German forbbiden bullets, 1914


From a report on forbidden ammunition used in WWI.

Cartridge with point cut with cross-shaped incisions:

“Cartridge found on the 25th and 26th August, 1914, on the field of battle at Réméréville and at Crévic, in clips carried by German soldiers and in the belts of their machine guns”.

“Front and side views of a clip picked up on the 26th August on the field of battle near Étain by a non-commissioned officer of the 366th Infantry and handed over to Captain Bavière, of the staff of the 72d Division”.

“The cartridge submitted is a German regulation cartridge with an S bullet fixed in a case manufactured at Spandau on the 3d August, 1909. The incisions must have been made on the bullet after the cartridge had been turned out complete. They consist of two lines, cut with a saw, of about 0.5 mm. cut crossways on the point to a depth of 6 mm” (Paris, 7th September, 1914. No picture).

Cartridge with core of bullet exposed:

“The cartridges forwarded have nothing to indicate the place of their origin; they were evidently made without marks. But they fit the German rifle chamber, and as regards the length of the bullet exposed and its leaden core, they are identical with that of the German cartridge of the model of 1888. With the exception of the portion of the bullet protruding from the casing they fit exactly in size and shape over an outline of this cartridge taken at the end of 1894”.

Dum-dum bullet, solid nose hollow type:

“These were made by the Deutsche Waffen und Munitionen Gesellschaft (D.W.M.) in its branch factory at Karlsruhe (K). The bullet, of the same type as the normal bullet, has a conical hole cut in its head, similar to that introduced in the case of the bullet of 1886 to make the new pattern cartridge of the stand model of 1906 [8x50R], but with this difference, that the edge of the metal casing is let in on the inside of the cavity as shown in the annexed photograph of the cut cartridge. These bullets are therefore of the dum-dum type called by English ammunition makers “solid nose hollow.” The effect of this cavity, however, does not appear to be such as might be expected from observation of the results given by rifle bullets of a similar kind. Four of the cartridges under examination were fired at boxes filled with sawdust, and two of them, tested by theinterposition of a plank, calculated to produce the effect of passing through a hard body, behaved in a manner precisely similar to that of the ordinary cartridges which were fired at the same time”.

Speed measured with normal cartridges before firing them into boxes filled with sawdust.
Total length of the cartridge … 29 mm
Total weight … 12.35 g
Weight of the bullet … 7.92 g
Weight of the charge … 0.350 g


Trying to make a better wounding bullet, until the jacket comes off in the barrel…



It is a regular short range cartridge. Used on shooting ranges were ricochets could make a danger for civilian living in that aria.
There wes also a M88 form.



Fede, Very interesting report. Thanks! Is there a reference for the source of the report. I’d like it for my files.

Dutch, Those are interesting bullets you show. Are they bullet modification produced on the unit, or at the range, or are they modifications produced in an arsenal or is there any information on them indicating their purpose and origin?

Interesting informaiton.




Dutch, thanks for the pictures. In my opinion I would not say that the Zerschellmunition was regular but rather an “irregular” short range cartridge. Anyway, this document doesn’t get too deep into the original purpose of these bullets (they already knew that these were made for short range) and only deals with their reported use against the troops. There are other sporting rifle bullets discussed, including copper tubed by RWS. Cartridges with reversed bullets are also discussed.

Lew, the report title is “Germany’s Violations of the Laws of War 1914-15”. It was published in 1915.


No. 96

REPORT by Lieutenant-Colonel Leleu,
Director of the Technical Branch of the
Artillery, with reference to a cartridge found
on a soldier of the 2nd Regiment of the
Prussian Infantry of the Guard.

PARIS, 24th October, 1914.

The complete cartridge, of which a photo-
graph is annexed to the present report (together
with those of its separate parts) is made in a case
similar to that used for the German cartridge
of the model of 1898, but it bears unusual marks.

These marks may stand for Rheinische Waffen
Sprengstoff N model of 1888 (cartridge or rifle
understood) of 8 mm. The bullet, measuring
8·07 mm. at its base, can be used for the 7·9
calibre rifle. It has been ascertained that the
finished cartridge fits the magazines of the
German rifles of the 1888 and 1898 models.

