the damage being calculated before the animation finishes. And, yes, they still curve around corners or rise up in midair to meet you if you start flying.
- Spore: any projectile in the city or space stage that targets enemies (aka: all except for flak guns) changes direction if the enemy moves. The only possible explanation is that every weapon has built-in homing technology; a bit absurd, considering you can make a race whose greatest creation seems to be wooden planks.
- Space-faring, faster-than-light enabled wooden planks!
- Happens in the creature stage too. Those spitter weapons will hit an enemy target no matter where the actual end of the organ is pointing.
- Ultima Online: Arrows and crossbow bolts move slower than players. Leading to a rather absurd heat seeking arrows. The damage calculates, but the arrow can follow you around forever.
- The first two just require absurd skill and reaction times.
- In Resistance: Fall of Man, the main small arm of the Chimera is the bullseye. At first you wouldn't think so with its horrible shot groupings, but its secondary fire allows you to put a "Tag" on an enemy, making all the shots from your Bullseye home in on them.
- In Devil May Cry, Dante is a prime offender of this. Case 1: Deflecting bullets with other bullets. Case 2: Firing six bullets into the base of a broadsword, in order to make it pierce through a group of gargoyles, while running down along the side of a building. Case 3: And of course firing bullets in mid air to keep your self and/or enemies aloft.
- Let us not forget the description of Dante's 'Trick Shot' ability with the anti-tank rifle Spiral in Devil May Cry 3: it states that he ricochets the bullet so it ends up travelling faster with each rebound, making it an authentic non-conservation-of-momentum gun.
- Kaptain K. Rool's blunderbuss in Donkey Kong Country 2 fired cannonballs in various crazy patterns, such as loops and bounces.
- Good god, Revolver Ocelot from Metal Gear Solid. How does he manage to ricochet bullets with such ease?!
- The Metal Gear-verse must have magic revolvers, as once you unlock the Single Action Army in Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, you can do it, too.
- More subtle, but the Patriot somehow fires bullets that tumble end-over-end in flight.
- Bullets actually do that, but only once they fly past their effective range. If the rifling in the barrel was totally wrong for the weapon the bullets would indeed tumble nearly immediately after being fired, but bullets actually doing this would be so inaccurate that it's not even funny.
- Except you later find out that the Boss personally had the Patriot customized from an M16 rifle by cutting its barrel short and other things, turning it into an inaccurate but powerful gun. This shows just how badass the Boss is by being able to hit really accurately with a gun like that (one-handed, no less).
- In Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, all bullets fired at Fortune curve and go past her.
- That's not improbable ballistics at work. The bullets curve around her because she is protected by an electromagnetic barrier doodad.
- Except the magnetic force necessary to stop a ballistic made of metal the size of a finger joint would be so strong she would be incapable of holding or having any metal on her person, meaning the bullets are just naturally behaving ridiculously.
- It doesn't help that the Applied Phlebotinum revealed to be behind her abilities is demonstrably turned off in one of the final cutscenes, only for Fortune to continue deflecting shots fired at her anyway. It only gets weirder.
- Similar to the World of Warcraft example above, the blaster shots in Knights of the Old Republic curve if you try and run around the battlefield. Especially noticeable if the player is a Jedi Guardian, and has the leaping attack ability.
- In Baldur's Gate and sequels/expansions, throwing knives and darts move very slowly, apparently levitating somehow. They also magically home in on you if you move while they're in flight.
- The "Bouncing Dart" powerup in Sphinx And The Cursed Mummy does Exactly What It Says on the Tin: It's a blowpipe dart that bounces. Exactly how it bounces is never explained, though it does make satisfying "pwoing!" sounds on ricochet.
- Dwarf Fortress has arrows capable of piercing both a creature's lungs, heart, and liver in a single shot, causing 3 crippling mortal wounds with one arrow. As well this one arrow is capable of poking out both eyes, injuring an ear, break the nose and poke out the throat of a human in one shot. It appears dwarves forge very very flexible crossbow bolts.
- Dwarf Fortress: the arrows are flexible, the beer has to be minced.
