26 Gunshot Survivors Explain Exactly What The Bullet Felt Like

Action movies have it all wrong. According to gunshot survivors from Ask Reddit, this is what it REALLY feels like to take a bullet.
Unsplash, Sofia Sforza
Unsplash, Sofia Sforza

1. I was caught in the middle of a drive-by shooting

“Shot in the arm when I was young when I got caught in the middle of a drive by shooting.

You know in the movies where a gun goes off and there’s a sudden look of shock on the victim’s face before he looks at the wound? That’s very accurate. I did not feel any pain or anything. I heard the gunshot and felt a tight pressure in my arm. I looked and saw the wound and how much blood I was losing, and the next thing I know I’m in the hospital.” — BBBBrendan

2. Rebels murdered everyone in the car with me

“Was working in Ghana at a mine for two years and their was an internal conflict going on in the country. One day a group of government officials and I had to go to the far end of the mine to do an inspection on an area undergoing environmental rehab. Rebels were waiting on the edge of the mine and shot at us with AK47s spraying the car with bullets. Everyone in the car died except for me. I got shot in the forearm only. The Rebels later explained they didn’t see that a white man was in the car and if they had known they wouldn’t have shot (shooting a foreigner caused a lot of unwanted attention from their part and was considered bad manners).” — pepperonipenetration

3. I wished I could pass out to stop the pain

“I got shot through the thigh with a .45, it burned like a motherfucker. The bullet went through the bone completely and the tendons pulled everything out of place, my leg was about 4 inches shorter than the other. Trying to move it was absolute agony, I was praying to pass out but never did.” — jnips

4. An IED killed everyone, except my step-father

“I have two that aren’t mine.

Step dad: him and his team drove over an IED. Killed everyone, except him. Mangled his feet though. Immediately after, ambush. He was shot in, his already mangled foot, and it exited out the calf, near the back of the knee. After the fight he passed out he and woke up in Germany on the plane still. He promptly sat up and punched the female Lieutenant Doctor. His captain saved him from punishment. The said it was like some one put a red hot poker to his foot and hit it with a sledge hammer. He can still walk, but often does so on the sides of his feet and can’t go for a long time. He still suffers from the PTSD as well. The release of the movie ‘American Sniper’ sent him into a pretty bad area for a while. He trained and was friends with Chris.

My grandpa got hit in the cheek with shrapnel from a mortar in Vietnam. He said he didn’t feel it, just thought it was dirt debris. He was given the Purple Heart, but denied accepting it because men under him lost limbs and their life. He thought he didn’t deserve it. He still has a noticeable scar. Great man too, I love him.” — notRYAN702

5. It felt like a baseball bat smacked into me

“I was shot with Ak-47 to the leg. Felt like a baseball bat hit me; but with no pain. This was followed by a buzzing feeling for 5-10 seconds then the severe achy pain set in. Once I got back, I was diagnosed with a spiral fracture. Less painful than I thought it would be, but it was still up there!” — ktojongolt

6. The pain came after the tourniquet was applied

“About 4 years ago I was struck by 4 rounds from machine gun fire, one actually skipped off my body armor right into my left bicep. Honestly did not feel pain when I got hit, just this weird wave of feeling hot and wet on my left side. The pain definitely came after once a tourniquet was applied.” — Jigur0

7. I thought that I was being stung by a bee

“I was shot in left foot when I was seventeen. At first I thought it was a bee sting because it sounded like bees flying by. 2 seconds later I realized something was wrong. The bee noises were bullets flying by. It felt like a hot fire poker along the path of the bullet. We were camping and like an hour and a half to a hospital. The burning lasted the entire time until morphine got in. Was in a walking boot for months due to tendon and nerve damage. No bones were damaged but my foot is still numb on top due to nerve damage and it always hurts. I always feel it and if anything hits the entry or exit points or the scar from surgery to remove bullet fragments it send weird tingles up my leg. Definitely changed my life.” — eradicATErs

8. I was shot in the back on my birthday

“Little setup for my incident.

I was 16. Christmas Day, my birthday. I was hunting with a guy who had taken it upon himself to teach me a hobby and a means to live off the wild as a way to try and curb my anger and antisocial behavior.

