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News & Editorials

Reader's Digest Lies About Ammunition and Fire


I'm a long-time subscriber to Reader's Digest, which generally has a conservative bent. In their July 2001 issue, they have a 'drama and adventure' story entitled "Deadly Cargo" by Christopher Davis. In brief: 3 ATF agents were flying to a conference when their plane crashed in the woods. The plane caught fire and the considerable amount of ammo they were carrying started to detonate. A nearby homeowner helped rescue them. Here are some quotes from the article: 

  • "Bullets were flying everywhere, popping holes in the fuselage." 
  • "Staying low in the hail of bullets, Guthrie crawled around to the plane's back door.......".
  • "With a new burst of explosions, more bullets screamed through the air". 
  • "Bullets sang through the air, kicking up snow and chipping bark off trees.......". 

Last year I purchased the video tape "Sporting Ammunition and the Fire Fighter" produced by S.A.M.M.I. ( - only $10 - give a copy to your local fire department!) Nearly one million rounds of ammunition were subjected to ten different tests to examine what happens to sporting ammunition exposed to severe impact or fire. The two principle lessons learned from these experiments were: 

1) ammunition will not mass detonate, and 
2) there is no danger in being shot.

As the video explains, the normal turnout gear and face protection of fire fighters protects them from the low velocity brass. This proves that the Reader's Digest article is dead wrong. What's worse, it perpetuates a dangerous myth about ammunition and fire. 

I intend to write the executive editors about this matter (names/address below), and hope you will too. And please copy this e-mail and send them to your shooting buddies.

Marcia Rockwood
William Schulz
Executive Editors
The Reader's Digest Association, Inc.
Reader's Digest Road
Pleasantville, New York 10570-7000


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[The American Colonies were] all democratic governments, where the power is in the hands of the people and where there is not the least difficulty or jealousy about putting arms into the hands of every man in the country. [European countries should not] be ignorant of the strength and the force of such a form of government and how strenuously and almost wonderfully people living under one have sometimes exerted themselves in defence of their rights and liberties and how fatally it has ended with many a man and many a state who have entered into quarrels, wars and contests with them. George Mason, "Remarks on Annual Elections for the Fairfax Independent Company" in The Papers of George Mason, 1725-1792, ed Robert A. Rutland (Chapel Hill, 1970).

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