Mercury-filled rifle bullets?


The following extract is from a Russian book about Chechnya:

This reads like the purest BS to me (there are some obvious errors - having liquid mercury inside would make it less accurate since it would move around), but I’d be interested in any contrary views!


Sorry, but for me it is a pure (non)SciFi!
"…and the tip was metal so it could cut through kevlar or iron the same as air…"
"…The matrix was liquid mercury, which made its trajectory extra precise…"
These two phrases pleased me (and make me burst into laughter) the most!




Someone has been reading Forsyths’ “Day Of Jackal” lately :)

there’s a lot of BS in cicrulation in regard to Chechen wars
I.e., last year one person in local Russian online “gun community” tried to prove that Chechen terrorists were using AP rifle bullets loaded with Mustard gas / Yprit.

there also are stories that are likely closer to truth, i.e. of Chechen terrorists using some experimental 6mm (6x49) sniper rifles, designed during last years of USSR, which they apparently got through now-independent Ukraine, etc


Years ago when I actually had time, I found an old report in the files at Eglin AFB (Armament Lab) that referred to a mercury filled bullet in 30-06 that could be fired against aircraft structure and the mercury would degrade the aluminum and cause structural failure. It was written like a concept piece and my recollection is that there was no indication that it was ever made. It was US Army (I think) and must have dated from about WWII. I made a copy and sent it to Woodin Labs in about 1980-1882 and may still have a copy around here but a lot has been dumped in the subsequent moves. Only mention of mercury filled rifle bullets I have seen.

I do have a 9x19mm with a mercury filled wooden bullet. A 16 round unmarked box (may have been only partially filled) was found in a storage area in Germany attributed to RWS. Many years ago the box apparently found it’s way into a museum I’m told. Most of the rounds have found their way into collections. I have one, Woodin Lab has one and I know of one in a very good German 9x19mm collection. I’m sure there are others. One guess is that it was intended as a blank that would function in an automatic weapon without any adaptor. Seems strange because the medical effects of mercury have been known for some time. The cases are unheadstamped. Perhaps they were intended for some other use. If someone has a more complete history of these rounds, please post it.

There is a 9x19mm round by the Valet Cartridge Co in Spoken Washington (long out of business) that is reputed to be a drilled out HP bullet filled with mercury and sealed with a black tip. May be true since the GM jacket on mine has discolored at the tip. I have no idea of the purpose of the load.

These are the only three mercury filled bullets I have heard of, but Valet may have made their load in other calibers.

Tony, Previous responders have the quote you provided pegged.




Lew, a couple of questions:

  1. How quickly could the mercury have affected the aluminum aircraft skin?
  2. If the mercury-filled wooden 9mm was fired, would the bullet disintegrate and a “solid” slug of mercury continue down-range? If so, it could constitute an effective, non-attributable (or identifiable) projectile.
    OK, so much for my chemistry questions.


I think mercury would take some time to weaken an aircraft structure significantly. Carbon compounds like graphite would be as effective if not more so especially if the aircraft were exposed to electrolytes such as acid rain or sea water.
Combat aircraft would be inspected for battle damage far too frequently for this to be of significance I feel.

“Mercury filled bullets” is only part of the incomplete descriptions offered in several novels.
Mercury expands an incredible amount for each degree celsius it is exposed to. Providing a small hot detonator to a mercury bullet core would vaporise the mercury.
The main problems are… Not handle safe, not bore safe, not storage safe. And that is before any of the after firing environmental issues.
Inaccuracy would be a large problem too.
A LARGE expansion space would have to be left for the mercury to expand in ambiant temperatures and in riding the bore at ignition of the propellant charge. Sloshing around (though slowly) during high speed rotation does not lend to accuracy. When touching exposed lead, the mercury would try to form an amalgam too. An internal sleeve of brass or steel for example would be required also.

Like most exotic ideas, more trouble than it’s worth!


I remember years ago reading something about a WWII British idea to load anti-aircraft shells with radium paint to spray Nazi bombers, making them easier targets to see at night. Makes about as much sense as shooting them with mercury bullets. I guess every war produces a crop of such ideas.