His brother had joined us that day and his brother had brought with him his wife’s nephew. The guy with whom I hunted was named Barry. Barry had a lot of land, a couple hundred acres of forest land he used for hunting, tracking, preparedness etc…,

We were out that day with the dogs, celebrating my birthday and Christmas by being a little reckless and gathering what we killed for a big Christmas dinner. It was extremely cold and we were all wearing multiple layers and coveralls. I had on a set of regular fatigues, a thick pair of mossy oak pants, my thick jacket and a pair of full bodied coveralls which were made for cold. I was nearly a walking camouflaged thermal ball of danger.

Here’s how I got shot.

The nephew had a shotgun and he was walking about 20 yards or so off to my right. We were hunting duck and a few other birds at the time. For some reason, this kid had buckshot loaded instead of duck shot. (We discovered this afterwards).

I’m crouched low amidst some knee high grass waiting on a flock of ducks to pass by the small pond we were waiting by. Just as they got within range, I stood and took my shot. Apparently, at this same time, the nephew wanted to shoot something too so he fired as well. Only problem was he wasn’t aiming when he did and he didn’t see me kneeling there.

I took the shot in the back. From about 15-25 yards. It floored me. Face down in the ground. It honestly felt like someone had shoved me hard enough to knock the air out of me. It didn’t hurt but I was definitely winded.

I didn’t realize that I’d been shot and I thought I had been pushed. I jumped up and lost my temper and started yelling, ‘What the fuck is your problem!? Why’d you fucking push me??!!’

At this point I’m still yelling and cussing when Barry is running full speed my direction yelling himself. When he got to me he kept asking if I was alright and kept trying to turn me around. This act was making me more furious as I didn’t know what the fuck he was trying to do. Right when I start to shove him back, he grabs my shoulders and tells me, ‘You were just shot. I need to see where you got shot.’

I don’t remember any fear or pain, just anger and confusion. Not trying to sound all tough and badass but all I remember was that I was gonna pound whomever had pushed me.

Barry had me turn and inspect the place where I had been shot. The coveralls, jacket, fatigues and pants were shredded. When they managed to convince me that I had been shot, they helped me get my jackets off and see the damage. I had what looked like frozen paintball bruising all over my back. Most were centered around one area but there were pepper spots (big bruising spots) on the top of my legs, my shoulders and the backs of my arms. My ass and my back got the worst of the bruising with some bleeding.

I remember being in disbelief and not really concerned. It didn’t hurt until later when I guess the anger and adrenaline (maybe shock idk) wore off.

The nephew was promptly disarmed. Scolded and yelled at by both Barry and his brother. I simply just stared at him with whatever anger I was still feeling.

Barry ended up doctoring my small blood spots and packing me down with ice when I absolutely refused to go the hospital. He cleaned the few animals we had killed and the duck that I had managed to get whilst being shot. I was proud of that later.

When he returned me home, he recounted the story to my mother. Now my mother isn’t quite right, in fact she’s a functioning schizophrenic, heavy medication. But when she takes her medicine she’s almost normal. Anyways, my mother checks on me and almost shrugs it off when she realizes I’m fine.

Barry, at this time, was telling her he’d never seen anything like it. ‘The boy gets shot, still manages to kill his target, jumps up swearing, furious and trying to fight whoever had *shoved him.’

My mom heard one thing and that I was swearing. She then grounded me for cursing so badly and saying ‘fuck’ and ‘goddamnit.’

That was my reward for surviving a shotgun to the back, getting grounded for cussing afterwards.” — ARedWerewolf

9. My friend’s wife was ambushed and shot

“My friend’s wife was ambushed and shot at an intersection by a .38 I believe. She didn’t feel anything and was able to drive 10 minutes home, walk into the house, and tell her husband she had been shot. My friend said he didn’t believe her, until he saw two little red holes in her body. One in her arm and the other in the side of her abdomen.

Unfortunately I don’t know when she started feeling pain and I didn’t think to ask. I remember being shocked that she was alive after being ambushed and was able to drive 10 minutes home and then walk into the house.” — [deleted]

10. I was shot while working security at a nightclub

“I was shot 4 times and got shrapnel from a 5th shot in my neck working security at a nightclub. 3 of the bullets were caught in my vest that other staff constantly razzed me about wearing under my t-shirt. The 4th entered my chest between the sternum and shoulder, exited my back above the shoulder blade and lodged in the back panel of the vest and the shrapnel cuts were similar to paper cuts on my neck, they just bled a lot. The gun was a .380 and honestly I felt the ones hit my vest because they were similar to punches and didn’t notice the one actual wound until I realized I couldn’t lift my arm all the way up. It was a numb, sometimes throbbing burning pain. I was treated at the hospital, given painkillers and had to rehab the arm which is back to 100% again. I later found out one of the bullets actually went through someone standing in front of me. Afaik that person is alive and well. All 3 shots into the vest could have been fatal shots to the lungs/heart.