- This has been fixed in the latest release, dubbed DF2010 by the community. Piercing attacks like bolts behave more rationally now, and armor protects you much better. Beforehand, arrows and bolts were death rays. Get hit by one and your armor would very rarely protect you, and if it hit anything but a limb you were as good as dead. Unfortunately it seems to have swung to the other end of the spectrum, and bolts are ridiculously weak now if you have armor.
- It is still possible, however, to shoot a ballista bolt that only hits an enemies' chest and feet, or just their toes. Maybe they splinter in midair?
- In Jak 3: Wastelander, your Swiss Army Gun has multiple upgrades that fall under this: the Wave Concussor, which fires off a charged shot that spreads out; the Beam Reflexor, which fires off ricocheting shots; the Arc Wielder, a lightning gun; the Needle Lazer, which fires homing bullets; and the Mass Inverter, which creates an anti-gravity field.
- Justified for Xigbar from Kingdom Hearts. He's a Gravity Master, and can use this ability to make his bullets turn where he wants them to go.
- The Comical ball found in some Hot Shots Golf games. Not the most predictable ball in the game.
- In Enter the Matrix, in keeping with the idea that Agents in The Matrix can dodge bullets, it's impossible to shoot an agent. From a distance this seems pretty reasonable because they can bullet dodge, but close up things start getting weird. When the agents can't dodge far enough, the bullets themselves start curving to avoid them. Firing an assault rifle at point blank range makes the bullets come out of the barrel at 90 degrees, so the walls, the floor and the roof all get sprayed with bullets, but the area directly in front of the gun is fine...
- In many games with Hit Scan weapons, an enemy can be aiming the wrong way, or even flinching, and still hit you. Conversely, if the accuracy error is determined by RNG, you or the enemy can be aiming dead-on and miss.
- In Borderlands, various weapons can have unusual ballistic patterns. The Eridian Thunder Storm fires 8 balls of electricity like a shotgun. The Eridian (Mega) Cannon fires a massive ball of pure energy. The S&S Orion's bullet can ricochet and split into fragments. Some SMG's can spawn with a barrel whose bullets spin in a spiral fashion.
- In Borderlands 2, Anarachy Gaige can end up with this at higher stacks, getting into a kind of "low accuracy singularity" where bullets have very odd effects, such as shooting sideways or zigzagging. There is no telling what kind of shot you will produce with your high anarchy stacks.
- In Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, players are able to equip the throwing knife, which kills instantly if another player is hit with it, regardless of where the knife landed on their body (i.e. foot and elbow stabbings are fatal) or how fast it was traveling so long as that's faster than "totally inert" (five ricochets along high walls, lightly bonk a passerby on the shoulder, he drops like a sack of potatoes). Call of Duty: Black Ops takes it to the next level, with both instant-kill tomahawks and ballistic knives being featured.
- While she shoots bolts out of a crossbow rather than bullets out of a gun, Kai from Heavenly Sword has clearly mastered this trope. When she uses her aftertouch ability, the bolts can curve around obstacles in ways that clearly aren't justified by gravity, and unnatural trajectories are essential to getting full use out of the many explosive barrels you come across, as well as unlocking new bonuses.
- In Astro Marine Corps, your shots are incapable of hitting the ground, hovering at a minimum altitude instead. This is especially apparent when the ground is sloping upward.
- Danger Mouse can shoot a golf ball in all eighteen holes with one shot. He claims to have shot a round in one at Gleneagles.
- In The Top Cat episode "Rafeefleas," Spook ends a billiards game by shooting all the remaining balls in all the pockets in one shot.
- The Warner Bros. cartoon "Sport Chumpions" has a pool player taking an opening shot. The fifteen balls simultaneously bounce off sides and lands in one pocket, all while retaining the set's triangular shape.
- The most common interpretation of the Magic Bullet Theory of the Kennedy assassination requires one bullet to move like a gymnast doing floor exercises during its trajectory. This is largely due to a misunderstanding of who was where during the shooting — assuming, for example, that everyone was sitting upright and facing straight ahead, rather than twisted around in their seats to talk. Don't even ask about the necessary trajectories for some of the other theories.