I have read some works of fiction wherein the bad guys were using mercury-filled bullets to make them deadlier. I don’t know how that would work. I think also I saw some references to cyanide-filled bullets. That might work better, but I don’t know if it was actually done. Wasn’t there something about garlic-coated bullets for shooting vampires too? And of course silver bullets for werewolves (maybe they would work on vampires too if you rubbed some garlic on them).


It’s funny that the description says that a “metal tip” and a mercury core made it such that no body armor could withstand it. I’m not aware of any soft body armor that can withstand even the most average lead-core 30 caliber rifle bullet, so that’s bunk. And if they mean hard ceramic plates in body armor or something like that, then no such metal tip or mercury core would help penetrate that.

The Mercury core bullets from Velet were called “Mercor” as far as I know, and I have cartridges in .45acp and .357mag. The bullets were chemically dysfunctional and degraded not long after being loaded. I had also heard that Strommen-Trickel was making a similar bullet and might have supplied a small quantity to National Cartridge who wanted to load them. These were all a fad in the early 80’s.


But what was the supposed advantage to the Mercor bullets? I would think that if mercury was used, it would have to first be encapsulated in a material such as plastic that would not be subject to amalgamation.

Regarding the statement “Mercury expands an incredible amount for each degree celsius ,” Mercury does not have an incredible coefficient of thermal expansion (both linear and volumetric). Its thermal coefficient is somewhat greater than other metals (by a factor of 2 to 3) because it is a liquid and its atoms are not tightly bonded together, but is less than that of water and most organic substances.

I suspect the idea was that mercury would be poisonous to living organisms, in addition to providing something like fragmentation, i.e., breaking up into a large number of small and very dense droplets upon impact. Poisoning would be extremely slow acting, and would not be immediately effective, but the droplet “fragmentation” and penetration could be effective in causing severe physical damage, sort of like firing a load of tiny shot (think Glaser). I don’t know, I am just guessing.



I can’t really answer your questions. The tone of the concept paper and the 30-06 caliber made me think the intent was to shot at the aircraft on the ground in a more covert operation, not anti-aircraft or aircraft to aircraft fire. Remember the US used very few .30 caliber weapons air-to-air.

I believe any serious damage from mercury would be weeks to become obvious or cause structural failure. If this was a WWII concept, aircraft didn’t get near the inspections they do today, and flying with bullet holes was not uncommon. I know that jets have been found on preflight or even the quick check before takeoff with a bullet hole that had been there for some onknown length of time. Even if a hole was patched, particularly in WWII, my guess is that mercury contamination would likely go unnoticed.

I have no idea how the German mercury filled wood bullet cartridge might have worked, was only reporting it’s existance.




In my previous posting, I was referring principally to tissue damage, not damage to aircraft. However, aluminum under some circumstances will amalgamate with mercury. An additional possible source of damage is if the mercury came in contact with electrical wiring or electrical/electronic components within the aircraft, and that could cause no end of problems, including electrical shorting in addition to amalgamation and wekening of copper connectors, gold contacts, etc… I have no idea as to the length of contact time required to do damage. However, the idea of using mercury-containing bullets to damage aircraft seems to me to be impractical as there are more certain and effective ways of achieving the same end.

In the case of the wooden bullet filled with mercury, that would work to achieve the type of tissue effect I postulated. Nowadays, I’d think such a bullet would use some type of plastic jacket to encapsulate the mercury.


There was no advantage, in fact they were probably worse off than typical high-quality hollow points of the day such as Winchester Silvertip. It was just a fad that was short lived. Inspired by fiction, like ice bullets, etc…


Thank you gentlemen, you have confirmed my opinion!


I must concede that my comment containing the word “incredible” for the description of the rate of expansion of mercury might be perceived as over enthusiastic, even in the context implied, comparing it to other metals that may be used in projectiles.
Detonating a fulminate or similar substance to suddenly heat an encapsulated measure of a high mass liquid metal that has a boiling point around 356 degrees Celsius would be nevertheless “spectacular” if it weren’t such a difficult element to harness for use in ballistics.


I believe that mercury is about 20% more dense than lead at room temperature. