Anatomy of A Shooting

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Cheney hunting pheasant in South Dakota in 2002

Vice President Dick Cheney accidentally shot Texas lawyer Harry Whittington with a 28-gauge double-barreled shotgun. Unlike rifles, which fire single bullets over a wider area. Usually, the larger the game, the larger the pellets used. Because Cheney was hunting quail, he was using birdshot—not buckshot, which is bigger. Whittington was hit in the face, neck and chest at a reported distance of about 30 yds.

The Ammunition
The 28-gauge is the second-smallest commonly used shotgun, with a barrel just larger than half and inch in diameter. Cheney was using size-7 1/2 shot. Each shell contains about 260 pellets 0.095 inch in diameter, which will kill a quail but leave its body intact so it can be eaten.

Rifle barrels contain grooves that spin the bullet, making it travel straight and fast. Shotgun barrels generally are smooth, causing the pellets to disperse when the gun is fired.

Does It Happen Often?
Hunting accidents have been declining in recent years, with fewer than 900 nationwide in 2002.* More than half of all injuries involve shotguns. Deer hunters are the most likely to be hurt.