I’ve got a problem with this video. It goes to considerable lengths to test the theory that backwards bullets are more lethal than frontward facing pills. And wouldn’t you know it: they are! Only when we get to 5:25 does Mr. Ammo Channel point out that it’s a really, really stupid idea; split casings and all. An upfront disclaimer might have been helpful for ADD-afflicted and younger gunnies. Anyway, YouTube commentator Stephen D. King puts the idea into historical context . . .

During WWI, this tactic was used by British snipers with their .303 caliber in response to German snipers using a steel plate to protect them while they stuck out their head to shoot. The idea was that as the bullet collapsed on itself, the force would continue with a lot more power and would flake off a piece of the steel shield back into the neck or face of the sniper, NOT designed to penetrate the steel.

Huh. Danger or not, knowledge is power. I guess. [h/t gunwire.com]

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52 Responses to Backwards Bullets: “Do Not Try This”

  1. Backwards FMJ provide enhanced tissue damage at the expense of penetration. A way to make hunting ammo from military rounds.

    • I believe those backward bullets penetrate a lot farther than bullets with their points facing forward. Why? Those backward bullets are in a heavy weight-forward configuration which means they will maintain their path without tumbling. No tumbling == less frontal surface area == deeper penetration. Research hardcast lead bullets with large flat meplats and you will understand.

    • I had been told many years ago that the backwards bullet trick was used during the depression or by rural poor people to hunt for game with cheaper surplus ammo. This does jive with what was told about the origin of sporterized military rifles. The Govt sold off obsolete or broken – cracked stocks, missing or bent sight blades – surplus rifles cheap. These were purchased by the rural poor who couldn’t afford newer hunting rifles and modified them. I don’t know how true this is, but it is gun lore that I picked up word-of-mouth over the years.

    • Then you’d have an unsupported (though swaged) lead core. Lead bullets can’t be pushed as fast as jacketed rounds.

      • …meaning, take a hack-saw and cut off the pointy part so the bullet would have a flat front with partially exposed lead. Just like flipping it around – without flipping it around.

        • There were companies that did exactly that with milsurp .303 after WW2; they quit because the base of old FMJ rounds is open, and the lead had a tendency to extrude out into the barrel when fired. Made a hell of a mess, and was incredibly unsafe. They soon switched over to pulling the FMJ bullets and replacing the projectile with purpose-made soft points.

    • From Wiki:

      Since the rifle was designed for use on Alaska’s great bears, Johnson cut 720-grain (47 g) boat-tail .50 BMG bullets in half, seating the 450-grain (29 g) rear half upside down in the fireformed .50-caliber case. It didn’t take Johnson long to find out that the 450-grain truncated shaped “solid” would shoot through a big brown bear from any direction, claiming in 1988, “I never recovered a slug from a bear or moose, no matter what angle the animal was shot at.”

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/.50_Alaskan

  2. “During WWI, this tactic was used by British snipers with their .303 caliber in response to German snipers using a steel plate to protect them while they stuck out their head to shoot. The idea was that as the bullet collapsed on itself, the force would continue with a lot more power and would flake off a piece of the steel shield back into the neck or face of the sniper, NOT designed to penetrate the steel.”

    Spalling

  3. Can I use all of your guns for future backwards bullet testing?
    Please do the next test on a .220 Swift. We need to understand the FULL ramifications…with video…and ER paperwork!

  4. One old trick with the .38 Special was to use a 148-gr. HBWC with the hollow base turned forward. I believe the powder charge was 3.0 grains of Bullseye. Made a mess of tissue.

    • I did the same with .357. Never shot tissue, rarely hit what I was aiming at, never tried it again. I was (am) fond of accuracy.

  5. Old trick, still a good one. Better than using plain old FMJ.

    Only thing I am worried about is reliable feeding from 20-30 round magazines.

    • Never mix any flavor of semi-auto with any flavor of split casing. Period. It’s bad ju-ju. At least with the bolt action he used he could ensure the action stayed closed…

  6. What would be the point of this even if it was safe. You would need a bullet puller, and a bullet seating die, and some kind of a press, unless your just going to pound the bullet back in the case. So, I’m assuming that your into reloading to some extent.
    Is there some reason, except that your too cheap too buy some bullets, that you would not just get some regular hollow point, or expanding bullets, instead of fooling around with this bad idea?

    • This definitely sounds like the response of a non hand loader. To argue the point of why you would want to “fool around” (i.e. experiment) to a hand loader, is much like asking a drag racer why he is constantly fiddling with his traction bars- because its fun! Come to think of it, I believe a regular seating die would work as well-I mean it is the same bullet diameter after all. I would just be very conserned about compressing my charge. Big booms are only fun on the far end of the barrel.

