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Armour peircing bullets


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Guest grantaloch

Good evening all.

I have just finished reading TheTanks At Flers, which I have last aquirred, exellent book by the way. Anyway on page 220 I came accross this strange passage.I wonder if any one can help me out on this one.It says S.M.K.Armour peircing bullets. If fired backwards had more peircing properties than ones fired forward. If any one can make any sense of this, I would like their help. (Grantaloch.) Bob.

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Good evening all.

I have just finished reading TheTanks At Flers, which I have last aquirred, exellent book by the way. Anyway on page 220 I came accross this strange passage.I wonder if any one can help me out on this one.It says S.M.K.Armour peircing bullets. If fired backwards had more peircing properties than ones fired forward. If any one can make any sense of this, I would like their help. (Grantaloch.) Bob.

There was a long string on this topic recently, either on this forum or on "The Aerodrome", which you might be able to find on the search function. However, the answer to your specific question is that some soldiers pulled the bullets from their cartridges and then re-inserted them backwards into the cases. This was supposed to give improved armor-piercing ability. What it did for accuracy and ease of loading in the rifle, I will leave to your imagination. Doc2

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There was a long string on this topic recently, either on this forum or on "The Aerodrome", which you might be able to find on the search function. However, the answer to your specific question is that some soldiers pulled the bullets from their cartridges and then re-inserted them backwards into the cases. This was supposed to give improved armor-piercing ability. What it did for accuracy and ease of loading in the rifle, I will leave to your imagination. Doc2

Spitzgeschoss mit Kern (SmK) a steel cored rifle bullet designed to be fired from a standard Mauser infantry rifle. It was the German answer to the tank in World War I

Mick

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Guest grantaloch

Good evening all.

Thanks for your input chaps. I can now grasp what was meant when they said they fired the bullets backwards,I wonder who thought of that one. One slight query what happend to the bulllets when they entered the tank, what damage could they have done. (grantaloch.)Bob.

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It depended on the tank. With the lightly armoured Mk IIs, armour-piercing bullets did just that. At the Battle of Bullecourt, the tanks were riddled. Later versions had hardened steel armour. The bullets rarely penetrated. Instead they caused red hot flakes of steel to break off on the internal side of the steel armour. These flakes would spark and fly around the interior of the tank, sometimes causing injury. Given that tanks were preferentially targeted by machine gunners who were issued armour-piercing bullets, they would take multiple hits from bullets coming from different directions. This made the interior of the tank into a rather lively and colourful locale.

Robert

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I have seen this reversed bullet stuff before and can't imagine that it was done, or if done that it was of any use at all.

The reversed round would likely fall apart (did the men have loading presses in the trenches?), and certainly would not feed from a magazine. The rounds would have to be carefully loaded individually by hand, I would think.

If fired, and if there was not some sort of mal-function or even explosion or jamming of the round, there could have been no accuracy, and I would think that the slug would probably tumble in the air.

If the round flew in a true fashion (not likely), the blunt nose would slow the round due to its terrible areodynamics. The armor would be hit by a slower round (the kinetic energy is related to the square of the velocity; half the speed, one quarter the energy), and by a blunt lead end rather than a pointed steel jacket. I am at a loss to imagine that this would increase the penetration.

Finally, loading rounds carefully manually and singly would probably reduce the rate of fire by 95%.

I am a mechanical engineer, trained as a US Army officer, I have long- and hand-guns, but I get to shoot them rarely. (I have relatives on my wife's side who make their own .45 caliber sniper rifles and shoot them in competition at 500 and 600 yard ranges with very complicated iron (non-telescopic) sights. They also load their own ammunition, often pouring their own bullets. I could call them and ask their opinion.) However, in my own fairly well-informed opinion the idea is nuts.

I love this forum, and almost all participants are gentlemen and many very well or exceptionally informed, but I hope I do not offend by observing that you guys in the UK are really distant from firearms, in the main; believing such a story for a second seems odd to me.

