The following case study is of a friend of mine (written with his permission) who was shot through the neck by an AK-47 during an operation from a range of about 150 meters. The bullet entered the back of his neck just right of the midline and then blew out the front of the left side of his neck. Remarkably, he not only survived, but has subsequently made a near-complete recovery, and has conquered both the North and South Poles on foot! This case study is fascinating from both a terminal ballistics perspective, as well as from a medical perspective regarding the immediate and delayed effects of the temporary cavitation, or pressure wave, emanating from the high-velocity bullet as it passed through his neck.
Those of you who have read my previous article on why I’d rather be shot by an AK-47 than a M4 will already understand the concept of permanent versus temporary cavitation, and the basics of the theoretical differences in wounding profiles between the AK-47 and the M4. I think it’s worth a read. The key concept from that article that relates to the current case study is the tendency for an AK-47 round to remain intact and generally plough straight through short distances of human tissue before it destabilises and starts to yaw, or tumble. Should the bullet not hit any bone, the result is often a nice clean through-and-through wound, which is exactly the instance in the current case study.
In that setting, assuming the bullet hasn’t passed through any vital structures, the permanent cavity left by the bullet is akin to sticking a sharp stick through the casualty. This brings me to my first set of images, which show the neat hole punched through the casualty’s neck. The first image was taken on the day of the injury, with the remainder of the images taken the day after the incident, and illustrating the near perfectly circular exit wound of the bullet, only slightly larger than its 7.62mm diameter. The bullet had traversed approximately 15 cm (six inches) of tissue, and I suspect if the round had been from a M4, the outcome may have been dramatically worse (once again, covered in my previous article).