      • As a matter of fact I am a handloader, I fully understand the desire for a handloader to want to experiment. There is a vast difference in trying different powders and different bullets, seating at different depths etc.,than turning bullets around, creating dangerous pressures, and splitting necks.
        From your reply, I’ll bet your the kind of guy who reloads old brass found on the range not knowing how old it is, or how work hardened the necks are or if the brass was annealed to the point the head of the case was heated to more than 450 degrees, and will rupture the first time you fire them.
        I am a careful handloader! I have loaded for bench rest shooting (6MMPPC) and I know enough to stay within the limits established by professionals. Only the foolhardy goes beyond. You not only endanger your own life, but those near you

    • “What would be the point of this even if it was safe.”

      Gunr,

      Bullets with a large flat meplat (approaching full wadcutter style bullets) are absolutely devastating on targets — they make large permanent wound channels and they penetrate much farther than expanding bullets. Of course that huge flat front surface means those bullets slow down way, WAY faster than Spitzer (pointed) bullets. In other words you get incredible terminal ballistics but only for relatively short ranges.

      Since no one uses handguns for long range shots, the inherent short range of full wadcutters (or backward bullets) are no drawback whatsoever and that is why they are very useful for handguns. In fact their only downside for handguns is they penetrate too well if you are gearing up for self-defense against human attackers with bystanders in the area. If you are going out into the woods and want to be ready for four-legged predators at close range, full wadcutters and hardcast lead bullets with large flat meplats are the only way to go.

      To put all this in perspective, if I knew there was an extremely high probably that a grizzly was going to attack me, I would want a rifle in .45-70 Government and I would shoot a hardcast lead bullet with a large flat meplat. I would take that over a shotgun or any other center fire rifle caliber without any hesitation whatsoever. And if I couldn’t have a long gun, I would want a .44 Magnum or .454 Casull with — you guessed it — the heaviest available hardcast lead bullets with large flat meplats.

      • I have no reason to feel that a “wadcutter” is unsafe! I have used them myself in a 38 special. Also, all the wadcutter bullets I have shot had a flat or concave base.
        The article was not about wadcutters, it was about loading bullets backwards. I’m guessing the base of the bullet, in this case, pointed towards the muzzle, had nothing to with the high pressure and split necks. I’m guessing the high pressure gas was forced out to the perimeter of the case neck, by the cone of the bullet, instead of delivering an equal amount of pressure all around the bullet base, had it been flat.
        I would not be surprised if there were barrel damage also, especially around the throat area.
        I wish D.S. would step in here and give his opinion.

        • Gunr,

          I have no doubt whatsoever that wadcutter bullets are safe to shoot out of firearms. I was explaining the “appeal” of backwards facing bullets in terms of their terminal ballistics. And I explained the advantage of a backwards facing bullet with what is essentially the same thing: semi or full wadcutters.

          Personally, I would NEVER load a Sptizer bullet backwards in a brass casing. The geometry of a Spitzer point and casing would concentrate the rapidly expanding gases of the propellant toward the crimp and create astronomical pressures in that area.

          Always load bullets with the base of the bullet facing the primer. If you want extremely deep penetration and devastating terminal performance on dangerous game, then use hardcast lead bullets with large, flat meplats. And if you want such a bullet to maintain velocity at longer ranges, either shoot a really heavy bullet with the highest possible muzzle velocity or shoot such bullets with a pointed soft rubber tip.

        • Agreed, It sounded like you thought I was against wadcutters, not at all. I think now we are the same page.

    • After having seen several other videos on this Youtuber’s channel I would say that the thinking behind this video is to test a hypothetical.
      The video’s intent is to show, if you found yourself living in a world (read anti-gun state) where hollow point bullets were banned, or worse, found yourself living under a complete ban of ammunition (nationally) could you use any old FMJ you found and turn it into a more effective round? Without having to rely on supplies of special bullets? Even if you think I am reading to far into the video’s intent, take it on face value. The video says that he read a crazy idea on the internet and tried to test it. It’s not the first time people have done dangerous things just because they wanted to confirm an internet rumor.
      By the way, I stand by my hypothetical analysis of the video because, the same channel, has a detailed video about the reloading of Berdan primed steel case ammo, as a test of a hypothetical scenario where 7.62×39 was no longer available.

  7. I believe this also fits with the Dum-Dum bullet idea where they pulled FMJs on already loaded military rounds and cut the bases with Xs and then insterted them backwards to make a HP round for action in India for the British. Not the best idea and as a reloader I don’t like to do anything that could blow up my fine accurate rifles.

  8. Old time reloaders used to talk about loading soft lead .38 wadcutter or semi wadcutter bullets backwards. The bullets had a slightly hollow base so you got something that approached a hollow point round. This was done with reload components, not pulled bullets. That’s what you had to work with 50 or 75 years ago. Better than shooting FMJ or those old round nose lead loads.

  9. Why do you have a problem with this video? At 30 seconds in he expresses concern with the pressure. He even draws a diagram…what do you want? You know everyone watched till the end just to see him blow shit up so everyone was warned.

