Cartridge myths and tall tales


Any good cartridge myths or tall tales out there?

A good one that comes to mind is The 7,9x57mm Platzpatrone being mistaken by G.I.'s during WWII as some sort of “poison” bullet or being expressly designed for wounding, not killing.

Had a co-worker with a few of these cartridges his dad brought home from WWII. Swore they were some sort of poison bullet because that is what his dad told him.

Ther are also some good cartridge interchangeability myths I’ve heard over the years. Such as how the Russians designed their ammunition so it could be used in our captured weapons, but not vice-versa.



Inciendary means heat seeking (some US senator).
.50 BMG can miss you by a foot and stil remove body parts (I’ve also heard this as flechette rockets can miss by 2" and remove flesh in the book “Hellfire” by Ed Macy, a Brit AAC Apache pilot- worth a read, as is “Apache”, his other one.)


This is more of a misconception than a myth, but many folks seem to believe that the tip color on tracer rounds is what burns and gives the trace.


During the Spanish-American war in 1898, some US troops apparently believed (or were led to believe) that the Spanish Remington Reformado cartridges in 11 x 57R had their bullets poisoned. This was caused by the brass jackets being sometimes tarnished with verdigris.


A commom myth in the Brit Army for some years was that a 9mm x 19 rd was so weak that a wet blanket would stop the bullet at 100 yds.


Unlike some of the 1960’s Radway Green .380 that could not even make it out of the barrel of an Enfield revolver!



KTW ammo were cop killers, at least by the news media.


Ha Ha The Britisch made 9mm. :)


(any invented story, idea, or concept… an imaginary or fictitious thing… an unproved or false collective belief that is used to justify a social institution)

In the European theater (W.W.'s)…metal was in storage and wooden bullets were utilized … “they were not as lethal, but wounded, just the same “…myth ?

The Japanese bought up scrap US copper/brass and “fired it back at us” …myth?


My Grandad who was a Royal Marines Commando thought this. I showed him a sectioned tracer bullet from my collection to prove to him that it was wrong.

He was in the Royal marines in the 1950s, and said that all their .303 Tracer was white tipped. This was most likely left over from the WW2 era.

Mythbusters have also done the falling bullet myth (apparently not true when fired straight up) and the theories that JFK was shot with ice, meat or gelatin bullets (also found not to work).

It is also amazing how many people think the whole cartridge comes out of the barrel.


I was watching an episode of CSI:Miami the other day…….not a bad show, BUT: At the scene of a shooting, some 9mm was found that was so corroded the headstamp could not be read. (They showed brass cases and loaded rounds with brass cases, which appeared quite shiny when first discovered). Taken back to the lab, the cartridges were cleaned on the base with acetone to determine the headstamp. It was found that the cartridges were imported into the US from Eastern Europe, which is illegal. When one cartridge was disassembled, it was found to contain black powder, which is very dangerous. This is because as the cartridge ages, the black powder is going through a continuous chemical reaction, causing it to get ever and ever hotter. When jostled or dropped, this chemical reaction increases to the point that the cartridge explodes. (Remember, a lot of these had just been fired at a crime scene, so why didn’t they “go off” when jostled in the firearm, let alone chamber with all the corrosion on the cases) In this case, when a cartridge rolled off the table and dropped to the floor, bullet pointing upwards, it went off and blew a fluorescent fixture out of the ceiling, which came crashing down on the table in flames, setting the acetone used to clean the case heads on fire and darn near burning down the lab.



Armourer, maybe not a total myth. An old friend who you probably know (use to be an engineering at Sterling) loaned a friend a Sterling (A13 I think) with the ported barrel for use with a silencer at the range one day. The guy brought it back in a few minutes telling him what a piece of junk it was. No hits on the target and then it jammed. When he looked at it, the barrel was packed to the chamber with bullets (hence the jam) and there was lead extruded out the ports.

The guy had been using Mk1Z ammo and the first bullet had not made it out of the barrel and the others continued to pack in behind it until the barrel was full and the next round would not chamber!!!