Anyone out there in policing/security/ems etc. just remember a $200-300 vest can save your life.” — thsthrwwykllsfscsts

11. A foreign exchange student shot me on accident

“Got shot in the calf with a .22 LR while landscaping about a decade ago. It just felt like a push-pinch like if someone pushed a wasp stinger into my skin and since I was using a weed whacker at the time, I thought it had picked something up and thrown it against my leg. It went numb, and when I looked at the wound it was bleeding way too much to be from random debris. It really only hurt after I started fucking with it to stop the bleeding. If you get shot, don’t look at the wound if at all possible.

The shooter was a German foreign exchange student with surprisingly bad muzzle awareness, trigger safety, et cetera, but since the damage was minor we all laughed it off. Honestly it didn’t hurt that bad, hopefully being shot by a smaller caliber has helped me build my immunity up towards larger bullets.” — czulu

12. She was shot directly in the face

“A coworker of mine’s sister got shot point blank in the face. Very recent ex just walked up to her in plain daylight on the street, pulled out a 45 and shot her in the face. Bullet went in under her left nostril, through all her upper teeth and out the back side of her neck under her skull. Ouch.” — Dr_Trogdor

13. It was a bizarre series of sensations

“Surprisingly painless compared to what you might expect, I’m not one of those ‘I didn’t even realize I was shot’ people, though I can definitely understand where they’re coming from. The very first thing I felt can only be described as a sudden impact of no sensation, I felt numbness wash over the area, if I had not realized I was about to be shot shortly before I was I could see how I could have easily have been too distracted to notice this immediate response. That feeling then gave way to a horrible burning sensation. It’s a very ‘hot’ pain, it feels the way a very flushed face or a blister feels, but intense and painful and after a little time passes the area around it has this very unexpected achy pain that feels more like what you would expect from being hit with a bat than being shot. And yet I wouldn’t know how I would even rank it in terms of how painful it actually was, the feeling of being shot was seamlessly paired with the adrenaline and wooziness of having REALIZED I was shot and the knowledge that I really couldn’t afford to get shot again. The three intermingled and alternately masked and intensified each other. For a few moments I’d totally forget I had been shot, only for my attention to come back to myself in a lot of pain. I’ve never had to describe it before, my words seem so inadequate, its a very bizarre series of sensations that I imagine is almost never experienced by people in an otherwise clear state of mind. I really cannot understate the significance of the psychological impact it had on me in the moment, which totally distorted my processing of physical sensation.

All in all 0/10, would not recommend.” — Tia_Jamon

14. It felt like being pricked by needles

“It’s a bit of burning sensation mainly. The quick pierce into your body hurts like hell. Best way I can describe it is that it feels like being continuously poked as if someone is holding multiple sharp pricks to you and pushing in but not stabbing.

Painful as shit, but it’s not an ungodly amount of pain to where you can’t even cope with it if it’s in an area of non importance in your body such as arm or shoulder. Can’t speak of experience from being shot anywhere else.

To be honest ricochets hurt a shit load worse than a direct impact because it can hit you in multiple places instead of just one entrance and/or exit wound would in a direct impact.” — transam96

15. I was shot in the head and still have the scar

“I didn’t even really know I was shot. I felt the blast and the noise and didn’t realize until liquid was gushing onto my chest. Since I was shot in the head/face I was worried about brain damage and kept doing multiplication in my head. It really wasn’t too bad. I was lucky and it did not affect my hearing or sight. I only have a small circular scar that kind of looks lime a dimple.” — idiputchko

16. The bullet bounced off of my bone

“Smaller caliber shot through the arm. Just a flesh wound, it did bounce off the bone though.

It felt like electricity. The only thing that I can relate it to would be hitting a baseball (or anything) wrong with a bat or stick. That’s 80% of the feeling. The initial pain was exactly like that.

After pains however were something unique that I can’t relate to anything.