  10. I had heard about the British using this tactic in WWI. I have a couple of observations, first, 1/2″ steel was probably a little heavy for sniper shields. From what I had heard this technique worked and many German snipers got plastered with metal shards in their faces. My guess is that if he tried this with 1/8″ or 1/4″ steel the results would have been different. The other observation is that by WWI the British were using aluminum or cellulose tips in their full metal jacket .303 (Hague compliant) ammo to lighten the front of the bullet and increase the tumbling effect (thereby negating the whole purpose of the Hague Convention rule – the Japanese picked up this trick in the next great war). This may have altered the performance on steel both backwards and forwards.

    What I’d be interested in is how it effected the BC of the bullet. I’ve always heard that the most aerodynamic shape is a raindrop and the backwards FMJ looks like the mother of all boat-tails, so would it be more or less aerodynamic? Maybe the same?

    • Raindrops are near spherical. Slightly oblate.

      The ideal shape for a supersonic projectile is a boat tail ogive. It minimizes wave drag and keeps all shock waves oblique.

      • The theory there is that a liquid with minimal surface tension will conform to whatever shape is the most aerodynamic by the simple fact that it doesn’t have the structural rigidity required to resist the most aerodynamic shape. You probably have a point when it comes to supersonic velocities though. What works best at 20mph is not necessarily best at 1500mph.

    • No, a FMJ backwards is not as aerodynamic as a FMJ forwards. It will slow down much faster travelling through air.

      • That would be my suspicion, but I was looking for a little more quantifiable fact, though not necessarily expecting any. A boat tail bullet is more aerodynamic than a flat based bullet, and I do believe that the back side of the bullet is at least nearly as important as the front, so it would be interesting in seeing an exact comparison. Also, another thing I didn’t notice until after I posted my first comment, that FMJ in question is a BT-FMJ, so it is not a full wadcutter when turned around.

        • The more turbulence, the more drag on a bullet. Abrupt surfaces cause turbulence. An abrupt front surface (full wadcutter or backwards bullet) causes turbulence. An abrupt rear surface also causes turbulence. The ideal bullet shape, from an aerodynamics perspective, is something like a football. Such a bullet, however, would produce the worst possible terminal ballistics. After all humans are something like 80% water which is a fluid just like air … and a bullet designed to move the through the air with as little disturbance as possible will also move through water (humans) with as little disturbance as possible.

        • Yes, a football is very aerodynamic. But if you elongate the football it has a higher sectional density and the ballistic coefficient goes up. Cut the back end of the football off and you’ve got a 147gr. FMJ-BT. When it comes to terminal ballistics an elongated football is not that bad because water being much denser than air, the rate of rotation necessary to stabilize a bullet flying through the air is woefully inadequate to stabilize a bullet traveling through tissue. Within a few inches the bullet will tumble. But you are correct in that if the bullet doesn’t upset or deform on contact, whatever slips through the air more efficiently will also slip through tissue more efficiently. This also applies to the slow and heavy vs. fast and light debate. Not only does energy rise exponentially with velocity, but so does drag. Drag is bad in the air but good when the bullet strikes it’s target.

          The problem with a bullet with a pointed rear was pretty evident in the video. Not only is the pressure focused out toward the case neck (cracked cases), but the pressure was also not focused on pushing the bullet forward and created an overpressure situation (flattened primers). To be safe you would have to decrease the powder charge.

        • Gov,

          “But if you elongate the football it has a higher sectional density and the ballistic coefficient goes up. Cut the back end of the football off and you’ve got a 147gr. FMJ-BT.”

          Sure. What you described is converging on an arrow which has a pretty nice ballistic coefficient!

  11. I am no Ballistics Engineer.

    yes, if you turn the bullet around so that the pointed end is in the case, the internal ballistic pressure does cause a pressure gradient greater where the case is crimped.

    If you turn the bullet around and cut off the tip so that is is exactly flat, you have essentially made a Wad Cutter or Semi-Wad Cutter Bullet.
    Which are safer.

    However, if you do cut off the tip and drill it into make it a hollow point more of the pressure will be trapped inside the hollow cavity thereby making slightly more safer because you have trapped the gasses in the hollow cavity.
    Keep in mind you have reduced the bullet weight however and that may also effect the bullets External Ballistics.

    If you want to do this, I suggest using a Cutting Saw to take off the pointed tip, but I would also bore out some of the center to make a hollow cavity.

    Better yet, don’t do any this and just buy some
    AMAX or VMAX bullets.

  12. I hate when they use the same gel block for both rounds. Once the first round went through the gel block how can you ever know if the the damage caused by the first round did not impact the damage caused by the second round????

    Did the second round go through easier not doing as much damage because the block was weakened? Or did the second round cause more damage because the block was weakened?

    • The reasoning behind one gel block for multiple shots is simple, though I understand it frustrates you. Gel blocks are both expensive and require intensive logistics to maintain. In the end there is probably very little change to the second bullet’s performance from the damage done by the first, except in those cases where both bullets end up falling in the same path. Negligible is the word that comes to mind. If you want to see one round per gel block, you are going to have to start buying them. In the mean time, it really doesn’t make that much difference.

  13. I also read about someone loading backwards rifle round to produce subsonic loads.

    I’ve personally loaded hbwcs backwards to make BIG cavity hollow points.

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