How Does Indiana Jones’ Whip Work? 

Indiana Jones' whip is an amazing tool, and best of all, it functions realistically in the movies.

By Chris Snellgrove | Published

When it comes to summer blockbusters, everything old is new again: even as veteran franchises like Transformers roar back into theaters, Harrison Ford is suiting up as Indiana Jones one last time in Dial of Destiny. This has led a new generation of Indy fans to ask about the character’s famous bullwhip, including how it works and whether anybody could pull off those cool whip tricks in real life. And while we don’t know how to point you to the “fortune and glory” that Indiana Jones seeks, we’ve got the full breakdown of how his whip really works.

As you might expect, Indiana Jones isn’t using just any whip. Beginning in Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indy used the 450 series of bullwhips, and multiple whips were used in the production of each movie. Some of the whips were as short as six feet, and some were as long as 16 feet, with the different sizes helping to make some of the killer action scenes and stunts into a reality.

Over the years, the bullwhips used by Indiana Jones have changed slightly, but David Morgan designed all of the original ones. One surprising fact about these whips is that the ones for the first film were made out of kip hide, and the whips for later films were made out of kangaroo hide. Additionally, the foundation of each whip’s handle is a steel spike measuring eight inches long, which gives weight to the whip when it’s in use.

The Mythbusters using a whip to disarm an attacker

However, fans’ biggest questions about the Indiana Jones whips haven’t focused on how they are made so much as on how they work. In real life, could somebody with this type of bullwhip actually perform some of the crazy stunts we see Indy perform? According to a 2015 episode of Mythbusters, the answer to that question is a resounding (and surprising) “yes.”

For example, one of the myths they explored is whether Indiana Jones could use the bullwhip to disarm opponents holding a gun or other weapon. The disarming ended up being the easy part: because being hit with a whip is like being cut with a knife, somebody struck in the hand would instantly drop whatever weapon they were holding.

Interestingly, the Mythbusters discovered that with a bit of practice, it would be possible for somebody to even wrap the whip around a gun and yank it away, which is something we have seen Indy do in a fight.

Harrison Ford still using the whip in Dial of Destiny

The more interesting myth they explored is whether Indiana Jones would actually be able to wrap his whip around an overhead branch and safely swing across a deadly chasm to the other side in Raiders of the Lost Ark. This myth ended up being true, but only after a bit of trial and error.

The Mythbusters discovered that while the prop branch used in the film was too smooth, a more realistic tree branch would have enough of a rough texture for the whip to gain purchase and for a man to swing across.

If you don’t know much about whips, then you may have one last question about Indiana Jones’ favorite weapon before you go see Dial of Destiny: why does it make that cracking sound? The answer is that the end of the whip is so fast in motion that it breaks the sound barrier, and that is what causes the loud “cracking noise.”

Just be careful if you play around with one…we’re not taking the blame if you end up giving yourself a scar with the whip and then start yelling at everyone about what objects belong in a museum.