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Old 29th October 2017, 02:04 PM   #41
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Hello Thread. Nice to see you again. It's been a long time, over nine years to be exact - the same amount of time I've spent trying to figure out the Bullet Catch.

A couple of weeks ago I watched an episode of P&T Fool Us. At the end of the show they performed a really cool trick, this one. I was amazed and astounded. They seemed to be doing the impossible. I wanted to know how the trick was done but I didn't want to look it up online. I wanted to see if I could figure it out myself. The prospects on my part for finding the solution weren't great. I thought that to be successful at all would take a lot of time and many repeated viewings of the video, over and over and over again. To my surprise and delight, after watching it only twice more, in less than ten minutes I had it nailed down. What an utterly simple, and therefore beautiful, trick. And what simple artistry from Penn. It gives little away to point out the wonderful, almost imperceivable, continual misdirection of Penn's left foot. A shift of an inch here, a kick-out there, nice!

The self-pride I felt after figuring out the "Can You Lift This Box" trick emboldened me to take another stab at the Bullet Catch. I was one of those people who was able to, early on, detect the sleight-of-hand with the initial bullet switch during the opening phases of the trick. Because of this, I declared victory and told others that I had figured it all out. In hindsight, nothing could be further from the truth. The sleight-of-hand bullet switch is an important part of the trick, yes, but it is in no way the entirety of the trick. For instance, how do those bullets end up on opposite sides of the stage? And how do Penn and Teller get those bullets in their mouths? Also, how are they able to seemingly break glass panes without killing each other? Those things I was never able to get.

Here's my latest attempt to answer these questions. My confidence level for the correctness of these answers is not as high as the initial sleight-of-hand, but I feel I'm getting closer and would welcome your feedback.

First, how do the bullets end up on opposite sides of the stage? I think it has everything to do with the stands supporting the panes of glass. On the videos I've seen, the initial location of the stands is always so that one of the respective stands' three legs is extended underneath and beyond either the stage backdrop or a movable panel. Is it possible that when P&T grab the stands they drop the bullets through a hole in the stands at the point where they grab them? Presumably then, the bullets drop through the center of the stands and trickle down the continuing tube which extends though the hollow leg and beyond the backdrop or panel. At that instant, the bullets are collected by confederates and moved to opposite sides of the stage.

Next, with the exception of a heretofore undetected sleight-of-hand move to the mouth, the only opportunity I see for a transfer of a bullet to a mouth is when the mouth is momentarily covered by the protective bullet-proof vest; not by the eye goggles and not by the helmet. If this is the case, then after the bullets are collected from the glass pane stands, they are rushed to opposite sides of the stage and attached to the insides of the vests in such a way as to facilitate an easy transfer to the mouth. It is during this movement from one side of the stage to the other that "rifling" of the bullet may occur (i.e., adding barrel marks and gunpowder odors to the slug).

Lastly, the breakage of the panes of glass. For me, this is still problematic. If I were a magician, I would never, ever put myself in harms way. That includes never positioning myself in the path of an object, any object, including wax, fired from a gun. Perhaps I'm nave. Perhaps I know diddly squat about the true nature of wax fired from a gun. I will admit, I do not know about such things. Penn has often said their style of magic is never more dangerous than sitting at home and playing a game of cards in your living room. But, if when they fire those guns some sort of matter passes through the barrels and shatters glass, I daresay that is more dangerous than playing cards. Looking at the videos frame by frame, it really looks like something is being shot at high velocity through the panes of glass. It really does! Please help me out here. Please tell me that nothing is leaving the barrels of the guns when fired. Or at the very least, convince me that if wax is being fired, it is 100% safe.
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Old 31st October 2017, 02:44 AM   #42
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Originally Posted by Dumb All Over View Post
Lastly, the breakage of the panes of glass. For me, this is still problematic. If I were a magician, I would never, ever put myself in harms way. That includes never positioning myself in the path of an object, any object, including wax, fired from a gun. Perhaps I'm nave. Perhaps I know diddly squat about the true nature of wax fired from a gun. I will admit, I do not know about such things. Penn has often said their style of magic is never more dangerous than sitting at home and playing a game of cards in your living room. But, if when they fire those guns some sort of matter passes through the barrels and shatters glass, I daresay that is more dangerous than playing cards. Looking at the videos frame by frame, it really looks like something is being shot at high velocity through the panes of glass. It really does! Please help me out here. Please tell me that nothing is leaving the barrels of the guns when fired. Or at the very least, convince me that if wax is being fired, it is 100% safe.
The glass isn't directly between then, so they aren't firing directly at each other. The laser pointers are a misdirection to make you think that they are aiming at each other, but in reality they are aiming at the glass and past one another meaning the wax pellet hits the glass and anything that remains intact passes behind them.
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Old 31st October 2017, 05:43 AM   #43
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I haven't seen the trick, and I can't access videos where I am right now, so this probably isn't relevant.
I remember reading an old encyclopedia of stage magic decades ago. I vaguely recall a similar illusion in which the glass was shattered by a high-speed striking mechanism built into the frame holding the glass. Obviously, that's less practical in our modern day of video recording and slow motion viewing.
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Old 31st October 2017, 07:22 AM   #44
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Originally Posted by Armitage72 View Post
I haven't seen the trick, and I can't access videos where I am right now, so this probably isn't relevant.
I remember reading an old encyclopedia of stage magic decades ago. I vaguely recall a similar illusion in which the glass was shattered by a high-speed striking mechanism built into the frame holding the glass. Obviously, that's less practical in our modern day of video recording and slow motion viewing.
When I was a kid, I used to have a copy of that encyclopedia. I might still have it stuffed in a box somewhere. I remember the mechanism you're talking about. If memory serves, it was a spring-loaded arm that swung up, broke the glass, and either swung back down by retracing its steps or continuing around to complete a full circle.