My wife's family, in rural Vermont, are up to their armpits if firearms; my wife's mother lost her hunting license at age 16 by killing two deer with one shot (both head-shots), her second husband made his sniper rifles in the basement, making and rifling his "bull-barrels" on a large lathe, making his own ammo in his study. He had (he just passed away; cigarettes, not bullets) a pistol and a second seperate rifle range on his property. The only handgun my wife ever really liked to shoot was one of his .44 Magnums, one with telescopic sights. (She is large and a weight-lifter.) And during hunting season the high school students are still allowed to bring their hunting rifles and ammunition to school for convenience, dumping them in the headmaster's office. (In my large city and its suburbs the culture and the laws are quite different, but we have 20 times as much gun crime, partially by definition as there are almost no gun laws in Vermont.)

Does the steel jacket of the Mauser service bullet extend the entire length of the slug? I would guess not, and that would make the idea even less likely; no part of the jacket hitting the armor at first, only the soft squshy lead core, which would mushroom instantly.

Bob Lembke

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Robert;

The memoir of the tank officer is exceptional.

My father was trained in captured UK tanks for a week to make him and the course mates less frightened of tanks by realizing that a moving tank was an awful gun platform. They then trained in using geballtne Ladnungen, six extra "potato-masher" warheads wired about the warhead of a complete seventh grenade acting as a fuse. One guy in his unit knocked out three in two days; hiding in a shell hole, running up behind one with a top hatch open (due to the heat), grabbing the track and allowing it to pull him to the top, and chucking the giant grenade in the hatch. I thought that the idea was crazy, but examining the Mark V at the IWM convinced me that you could do it, with testicles of steel. I hope he got his EK I.

Bob Lembke

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Bob, the sad reality is that many tanks were wasted in penny-packet attacks without infantry support. This despite the warnings, pleading, etc of those most familiar with their use. Even today, such attacks expose tanks to infantry-based anti-tank measures. So it was in WW1. Some of the best and worst examples of tank use occurred in the Battle of Cambrai. Infantry, artillery, aircraft, cavalry and tanks all co-operated in the sucessful break-in on day one. While it was difficult to fire on the move, tanks were none-the-less able to enfilade trenches, run over MG nests and demolish strongpoints. If the latter could not be run over, then parking close by and firing the 6 pounders frequently caused the occupants to surrender. With close infantry support, any attempts to knock out tanks in the manner you describe were very difficult to execute.

The subsequent use of tanks in Cambrai was a different story. Particularly in the attacks on villages. Many tanks were knocked out when they entered the narrow streets unsupported by infantry. Then the bundles of hand-grenades and other tactics, such as firing into the tank through slits, proved very effective, just as you described.

The battles of le Hamel, Soissons and Amiens demonstrated yet again the power of tanks in large numbers in combined arms operations. As destroyers of wire and MG nests, particularly those in the open, the tanks made a huge difference.

Robert

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The following quote illustrates the problems for infantry versus tanks/infantry. It comes from Georg Bucher's 'In the Line'. He is describing a combined arms attack by the Americans in the Meuse-Argonne offensive:

'We rushed from shell-hole to shell-hole. The wildness of the [Americans'] fire must have been our salvation.

"Tanks!" I spun round when I heard the wild cry. Two tanks were coming straight at us from the right. We were trapped, for an enemy machine-gun was traversing low across the field. The tanks came nearer, blazing away like mad. Lying in the shell-holes we were defenceless against them.

I uncoupled my last hand-grenade from my belt. Then I saw someone jump up. It was Riedel: he had brought with him a large bundle of hand-grenades [tied together] when we had taken flight from the

trench. He was up out of his shell-hole and rushing to the right through a hail of machine-gun fire - the bullets were knocking up the ground. He stretched his arm backwards and threw - God, those

seconds! - threw the bundle of bombs right under the tank. Flames lept up amid the smoke, and shrieks. We took advantage of the diversion to move back a dozen yards - not all of us, for two or three lay screaming on the ground.

There was a wild yell beside me: 'Tanks!' Three more of the monsters were coming straight across from the right, followed by khaki groups of 'moppers-up.' From every shell-hole men were emerging with hands

held above their heads. Someone tried to bolt - a bayonet was run into his back and we had a company-commander no longer.

Our machine-guns were silent - the tanks crushed every resistance as they moved forward.

The tanks still came on. "To the left" I shouted to my five [men]. Three of them held up their hands - I couldn't blame the poor devils, for the ground was being swept by a hail of lead. Suddenly Riedel

doubled up, his face covered with blood. I saw that he was bleeding from both knees, neck and breast. He had been absolutely riddled with bullets. "G-Ge-orge!" he cried.'

