Lead is the most common metal used in bullets for a number of reasons: cost, malleability, expansion on impact…and of course density. The more weight you can cram into the projectile the more energy you can deliver downrange. The relatively high density of lead means you get a lot of bang for your ballistic buck. But when you absolutely positively need to pierce some thick armor, depleted uranium is the better choice.

For reasons I don’t understand, depleted uranium has the odd property that it “self sharpens.” In other words, instead of mushrooming on impact like lead, some of a depleted uranium projectile shears off and another super sharp tip is created underneath. The parts that shear off are extremely flammable and tend to ignite.

The vast majority of depleted uranium ammunition is produced in the 30mm variety, for use in the A-10 Warthog’s main gun and 25mm for the Bradley Fighting Vehicle or LAV-25. But it seems that a small batch of depleted uranium projectiles were manufactured in 7.62 NATO, too.

From Cartridge Collectors‘ NATODave:

The feasibility of a 7.62mm DU flechette cartridge was explored by the Air Force Armament Laboratory in the late 60’s. The final version consisted of a 28.5gr DU flechette with a lightweight plastic sabot loaded into a standard 7.62x51mm case. Velocities in excess of 4000fps were achieved. Interestingly, concerns were expressed about in-flight ignition due to aerodynamic heating although this did not appear to be a real world problem. The details can be found in AFATL-TR-69-53 dated April 1969.

Those worried about radioactive exposure should take comfort in the fact that a garden variety banana is probably more radioactive than these rounds. Uranium emits only alpha particles, which is a form of radiation that’s easily stopped by a single sheet of cotton cloth or a paper cup. Any radiation emitted should be contained by the cardboard box they’re shipped in.

But should you actually fire any of these rounds you may want to keep your distance — inhaling the radioactive dust left over from the impact could cause lung cancer and other nasty side effects.

According to some sources, boxes of ammunition have occasionally been seen available in the United States for roughly $400. And boy do I want one. Not to shoot — just to have.

[H/T Cartridge Collectors via Reddit]

99 Responses to Obscure Objects of Desire: Depleted Uranium 7.62 NATO Rounds

      • Now, now, don’t knock radiation. As this one’s old bio-chemistry professor used to say: “Radiation is usually detrimental to an organism in excessive quantities, analogous to the nasty zombies in cheap sci-fi thrillers. However, sometimes there are beneficial mutations that are awesome, like The Incredible Hulk!!!”

        Now this one cannot speak for others, but he would willingly place money on the Hulk over cheap zombies, unless of course the Marvel Zombies saga is the topic at hand.

        • Why has there never been a hulk vs zombie horde movie? Or marvel vs zombie horde? These are some things I can get behind

        • What if the radiation turned the zombie into a hulk zombie? Then we’d be really screwed!

    • “Good for the zombies. Or a mob of left wingers…”

      I thought they were pretty much the same, sans a pulse.

    • May I interest you in some suitcase nukes?

      Where is the line between “shall not be infringed” and terrorism?

      • Use. Use is where the line is. My suitcase nuke sits quietly in the garage, fucking with no one. If you plant yours in the basement of the Baptist church cause you hate Baptists, then you’ve crossed into terrorism.

      • If you think these highly expensive old cartridges provide significant benefits for terrorism over the boxes of regular 7.62 NATO ammo that one could buy for the same price, you don’t know much about bullets.

        hint: they’re not going to explode and blow up a crowd.

        • “hint: they’re not going to explode and blow up a crowd.”

          But they *will* deliver a much better kinetic downrange punch…

        • They were made to go through armor. That’s all they do real well. If this is coming at you, your level 4 vest is no more helpful then my Hanes t-shirt. These do not have more kinetic energy then a lead round of the same weight and velocity.

        • ” These do not have more kinetic energy then a lead round of the same weight and velocity.”

          The DE projectile will be roughly double the weight of the same SIZE projectile of a lead one. Mass X Velocity = brutality downrange. That’s why bullets are made of lead and not aluminum. (Please don’t tell California, they might start to get *ideas*).

          Remember the CCI Copper .22lr reviewed here a few months back? The copper powder-plastic slugs weighed 21 grains vs. the usual 40 grains or so of lead ammo. Velocity was roughly twice of lead, but it shed that velocity and the kinetic energy it contained *rapidly* past 70 yards or so:

          http://www.thetruthaboutguns.com/2016/09/jeremy-s/ammo-review-cci-copper-22-fastest-22-lr-ever/

          The denser the slug is, the further downrange it can deliver that energy.

