This term is most commonly used in reference to the injuries caused by gunshots. The human body is made of mostly water in a relatively closed system. When a high velocity projectile strikes a body, it can damage that body beyond the obvious hole it creates, blood loss, organ damage, the possibility for infection, and psychological trauma. The bullet's impact creates an intense shock to the body, sending waves of noncompressible water radiating from the impact point. The shock can burst blood vessels, damage or rupture organs, break bones, and disrupt nerves.

Firearm projectiles that are designed specifically to create hydrostatic shock are generally banned by international convention. The Hague Convention of 1899 banned the use of dum-dum ammunition, which was soft and hollow and mushroomed upon impact. The contemporary hollow-point round has since succeeded the dum-dum round and is in common use in Amercian civilian and police circles, thanks to its hydrostatic shock capabilities.