The powder used is not the same as the German
regulation powder. It contains no nitro-glycerine
and no fixatives, with the exception of a little
camphor. Its gelatinization, malaxation, and
softening with graphite have been carried out
in a manner inferior to that of the German
powder in regular use. Up to a certain point,
it may be likened to the powder, made of pure
cellulose, used in the German regulation cart-
ridges of the 1888 model.


The bullet, which at first was believed to be
plugged with a priming of fulminate, simply
contains at its point a little copper tube 9·5 mm.
long and 3·25 mm. in width at its exterior dia-
meter, closed at its upper end.

This bullet, of which the casing surrounding
the leaden core has been stript away over a
length of 10 mm. at the point, has been bored out,
so as to contain the little copper tube above
referred to. In spite of the hollow thus produced,
it weighs 16 grammes, which fact is accounted for
by its length of 32 mm. * and the extra weight
of lead at the tip. The remaining portion of the
outer casing is held together by two in-turning
clips, of which one makes a regular hook. This
kind of bullet is to be found in the collection of
Kynoch's sporting ammunition under the head-
ing of "soft-nose hollow copper tube." It must
be classed under the category of dum-dum
bullets, of which it is indeed one of the most
grievously wounding types. The fore part of the
bullet is actually constructed so as to produce
a severe mushrooming effect when coming in
contact with hard bodies. The copper tube,
moreover, which enables it to retain in flight the
ballistic properties of a solid-nosed bullet, results
in producing at the point of contact a consolida-
tion of the striking surface and thereafter a tearing
action throughout the region of the spreading

  • The length of the German bullet, 1888 model, is 31·25 mm

No. 97

COMMUNICATION made by Dr. Tuffier
to the Academy of Medicine; (vide Report
of the proceedings of the Academy of Medi-
cine; meeting of the 24th November, 1914)
having reference to the nature of certain
serious wounds produced by the use of "re-
versed" bullets.

In the communication which I addressed to the
Academy of Medicine on the 18th of October,
I considered it my duty to inform you that a
number of wounds which had been shown to me
and alleged to have been caused by explosive
bullets, might very well have been produced by
the bursting of an ordinary bullet on a bone;
and I added that, to be able to assert positively
the existence of explosive bullets, they must have
been found either in the cartridge belt or the
magazine of a rifle of a combatant. To-day, I
bring before you proofs of the existence, in the
German army, of rifle bullets which have been
rendered more deadly by a very simple mani-


In the course of a mission to the north-east
front, near Arras, I observed, in the case of
casualties returned from the trenches, certain
wounds of which the orifice at the point of entry
and the deeply conical form could not be re-
conciled with the use of cylindro-conical bullets.
This perplexed me, and I took occasion to discuss
the matter with one of my colleagues of the Paris
hospitals, Dr. Potherat ( Chief Surgeon of the
7th Field Hospital of the 10th Army), who had
quite recently extracted from the hand of a
French soldier a bullet which had entered by its
lower end, which had retained its normal shape,
and of which the point remained visible above
the surface of the skin. Furthermore, certain
soldiers who had been provided with bullet-
stoppers (to all intents and purposes, shields)
told me that, in certain cases, bullets seemed to
strike the steel plate with a peculiar noise and
left upon it an unusually large mark. These
arguments were not in themselves quite con-
clusive. At the same time, however, a Captain
of Infantry declared to me that he had found
German cartridges in which the bullets had been
reversed, that is to say, with the end pointing
inwards. I followed up my investigation from
this point.

In order to understand fully that which follows,
it is necessary to be familiar with the manner in
which these projectiles are made. The French



bullet is cylindro-conical and composed of a
single homogeneous metal; the German bullet
is not homogeneous, being made of two metals
of unequal density, a very thin outer covering of
ferro-nickel, sheathing a regular cylindro-conical
leaden bullet. The hard outer covering is in-
complete; it surrounds the point and the surface
of the bullet, but does not extend to its base, and
I desire to emphasize the importance of this fact.
At this level, the leaden core is there laid bare,
as you can verify for yourselves by examining
this cartridge clip. The danger of bullets known
by the name of dum-dum lies in the fact that they
are composed of two metals (a hard outer covering
and a soft inner core) differing in density and
pliability; on penetrating the body the lead is
expelled from its casing and creates a regular
explosion in the wound. It is quite easy to
produce this explosive effect without making the
slightest alteration either in the shape or the
general appearance of the German bullet; all
that one need do is to reverse the bullet, that is
to say, to place it with its end pointing inwards,
and with the base, in which the lead is loose,
pointing outwards. Bullets fired under these
conditions strike the tissues over a surface which
forms something in the nature of a hard ring, in
the midst of which the free lead, expelled from
its sheathing, lacerates the tissues.

