The MythBusters The MythBusters

MythBusters Episode 125: Knock Your Socks Off

Premier Date: October 7, 2009

It is literally possible to knock someone out of their socks by hitting them.


The Build Team first set up a nitrogen-powered cannon to deliver a powerful (superhuman) uppercut to Buster. Buster’s socks stayed on after the hit, though one of them slid down somewhat. In the next set of tests, they swung a heavy pendulum (roughly 1,700 pounds) into Buster’s chest, who was first wearing shoes and socks, then socks only. The second swing left Buster with one sock almost off his foot, but further scrutiny revealed that it came loose when that foot dragged along the ground after impact.

The team finally set up an explosion using 500 pounds of explosives. Mannequin legs wearing socks socks were placed at distances between 15 and 55 feet from the explosion. Rupture discs calibrated to burst at 100 pounds per square inch were set up at each distance as well, to evaluate the likelihood of a person’s survival. The blast stripped socks off at 15 and 25 feet, bursting those discs and the one at 35 feet; at the longer distances, both the discs and the legs were intact. Since a person who lost his socks in this explosion would also be killed, the team declared the myth busted.

* This myth was later revisited in Mythssion Control and partly confirmed.

A bullet fired horizontally from a gun and another bullet dropped from the same height will hit the ground at the same time.


Adam and Jamie first carried out two small-scale experiments, one using ball bearings (dropped vs. shot from a spring-loaded launcher), the other using paintballs (dropped vs. fired from a paintball gun). While the first experiment seemed to bear out the myth, the second one contradicted it; Adam attributed this result to imperfections in the paintballs’ surfaces that caused them to veer slightly off course.

For full-scale testing, they started at a firing range and used a .45 caliber pistol to measure the distance a bullet would travel before hitting the ground. Since the ground there was not level, they set up a second test at Fort Mason. Once they had properly fine-tuned their mechanism to fire and drop the bullets at the same time, they found that the two bullets landed within 39.6 milliseconds of each other. Commenting that this difference was less than the duration of one film frame (shot at 24 frames per second), and thus short enough for the human eye not to notice, they declared the myth confirmed.