          For some unexplained reason, militarys and hunters really seem to like that… 🙂

      • I’m gonna go ahead and assume you slept through every science class you were ever forced to take, cause depleted uranium is less radioactive than a granite countertop and the only reason it’s used in projectiles is because it’s got a high density and doesn’t deform on impact. Lemme guess: you’re one of those people who couldn’t begin to tell me how radioactive decay works but are certain that all reactors are seconds away from exploding like a thermonuclear weapon, right?

  1. I’m pretty sure the 30mm guns in the A10 (GAU-8) and the vehicle guns are not the same. The A10 gun is about 15 feet long I think. My dad designed the loader for the drum on the A10. I used to have a handful of the dummy rounds (with the DU projectile) that were used for testing.

    I’d sure like to have a box of these things.

  2. Other then zombies.
    Why would anyone want this round in 7.62 x39??
    Very un-American round this one is. As is an SKS or most AKs.
    Unless one really has a need to blow the crap out of some poor target set up on a range.
    Think of the holes you would put in your steel plates. That and the $400 for a box of rounds gets expensive.

  3. Inane laws and ordinances are vastly prohibitive towards projectile development. Lighter weight alloys in copper coated lead allow for increased form factors and better coefficients as compared to a jacketed lead bullet of the same weight. Also, while not as dense as DU, steel core and tungsten make for excellent penetrative rounds. Especially if utilizing a lead knocker with the steel core.

    Oh how this one misses the infrequent imports of 7N1 and would love some 7N14, if for nothing other than the projectiles. Potassium chlorate primers are damnable anyhow, to hell with them and to hell with windex!!!

    • You use windex? I thought that was a myth. Doesn’t water do the same thing? I just use a coat of oil for my corrosive cleanup.

      • The old surplus primers use potassium chlorate (KCIO3) based primers. Now KCIO3 is a strong oxidizer that is also quite shock sensitive and was once quite common in pyrotechnic application. It has since been supplanted in use for such applications by potassium perchlorate (KCIO4), including many modern primers. Granted that this is an overly simplistic explanation, as most primers have other additives to either promote reliable ignition (antimony trisulfide) or increase burn rate (tetracene), or completely forgo KCIO4 in favor of other oxidizers.

        Now to this ones understanding, potassium chlorate upon strike, breaks down and ignites the nitrocellulose in a cartridge as it oxidizes. Upon oxidation the remnants of the KCIO3 form potassium chloride (KCI) due to loss of all oxygen atoms. This residue forms in the firearm chamber and bore. KCI is a salt with hygroscopic properties meaning that it will absorb water in small quatities and promote rusting of the firearms bore. Most commercial firearm solvents won’t dissolve this substance. It is also a popular sodium free salt substitute and can be used for illicit means, but that is an altogether different topic.

        KCI is water soluble, so as Chadwick has correctly surmised, water can be used to clean with. However, the firearm should still be thoroughly dried. Windex contains water as a main ingredient, but also other solvents including, if memory serves ethanol. This gives Windex a slight theoretical advantage over water when it comes to cleanups. The water in it dissolves the KCI, while the other solvents help to clean away carbon deposits and other gunk, and finally the ethanol promotes evaporation and drying of the residual fluid in the firearm. It should still be dried though.

        Either way, Esoteric Inanity no longer shoots surplus, the cleanup is undesired and precision is the new obsession. Pulling the bullets for use in reloaded rounds is the procedure, while the old powder and primer substance does not go to waste. This one uses them in self igniting targets, but one day no doubt, somebody will figure out a way to make meth with them.

        • Windex also contains ammonia and blue dye. A better way to clean? 50/50 distilled water and isopropyl alcohol. Ammonia attracts dirt.

    • Actually, tungsten is every so slightly more dense than depleted uranium. Tungsten carbide is used as an armor penetrator in the explosive .50 BMG Raufoss (Mk 211) round, sometimes used by snipers in the Barrett rifle.

      • Fascinating, Esoteric Inanity was not aware of this inherent property of tungsten. However, she was cognizant of it being utilized as an alloy with carbide in military bullets for penetrative purposes. This one appreciates the newly acquired knowledge.

        • It’s worth reminding that Tungsten does lack the self-sharpening and pyrophoric qualities of DU, so while it may be more dense, DU may yet be a more capable penetrator(all other things being equal).

