Explosive Hunting Rounds

Would someone know more about the large-bore hunting rounds used in the 19th century, typically with a .22 blank in the nose? When were these invented/introduced, how effective were they, when did they disappear, etc? Many thanks!



There is some information on these on page 11 of the most recent IAA journal. It has an old 1874 advertisement for Mead’s explosive bullets with pictures.

HCV–The Patent #133,734 dated December 10, 1872 granted to Samuel H. Mead covers these explosive bullets. They were made in .32 Short, .38 Long, .44 Long and .56-52 Spencer using a .22 Blank in the nose. Their ads also claim they were available in .22 Short, but that round has never been found and it is doubtful if it was actually made. UMC produced a similar round in .32 Long with a lead cap over an explosive filled cavity.

Mead also made explosive bullets in .38 Long, .44 Long and .50 caliber Centerfires as well as 12 & 16 gauge shotshells.

As to when they disappeared, I’m not sure, but I would guess about 1890. UMC never listed the Explosive .32 Long in their catalogs, so, it was most likely either considered experimental or special order only. The gun reform act of 1917, which made the 4 & 8 ga. shotshells illegal to hunt with also covered explosive bullets would have put an end to them, if they had not died out before that.

If you want to include modern rounds, then we have a number of companies (Bingham, Colt, Velex, etc.) all made explosive bullets in many calibers in the 1980’s.

We experimented with drilling out the front of .45 LC bullets and inserting .22 blanks in the 1980s. Apart from a bit of feeble pyrotechnics on impact I could see no ballistic advantage in using them.

We weren’t firing them into flesh but bits of wood and gallon plastic water containers ( filled with both water and sand) gave not the slightest indication of superiority.

I don’t think the small charge in the blank added anything to the killing power and although the bullet benefitted from a large hollow point (due to the space taken up by the blank) that advantage would have been just as apparant if the blank were left out.

Its main benefit was as an impact marker giving a small puff of smoke that helped to identify the place where the bullet landed when long range plinking. Even that was erratic. Maybe a black powder blank would have produced more smoke.

If the idea failed to take off in the 1880s I would suggest it was because it didn’t live up to expectations.

I remember reading abut a british explosive bullet for big bore rifles.
The bullet was cast in two parts, the nose and the base, and swage together after filling with fulminate.
It was suposed to be use to hunt solfo skin dangerous game (tiger and panthers).
Also have read about the blank explosive bullets the same you post.


Explosive bullets in anything less than 20mm are not very effective, and even in 20mm they are somewhat questionable. They just don’t carry enough damage capability. The AF did some testing 15+ years ago on the standard 20mm explosive round for the M61 to test it’s kill potential against modern aircraft. The fact is that the explosive effect is relatively minor as a damage mechanism in aircraft structure and most of the damage is done by fragments of the projectile. In this load, most of the damage of significance resulted the penetration of the fuse structure and the associated structure that remained intact when the round exploded. The fragments from projectile body were relatively lightweight and the effect of the explosion was mostly to fragment the projectile body and spread the fragments. The penetration of the fragments was due mostly to the velocity of the round when it impacted the aircraft structure. There was some discussion of generating heavier fragments, but the result wasn’t terribly significant. There was some preliminary analysis that indicated that the 20mm washer stack projectile that was designed to be a TP load made a pretty good air-to-air round compared to the explosive. The relatively heavy washers which would gain lateral velocity on impact did significant damage.

One look at the condition of B-24s and B-17s coming back from missions over Germany show that it is pretty difficult to kill a big aircraft without a lot of 20mm hits. It is generally conceded that the M61 in the F-15 and F-16 does not have a high probability of killing a large aircraft (airliner or C-130 size or larger) on a single firing pass. There is an interesting 9-11 related story I will share at SLICS if you ask that is associated with this fact.

For this reason, the AFs new F-35A fighter will have a 25mm cannon and the Navy and Marine versions of the F-35 won’t have a gun at all (as was the case with the Navy & Marine F-4s). The gun is an air-to-air weapon and a 20mm doesn’t bring much to the fight.

Here’s a modern explosive hunting bullet from Spain:

7’92 x 57 from Palencia, explosive bullet. A true explosive projectile, with an inner fuze and a pellet of high explosive. I don’t know how effective on big game, but proven capability to blow an inertia hammer to pieces. M. S. E. = Monter

Nice photo of the sectioned bullet. The internal structure looks just like the B-Patrone. You can see a video of some B-Patrone usage here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8vPiLUyBacI