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Episode 95: James Bond Special (Electro-magnetic Watch, Speedboat Survival, Propane Tank Peril)

The MythBusters tested out three different James Bond movie myths:

  • Electro-magnetic watch (Live and Let Die): you can deflect a bullet using an electro-magnetic watch busted
  • Propane tank peril (Casino Royale): you can explode a propane tank with a 9mm handgun busted
  • Speedboat Survival (Live and Let Die): you can jump a car with a speedboat and continue driving busted

See also: Crimes and Myth-Demeanors I

Electro-magnetic Watch

Myth: An electro-magnetic watch can deflect bullets

In Live and Let Die, Q gives Bond an electromagnetic watch. In a deleted scene, Bond uses it to deflect a bullet. In other scenes, the watch pulls down a zipper on a woman’s dress and pulls away his boss’ teaspoon from across the room.

Exact replica of the watch from Live and Let Die

Jamie found an electromagnet small enough to fit in an exact replica of the watch from Live and Let Die. He ramped up the voltage 5x to give it a resulting field of 575 gauss. For comparison:

  • Earth: 1/2 gauss
  • fridge magnet: 10 gauss
  • junkyard magnetic crane: 10000 gauss

They rigged up a remote firing control on a pistol so that they could have precise control over each firing. Two firings showed that the bullet closely followed the same trajectory each time.

  • watch (575 gauss): With the watch in place, there was no change in the bullet’s trajectory: it went through the same hole as the bullets before.
  • big electromagnet (3200 gauss): went through same hole
  • 10 neodymium iron boron magnets (each magnet can lift 350lbs): the bullet actually dipped slightly and was sent flipping into the target. The hold was slightly lower on the target
  • 10 neodymium + 3 even bigger magnets (60000+ gauss): Adam added three even bigger magnets (3x as thick) to the end of the row of magnets. The bullet was pulled down far enough that it hit the top of one of the last magnets.


Propane Tank Peril

Myth: a 9mm handgun can explode a propane tank

In Casino Royale, Bond is trapped by bad guys with no way out. He shoots a propane tank 20 feet away with his 9mm Walther P99: it explodes, he escapes.

They broke this myth into two parts: * What size of ammo is needed to pierce an empty tank? * What does it take to explode a filled tank?

Piercing an empty tank

  • Walther P99 (9mm): Kari hit the tank dead on, but the bullet bounced off steel case, leaving only a dent
  • Shotgun: the shotgun pierced the front of the tank but was unable to exit the other side
  • .30-06: the bullet easily pierced both sides

The Bond myth was already busted as there is no way that Bond could have made the tank explode with a 9mm.

Exploding a tank

They went with the .30-06 as it was able to pierce both sides of the propane tank. They staked the tank to the ground with Buster standing 20 feet away.

  • .30-06 bullet: Kari hit the tank and gas came gushing out, but there was no explosion.
  • Tracer rounds: Tracer rounds were more likely to ignite the tank, though their expert figured that they may need two rounds: the first to pierce the tank and the second to ignite. Despite hitting the tank with multiple rounds, it still did not explode.

Kari: “That’s it, I am so over bullets. We even tried a tracer round, which is basically a bullet on fire, and we couldn’t get any explosion out of a propane tank.”

  • Explosives: They switched to explosives to guarantee a James Bond ending. With Buster positioned 20 feet away, they exploded the propane tank into a huge ball of flame. The flames briefly engulfed Buster, but he actually stayed together.
  • Gattling mini-gun (50 rounds/second) with incendiary rounds: They still wanted to show a tank explosion by bullet, so they went out the Jamie’s secret location to get access to incendiary rounds, which are illegal in California. Grant had little trouble blowing up the propane tank under the hail of bullets from the mini-gun.


Speed Boat Survival

Myth: You can jump a car-on-levee in a speedboat and drive away

See also: Jumping a Gorge/Movie Myths

In Live and Let Die, Bond was chased by henchmen through the Louisiana Bayou. He evades his pursuers by jumping his speedboat up the side of a levee and over a car. The movie stuntmen used 17 boats and did around 100 practice runs to pull off the stunt in the movie.

Adam built a mini-Bayou using 2x4s, plywood, and a tarp. They used a small steel girder piece to replicate the side of the levee. Although Bond used the levee as a ramp, Adam noted that they don’t have a levee… and the stunt was probably done with a ramp anyways. Adam had a lot of problems controlling the small scale speedboat model, which would be a concern when they did the actual test.

Full-size test setup

Jamie and Adam went out to Lake Yosemite with with a replica boat, a chase boat, and painter’s scaffolding to give this Bond myth a shot. They only had one shot at the jump, so aim was critical.


  • Boat: near-replica of the 1973 Glasstron GT 150 that James Bond used in Live and Let Die. This time, Adam did the remote control wiring on the speedboat (steering wheel and throttle servos).
  • Ramp: 18 degree ramp built out of painter’s scaffolding
  • Cop car on barge

Adam steered the speedboat from a chase boat. As they approached the ramp their chase boat fell off-center and Adam wasn’t able to gauge the path to the ramp properly. The boat hit the ramp slightly to the side, which caused it to launch into the air, back flip and land upside down in the water.

They were surprised to see that the boat was still in good condition with the hull intact. With a second (or maybe more) chance at the test, they hypothesized that they could actually pull of the requirements of the myth.