And so died the last of Bucher's five comrades with whom he had started the war. Bucher was hit in the head, falling unconscious. When he came to, the Americans had fallen back to Bucher's original

trench and he was able to crawl back to the German lines.

I have left out the more gruesome details relating to men being run over.

Robert

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I have seen this reversed bullet stuff before and can't imagine that it was done, or if done that it was of any use at all.

The reversed round would likely fall apart (did the men have loading presses in the trenches?), and certainly would not feed from a magazine. The rounds would have to be carefully loaded individually by hand, I would think.

If fired, and if there was not some sort of mal-function or even explosion or jamming of the round, there could have been no accuracy, and I would think that the slug would probably tumble in the air.

If the round flew in a true fashion (not likely), the blunt nose would slow the round due to its terrible areodynamics. The armor would be hit by a slower round (the kinetic energy is related to the square of the velocity; half the speed, one quarter the energy), and by a blunt lead end rather than a pointed steel jacket. I am at a loss to imagine that this would increase the penetration.

Finally, loading rounds carefully manually and singly would probably reduce the rate of fire by 95%.

I am a mechanical engineer, trained as a US Army officer, I have long- and hand-guns, but I get to shoot them rarely. (I have relatives on my wife's side who make their own .45 caliber sniper rifles and shoot them in competition at 500 and 600 yard ranges with very complicated iron (non-telescopic) sights. They also load their own ammunition, often pouring their own bullets. I could call them and ask their opinion.) However, in my own fairly well-informed opinion the idea is nuts.

I love this forum, and almost all participants are gentlemen and many very well or exceptionally informed, but I hope I do not offend by observing that you guys in the UK are really distant from firearms, in the main; believing such a story for a second seems odd to me.

My wife's family, in rural Vermont, are up to their armpits if firearms; my wife's mother lost her hunting license at age 16 by killing two deer with one shot (both head-shots), her second husband made his sniper rifles in the basement, making and rifling his "bull-barrels" on a large lathe, making his own ammo in his study. He had (he just passed away; cigarettes, not bullets) a pistol and a second seperate rifle range on his property. The only handgun my wife ever really liked to shoot was one of his .44 Magnums, one with telescopic sights. (She is large and a weight-lifter.) And during hunting season the high school students are still allowed to bring their hunting rifles and ammunition to school for convenience, dumping them in the headmaster's office. (In my large city and its suburbs the culture and the laws are quite different, but we have 20 times as much gun crime, partially by definition as there are almost no gun laws in Vermont.)

Does the steel jacket of the Mauser service bullet extend the entire length of the slug? I would guess not, and that would make the idea even less likely; no part of the jacket hitting the armor at first, only the soft squshy lead core, which would mushroom instantly.

Bob Lemke

I would tend to agree with Bob. the SmK was an armour piercing round in itself, why would the design be improved in the field without it being taken into production if it was that good. I have recently read the following:

British tanks sported 8 mm of face hardened armour all round, and the "K" bullet could penetrate a maximum of 12-13 mm at 0 to 100 metres (0 Degrees inclination). This gave the "K" bullet a 33% chance of penetration with a direct hit on an oncoming tank. As every soldier in a front line position was issued 10 rounds of "K" bullets, there would be a large number of these armour piercing projectiles hitting the target. As a result, "K" bullets accounted for a large number of tank crew casulties, and vehicle losses in the early days of tank warfare.

Mick

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I love this forum, and almost all participants are gentlemen and many very well or exceptionally informed, but I hope I do not offend by observing that you guys in the UK are really distant from firearms, in the main

No offence taken Bob and I mean no offence when I say as a Brit I am quite happy for the UK to be 'distant from firearms'.

Neil.

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Guest grantaloch

Good evening all.

