Shock is usually measured by an accelerometer. This describes a shock pulse as a plot of acceleration versus time. Acceleration can be reported in units of metre per second squared. Often, for convenience, the magnitude of a shock is stated as a multiple of the standard acceleration due to free fall in the Earth's gravity, a quantity with the symbol g having the value 9.80665 m/s2. Thus a shock of "20 g" is equivalent to about 196 m/s2. A shock can be characterized by the peak acceleration, the duration, and the shape of the shock pulse (half sine, triangular, trapezoidal, etc.). The Shock response spectrum is a method for further evaluating a mechanical shock. It is sometimes used as a defense standard for military equipment.
Shock is a vector quantity, with both magnitude and direction.
Effects of shock 
- A brittle or fragile item can fracture. For example, two crystal wine glasses may shatter when impacted against each other. A shear pin in an engine is designed to fracture with a specific magnitude of shock. Note that a soft ductile material may sometimes exhibit brittle failure during shock due to time-temperature superposition.
- A ductile item can be bent by a shock. For example, a copper pitcher may bend when dropped on the floor.
- Some items may appear to be not damaged by a single shock but will experience fatigue failure with numerous repeated low-level shocks.
- A shock may result in only minor damage which may not be critical for use. However, cumulative minor damage from several shocks will eventually result in the item being unusable.
- A shock may not produce immediate apparent damage but might cause the service life of the product to be shortened: the reliability is reduced.
- A shock may cause an item to become out of adjustment. For example, when a precision scientific instrument is subjected to a moderate shock, good metrology practice may be to have it recalibrated before further use.
- Some materials such as primary high explosives may detonate with mechanical shock or impact.
- When glass bottles of liquid are dropped or subjected to shock, the water hammer effect may cause hydrodynamic glass breakage.
When laboratory testing, field experience, or engineering judgement indicates that an item could be damaged by mechanical shock, several courses of action might be considered:
- Reduce and control the input shock at the source.
- Modify the item to improve its toughness or support it to better handle shocks.
- Use shock absorbers or cushions to control the shock transmitted to the item. Cushioning  reduces the peak acceleration by extending the duration of the shock.
- Plan for failures: accept certain losses. Have redundant systems available, etc.
See also 
- Fracture mechanics
- Fracture toughness
- Impact (mechanics)
- Jerk (physics)
- Modal testing
- Response spectrum
- Shock mount
- Shock data logger
- Thermal shock
- Water hammer
- Saitoh, S (1999). "Water hammer breakage of a glass container". International glass journal (Faenza Editrice,). ISSN 1123-5063.
- Burgess, G (March 2000). "Extensnion and Evaluation of fatigue Model for Product Shock Fragility Used in Package Design". J. Testing and Evaluation 28 (2).
- Package Cushioning Design. MIL-HDBK 304C. DoD. 1997
Further reading 
- DeSilva, C. W., "Vibration and Shock Handbook", CRC, 2005, ISBN 0-8493-1580-8
- Harris, C. M., and Peirsol, A. G. "Shock and Vibration Handbook", 2001, McGraw Hill, ISBN 0-07-137081-1
- ISO 18431:2007 - Mechanical vibration and shock
- ASTM D6537, Standard Practice for Instrumented Package Shock Testing for Determination of Package Performance.
- MIL-STD-810F, Environmental Test Methods and Engineering Guidelines, 2000
- Brogliato, B., "Nonsmooth Mechanics. Models, Dynamics and Control", Springer London, 2nd Edition, 1999.