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In the James Bond Movie Casino Royale, there is a scene where Bond is trapped by the bad guys so he shoots a propane tank and makes his getaway in the ensuing explosion. In this scene, he uses a 9mm pistol to shoot the propane tank from a distance of about 20 feet. Kari, Grant and Tory took a look at the reality behind this scene in the MythBusters segment entitled "Propane Tank Peril". The first step in testing was for the team to shoot at some empty propane tanks and see what type of damage the bullets would do.
They take some tanks out to the Alameida gun range. Using the same 9mm pistol that Bond used in Casino Royale, Kari takes aim at the tank from 20 feet. Kari takes two shot at the tank and mr lucky fortune cookie slot machine neither round is able to pierce the tank. They next try a shotgun (type and ammo not specified) and are able to pierce the front of the tank but it does not exit the back. The third gun that they try is a .30-06 rifle. The round from this rifle is able to penetrate all the way through the tank.
The team believes that the myth is already busted due to the inability of the 9mm to pierce the tank but they do not want to call it quits until they blow up the tank. Kari believes that in order for the tank to blow up they will need to use the .30-06 rifle. The round will need to pierce the front of the tank to expose the propane to oxygen and exit the back in order to spark the propane. To test the next part of the theory, the team brings in some full propane tanks. They use 22 gallon tanks with a tank pressure of 240 psi.
The tank is staked to the ground to prevent it from flying of when it is punctured or exploded. It should go without saying but this type of activity should not be done by anyone. There is a good chance that it could kill or maim you. Kari is again the shooter and she scores a direct hit with the .30-06. The round pierces the tank completely resulting in a rapid decompression but no explosion. They up the ante on the next round by using tracer rounds.
Tracer rounds have a small amount of burning phosphorous at their base and the team theorizes that this may ignite the propane. They fire multiple rounds at the tank thinking that a secondary tracer may ignite the propane but end up with the same results. The bullets do not make the tank explode. Deciding that they can not walk away from the experiment without an explosion, they call in the bomb squad. The bomb squad sets up an incendiary charge on a propane tank.
The team dresses Buster the crash test dummy in his best James Bond garb and places him 20 feet from the tank. The charge does the trick and there is a massive explosion and fireball. The team did not discuss the effect on Buster but the footage did not make it look like a pleasant experience for him. Once back at the workshop the team decides to take it one step further. They pack up the gear and head to secret location to try incendiary rounds on the propane tank.
Incendiary rounds are packed with combustible material at the tip and core that burns at a very high temperature. Through some acquaintances of Jamie, they are able to use a Gatlin mini gun that is capable of firing 50 rounds per second. Grant gets to do the honors and he rips away at the propane tank with the Gatlin gun. The team is rewarded with a very large explosion. The team determines the myth to be busted. Bond could not have created the explosion using the pistol he had in the movie.
The rounds would not have pierced the tank. Bond would have needed some much more serious firepower to make the movie explosion. Myth: Can a bullet fired from a 9mm handgun ignite a propane tank? Status: Busted Segment: Propane Tank Peril Episode: James Bond Special Season: Season 5 Original Air Date: 16 January 2008