WHAT'S WITH THIS "ULTRA-LETHAL" .223 STUFF, ANYWAY?
So I'm over at Megan McArdle's blog reading this post
. In Comment #17, one of her readers asks the following question...
"Someone correct me if im wrong but as far as the caliber of the weopon, isn't the .223 round just supposed to penetrate, hit bone, and bounce around creating more internal damage? (at least thats what I remember)."
Well, not exactly. See, the bullets used are called boattail bullets
. That just means that they have a rounded back end instead of a flat back end, and the design was developed to reduce drag caused by the vacuum that's behind the bullet as it travels down range. Boattail rounds have been around at least since the 1920's, when Winchester started to advertise boattail ammunition for hunting big game (can't find an example of one of those ol' advertisements on the Internet).
But there's one side effect to using bullets like this. They tend to try and turn around as soon as they hit something wet.
Why do they do this? Take a look at a fighter jet
. Notice how it's pointy at the front and rounded at the back to reduce drag as much as possible as it travels through the air. Now look at a modern submarine
. It's rounded at the front and pointy at the back. This is due to the fact that hydrodynamics
is very different from aerodynamics
. So when this kind of bullet, travelling point first, enters a mostly liquid environment it tries to swap ends.
Okay, so it turns around. So what?
This does two things. First, the bullet tends to come apart and fragment under this kind of stress. This means that most of the bullet's energy is expended in the body of the target, which is what hollow-point bullets
are designed to do (but the .223 isn't
a hollow point, which military forces are not supposed to use). Second, the wounds left by the bullet are larger due to all of that fragmentation that's going on. Again, this is nothing more than what hollow point bullets are supposed to do.
Okay, so it's a more effecient round due to the shape of the bullet used. Many shooters aren't too happy with it's performance, though. The refer to the round as a "poodle shooter" because it's so small and underpowered. Compare the ballistic tables
of the .223 (which is the official U.S. military round today) with the ballistic tables of the .30-06 rifle round
, which was the official U.S. military round during WWI, WWII, Korea and the first opening days of the Viet Nam War. Notice that the .223 delivers about 1000 ft/lbs of energy at the muzzle and the .30-06 delivers about 3000 ft/lbs at the muzzle.
So why aren't we still using a more powerful, more deadly and longer range rifle?
It was noticed during WWI that the majority of wounds were produced by artillery, not
rifles. If you can have a rifle that causes enough damage to take someone out of the fight then it's done the job. Whether or not the enemy is dead doesn't matter as long as he's not trying to kill any of your guys. If you can have a smaller, lighter rifle with rounds that weigh less then everyone can carry more ammo.
So the .223 does the job it's supposd to do, and it does it very well. But some people didn't like the idea of a weaker rifle. So a advertising campaign was started that touted how deadly the new smaller, lighter, less deadly rifle was. That's
where most people get the idea that the bullet is made out of flubber.