Army Myths: The .50 cal will kill/harm/maim even if you miss

I’ve been back in the Army for almost a year now, and I still hear some of the same myths I heard back when I was enlisted. I probably believed most of them back then.

This myth is about the .50 caliber machine gun, the M2. Most soldiers, even infantrymen, are usually not that familiar with the M2. It’s a heavy weapon and is normally only used by gunners, and most infantrymen will never be gunners. It’s also an old and highly revered weapon – ask anyone who has been supported by one.

The other day, I heard a myth about the .50 cal that I’ve heard many times before. It usually goes something like this:

Soldier: “I heard that if you shoot at someone with the .50 cal it will blow off parts of their body if the bullet comes within 3 feet of him.”

Soldier: “Just shooting near a target with the .50 cal will kill him from the air pressure.”

Soldier: “I heard that a gunner was shooting at a guy overseas with the M2, missed, but still knocked the guy down from the “pressure.””

Now, I’ve never heard someone validate this myth. It’s always something one guy heard from another guy. But I’ve heard completely intelligent people defend this “fact” aggressively despite the lack of evidence.

My guess is the general lack of experience with M2s explains the development and persistence of this myth. And apparently, the MythBusters proved that firing a .50 cal near glass wouldn’t even shatter the glass with a near miss, so I can’t imagine it would kill/harm/maim a person.

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