Other bullet types

Exploding bullets are available in most small arms calibres. These have a very large cavity in the nose into which is placed a small amount of explosive material. A primer cup, with a small ball bearing to act as an anvil, inserted backwards, is used as a detonator. The 1982 assassination attempt on the American President Ronald Reagan was made using 0.22" calibre explosive bullets.

Although they are more commonly encountered in military ammunition, tracer bullets are also available commercially. The bullets in these rounds have a very brightly burning chemical compound in the base which permits observation of the bullet during its flight. Virtually all calibres are available including 12-bore shotgun.

A case to illustrate the dangers of tracer ammunition involved a husband venting his frustration with his wife by shooting his bedroom wardrobe (!) with a 12-bore shotgun. Unfortunately, the round he fired contained a tracer pellet which set light to the wardrobe and then the house. His only comment when

Bore Tracers
Figure 2.14 (a) Round-nosed bullet; (b) wadcutter bullet; (c) jacketed bullet; (d) semi-jacketed hollow-point bullet.

being questioned by the police in front of the wreckage of his home was 'but I only shot the door once ' !

Apart from the normal round-nosed configuration, properly called ' ogival', the list of bullet shapes is almost endless (Figure 2.14). Some of the more common shapes include:

• Wadcutter - flat-nosed bullet with a sharp shoulder. Generally used by target shooters and designed to produce a clear-cut punched-out hole in the paper target.

• Spitzer - a German term applied to an elongated ogival bullet with a sharp point.

• Soft point or semi-jacketed - a jacketed bullet with the jacket cut back at the nose to reveal the lead core.

• Hollow point - generally a semi-jacketed bullet the nose of which has a cavity. This is designed to expand on impact with soft targets, thus increasing the wounding effect of the bullet.

• Dum-dum - a 0.303" rifle bullet design developed in the Indian arsenal of Dum-dum in 1894. This initially consisted of a standard 0.303" rifle bullet which had the front of the metal jacket trimmed back to expose the lead core. It was designed to expand rapidly on impact causing a massive wound and was first used against the 'savage tribesmen ' at the battle of Omdurman in 1898. Whilst it was very effective, it did have one major drawback. As the modified bullet was a standard 0.303" bullet with the lead core exposed at the base, there was a tendency for the lead core to be blown out of the jacket, making it all but impossible to load the next round. This was rectified by the Mk III bullet which had a jacket completely covering the base of the bullet. A hole was bored in the nose of the bullet and a short metal tube was inserted into this to increase expansion. In 1899, the Hague Convention outlawed this type of bullet in military service. It should be noted here that the Hague Convention is not applicable to civilian applications and police forces are not restricted by any military conventions in the type of bullets they can use. The term Dum-dum is often misused to denote hollow-point bullets.

• Rifled slug - generally plain lead (but can also be steel and lead or plain steel) projectile for use in smooth- bored shotguns. To impart spin, and therefore stability, to the projectile, wing- like helical ribs are formed on the outside surface. These fins, however, have been found to impart little or no spin to the projectile. It is generally intended for use against large soft-skinned game, such as deer, but is also used by police and security forces against cars and taking the locks from doors.

• Saboted bullet - a sub-calibre (i.e. smaller than the bore of the weapon) bullet surrounded by a lightweight sheath, generally of plastic, which is discarded as soon as the missile leaves the barrel. By using a smaller, much lighter bullet in a larger barrel, exceedingly high velocities can be obtained. Whilst most calibres have been manufactured, only the larger rifle calibres have ever become popular, and these are generally referred to by the trade name 'Accelerator'. Solid steel saboted missiles are available in 12-bore shotgun calibre for penetrating cars, but this type of ammunition is generally restricted to police and security forces.

• Flechette - a thin nail-like missile, stabilized by fins. Originally designed as extremely high velocity, single projectile saboted loadings for rifles developed by the US military in the 1950s, they proved to be rather inaccurate and unreliable. Multiple missile loadings in 12-bore shotgun cartridges proved to be much more satisfactory, and this version is in general use with the US Army as the 12-bore Close Assault Weapon.

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