Bullets and steel

Ry and I were at the Boomershoot site in Idaho this weekend when Sebastian sent me an email asking about steel penetration by bullets. I was pretty sure I gave him off the cuff correct answers but I was in a good position to do some of the tests. The next morning Ry and I found a piece of 0.5” mild rod and I shot it a few times.

The question was, “Could a pistol bullet severely damage the mild steel rod? Or is severe damage proof that AP rifle rounds were used?” I said, “I don’t think 1000 FPS pistol bullets will do that.” But I also said that a rifle, even relatively low powered lead core rounds, would go right through. Ry said, “The pistol bullets will only polish the metal.”

Here is the photographic evidence:

Entrance of a .223 52 grain JHP from 30 feet.

Side view of the .223 shot.

Left to right are Winchester Ranger 180 grain .40 S&W, hand loaded 180 grain polymer coated lead, .223 exit.

The Winchester Rangers were probably going about 1015 fps and polished the metal a little better than the handloads going about 950 fps. I don’t have any chronograph data of my own for the .223 rounds out of my gun but Black Hills says to expect about 3250 fps.

This shows why those who wish to ban ammo that penetrates police soft body armor are actually proposing to ban all hunting ammo.


5 thoughts on “Bullets and steel

  1. I appreciate you taking the time to do that for me. Now I am pretty certain the hits were from rifle rounds that were not necessarily AP.

  2. Yup, ban that overpowered hunting ammo and your “sniper” rifle… Ted K wanted .30-30 banned because it would punch through body armor, in reality nothing is truly bullet proof, not even planets!

  3. Years ago a local gun store, now closed, had a small piece of 1/4″ steel with a large hole through it. About 1/2″, I think. This was from a handgun, .44 AutoMag, IIRC. One side had a raised rim of displaced metal around the hole.

    • Interesting about that raised rim.

      That ties into a comment I saw on the website of a company making steel targets. They argue that your steel targets should be hard steel, so they stay flat when hit, rather than building up raised ridges like that. The reasoning is that an uneven target is likely to send ricochets off into unexpected directions.

      I have no experience with steel targets so I can’t tell if this is a valid concern or just marketing hype.

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