Question On Heart Shots


AH legend
Mar 26, 2017
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Richmond, Texas
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NRA, Houston Safari Club Foundation, NWTF
Idaho, Texas, Louisiana
For those who've made heart shots that resulted in a bang flop, if you have pictures, I'd appreciate seeing them here.

I have a suspicion about what part of the heart your bullet hit - the heart's built-in pacemaker, called the SA node. I know where the SA node is on a human heart, and I'm guessing it's in the same place for animals - on the right atrium. If the SA node is destroyed, a heart literally loses its capacity to beat, and it's immediate.

It's a really small target: on humans, it's maybe an inch long and perhaps 0.2 - 0.3" wide.

There's no way to aim for it, even on an animal as big as an ele or hippo or cape buffalo. I'm just curious how many of you guys have had bang-flops on any animal where the bullet went through the right atrium, and pictures to show.
The only heart shot I have had to a bang flop was a Pronghorn, and it sat down first then tipped over. I don't have any pics of the heart.

Every other heart shot I have had the animal went at least a few yards.

The only bang flops I have ever seen were spine / neck / head shots....
I have a theory about this….

The bang flops are the result of the heart being in the contraction motion of pumping blood, the hydrostatic shock of the bullet impact makes the blood pressure go through the roof and actually damages the nervous system.

So the bang flop phenomenon would be dependent on the bullet making contact at the right time and right place.
No pictures of the inside. My wife shot him with a 6.5CM at 55 yards. When I was a teenager and had to have the most power possible. I was shooting a 300winmag with 168SMK north of 3200fps (by the book, did not have the tools required to measure velocity back then). Any time I made a heart shot with that rig, it was like lightning. That was atleast 12 deer back then. Speed kills, bullet frag will shut them down. When cleaning, it was soup. Sorry we did not have cellphones back then.
I have a theory about this….

The bang flops are the result of the heart being in the contraction motion of pumping blood, the hydrostatic shock of the bullet impact makes the blood pressure go through the roof and actually damages the nervous system.

So the bang flop phenomenon would be dependent on the bullet making contact at the right time and right place.
I suspect this is correct. First read about it in one of Dr Robertson’s books.

Assuming one stopped the heart beating entirely, the animal would have several seconds of consciousness before the brain used up the oxygen already in the brain. Also (unless deer cardiac physiology is quite different from human physiology (physician) if one took out the SA node, that wouldn’t stop the heart entirely: other pacemakers in the heart would take over and the heart would enter a rhythm that is slower than usual but one which would generally be compatible with life if not optimal cardiac performance, although any reduction in cardiac performance due to rhythm would likely be overshadowed by the reduction in performance due to a bullet hole in the heart.
I’ve never seen or heard of a heart shot animal or human dying instantly. With a human the spine near the heart most likely got impacted also giving the appearance of a bang flop

This fastest death I’ve witnessed involving the heart is when the aorta is separated from the heart. But even that is not instantaneous
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As colleagues have written, when an SA node dysfunctions, another tissue takes over its function. Damage to the large vessels in the chest has the same effect on haemodynamics as cardiac arrest. Anyway, this in itself is not a reason for immediate death (only in a few seconds - the organism can function on oxygen debt, anaerobic metabolism).
Rather, it is the overall effect on the organism that is hit by the energy of say 3000J- it is thrown to the ground, severe pain, inability to breathe due to paralysis of the respiratory muscles (damage to the nervous tissue by hydrostatic shock).
Only a hit to the cerebellum and medulla oblongata - T-box shots from a sniper - will cause instant paralysis and death.

I shot this hippopotamus bull on land last year, with a 300Gr Barnes TSX (out of a .375 Holland & Holland Magnum). It was a broadside heart-lung shot. That Barnes TSX surprisingly caused him to take one turn and collapse.

While in college, I read a study by Texas A&M that stated: Even with the heart completely destroyed a whitetail deer still has enough oxygen in the bloodstream to allow the animal to run for 15 seconds.

Not a rifle kill and certainly not a "bang flop"; this cull buck was from Oklahoma in October of 2022 and the wound on its right side is the ENTRANCE wound from a rage 2 blade @ 12yds. This buck ran 215yds and upon gutting it I found that the lower 1/3rd of the heart had been cleanly sliced off by the broad head.

Ive experienced far more heart shots where the animal makes it 20-30 yards, and then still takes a moment or two to expire than I have had "bang flops"... Ive got an exceptional pic somewhere (Ill go look for it) of the cape buffalo I shot at 30 meters with a 300gr 375 A-Frame that blew a big hole through the heart.. the buff went about 30 meters from where I shot him, and still took the better part of another 15 minutes to die (long story, but couldnt put another shot in him because his battle buddy stood guard over him and wouldnt leave...)...

Most bang-flops Ive experienced have been from either spining an animal above where the heart is (which then requires another shot to finish them off), or from intentionally neck shooting them, which severs the spinal column in a way that puts them down quickly and effectively..

Ive only experienced a few heart shots that were immediate "bang-flops"...
My experience has been the same as others have had, both with bow and firearm. Both of my Cape buffalo were shot through the heart, and both went 20-30ish yards and dropped. I guess with dangerous game that's long enough to potentially be an issue, if the path of travel is at you, but when animals die that fast I'm generally pretty happy.
I've actually had mixed results. Every heart shot I had did one of 2 things- if would fall on the spot and kick for 2-3 minutes before dying or it would run 60-100 yds. I never had any of the 20-30 yds runs, they either dropped but hung on for a while or ran a long ways. I avoid heart shots altogether now. I actually prefer high shoulder or full head on now. Never had an animal twitch, much less take a single step with either of these.
Heart shot = works every time, like Colt 45 Malt Liquor ....Bille Dee Williams
I shot a duiker with a .375 and his heart was literally gone. He made it those magical 30 ish yards. I like heart shots but when someone says “bang, flop” I immediately wonder what bone structure they also hit.
To get a bang flop you are going to need to do some massive damage to the spinal cord or connected tissue.

I have shot a number of animals that you would consider a bang flop but none of them were heart shots unless the animal was quite close where the kinetic energy of the bullet caused damage to the nervous system.
I've only really seen the bang flop when hitting the brachial plexus in critters. That is the high shoulder shot. I have also found taking off the top of the heart where all the veins and arteries connect to the heart is mush quicker than center punching the heart, but I can't do that on purpose every time

brachial plexus is the scientific name for the network of veins, nerves, tendons and muscles that encompass the shoulder and scapula
I sent a pm to the op of a wildebeest heart that probably isn’t for public consumption. . . Here is a warthog that I shot through the heart. 235 tsx from a .375 wby. He changed directions and made it almost 15 yards but lacked the strength to get up the berm of the road and died at bottom of it. Very high strung these African animals. Also very tasty!

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