He had the barrel hanging on his wall many years ago as a reminder!

Randy, Gee!!! That is a 9mm I don’t have in the collection. Wonder where I can get one???




No problem, Lew…just give Lt. Horatio Caine a call…if the Miami-Dade PD has not yet destoyed all this unsafe ammo, I bet he’d let you have one…!!!..Oh, and by the way, the ammo in question was being imported from Eastern Europe and reboxed and sold to DOD…The bad guy doing this was the one who left the rounds and cases at the crime scene, so if you can’t get one from the PD, there’s lots of it somewhere in a DOD warehouse ;-) ;-)

On a more serious note…it is a shame that these type of scenarios are played out on TV…you would think their “technical advisors” would stop this…this is what gives alot of folks the idea that what we do as a hobby is unsafe and dangerous…



Randy, Many years ago I got a 9x19mm from an Italian policeman that had been seized from a group that was remanufacturing 9mm Mauser cartridges into 9mmP and shipping them to the rebels in Algeria (shows you how long ago it was), The mouth of the case was roughly cut down, and the case was slightly bulged as the 9mm M bullet was pushed down into the area where the case wall begins to thicken.

The scary thing about the round was the powder (I took it apart to look at it). It was loaded with what looked like a mixture of three or four different powders, one of which looked like a blank powder! Scary stuff. These guys probably would have used black powder had they not found the floor sweepings they actually used.


[quote=“TonyE”]Unlike some of the 1960’s Radway Green .380 that could not even make it out of the barrel of an Enfield revolver!

There is a sectioned revolver in the NRA museum at Bisley that has six bullets stacked in the barrel. It used to be in the display cabinets downstairs in the main office but I think it has been moved upstairs now and is in the museum.

Next time you are down there Tony you ought to ask to see it.

I have seen it happen with .455 revolvers on two occasions. The gap between the cylinder and the barrel is so wide that it allows the pressure to be disssipated out between the two instead of driving the bullet forward down the barrel. Not a myth. Poor design.


My own myth regarding ammunition concerns the American M16s in 5.56mm used by the IRA in Northern Ireland. The myth was that even a hit in the hand would prove fatal because the hydraulic shock would travel down the major blood vessels and collapse the valves in the heart causing death.
When the British army was first issued with the SA80 in 5.56mm there were high expectations regarding the killing power which proved unfounded.


I checkd the info in “Hellfire” and it said that the 18grm, 5.5" flechettes moving at Mach 3.3 create such a powerful vacuum that they can suck muscle from bone.
How factual that is, I’m not sure. Either way I KNOW I have no desire to be downrange when one is launched.


Lew, What a memory! We had managed to get a large amount of ‘surplus’ ammunition at a good price and it was fired it in quantity. The Sterling (an L34 with a single shot trigger) fired a huge amount until this incident. The giveaway was the last round fired bulged the case very badly and there was a good flash at the breech. The gas holes (to make the round sub sonic) had finally blocked off.
This happed at a very good time as this problem had occurred in a certain country who blamed the L34 guns and not the ammunition that they were manufacturing.The guns were sent back with blocked barrels. It was presumed that non vented barrel cleared with the next round fired. This could explain the bulged barrels returned.At least we could show how it happened. Ammunition problems were more common than most people suppose as countries got into production that they thought was easy.



[quote=“falcon5nz”]I checkd the info in “Hellfire” and it said that the 18grm, 5.5" flechettes moving at Mach 3.3 create such a powerful vacuum that they can suck muscle from bone.
How factual that is, I’m not sure. Either way I KNOW I have no desire to be downrange when one is launched.[/quote]

Surely the main advantage of any flechette is that it disturbs the air as little as possible in passing, otherwise they would have high drag. Vacuum=drag=loss of velocity.



I’m surprised no one has listed what I consider the greatest myth of them all…ALL “old” ammo is worth a lot of money! Especially WWII ammo.