It seems we are getting a lot of Bobs in this topic. Well I asked the question and didn't I get some great answers. That one about the tank commander was well what can I say,graphic. Then it got so technical, It went way over my head. But that is what this forum about, the experts out there it is amazing. Thanks chaps . (Grantaloch.) Bob

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Bob Lembke, good evening. Everything you say about this modification is true, except that it was actually done occasionally. There have been lots of reports of documentation on this issue over the years. I have seen such field expedients documented both for expansion (making hollow-points in the trenches as it were) and for armor piercing effects. Just for interest, when I first heard of this more than 25 years ago, I decided to try it--- using a 30-06 Springfield, just because that was what I had available. With jacketed bullets which did partially though not completely encase the lead core at the base, I found several things: 1) accuracy was awful, as expected; 2) Pressure seemed to be high, probably because of seating depth; 3) Handling the round was a problem, and as you note it had to be single-loaded, most of the time; 4) velocity was lower than normal, again as expected, 5) tumbling did not appear to be a problem at about 50 yards, and 5) at close range (under 50 yards-- I didn't test further, due to lack of accuracy), it did seem to have more ability to crater and/or penetrate metal than did the unaltered rounds. I was comparing only to ball ammo, not to AP stuff-- there is no doubt that works better. My only explanation for the apparent increased penetration was some kind of pseudo "shaped charge" effect, with the lead forming some kind of a penetrator--- can't explain it scientifically, but it did seem to work-- I suspect jacket form and structure would affect this action. I agree with you that it would be highly unlikely to have any benefits in combat, and I don't expect is was used by any single soldier more than a few times, but I have seen documentation of the field trials on several occasions (not my area of interest, so I haven't saved any of the references-- sorry). By the way, I am also a Yank, and Army-trained/experienced, with extensive shooting and reloading experience...... Doc2

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I've heard the whole 'turned around bullet' scenario a few times but it was always in reference to creating a round that would cause more damage to flesh (a simplified dum-dum round, I suppose). Haven't heard of them being used as a quick-fix armour piercing round.

Cheers,

Mat

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Guest Simon Bull
No offence taken Bob and I mean no offence when I say as a Brit I am quite happy for the UK to be 'distant from firearms'.

Neil.

Could not agree more.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Perhaps the flat base is a lot more efficient in its own special way at throwing scabs off the interior layer of the armour?

Perhaps the jacket deals the armour a hammerblow, weakening it, and then the core slipping 'forwards' (in the direction of flight), detaching from the jacket, punches through the locally weakened armour?

Nobody would likely have a loading press in the trenches (although the static nature of some fronts might lend itself to this), but the rounds might have been made up by a battalion or brigade armourer, for instance, and they might well have loading gear. I think that by the time you got up to Divisional level the armourers in charge of smallarms could be expected to be well equipped in terms of gunsmithing materials, and I can't see why that shouldn't include a reloading kit (even if only of the Lee in-line die or Lyman tong kind).

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Bob,

The only handgun my wife ever really liked to shoot was one of his .44 Magnums, one with telescopic sights.

With reference to another thread... she didn't have any relations that served in Gallipoli? :D

Regards,

Brendon.

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I contributed to the earlier thread on this, but Bob Lemke's comments got me thinking (always a dangerous thing). Bob's right about the distant from firearms comment, actually most military recruits regardless of what country they are from generally don't know much about firearms. That goes for the US as well as the UK. Demographically, most recruits come from the cities, there's just more people there, and as such, usually aren't as knowledgeable about firearms as those in rural areas. Even for the time period, I doubt many Tommies had handled a rifle prior to military service.

With such inexperience, it wouldn't be too big of a stretch to see how a trench rumor like this could come into use. I won't try to mimic the accent in the following exchange, as a Yank it would just be silly if not downright insulting for me to do so.

Tommy #1: Here, what're you doing?

Tommy #2 (working the bullet back and forth in the case to loosen it) I'm just getting this bullet out (pulls the now loosened bullet free) and I'm putting it back in like this. (puts bullet back in case mouth, upside down, pushes it in with thumb and presses it against a timber to seat bullet in further)

Tommy #1: What for?

Tommy #2: My brother over in the (insert name of unit here) says that they all do it over there, turns the bullet into a dum-dum.

Tommy #1: Does it work?

Tommy #2: You bet it does, stops the Hun dead in his tracks. I always make sure my top round is one of these, got to make that first shot count. Just make sure that (insert sergeant's name here) doesn't catch you at it.

Sometime later....

Tommy #3: What's that you're up to?

Tommy #1: My mate told me............

And the rumor never stops.