- A Discovery Channel documentary actually took Oswald's rifle as well as ammunition from the same factory lot that was found in the book depository, and duplicated six of the seven wounds. The seventh would have occurred as well had the bullet not expended extra energy striking and breaking two rib bones of Governor Connolly compared to only one in the original incident. Striking all debate about the surroundings of the assassination, the Discovery Channel's accomplishment in catching a single bullet on high-speed cameras striking seven separate targets and doing so within half an inch of the bullseye certainly qualifies for the trope.
- The same show demonstrated why the "magic bullet" disbelief caught on as well. The show took the injuries to the dummies and used them to produce a fake forensic report (which was supposedly a shooting that occurred in a stadium), with the rough description of the position of the victims and provided it to an experienced medical examiner who gave the opinion that there had to be more than one shooter, and who was stunned to see the video showing that it was only one bullet.
- Rifle bullets travel in an inherently unstable configuration; center of gravity behind the center of aerodynamic pressure. This is why they have to be spun with rifling, otherwise they would tumble wildly. Upon encountering denser media, such as flesh they can lose stabilization, and can do some bona fide weird shit◊. Alas, this remarkable fact seems rarely to be brought up in fiction; perhaps a case of Reality Is Unrealistic.
- Another interesting hypothesis including Kennedy's assassination says that there had to be a second sniper, shooting form opposite direction, as Kennedy's head was pulled towards Oswald (i.e. forwards), and should be pushed away from him if he shot (backwards). However, Reality Is Unrealistic (also incredibly gory) as Kennedy's brain absorbed a lot of bullet's energy and flew forwards out of the exit wound and acted like a... rocket engine, pulling the head backwards.
- In the Discovery Channel's forensic documentary show New Detectives, one episode involved teenage who died in an indoor shooting range. The bullet someone else (who did not stand in the proper spot) fired hit the suspended ceiling. One would have expected the bullet to go through the foam tiles, but due to the aforementioned unstable configuration of bullets, hitting the softer medium caused the bullet to curve back down and hit its victim on the head, leaving only a long gash in the ceiling tile it had hit.
- The ballistics get even more bizarre when one considers that the fatal shot actually originated from the OUTSIDE shooting range and involved a stray bullet that was fired too high, then slipped through a tiny gap in one of the outdoor range's overhead safety barriers, penetrated through a storage room, and emerged into the indoor range only to ricochet off the previously mentioned foam ceiling tile.
- Other example from a forensic documentary shows — An elderly man who was sitting in a lawn chair enjoying a family picnic, then suddenly keels over dead from a mysterious gunshot. The police investigation was complicated by the bizarre trajectory of the fatal bullet, which turned out to be fired by some drunken, careless individuals engaging in some sloppy target shooting far away.
- According to a Reader's Digest article many years ago about a freak shooting accident: A boatman well over a mile offshore fired a .303 at some floating object, missing narrowly. The bullet ricocheted off the surface of the water and sped inland, where it passed through the open quarterlight of a fast-moving car and hit the driver just below her ear, killing her instantly. It had barely enough velocity to penetrate and would have been unlikely to cause damage had it had to smash through the window first.
- A similar incident involved a poacher attempting to shoot waterfowl using a .22LR rifle with very hard-loaded rounds, approaching the velocity of a .223 round. The bullet, being very quick, very lightweight and very unstable, ricocheted off water and flew to the other side of the lake, striking a hapless fisherman in the forehead and killing him. (To prevent deaths like this, some jurisdictions outlaw any rimfire round in hunting.)
- Using the Apex barrel tip, it is possible to make a paintball do anything from have a longer trajectory, to dropping shots over the top of bunkers, to curving them around corners.
- The EXACTO Project aims to achieve this by using fin-stabilization with actuators to create a "fire and forget" .50 BMG cartridge. Using laser guidance, the bullet basically homes in on the target. Testing footage shows the predicted bullet trajectory (without EXACTO ammunition), and the highlighted laser-designated target. The bullet swerves towards the target, over-corrects, then goes back on target.
- Certain lower-quality Airsoft guns, due to flaws in the barrels, cause shots to curve or list when fired.
