A typical 7.62mm round fired vertically normally climbs about 2,400 metres in 17 seconds, and then take another 40 seconds or so to return to the ground. It falls at a speed of about 70 metres per second (falling base first, because it’s more stable that way round).
The bullet velocity required for skin penetration is between 45 and 60 metres per second, but a blow to the head doesn’t need to penetrate the skin in order to be fatal, and this is the key: the reason fatalities are disproportionate is that any injuries which do occur are likely to be cranial. So while it’s less likely that you’ll be hit than if somebody is aiming at you, if you are hit it’s more likely to be fatal – about fiveas likely as in normal firing.
“A lot of the people who keep a gun at home for safety are the same ones who refuse to wear a seat belt.” – George Carlin
Even if it’s launched vertically the bullet is likely to move sideways quite significantly – when it slows down towards its highest point it is particularly susceptible to sideways movement by the smallest gust of wind.
Experiments in Florida just after the First World War involved a machine gun set up on a ten-foot-square platform positioned over water so that the returning bullets could be seen to splash down. The gun was adjusted to centre the returning bullets onto the stage, but, of more than 500 bullets fired into the air, only four hit the stage at the end of their return journey. Unfortunately, the size of the stage is at present not known.
“You don’t need no gun control, you know what you need? We need some bullet control. Men, we need to control the bullets, that’s right. I think all bullets should cost five thousand dollars! Five thousand dollars per bullet! You know why? Because if a bullet cost five thousand dollars there would be no more innocent bystanders.” – Chris Rock