In the famous 1986 film Platoon, Willem Dafoe’s character Sergeant Elias gets (spoiler alert!) shot in the chest three times by an M16. He survives, albeit for just a few minutes, and even has enough strength to run a short distance. How realistic were Elias’ final moments? The Smithsonian Channel decided they’d find out.

To test out whether a human could survive three short-range shots to the chest from a 5.56x45mm M16, the Smithsonian team recreated the scene with help from a trauma surgeon and a weapons expert. The team filled a torso-sized block of ballistic gelatin with simulated organs and fired three rapid shots into the block. The results of the test might surprise you, as the simulated test subject would not have immediately died from its injuries.

The shots damaged the simulated lungs and kidneys, resulting in sever internal bleeding. However, after an examination by the trauma surgeon, the wounds were found to be not immediately life-threatening. Obviously, shot placement had a lot to do the the survivability, but these results might be surprising to some.

Image from Smithsonian Channel on YouTube

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  • Dave

    Pretty sure that was an M14, not an M16.

    • G-Man

      Did we watch the same video?

    • Andrew

      Yeah, pretty sure that you are wrong. That is an old M16, not even close to an M14. No wood furniture & not 7.62 X 51.

    • Paul


      • Jasper

        Definitely an M16, firing the 5.56 M193 round most likely. At least judging by the first round trapped in the ballistic gel.
        Here is what an M14 looks like, not even remotely similar.

  • Tom S

    It’s possible the temper of the steel cases in that lot may be too soft causing the cases to stick in the chamber because they aren’t contracting like they should.