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Spoiler alert for those who haven't seen the movie Faster. There is a scene in the movie where the character played by Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson is shot in the back of the head by Billy Bob Thornton with a Glock 22 .40 caliber handgun.

His character is known to have a metal plate in his head from a previous bullet wound which he survived (but we won't go into that one.)

After some Hollywood suspense the Rock emerges, seemingly with no severe injuries associated with his being shot in the back of the head at the range shown above, or at least demonstrating that he is able to function with no noticeable physical/neurological deficits.

His survival is attributed to the claim that the bullet struck the metal plate.

I know this is a fictional scenario, but is it possible in real life?

Are there documented cases of implanted metal plates deflecting/stopping bullets?

Is this scenario based on real science, or is it just Hollywood hyperbole?

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Short answer: the amount of energy in a pistol bullet is roughly the same order as energy in a VERY strong professional grade punch. The latter can cause major brain trauma (see related Q on skeptics.SE) from brain being hit against the skull, therefore so will the former. –  DVK Jun 11 '11 at 2:31
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From IMFDB: "Cop (Billy Bob Thornton) carries a 2nd Gen Glock 22 [.40 caliber] as his sidearm in the film, confirmed by bore diameter and mention made in [an] interview with the director." –  Jason Plank Jun 11 '11 at 12:51
    
@jason thanks for the info. –  Monkey Tuesday Jun 11 '11 at 19:25
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@DVK: I'd expect the bullet's momentum to be more significant than its energy -- most of the bullet's momentum may well be transferred to the plate, but transferring most of the energy would violate conservation of momentum. Momentum is proportional to velocity, while kinetic energy is proportional to its square; thus, if a (fast) bullet has the same energy as a (slow) punch, the bullet will have considerably less momentum. –  Gordon Davisson Jun 12 '11 at 4:35
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@Mason Momentum and Energy are not irrelevant. Let's say the plate does stop the bullet, then what? Did the person survive? Some/All of the energy in the bullet will get transferred to the plate, and then to the head. It "might" be possible that it didn't penetrate but the blunt force trauma was too much. –  user3938 Dec 28 '11 at 15:43

1 Answer 1

up vote 7 down vote accepted

The Deseret News, Dec 12 1950, via news.google.com, has an article about a soldier who survived a bullet from a North Korean rifle at point blank range -- the soldier had a metal plate in the head from a previous traffic accident.

The North Korean soldier had his foot on the G.I's neck. He put the muzzle of his rifle to the G.I's head and pulled the trigger.

But, wrote Pfc, Richard F. Webb, a metal plate in his head — placed there three years ago after he suffered a fractured skull in a traffic accident — proved his unexpected life insurance "policy." The bullet, Webb said, bounced off.

Other newspapers also picked up the story, as can be seen from Google news list of related articles when following the above link.

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