If you examine more closely the concavity at


the base of this bullet, you will perceive that it
makes a sort of little air chamber, which greatly
facilitates the opening up of the edges.

As for the manner in which the bullet is reversed
the German prisoners themselves have told us
how it is done. The operation is facilitated by
the fact that the bullet may be readily extracted
from its socket, in which it is not firmly embedded.
Grasping the cartridge firmly in the hand, and
inserting the point of the bullet in the end of the
rifle barrel, the soldiers are able to shake and dis-
place the bullet, which becomes detached in its
copper socket and falls out.

All they have then to do is to put the bullet
back, head foremost, into the same socket and to
press it lightly on the base; it is then fixed in
position and may be fired.


No. 98

ORDER of the day by General von Lüttwitz.
concerning explosive bullets.

4th Army.

VOUZIERS, September 15, 1914.

At Headquarters.

Near the bridge of Etrepy certain German car-
tridges have been found with grooved points.
These come under the heading of explosive


bullets; they are only intended to be used in time
of peace on rifle ranges of insufficient length, and
they have been included in our war ammunition
by an oversight.As the effect of these bullets in penetrating the
human body is similar to that of a dum-dum
bullet, the Army Headquarters, wishing to avoid
denunciations on the part of the French, considers
it necessary that instructions on the subject
should be issued to all territorial dépôts for the
distribution of ammunition, and to other army
headquarters.By order of the General Commanding the
Army,(Signed) BARON VON LÜ.To be noted by
	The Inspectors of Ordnance Stores.

These should take measures to prevent any
explosive bullets being forwarded to the front.
	The 6th and 8th Army Corps, and the
8th and 18th Corps of Reserve.

As far as possible all explosive bullets in the
hands of the troops are to be destroyed.

By order of the General Commanding the


Headquarters of the 8th Army Corps, 16th September,
1914.--1st Section No. 818.

16th Division. AURE, September 25, 1914

"From Army Headquarters (24th September):
The Commander-in-chief of the French Army
has issued orders to shoot all officers, military
and civil, and all non-commissioned officers and
men belonging to the German forces who shall
be found in possession of dum-dum bullets. All
officers and other persons serving with the Army
should be warned that they must get rid of any
ammunition which may by any means be con-
sidered as coming under the category of dum-
dum bullets. This description applies, for in-
stance, to certain kinds of pistol ammunition



f which the bullet is not completely covered,
that is to say, at the end of which the casing
has been broken and turned back, so that the

No. 99

leaden core is visible; it would seem to apply,
for instance, to the ammunition used in the
’Parabellum’ revolver. Ammunition in which the
leaden core is pierced with holes may also be called
in question. On the other hand, the bullet used in
the service revolver with its unbroken, flattened
casing cannot be included under that heading.


This link should take you directly to the chapter.

Wish I had found this option before I posted all of the above!


[quote=“Lew”]Fede, Very interesting report. Thanks! Is there a reference for the source of the report. I’d like it for my files.

Dutch, Those are interesting bullets you show. Are they bullet modification produced on the unit, or at the range, or are they modifications produced in an arsenal or is there any information on them indicating their purpose and origin?

Interesting informaiton.



Lew, It looks to me they are all factory made.



Cross cut bullets are part of most soldiers folklore but in practice they dont expand because the greater exterior surface area causes the cut on the bullet to close up rather than expand on flesh. The devil finds work for idle hands though and I would imagine most soldiers on both sides tried it. Its virtually a given, but its summary execution to be caught with them by the enemy.


Dutch, three of your cartridges are loaded with factory bullets (Roth No. 515 and DWM M88Q). Are you saying that the one with cross-shaped incision is factory too? The M88 factory version of this bullet is DWM M/88S (Kreutzschlitzgeschoss) but I’m not aware of a factory “S” of this kind.