Until a few days ago I had not ruled out such a mechanism, although I thought it unlikely. After examining the video more closely, the velocity and trajectory of the jet of matter past the glass convinced me there was no such mechanism.
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Old 31st October 2017, 07:50 AM   #45
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Originally Posted by PhantomWolf View Post
The glass isn't directly between then, so they aren't firing directly at each other. The laser pointers are a misdirection to make you think that they are aiming at each other, but in reality they are aiming at the glass and past one another meaning the wax pellet hits the glass and anything that remains intact passes behind them.
I really appreciate your post, PhantomWolf. What you describe makes the most sense. Your description comes with disappointment, though. It seems there is some danger involved that demands extra-special care, mitigation, and extreme trust on the part of the magicians. Discharging a firearm while pointed in the general direction of another human being, even though the gun is only firing wax and even though it is pointed somewhat away from the targeted person, opens up too many things to go wrong. It feels to me more dangerous than playing cards in your living room.

So - the glass. What kind of glass is it? Is it like "candy glass" or something akin? Or is it just a very thin type of regular glass? It can't be a pane of everyday, common, pedestrian glass.
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Old 31st October 2017, 02:50 PM   #46
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I believe I've found the correct explanation, I think the bullets really were fired from a gun, the markings made by this participant were too irregular to have been forged. If I'm understanding this correctly though, I'm not allowed to post a link. Makes no sense to me.

The glass can be regular single pane glass, it's plenty fragile.
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Old 31st October 2017, 02:53 PM   #47
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Originally Posted by Marcus View Post
I believe I've found the correct explanation, I think the bullets really were fired from a gun, the markings made by this participant were too irregular to have been forged. If I'm understanding this correctly though, I'm not allowed to post a link. Makes no sense to me.

The glass can be regular single pane glass, it's plenty fragile.
Nope. No way.
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Old 31st October 2017, 03:25 PM   #48
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Part of Penn and Teller stock and trade is convincing people they have some special method. That is part of their schtick, not a real thing and sorry (well not really) Scrut but you are either fooled by the marketed mystique or you are lying.

That is not to say they aren't some of the most talented, if not the best sleight of hand magicians ever known.

Wiki has at least one method noted about the trick that could be done and doesn't require any hand-off. People can look it up if they choose to but given board tradition I won't post a link. Bottom line, there are a number of ways to do the trick. Not knowing specifically which method Penn and Teller use is not the same as imagining they have a unique method for the trick that no one else knows about.
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Old 4th November 2017, 02:26 AM   #49
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There is nothing currently in place to stop any member revealing how a trick is/was done. That went when we moved after being ********** by Randi.

http://www.internationalskeptics.com...80&postcount=2

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Old 4th November 2017, 07:45 AM   #50
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Originally Posted by bluesjnr View Post
There is nothing currently in place to stop any member revealing how a trick is/was done. That went when we moved after being ********** by Randi.