        • API rounds have a penetrator core and incendiary or explosive material together inside the jacket. The tungsten doesn’t burn or explode by itself, but the impact provides the heat/shock/friction needed to make the incendiary mix function. Unlike an explosive cannon shell, there is no fuse in an API round.

  4. Well, that was all new to me. I had no idea DU was ever used in small arms. I’d pay $400 for a box of it just to have it though, so I imagine that the price must be much more than that since so many people have a lot more money than I do. I have been on the look out for rounds with tungsten carbide penetrators for about 20 years and have never even found those.

    • Buffman apparently found some M993 for about $30/round so it is hard to imagine finding DU for anywhere close to that even.

  5. Well, if you’re gonna go dense or go home, the only real choice is osmium. At 22.6 grams/cc it’s 10% denser than uranium and almost exactly twice as dense as lead.

    By the by, the issue with uranium dust isn’t residual radioactivity, as I understand it, so much as heavy metal toxicity. Especially since these rounds would likely have been made of depleted U.

    • Wow. Osmium bullets puts silver ones to shame in terms of cost. Maybe you could mortgage your house for a down payment on a box of them.

    • While osmium is very dense, are the structural properties correct? To my understanding osmium would just turn to dust on impact like a glaser safety slug.

      • It’s very, very hard…you’d absolutely have to sabot it, which means the projectile would have to be skinnier and hence smaller than a lead bullet for the same gun.

        The powder would be a chemical weapon; osmium in powder form forms osmium tetroxide (OsO4) which is a volatile liquid (i.e., it’d evaporate instantly), and this is a very deadly poison. It’s because of this fact you don’t ever want to put a chunk of osmium in a lathe–the turnings would kill you.

    • Oh stop it! When I was a kid we used to sprinkle uranium dust on our cookies and paint our faces with the mercury we got out broken thermometers. It it didn’t pernamently hrm us.

      • A full examination might be required before such prognosis can be determined.

        Of course this is typed merely in jest, after all Esoteric Inanity has only had mildly know interaction with highly radioactive substances and can be deemed as quite eccentric.

        Cheers.

      • I think mccain did that too… Sorry it may be too soon. I don’t much like rinos and that might be impacting my lack of sensitivity.

        • It’s bad enough that there are so many dicks in the comment section of articles talking about how someone is likely dying of cancer, but you need to bring it up in unrelated places?

        • If you are going to say something – and then immediately apologize – don’t say it at all, dckwad.

          “No offense, but you are dumb as a bag of rocks, smell like the monkey house at the zoo on a July afternoon, and your nose is stuck permanently in Trump’s ass. But that’s not an insult, because I said ‘No offense’, right”?

        • While the comment may have been in poor taste, it doesn’t change the fact that:

          Everyone is dying of something. Some people get more time than others.

          None of us should be concerned with when or how we die, we should focus on how we live. While I personally don’t appreciate humor that comes from kicking someone when they’re down, some people do, and the first amendment says it can be done. Doesn’t make it right, funny or necessary. It doubly hurts since McCain is an ally of ours. Then the knee jerk response is name calling?

  6. So it’s an armor piercing “D.U.D.S” round, that’s NOT inert, but the projectile is.

    Got it.

    Wonder if you could get some big aircraft control surface counter-weights and melt them down for reloads? How many ATF / NRC inquiries would you get on that one?

  7. Hey now wasn’t depleted uranium used in Slick Willy’s Baltic Bosnia adventure? I’m with jwm. Not something I need. BTW I’ve been exposed to lots of toxic shite over the years in my antique dealer guise. Trying to limit MORE in my old age…

  8. “Uranium emits only alpha particles, which is a form of radiation that’s easily stopped by a single sheet of cotton cloth or a paper cup. ”

    No, you’re describing PLUTONIUM. URANIUM gives off Alpha, Beta, and Gamma. Even De238 gives off ALL THREE. By “depleted”, what they mean is that it’s not good for reactor fuel anymore. It’s still radioactive as hell.

    • It’s not made from U235. The isotope U238, what’s used to make this stuff, is very weak in terms of radioactivity with a half life of 4.468 billion years.

      It’s mainly an Alpha emitter and only 60% as powerful of a radiation emitter than uranium ore. It does sometimes emit a Beta particle but for every Alpha released the chances of a Beta decay are something like 5e-7.

      It’s not “radioactive as hell”. Not even close. It’s one of the least radioactive substances, in terms of radioactive substances, known. As long as you don’t ingest it it’s safe. The only know side effects of long term exposure is a slight increase in the chance of birth defects.

