The MythBusters The MythBusters

MythBusters Episode 79: Western Myths

Premier Date: May 30, 2007

A cowboy can shoot a hat off a person’s head, sending the hat flying through the air without harming the wearer.


Using an arsenal of period weapons, cowboy hats, and a dummy head, Adam and Jamie were unable get the hat to fall off the dummy’s head, much less fly. The bullets simply could not transfer enough force into the hat to make it fly off. While pistols and rifles were ineffective, the MythBusters found that shotgun shells could make a hat fly into the air since the birdshot provided greater surface area to transfer the force of the shell. However, the birdshot also peppered the dummy in a fashion that would be fatal to a human being.

A thief attempted to pick the lock of car and accidentally tripped the side airbag, launching the lockpick with enough force to skewer his skull.


The Build Team constructed a robotic arm to simulate a person attempting to pick the lock of a car. They then placed a ballistics gel head over the arm to simulate a human head. However, they were unable to trigger the side airbag with the lockpick (the mechanic present explained that the airbag was not inside the door but in the car and attached to the inside of the door). The Build team then built a robotic leg, under the assumption that if the thief was unable to break into the car, he would kick the car in frustration and trigger the side airbag. Neither a human nor superhuman strength kick could trigger the airbag. Plus, the airbag is placed in a way that it would never be pointing towards the lockpick, meaning that it could never be launched. In order to replicate the results, the Build Team encased the lockpick in a sabot and placed it inside an air cannon. The lockpick, fired from the cannon, was able to skewer the skull. However, there was no clear evidence to suggest that the myth was in any way true.

A horse can be used to pull the bars out of a prison window and help free the occupant inside.


After some research, Adam and Jamie built a replica of a period prison cell, complete with a barred window. However, when they tied a horse to the bars and attempted the pull them out, the bars did not budge. Two horses could not pull out the bars and neither could a motorized cart that was twice as strong as both horses combined. As a last ditch attempt, the MythBusters tried pulling the bars out using a thirty thousand pound crane. However, the the steel beams bracing the wall failed before the prison bars did. Since not even a modern vehicle could pull the bars out of the window, it is unlikely that any number of horses could.

A prisoner can be freed from an Old West jail cell with a single stick of dynamite.


The MythBusters placed a single stick of dynamite on the cell window and detonated it, with Buster inside to test whether the occupant would survive. While the dynamite did not cause any significant damage to the wall, it did loosen the bars enough for Adam to pull them out and escape. However, the blast set off all of the shock pads on Buster, indicating that even though a single stick of dynamite exploding would allow him to escape, the shock of the blast would kill him first, busting the myth. Jamie remarked that an axe could achieve the same amount of damage the dynamite caused, with signficantly less noise.

The silver bullets used by the Lone Ranger are more effective than standard lead bullets.


In this test a silver bullets and a lead bullet were fired into layers of ballistic gel. The lead bullet penetrated farther than the silver bullet due to its weight, and thus is more effective in bringing down an opponent. Also, silver shrinks when cooled, forcing precision accuracy when forging bullets out of it, and was used as a form of currency back in the Wild West, which would make using silver bullets impractical and a waste of good money.