Many 6.5 mm Carcano and 8 x 50R Mannlicher rounds are still found on the WWI battlefields with similar cut bullets or even reversed bullets.

6.5 mm Carcano guard loads were also used in WWI as antipersonnel ammo in close trench combat


During WW1 both Britain and Germany tested reversed ball bullets against the thinly armoured tanks of those days. They were found to give better penetration.



[quote=“gravelbelly”]During WW1 both Britain and Germany tested reversed ball bullets against the thinly armoured tanks of those days. They were found to give better penetration.


It must be told.

In the past I was always very skeptic about stories about revered bullets.

It makes ballistic no sense to me.

I found somewhere in the web, this picture of a found on a battlefield with this ammo.



Here probably on as Pivi mentioned in 8x50R Mannlicher - Bulgarian manuf.


Reversing bullets is another “soldiers folklore” scenario although hard to do with.303 because of the cordite charge. Its very difficult to ascribe this to official or unofficial practice, i would say the latter. Soldiers were just trying to stay alive and the same practices and the same mythology ran through the trenches on both sides. If you were sitting in a trench any day expecting an inevetable massive attack what do you expect? Its not to be condoned but it has to be put in perspective.


[quote=“dutch”][quote=“gravelbelly”]During WW1 both Britain and Germany tested reversed ball bullets against the thinly armoured tanks of those days. They were found to give better penetration.


It must be told.

In the past I was always very skeptic about stories about revered bullets.

It makes ballistic no sense to me.

I found somewhere in the web, this picture of a found on a battlefield with this ammo.


I have found one reference to “reversed bullets”:-

Colonel Ernest Swinton, the British Army’s official war correspondent in France and Winston Churchill, then First Lord of the Admiralty were instrumental in getting armoured vehicles into the field. The trench battle in France was in a state of stalemate following the First Battle of Ypres in 1914 with progress by either side prevented by machine guns, artillery bombardments and many miles of barbed wire entanglements. Ideas were evolving to design a machine which could cross no-mans land safely.

These ideas gained impetus on the 22nd of February 1915 at a meeting of an Admiralty team which had been set up by Churchill and named “The Landships Committee”. From their consideration of the Swinton proposals a memorandum was submitted to the General Staff in France with the title of: “The Necessity for Machine-Gun Destroyers”. The memo proposed detailed specifications for these weapons:

“These machines would be tractors on the caterpillar principle, of a type which can travel at 4 miles an hour on the flat, can cross a ditch up to 4 ft width without climbing, can climb in and out of a broader cavity and can scramble over a breastwork. It is possible to build such tractors. They should be armoured with hardened steel plate, proof against the German steel cored, armour-piercing and reversed bullets and armed with – say – two Maxims and a Maxim 2-Pdr gun.”



Thats a good post and a very good find. The original tanks were not armour plated. Literally “tanks” a name adopted from their covering description when shipping them. Mild steel construction with a basic engine not really powerful enough except to move them on their way.
I would take the reverse bullet tactic to amount to little more than the “stick or bounce” effect. A reversed bullet would at least expend its energy at the point of impact.
But the first tanks had many point of weakness to be exploited. The drivers observation slit, The gun emplacements has gaps to allow manouvering the guns. The door gaps were only covered by a flap door. All points where concentrated small arms or MG fire cold be directed breaching the sanctity of the tank.
But inside there were more problems for the crews, exposed drive shafts, overheating engines, fumes and exhaust gases that could kill the crew without the enemy’s intervention. Most tanks that went into battle never returned.


The other major “Antipersonnel” feature of the Tank body was the rivetted sheets of plate…rivets could be sheared off by either artillery explosions or MG bullet fire…and then become a secondary projectile within the huill of the tank; no need to penetrate the armour, if inside flying bits did the job just as well.

The Germans of course, had “AP” ammo quite early on, but its original use was NOT against Tanks, but against “Loophole Plates” in the trenches ( “K” Munition)…The use of Tanks ( also Moving Loopholeplates) increased the development and utilisation of “SmK Ammo” (by Both sides).

Doc AV