Shooting yourself out of a cannon can be downright deadly!
Last year, one of the top “Human Cannonball” acts in England was killed instantly when the stunt didn’t execute as planned.
Dave “The Bullet” Smith has been perfecting his trick for more than a decade. And he too has has his share of close calls.
One time, a crosswind almost made him miss the net – he just caught a piece of it to break his fall. Another time, he punched a hole through the net, was knocked unconscious, and suffered broken ribs. He got out of hospital that night and went on with the show the next day. “I was okay, it just hurt like hell,” he said.
Like most human cannonball acts, no gunpowder is involved.
So how exactly does he do it?
“Modern cannons employ the power of compressed air or springy bungee cords. Performers keep the exact mechanics a secret to add to their mystique and to prevent others from copying their machines…This cylinder acts as a sled of sorts. When it fires, the cannon pushes the sled forward at a force of 3,000 to 6,000 pounds per square inch (psi) of pressure. The sled stops once it reaches the muzzle of the cannon, but the person inside just keeps right on going, often sending its warm-blooded bomb to a horizontal distance of nearly 200 feet (61 meters), or 200 feet high, at speeds of up to 60 to 70 miles per hour (96.5 to 112.6 kilometers per hour).”
The first human cannonball act took place in England in the 1870s.
Since then more than 30 stuntmen have lost their lives attempting the feat — mostly because they missed the landing net.