It wasn’t until I noticed all the blood that I realized I’d been shot. I was angry for a few seconds then I laughed about it. Then I was more worried about wrapping the wound and coming up with a good lie.

7/10 on the pain scale I’ve had worse but it was not pleasant.” — Justanotherrandom23

17. I was shot in the leg during a house party

“I was at a house party when a fight popped up and one guy pulled out a German luger and shot the guy directly in front of me. The man missed and hit my leg. I felt like where I got hit was burning and cold at the same time. It was a weird feeling but honestly the pain was like a 3 out of 10.” — ProfesserFinesser7

18. It felt like a firecracker through my shoulder

“Shot in the shoulder. Didn’t realize it at first. Noticed blood. Instantly felt it. It was like someone shot a firecracker through my right shoulder.

I guess it’s different for most people depending on awareness.” — VillainousThrowaway

19. It hurt more to clean the wound

“I had a friend who was in the army and was on leave because he got shot in the shoulder with an AK-47. He didn’t really go into much detail, but he told me when he got hit it didnt really hurt until he noticed a few moments later. He said the absolute worst part was when another person in his group poured this mixture on his wound to stop the bleeding. He said it hurt like hell and was worse than getting shot. I don’t remember what exactly was in the mixture I think it might have been gun powder.” — GoonFromGoonsville

20. It felt like someone slammed my hand in a desk

“My right hand got clipped by a .223 ricochet while shooting targets on a friends property. Initially felt like my had got slammed between a large math textbook and a wooden desk followed by a intense burning sensation. I will say that after the impact i didn’t immediately think much of the injury, I checked that my firearm was still functioning and didn’t stop firing until i felt the blood dripping down my arm.” — cowboychimps

21. It felt like getting pelted by rocks

“It felt like a cross between being smacked really hard (or like pelted really hard by a rock) on my arm, mixed with a feeling like being stung like a bee. It hurt for a little while then was numb, and it bled an extreme amount. Was shot in the arm by a friend fooling around with a gun.

It sucked, was a bad feeling but not intolerable, i have crohn’s disease and have had much worse pain from things associated with it than from being shot.” — [deleted]

22. It felt like being hit with a nail

“My father was shot in the knee by a sniper during the Korean war. He said it felt like being hit by a baseball bat with a nail sticking out of it.” — bestkook

23. I didn’t feel any pain in the moment

“I got shot in the foot about 2 years ago with a .45. Went in one side and out the other, pulverized some of the bone too. There was no pain at all. Only knew I was shot because of all the blood. At the hospital about a half hour later it started to hurt a little. Doctor was surprised that I only rated the pain as a 4 out of 10. It hurt a fair bit in the days and weeks after, but never intolerably.” — Gangrel13

24. It felt like a little bee sting

“My husband got shot in Gary, IN in the 80’s. The dumbass gangsta shit bag actually missed, but the bullet ricocheted off the house he was working on so the brunt of the bullet was not life threatening.

He said that it felt like a bee sting. He went to the ER where they extracted the bullet and did nothing. No police report. Nothing because it was such a common-place scenario and he really was barely hurt.

I mean, 20 years later, you can hardly see the scar. It is more like bragging rights now.

But let me tell you…a couple years ago he survived a tornado going over his back. That shit fucked his mind up for a while.” — Stabfacenotback

25. Getting treated hurt, but getting shot did not

“I took a bullet in the ass cheek that did some kind of parabolic arc and exited out of the back of my thigh. Didn’t feel the impact, but wondered why my leg felt heavy and wet (I was on a bicycle at the time).

Getting shot itself didn’t hurt, getting treated for it did. The finger in the ass at the hospital didn’t help much.” — secondhand_organs

26. I was hit with a piece of shrapnel and it stung

“I got shrapnel to the shin. It in such a way it looked like a clean fillet of skin down to the bone. It hurt pretty fucking bad, the initial feel was like take a lead pipe to the shin.

A buddy of mine from the same unit but operating out of another FOB took a 7.62MM straight through his upper left arm. From what he told me with the adrenaline and heat it felt a little worse than a bad wasp sting. After the dust off back the medics working on his arm noticed he need his dental check up and continued to patch him up while he got a good teeth cleaning.” — [deleted] TC mark 

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Holly is the author of Severe(d): A Creepy Poetry Collection. Follow Holly on Instagram or read more articles from Holly on Thought Catalog.