http://www.internationalskeptics.com...80&postcount=2
I don't think any of us knows anyway. I did look around and found lots of different methods that could have been utilized, but no one who knows the actual combination of methods they used.
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Old 4th November 2017, 07:49 PM   #51
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Originally Posted by Marcus View Post
I don't think any of us knows anyway.
Marcus, please think again. It has taken years of thought and some helpful hints from others here, but I am fairly confident I now know how they do it. I think there are a good handful of others here who also know how they do it.
Quote:
I did look around and found lots of different methods that could have been utilized,
I suppose this can be said for almost any magic trick. For virtually every magic trick, there must be a number of ways to do the trick. There must be a number of ways to perform the Magic Bullet trick. However, I'm not interested in the number of ways it can be done. I am interested in the way Penn & Teller actually do it.
Quote:
but no one who knows the actual combination of methods they used.
I believe I do know the actual combination. Here is my summation of the key parts of the trick:
  1. Wax bullets are palmed and switched with bullets containing just the audience members' initials on the slugs.
  2. Audience members mark up casings of switched wax bullets.
  3. Original bullets with initials are inserted into hollow cores of glass pane stands.
  4. Those bullets are moved to opposite sides of the stage and attached to vests.
  5. Bullets are moved to mouth during donning of vests.
  6. Laser targeting beams are offset from gun barrel paths.
  7. Wax bullets fired at non-lethal velocity break panes of glass.
I'm pretty sure this is how P&T do it. I did not bother listing minor points; just the major, key ones.
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Old 5th November 2017, 10:04 AM   #52
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Your method is plausible, but is not the only the only possible sequence. You did say "pretty sure" and "fairly confident" though, these qualifiers make your statements acceptable in my mind, because I don't believe you know for sure the method.
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Old 13th November 2017, 11:17 PM   #53
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I think the cameras fire the wax bullets.

I didn't think this until near the end (8:07) when the view pans back and you can see both cameras pointing at each magician, and the cameras seem unusually close to the guys. Like very close.

The cameras are on big solid stands and the "guns" could have been carefully aimed either by the camera operator or remotely. They were fired when the guns fired. The laser sites may have doubled as a remote control to trigger the camera guns.

I only saw the video once, but I remember seeing a hole form in the lower corner of one of the glass panes. If the camera fired it then the angle would be much safer than had each magician fired at it. You also don't run the risk of Penn or Teller missing the glass.

That was my final thought when the video ended anyways...hmm look at those cameras - so close???

ETA: How did they fire at the exact same time? Perhaps all the guns are activated remotely, or maybe Penns trigger triggers them all.

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Old 14th November 2017, 10:30 AM   #54
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Originally Posted by mgidm86 View Post
I think the cameras fire the wax bullets.
I've seen their show in-person twice, live at the Rio. During those live shows, cameras were not used. They are not normally part of the act. For that reason alone, I do not believe cameras fire the wax bullets. The wax bullets are fired by the guns in their hands.
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Old 14th November 2017, 05:48 PM   #55
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Some people think the glass is broken by squibs rather than wax bullets. However, there seems to be some question as to whether squibs could be configured to produce a round hole rather than just shatter the glass.

In this scenario, there are two ways to produce the spent shells:

1) Pass the bullets backstage where they are fired into a water tank

2) Insert the shells into the glass stands, where a bullet press type device adds the markings and gunpowder smell

The argument goes that any real firing would be problematic insurance wise, and even wax bullets would produce events detectable by the cameras and audience.
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Old 14th November 2017, 07:28 PM   #56
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Originally Posted by Marcus View Post
Some people think the glass is broken by squibs rather than wax bullets. However, there seems to be some question as to whether squibs could be configured to produce a round hole rather than just shatter the glass.
Not only that, squibs are not invisible. If squibs were used, you would be able to see them on the glass. Yet, when you look at the glass at anytime during the videos, there are no squibs. So, squibs are highly unlikely.

Quote:
The argument goes that any real firing would be problematic insurance wise,
Problematic with wax bullets? How?

If wax bullets are no more dangerous than, say, firing paintballs, and if the guns with wax bullets aren't pointed at audience members, stagehands or magicians, then how problematic is insurance? Not very, in my estimation.

Quote:
and even wax bullets would produce events detectable by the cameras and audience.
Such as?