- Hop-up in higher-quality airsoft guns can also cause shots to curve off and miss, depending on the distance from the target and how the user is holding the gun. Experienced/silly airsofters sometimes use this on purpose, flipping rifles upside down to curve B Bs behind objects or sideways around cover.
- The Mythbusters encountered this in December of 2011, when they fired a cannon at a bunch of water barrels. The cannonball missed the water barrels, hit a safety berm, bounced off a street, flew through a house, bounced off the roof of another house, and landed inside of a minivan, having traveled 3300 feet. No one was hurt in the incident.
- An episode handled a few myths like these. Such as if a bullet can be fired, ricocheted off a few walls, and come back at the shooter with lethal force. And in good ol' Mythbusters fashion, they bent a tube into a 270 degree bend and found you can shoot a bullet down it and retain lethal force
- This video demonstrates a near-fatal example of this trope. Luckily, it only hits the guy's earmuffs.
- The things snipers can do by taking into account multiple physics factors—sniping is a known real life application of Awesome by Analysis—can sound like this trope, and often result in disbelief when heard by most people. Some have been known to use the wind speed to curve their bullets into targets behind obstacles in angles that would result in cries of "bullshit" were it ever shown in a movie.
- A notable example is Matt Hughes. His target was outside of the range of his rifle with a heavy wind blowing and behind a fortification. With his partner, Sam, they calculate based on the heat haze and dust the trajectory they would have to fire in order to successfully hit the target - fifty six feet to the left of the target, and thirty eight feet high. He fired, and gravity and the wind guided the bullet directly into the target's chest. Hawkeye, eat your heart out.
- It potentially gets even more counter-intuitive if you're firing from a moving vehicle, because the projectile will inherit the velocity vector of the platform it was fired from. Of course, proper sniping generally isn't possible from a moving vehicle, so any hits on targets behind walls or such will probably be based more on luck, but still...
- As well as bullets, similar things can happen with balls.
- The knuckleball in baseball can sometimes produce very unusual and unpredictable flight patterns, as did the now banned Spitball. Due to the glob of spit on the ball, air currents create some rather odd flight patterns... such as changing speed, changing direction as much as 90 degrees mid-flight and rebounding when it hits a solid object, like a glove or a bat.
- Any time that a baseball bat is recalled, it's most likely due to this. Based on some strange and ridiculous physics, some bats have a disproportionate tendency to throw balls right back to the pitcher. On a normal bat there's maybe a 10% chance of turning the ball a perfect 180 degrees. On some recalled bats, that goes up to about 80% on a fastball, almost regardless of where on the bat you hit it.
- In cricket, a skilled bowler can make the ball do any number of improbable things.
- Spin bowlers adjust their bowling action to make the ball spin, which makes it bounce in strange ways. If they're good enough they can make it bounce in almost any direction, though the degree depends on a whole host of other factors such as the weather, the pitch, the time of day, the state of the ball, and how closely the umpires are paying attention - a particular delivery known as a doosra is nigh-impossible to bowl legally, and some of the bowlers who can pull one off have a reputation for questionable bowling actions.
- Seam bowlers make the ball bounce unpredictably using the orientation of the seam.
- Swing is when the ball curves in mid-air because one, and only one, side is polished on the fielders' trousers until greater friction on the rough side causes the ball to swing that way. Whether it occurs, and how much, depends on factors like the weather and how old the ball is. Reverse swing is where it instead swings towards the polished side, and depends on the alignment of the heavens and whether the laws of physics are paying attention.
- In tennis (and table tennis) common tactics are to apply spin to the ball so that not only does it behave oddly while flying, but also bounces in wildly unpredictable ways.
- Trick shots in billiards, snooker, and pool often invoke this trope.
- Stephen King used the unpredictable ballistics of point-blank head shots as a metaphor in The Ballad of the Flexible Bullet and discusses his research. When the muzzle is close to the skull, such as in suicide attempts or execution-style shootings, the aim can always be enough off surface normal for the bullet to follow the curvature of the skull and exit out the other side with only minor flesh wounding and minimal to no fracturing. Of course there's still the danger of concussion, so your brain isn't completely dodging the bullet.