In celebration of Shark Week, I thought I would take a look at the ballistic reality of finding yourself in a Jaws like scenario and having to shoot your way out of it.
First of all I understand how ridiculous the notion of a realistic “Jaws like scenario” is, so I don’t mean a giant shark is eating your boat and its drunken captain. But hey, maybe you’re on a boat and some friends are swimming and the dorsal fin comes and makes like its hungry.
Have you ever heard that sharks are bulletproof?
Bulletproof might be a bit of a stretch, but they are definitely bullet resistant because they come with their own body armor in the form of…well…their body.
Sharks are entirely covered by placoid scales, also called dermal denticles. These scales are structurally homologous with vertebrate teeth (“denticle” translates to “small tooth”), having a central pulp cavity supplied with blood vessels, surrounded by a conical layer of dentine, all of which sits on top of a rectangular basal plate that rests on the dermis. The outermost layer is composed of vitrodentine, a largely inorganic enamel-like substance. Placoid scales cannot grow in size, but rather more scales are added as the fish increases in size.
While the thickness of shark skin varies depending on the species, the spotted skin on the back of a whale shark is the thickest and toughest in the world and can be up to 6 inches in thickness. The denticles combined with ridges that run along its back make its skin phenomenally tough.
That’s a half foot of enamel covered body armor, I don’t think your gran pappy’s .22 is gonna get the job done.
But that is only taking into account that the shark is breaching or basically on the surface. Any amount of submersion only fortifies the bulletproof credentials of the shark and after 3-8 feet, depending on angle, your bullet will not even reach them. Plus, the larger the caliber with it’s increased force, the less penetrative result it has since it’s that very force that destroys the bullet when it enters the water.
So coupled with their armor like skin and the bunker like nature of water, the likelihood of successfully shooting a shark to defend yourself is very slim.
This is one of the few instances where bullets first must yield to harpoons away.
I guess there was a reason it’s “from hell’s heart i STAB at thee” and not “shoot at thee”.
Though I guess it didn’t really work out too well for Ahab with the whale.
Lesson: Don’t harpoon whales or sharks if you don’t have too.
Enjoy Shark Week.