ETA-
Quote:
1) Pass the bullets backstage where they are fired into a water tank
Firing live ammunition several times a week in a crowded Las Vegas Hotel/Casino; now let's talk about problematic insurance.
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Old 14th November 2017, 08:03 PM   #57
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Something else - I've been thinking some more about the original bullets, the ones that are marked-up on the slug with the initials of audience members. The audience members are allowed to closely examine the bullets, and invariably they identify them as "real bullets". Well, I think the slug is real and I think the casing is real but I would bet the casings are filled with something other than gun powder. Something much less explosive and much less dangerous, like sand or ground-up eye of newt. If they are not filled with gun powder, then, again, there would be little reason to fire them into a water tank backstage.
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Old 14th November 2017, 08:15 PM   #58
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Wax bullets can be placed on a gunpowder load sufficient to disintegrate them upon firing. To break glass though, they must remain relatively intact, which means they may follow an unpredictable path after passing through the glass, impacting curtains or other objects.

There are various types of bullet traps. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bullet_trap

I rather like the idea of a device in the bullet stands which performs the required functions, impressing the markings and the smell, it would be more elegant. And of course an assistant backstage could use such a device rather than firing it from a gun.

A squib wouldn't have to be placed on the glass where it is visible, it could be in the frame. Is there a way to produce a hole in the glass with this method rather than just shattering it? I don't know, but I'm not prepared to rule it out.

I'm also not prepared to rule out the possibility that the trick was performed the way your theory suggests, I just don't think we can be sure it was performed that way.
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Old 14th November 2017, 10:49 PM   #59
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Originally Posted by Marcus View Post
Wax bullets can be placed on a gunpowder load sufficient to disintegrate them upon firing. To break glass though, they must remain relatively intact, which means they may follow an unpredictable path after passing through the glass, impacting curtains or other objects.
You'll get no argument from me. A small glob of disintegrated wax, no matter where it lands, will remain quite undetectable to the audience, though. Remember, the audience is not invited to examine the stage area at the end of the trick. And, if microscopic bits of wax are deposited on pieces of intact glass remaining on the stand, their presence would be quite overwhelmed by the dramatic, jagged hole in the glass, the very area and thing the magicians ask them to quickly examine. Penn never says, "Do you see any small droplets of wax on the glass?" No, he says, "Would you prove to yourself that bullet hole goes all the way through that piece of glass?"

Quote:
There are various types of bullet traps. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bullet_trap
Preposterous. They would be fools if at anytime their trick involves firing real bullets from a gun.

Additionally, if memory serves, during live, unrecorded performances, once they don their protective gear, all remaining curtains and backdrops are lifted into the fly space above the stage. They perform the end of the trick on a virtually empty stage devoid of bullet traps. The back wall of the stage is all you see. It's like a reverse "Stop Making Sense" movie. That movie by the Talking Heads begins with David Byrne on a completely empty stage; only the back wall is visible. As the movie progresses, set pieces, props and special effects are added slowly, one at a time. With Penn and Teller, the show begins with everything in place and ends with an empty stage. Beautiful.

I will grant you that droplets of wax probably end up on the stage floor. Still, they are undetectable to the audience. Even if they are detected, they would be quite indistinguishable from a sweat ball that finally fell from the nose of Dr. Joyce Brothers.

Quote:
I rather like the idea of a device in the bullet stands which performs the required functions, impressing the markings and the smell, it would be more elegant.
Yeah, that would be pretty elegant. I just don't know how that would work. Seems to me it would take a bit more pressure than simple gravity working against the insides of a glass stand to produce rifling marks.

Quote:
And of course an assistant backstage could use such a device rather than firing it from a gun.
Bingo. By process of elimination, this makes the most sense.

Quote:
A squib wouldn't have to be placed on the glass where it is visible, it could be in the frame. Is there a way to produce a hole in the glass with this method rather than just shattering it? I don't know, but I'm not prepared to rule it out.
How on earth could a squib placed on the frame produce a hole in the middle of the glass? To answer your question, no, there is no way to do that with the method you describe.

Quote:
I'm also not prepared to rule out the possibility that the trick was performed the way your theory suggests, I just don't think we can be sure it was performed that way.
"You will not apply my precept," he said, shaking his head. "How often have I said to you that when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth? We know that he did not come through the door, the window, or the chimney. We also know that he could not have been concealed in the room, as there is no concealment possible. When, then, did he come?"
*****The Sign of the Four, ch. 6 (1890)
*****Sherlock Holmes in The Sign of the Four (Doubleday p. 111)
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