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Guys;

Have given the armor-piercing question more thought, and it seems clearer than ever that the armor-piercing effect can't be true. First of all, there is the question of rate of fire and accuracy, which should preclude the military use of such a round. There is some danger of a bore blockage upon firing and the explosion of the bolt action in your face, hardly desirable. Undeniably, such a round probably would add a "dum=dum" effect, but at great cost. As far as armor-piercing, it makes no sense.

As Doc2 says, this modification would decrease the velocity of the round quite severely. As we (should) know, the kinetic energy of a round, or any other projective, is a direct factor of the square of the speed of the projectile. For example, reducing the velocity of a projectile by 29.3% would decrease the energy by half, if my math is not off. I hope that the user is firing at a tank at some distance, where the horrible ballistics of the reversed round, even under the best conditions of stability, etc., would severely decrease the velocity.

Finally, the analogy of a shaped charge was raised. Although the cross-sectional shape of a shaped charge is not pointed, but sort of hollowed, the effect is to focus the blast energy at a small spot. In a non-explosive projectile, this focusing of energy is achieved by focusing the energy at a small spot with a jacketed small point. An ass-backwards round would absorb a lot of energy mashing the lead, and also splitting the jacket as the lead mushrooms. So the energy is further dissapated. Little energy would remain for either penetration or spalling off metal.

The anti-tank effect of small arms fire in Mark IVs, for example, seems to have flowed from hitting the tank with 100s or 1000s of rounds, spalling off bits of metal sometimes, and occasionally getting a lucky shot in a vision slot or some other crevice.

lassuy is correct about the urban-rural differences in gun familiarity. These differences are very sharp in the US. In northern urban and suburban areas in the US, a child bringing an inch-high rubber Roman soldier will sometimes be even suspended from school for bringing a "weapon" to school, the 1/4 inch rubber sword on the rubber toy. (So called "zero-tolerance") In contrast, in rural Vermont, where my wife's family is, the high school kids still bring their deer-hunting rifles and ammunition to school during hunting season for their convenience in hunting before or after classes. My wife's mother lost her hunting license at age 16 for killing two deer with one double head-shot; the bag limit was one deer for a day. Every year my wife's seven maternal uncles return from all over the US to hunt deer together on the 5000-odd acres of land that they have. Although raised on a remote farm, her maternal aunts and uncles have two doctorates and five master's degrees between them, some from Ivy League schools, besides first degrees. But they all are "gunners". But in such an area gun violence is almost unknown. We do have an urban problem; but I read the Guardian every day, and the UK is hardly immune from this problem; like the US, it is not the gamekeepers running wild.

Bob Lembke

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I have no knowledge of the use of reversed rounds - I can imagine the 'dum-dum' effect on human targets. But as regards anti-tank use, my only comment is that if the round is steel centred, then the round hitting the armour plate might act as a form of modern 'sabot' anti-tank ammunition.

The lead surround 'squashes' and does not necessarily pentrate the metal, but the centre core of the round carries on through to penetrate. Maybe that effect worked better with a broader, reversed section of the lead hitting first?

Just a guess.

Ian

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But as regards anti-tank use, my only comment is that if the round is steel centred, then the round hitting the armour plate might act as a form of modern 'sabot' anti-tank ammunition.

The lead surround 'squashes' and does not necessarily pentrate the metal, but the centre core of the round carries on through to penetrate. Maybe that effect worked better with a broader, reversed section of the lead hitting first?

Ian

Ian;

Your suggestion makes sense. But. IMHO, the task of penetrating the armor of a tank with a 8 mm or .303 round is so problematic energy-wise that the loss of kenetic energy from the horrible ballistics would make the penetration impossible, and minimize spalling. Also, wouldn't you get a sabot effect with the slug hitting the "right" way?

I am no expert on WW I tanks, but possibly whatever observation could have led to this idea might flow from the difference between the British Mark I, which I think had mild steel "armor", and the Mark IV, which had hardened steel, I understand. Something might have been observed with a Mark I, even possibly an unofficial experiment on a old knocked-out Mark I lying behind the lines. But the whole thing seems rediculous; it is hard to imagine even being able to fire such a round, especially as made in a trench.

Anyone have a primary source for this idea?

Bob Lembke

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I've just joined this thread but my first take on the debated phrase was that it sounds similar to my use of the Browning 9mm pistol. That is, beyond about 10yards it would be more effective if I threw it at the 'baddies.

Roxy

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