      • At nuclear power plant worker takes in less yearly dose on average than a frequent flyer does from solar rads (neutron rads aside from the drywell). that said, i have no desire to bring these into my home.

  9. My friend has a box of these at his home. He received them from a retiring friend at his work. I don’t know anything about their origin but they are out there.

  10. “inhaling the radioactive dust left over from the impact could cause lung cancer and other nasty side effects.” – And we’ve been shooting this stuff all over the world?

      • And fired by men that most politicians treat as expendable. It’s continued use supports that, although no politician will admit it.

    • If you’re close enough to inhale the dust from the impact of a bullet you’ve got bigger problems than long-term cancer risks.

      • Unless someone’s going out and cleaning up, that dust remains long after the bad guys and the good guys shooting them have left the scene.

  11. Everyone should have a stockpile of intermediate cartridges of bothe the depleted uranium and HE variety. Strangely enough, I’ve found some sellers of HE rounds, even in handgun cartridges. I’ve often thought about manufacturing some of my own. Perhaps a hollow point with the cavity filled with black powder, primer, pin and a polymer tip that forces pressure onto the pin as it passes through to the target. Would be cool to cause a secondary “explosion” as the bullet forms its permanent wound cavity.

    • YEs, HELLO SIR! I am NOT a federal agent and I would like to very much do businesses with you! If you have the ability to reduce the size of shotguns I would also enjoy that service!

    • Raufuss and other explosive, AP, thermite packed and incendiary rounds not only available in rifle calibers. Can get them in .380, 9mm, 40 and .45 handgun calibers. Everyone should have a 1000 rounds for their primary pistol and rifle on hand. Just in case those kicking in your door are wearing level 4 plates.

  12. “Uranium emits only alpha particles, which is a form of radiation that’s easily stopped by a single sheet of cotton cloth or a paper cup.”

    Radon gas is an alpha emitter as well, and is a known cause of lung cancer.

    I’d be very leery of firing it in a gun, it will generate *some* dust from engaging the barrel rifling, and you just do *not* want to be breathing it.

    For those that just have a need to play with some, it can be found where airliners slam into mountains.

    It’s used as an airframe counterweight, usually in the tail area. And there’s quite a bit to be found at crash sites, weights are in hundreds to around 1,000 pound quantities.

    Since it’s so stinking heavy, it’s frequently not recovered from the crash site. Have fun humping out that kind of weight out on your back…

    • That is true about radon but you have to figure that your method of exposure is radically different. The real danger with radon is unknowingly breathing it over a period of years.

      As has been said before, the danger of heavy metal poisoning from the dust (are those DU rounds not jacketed or gilded at all?) far outweigh the mild radioactivity.

      • Oh, half life of U238 is also about 10~ orders of magnitude longer than Rn222 and therefore has a corresponding reduction in emitted radioactivity.

      • I need to pay closer attention…. D.U.D.S. = Depleted Uranium Discarding Sabot. So yeah the DU should never be in contact with your rifle bore to begin with and any dust is going to be someone else’s problem down range.

  13. Is there any legal reason why someone could not just reload a box themselves? Or is this armor piecing handgun ammo? (Since strangely 7.62 is a handgun round according to the ATF)

  14. Once upon a time it was fishing, camping, hunting and woodcraft. Now it is depleted uranium ammo. I feel profoundly sad for young people today and for the “modern” world and for TTAG.

    • I think is so cute when an elderly person discovers the internet. Now run along before you miss wheel of fortune.

    • Yup. And once upon a time FUDDS, with their walnut covered rifles and cylinders in their pistols were welcomed amongst the gun community and the NRA. But they were purged and tossed out with the trash for good reason. Because they have no place in the modern 2A movement, because the RTKBA has NOTHING to do with hunting and shooting sports, and everything to do with good people killing bad people, regardless of whether the target is a foreign or domestic enemy, like Liberal Terrorists™. And when it comes to arms and ammunition, EVERYTHING our military, or the military of other nations have, We the People in the US, have a God given right to have access to.

      • “the RTKBA has NOTHING to do with hunting and shooting sports.”
        I hope you’re being sarcastic, but it’s hard to tell because these days there seem to be a lot of people (keyboard commandos who fancy themselves as “operators operating operationally”) who agree with that statement!

