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The concern is not depressurization a bullet hole will not depressurise an airliner , but over penetration and damage to vital electrical or hydraulic lines, or injury to an innocent bystander by a bullet that travels through a target's body completely instead of stopping in the body. The purpose of firing a large calibre projectile is not always the same. For example, one might need to create disorganisation within enemy troops, create casualties within enemy troops, eliminate the functioning of an enemy tank, or destroy an enemy bunker.

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Different purposes of course require different projectile designs. Many large calibre projectiles are filled with a high explosive which, when detonated, shatters the shell casing, producing thousands of high velocity fragments and an accompanying sharply rising blast overpressure. More rarely, others are used to release chemical or biological agents, either on impact or when over the target area; designing an appropriate fuse is a difficult task which lies outside the realm of terminal ballistics.

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Other large-calibre projectiles use bomblets sub-munitions , which are released by the carrier projectile at a required height or time above their target. The use of multiple bomblets over a single HE projectile allows for a denser and less wasteful fragmentation field to be produced. If a bomblet strikes an armoured vehicle, there is also a chance that the shaped charge will if used penetrate and disable the vehicle. A negative factor in their use is that any bomblets that fail to function go on to litter the battlefield in a highly sensitive and lethal state, causing casualties long after the cessation of conflict.

International conventions tend to forbid or restrict the use of this type of projectile. Some anti-armour projectiles use what is known as a shaped charge to defeat their target. Shaped charges have been used ever since it was discovered that a block of high explosives with letters engraved in it created perfect impressions of those letters when detonated against a piece of metal.

A shaped charge is an explosive charge with a hollow lined cavity at one end and a detonator at the other. They operate by the detonating high explosive collapsing the often copper liner into itself. Some of the collapsing liner goes on to form a constantly stretching jet of material travelling at hypersonic speed. When detonated at the correct standoff to the armour, the jet violently forces its way through the target's armour. This misconception is due to the metal's fluid-like behaviour, which is caused by the massive pressures produced during the explosives detonation causing the metal to flow plastically.

When used in the anti-tank role, a projectile that uses a shaped-charge warhead is known by the acronym HEAT high-explosive anti-tank.

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Shaped charges can be defended against by the use of explosive reactive armour ERA , or complex composite armour arrays. ERA uses a high explosive sandwiched between two, relatively thin, normally metallic plates. A disadvantage of using ERA is that each plate can protect against a single strike, and the resulting explosion can be extremely dangerous to nearby personnel and lightly armoured structures. Tank fired HEAT projectiles are slowly being replaced for the attack of heavy armour by so-called "kinetic energy" penetrators. It is the most primitive in-shape projectiles that are hardest to defend against.

A KE penetrator requires an enormous thickness of steel, or a complex armour array to protect against.

They also produce a much larger diameter hole in comparison to a shaped charge and hence produce a far more extensive behind armour effect. Tungsten and depleted uranium alloys are often used as the penetrator material. The length of the penetrator is limited by the ability of the penetrator to withstand launch forces whilst in the bore and shear forces along its length at impact.

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Terminal Ballistics: How Bullets Wound and Kill - The Everyday Marksman

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Views Read Edit View history. By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. Striking velocity affects terminal performance of the bullet in several ways: Striking velocity determines bullet energy on impact; Striking energy varies directly with bullet weight; and Striking energy varies as the square of velocity.


In other words, a change in bullet striking velocity will have a much greater effect on bullet striking energy than a proportional change in bullet weight. Doubling bullet weight doubles bullet striking energy, whereas doubling bullet striking velocity quadruples striking energy. At initial impact and penetration, a bullet creates a localized area of high pressure that rapidly displaces target material outward from the impact point.

As the bullet penetrates, it creates a permanent wound path. As it does so, it may expand or tumble, considerably increasing the size of the permanent wound path.

Bullet fragments, bits of bone and pieces of clothing can become secondary projectiles that can damage tissue at a distance from the point of impact. In addition, the shock wave from bullet impacts greater than 2, feet per second f. The higher the bullet's striking velocity, the larger the temporary wound cavity A secondary way that a bullet causes damage is by the temporary cavity it causes. The bullet does not immediately penetrate the tissue; instead, it makes an impact crater that stretches in until the bullet penetrates the tissue.

As the bullet continues its path, it violently pushes the tissue ahead of it both directly and indirectly in such a way that the tissue is stretched beyond its elasticity and is cut and torn as it quickly tries to return to its original position and beyond.

How Terminal Ballistics Helps You Choose the Right Ammunition

In essence, a bullet going through soft tissue has the same effect as dropping a stone into a pail of water - if the stone bullet enters the water slowly, the water tissue displacement is so gradual that is has little effect on the surrounding molecules. If the stone bullet enters the water tissue with a lot of momentum, however, the surrounding molecules have to act a lot more quickly and violently, resulting in a splash temporary cavity. Temporary cavitation is important because it can be a tremendous wounding mechanism.

A simple analogy would be the difference between stepping into a swimming pool versus diving into it from a tall diving platform. The target determines the ideal behavior that you want from a bullet.

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  5. On smaller, lighter game such as varmints, you normally want the rapid destruction of the bullet on impact for the instant transfer of energy, since penetration is rarely an issue. For common big-game animals such as deer and elk, you want the controlled release of energy at impact to increase bullet penetration. For even larger, more dangerous, big-game animals, you want bullets designed for even slower energy expenditure in order to achieve the deep penetration necessary to create permanent and temporary cavitation in the vital areas of large animals even after the bullet has broken bones along its path.

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