Blood on the Sand: Al Capone vs. Jesse James

May 4, 2010

Hey guys, it's Geoff Desmoulin here to give you the rundown on our next matchup involving two classic American outlaws. We'll also hit on the science behind our Gel Torsos.

Separated by 52 years and a generation of firepower technology, the Civil War-hardened Jesse James Gang is taking on the Tommy Gun-wielding "businessmen" from Chicago, Al Capone's Gang.

The Warriors

Jesse Woodson James, born on September 5, 1847, had already made a name for himself during the Civil War carrying out atrocities against Union Soldiers. After the war Jesse and his brother, also part of his gang, robbed banks, stage coaches, trains, and anything else, carrying a solid payoff. Their reign lasted roughly a decade and, ironically, as law enforcement against his gang grew, Jesse was killed by one of his own gang members hoping to cash in on his head.

Alphonse Gabriel "Al" Capone, born on January 17, 1899, led organized crime in Chicago during the Prohibition era of the 1920s and '30s. Therefore, his main breadwinner was the transportation and sales of liquor, although his business profile described him as a used furniture salesman.  He was finally indicted in 1931 for tax evasion (have you done your taxes this year?) and was sent to Alcatraz for his longest sentence (10 years).

During a break from filming Deadliest Warrior Season two my wife and I wanted to do a tour of Alcatraz and learn firsthand about criminals like Al Capone. Unfortunately it was sold out the entire time we were there. The pictures below and the shirt I'm wearing is the closest I ever got to... "Alcatraz." I know..."Thanks for sharing", but sharing is caring and I love you guys!

Geoff Desmoulin-Deadliest Warrior

Deadliest Warrior - Alcatraz


This Episode's Authenticity

First, we do a "drive-by shooting" test where we compare how Al Capone and Jesse James can hit targets while screaming by in their respective "automobiles": a period Hudson Super 6 and a domesticated hooved mammal called a horse.  Did I mention that the Hudson Super 6 was owned by Al Capone's brother? This means it's likely that Al Capone himself sat in this car at some point, but whether or not he sprayed lead from it is unknown.  Second, Johnny Fratto who is one of the experts for Al Capone's Gang is Louis Fratto's son. Louis Fratto (a.k.a. "Lew Farrell" or "Cock-eyed") was connected to organized crime in Chicago during Al Capone's reign and went on to become a crime boss.  Further, our Jesse James experts earn a living by the gun. One competes in quick draw and trick competitions while the other runs his own ranch. You may be surprised by just how good these guys really are.

Science behind Gel Torsos

Okay, so you've seen us blow up, cut, stab, amputate, decapitate, and fire weapons at the infamous Deadliest Warrior Gel Torso (@GelTorso on Twitter and produced by AND you heard us say "this mimics real human tissue."  So, what is the science behind our Gel Torsos? Essentially, ballistic gel was born from munitions testing that attempts to recreate injuries from military ordnance. Animal models (horses, cattle, goats, and sheep) have all been used. Pigs, as you know, are extensively used as they tolerate anesthesia well and are generally easier to handle. Human cadavers are also used but are difficult to obtain and tissue properties tend to change quickly after death but are great when human shape is important to the research such as during blast testing.  

Gelatin is relatively cheap and depending on what reference you use, mixing 10-20% of 250 bloom gelatin with boiling water and kept at refrigerated temperatures just prior to testing gives very similar properties to that of human muscle.  It can be backlit and filmed with high-speed cameras to record all the details of when a 123grain round hits at Mach 2.2. It's scientific and just plain awesome for a kick-ass television show like Deadliest Warrior.

Weekly plugs: @MaxGeiger, @DrDorian and @GeoffDesmoulin look forward to hearing from you on Twitter. While you're online, check out the game Max is working on, Dr. D's drink, or my latest interview from the Systema School here in Calgary.

Don't miss an all new episode of Deadliest Warrior tonight at 10P/9C when the ruthless Jesse James gang is pitted against Al Capone.