        DU is nasty stuff. I’m a former U.S. Army tanker, and we used it in our tank guns. After it hits its target, it has the ability to continue killing people for the next 4.5 billion years, which is the half-life of DU. Yes, 4.5 billion years! That’s why thousands of Gulf War and Iraq War veterans got “Gulf War Syndrome,” from breathing in the stuff. In the first Gulf War, we used 350 tons of depleted uranium (DU) in Iraq. In the 2003 Iraq War, we used a helluva lot more than that! Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands, probably millions of U.S. troops were exposed to DU in multiple tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan without being told that they’re inhaling radioactive dust with a half-life of 4.5 billion years.

        • Good point. It definitely couldn’t be that Gulf War Syndrome has been renamed Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and linked to pretty much every other conflict as a psychological disorder involving the intense mental trauma of war. Had to be the DU… even though there’s zero evidence or sources backing what you say.

          Especially since if hundreds of thousands of our troops got the same exposure, wouldn’t they all be dead? Doesn’t it kill for billions of years? Why are you still around then?

          It definitely couldn’t be that the longer the half life, the slower the radiation breaks down and the less radiation a person actually gets from it… right?

          Good chat bud.

        • I thought “Gulf War Syndrome” was due to diet and regular soda (pop) converting some chemical ingredient (Aspartame ?) into a more wood-alcohol type chemical?

    • I’d just like to point out here Bob, that these rounds were created in the 60s and have been in the civilian market ever since then. So unless the “once upon a time” of your youth was before that, then the only difference between now and 50 years ago is the availability of information… at least in regards to DU .308 rounds.

  15. Oh my…..us poor old Fudds! We are so clueless about the 2A! After all I’ve only been an NRA member since 1975. Of course it has absolutely nothing to do with hunting. It’s all about killing bad guys……..like 99.99999% of you have never done and never will. Back in the old days we had a name for that…………Walter Mitty. The more things change the more they stay the same.now its all about being an “Operator.” I love those youtube videos with the side view of some guy with a dead serious look on his face operationally sending rounds downrange. Of course the camera never looks downrange because the silly SOB isn’t hitting a goddamn thing. He just thinks he looks like a badass.

    YAH………us old folks have discovered the internet allright.

  16. I did an experiment, back in college, with an alpha emitter and what it took to stop it. In my experience, the sheet of paper blocking it is a myth. It took about a 1/2 inch stack of paper to stop the alpha particles from reaching the meter. Even the lab instructor was amazed.

  17. I love all the comical posts. You know the zombies and liberals and what they have in common.

    I just wonder how many here have carried 6 magazines loaded with these on their bodies for weeks? Without knowing we carried the seeds of our own demise. The seeds that affected our families and our children and their children as well. You see genetic damage can be passed. Over generations.

    I wonder how many them bore deformed offspring?

    How many here have had multiple tumor surgeries because we carried these? 13. 13 for me so far. How about those soldiers who were exposed while on deck to Fukushima Radiation. Wait give it 20 to 30 years. If you live that long.

    I pray for my brothers that they do better than I.

  18. I am reading the comments and I really have to wonder about either the lack of education or the total insanity of anyone wanting to “have a stockpile” of Depleted Uranium rounds.

    Depleted Uranium is stiil RADIOACTIVE. It is still deadly toxic ans will be for more than 20,000 years and some dumbasses here want to own it and have it around their homes?

    Just because the main stream media has not reported on the facts regarding the contamination of American soldiers AND THEIR FAMILIES with this toxic ammo does not mean the problem does not exist.

    Some of you fools if you live long enough after saying, “Hey guys! Watch this!” Will be paying taxes to cover the costs of the multiple cancer surgeries of us Veterans because we will be dying from these cancers. As I have stateds I have had 13 cancer surgeries. Removing tumors caused by exposure to ionizing radiation n 1983.

    You should be me. I am scarred up like Frankenstein three surgeries on my face alone.

    Do you total idiots realize the number of human lives lost and the deformed children in Iraq alone? You should be so lucky. Hey I have a great idea let your kids play with Muriatic acid. Sounds fun doesn’t it? Better yet I will send money so you can bribe your kids to play in the street. You know one of those multi lane ones.

    I love Muslims just as much as the next highly conservative red blooded American. The only good fire ant is a dead one. You cannot coexist with people who only want to kill or convert you. So really, is spreading around highly toxic radioactive waste a good idea? Especially when you already know what you tell your kids to stay away from they will still get into it just because you told them not to.

    If I could post pictures I would. Mainly because it appears that some of you can only learn from pictures.

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