What do you think would happen to you if you hit a steel wall whilst travelling at one thousand kilometres per hour? - Make a mess you think? Fortunately most of us never find out the answer to that question although I happen to have a few things that have indeed hit a steel wall at about that speed and I thought I'd share them with you in a post.
As some of you know I own and shoot guns competing around the country in various practical-oriented rifle and handgun competitions - It's one of my hobbies and a sport at the same time. Some of you probably have an idea about guns and the various concepts that come into play but many do not so every so often I roll out a gun-post to introduce or explain a concept, or just show you something cool. It's ok if you tune out right now, if you don't like guns, however this is not really about guns per se, more about lead and what happens to it when it hits something hard and at speed.
Projectiles or bullets
Some people call these things bullets but to me they are projectiles. It is the part of the round that exits the gun and flies through the air towards its intended target. You can see some below. I make my own rifle and handgun ammunition and so buy my 9mm projectiles in boxes of 1000, normally 5,000 at a time, which is about what I'd shoot in about a year. Just a note on ammunition. Correct terminology is ammunition or round. The word bullet relates to the component fired from the firearm only, as above.
I use 124gn CMJ projectiles. The CMJ part refers to the copper jacket or plating the formed lead projectile is covered in. It means I'm handling less exposed-lead and they also run a lot cleaner through my handguns - They leave less lead residue in the firing process. The 124gn part is the weight of the projectile. A grain (gn) is a measurement.
Left image above shows a few projectiles and spent cases. You can just see the depression in the primer of one [very left of image] which is where the firing pin has struck it to set off the process of explosions that fire the round. You can also see the copper-jacketed [plated] projectiles.
A word on muzzle velocity
The term muzzle velocity relates to the speed at which a projectile exits the muzzle. The muzzle being the very end part of the barrel - Essentially the hole in the end of the gun, to make it extremely simple. So, muzzle velocity is speed and typically it is measured in feet per second (fps). My CZ Shadow-2 9mm pushes the 124gn projectiles at between 985 and 1050 fps, so pretty fast. For the purpose of this post I've averaged it out at 1000fps which is 1097.28kph or 681.818mph if you're American. It's fast.
Just as a side note, I run my rifles at around 2850fps and 3200fps depending on calibre so a great deal faster. Obviously rifles are designed to reach greater distances and require the additional speed. More gun powder is used of course, which is why rifle cases are bigger than handgun cases. The image below demonstrates this better than I could explain. The heavier the projectile, the more gun powder required to exit it effectively from the muzzle.
Left to right - 50cal, .308, 6.5mm Creedmoor, .223/5.56, 9mm, .22LR and 12 gauge shotgun - These are all my rounds and cover most of the calibre's I shoot.
When shooting IPSC as I was today we shoot at various targets including torso-shaped cardboard and steel plates. When a projectile hits cardboard it obviously cuts right through and heads away and into the backstop mound. When it hits steel though it stops after imparting its energy into the steel. These steel targets, when struck, generally fall or flip back indicating a hit; They also make a satisfying noise.
Above you can see a couple of steel targets, one hinged on the left and the other a simple falling plate. These are not designed for handgun use though as the steel gauge is too thin. These are used for .22LR rimfire use only and I show then just as an example.
Smacking steel with lead
So, now to the cool part. What happens to a projectile when it smacks into a steel target?
The answer to this is not quite as straight forward as you may think; Essentially it comes down to physics. A small lead projectile on a heavy gauge steel plate will pulverise to dust, a heavy projectile on a light gauge steel target will deform - Generally. It comes down to muzzle velocity also, faster or slower I mean, and also range at which it was fired as projectiles slow the farther they travel. The actual target comes into play too. One that tumbles backwards similar to the one above right will offer less resistance to the bullet and cause it to deform less. Again, there are many variables. Mostly projectiles strike the steel target and are pulverised into nothing.
This very heavy projectile above has hit steel and deformed significantly. You can see the inner ring, above left, which is actually the base of the projectile. The image to the right shows the front of the projectile, the part that has hit the target. You can see it has mushroomed as the back of the bullet followed the front in until it had no energy left.
This is a projectile from a .38 Super handgun and was shot today by one of my friends. It is totally flattened out rather than "mushroomed" and in the left image you can see the round circle which is the base of the projectile. The right shows the front of the projectile which hit the target first. You can see a little residue right in the centre which is left from the copper jacket.
Above are a few projectiles I picked up today, of various types. You can see how flat they become and the right image shows one that is quite mangled. You can see the lead and the copper jacket all mangled together and I can only assume that this bullet was travelling a lot slower as it is not completely flattened out; You can clearly see the copper jacket which encased the lead projectile.
That's pretty much it for today. I always try to make these posts as easy to follow as possible preferring not to get too technical. It's difficult though because shooting sports and shooting in general, is quite a technical and complicated thing when one delves into it. Sure, I could hand you a loaded firearm and you could shoot it, but to be accurate, fast, and able to shoot over great distances takes a lot of effort and understanding - That's not to mention all the back-end work that goes into shooting: Making ammunition, setting up scopes, learning ballistics calculators, working range finders, calling the wind, load development...Loads more too. I've written posts about various things in the past and have linked to just a few below if you're interested.
For now though I hope this one was interesting, or at least informative in a non-technical and easy to follow way.
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