If you spend much time on social media, you may well have seen an image that claims to be a realistic representation of the hole an AR-15 creates in a human body. The hole in question is massive, probably at least the size of a tennis ball, if not larger, and it might well be sufficient to convince some people that maybe the AR-15 is a little too dangerous for civilian hands.

It’s also complete bunk.

Also on social media, a gentleman named M.A. Rothman compared the claimed image with one of his son’s target after he shot an AR-15. The holes are… very different.

The one on the right is my son after target practice with an AR-15.The one on the left is a lying moron who doesn’t…

Posted by M.A. Rothman on Saturday, June 9, 2018

Now, Michael here is a Facebook friend. We run in similar circles on social media, and I’ve seen pictures of his kids before. That is, indeed, his son.

Well, the comparison elicited the attention of internet fact-checking site Snopes. What it presented was such a display of mental gymnastics that Snopes should well win a gold medal at the next Olympics, if “advancing the narrative no matter the facts” were to become an event that is.

The “black hole” shown in the poster is vastly too large to represent an AR-15 entrance wound. Jay Wachtel, a retired police sergeant and special agent in the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, and a former criminal justice lecturer at California State University, summed it up in an e-mail: “The entrance wound for any firearm projectile is essentially the bullet diameter.”

Typically, AR-15 rifles are loaded with .223 Remington cartridges, which are housed in bullets with a diameter of 5.7 millimetres. So a round fired correctly from a functioning AR-15 should create an entrance wound (or target practice marking) just under a quarter-inch in diameter.

This can be seen in many AR-15 target practice videos and photographs available online, and is accurately reflected in the photograph posted by Rothman on Facebook.

The internal cavity

A bullet causes its most significant damage inside a person’s body, destroying the blood vessels, tissue and bone in its immediate path (“permanent cavitation“), but also creating a kind of shockwave outwards into the tissue that surrounds this path. This is known as “temporary cavitation,” and when a bullet travels at higher velocity, the damage caused by this type of cavitation becomes exponentially greater, because the surrounding tissue struggles to absorb the kinetic energy given off by a bullet traveling at a higher velocity.

Heather Sher, a Fort Lauderdale-based radiologist who examined CT scans from some of the victims of the February 2018 Parkland school shooting, wrote about the effects of AR-15 rounds for the Atlantic:

Routine handgun injuries leave entry and exit wounds and linear tracks through the victim’s body that are roughly the size of the bullet. If the bullet does not directly hit something crucial like the heart or the aorta, and the victim does not bleed to death before being transported to our care at the trauma center, chances are that we can save him.

The bullets fired by an AR-15 are different: They travel at a higher velocity and are far more lethal than routine bullets fired from a handgun. The damage they cause is a function of the energy they impart as they pass through the body. A typical AR-15 bullet leaves the barrel traveling almost three times faster than—and imparting more than three times the energy of—a typical 9mm bullet from a handgun.

…The high-velocity bullet causes a swath of tissue damage that extends several inches from its path. It does not have to actually hit an artery to damage it and cause catastrophic bleeding.

It goes on like that, all so they couldn’t confirm that Mr. Rothman was, in fact, correct. The “hole” is nothing like claimed.

Further, however, Snopes presents no information that remotely indicates that the hole in the original image is remotely right. The cavitation caused by hydrostatic shock is larger than the entrance and exit wounds, sure, but it presents nothing that remotely confirms the original claim is accurate.

However, they still list it as a “mixture” of fact and falsehood.

In other words, Snopes doesn’t want to hurt the anti-gun narrative, so it won’t confirm that an anti-gunner’s sign was a blatant lie.

So much for actually checking facts, right? Not that this is new. Snopes has become well-known in some circles for its preference for advancing political narratives over the actual truth. While it may still be good to go with regarding internet rumors, urban legends, and the like, the truth is that it’s not a trustworthy source when it comes to anything remotely political.

As such, I’m inclined not to use Snopes for anything. Anyone stupid enough to publish this “defense” of the original poster deserves nothing less than ridicule and scorn.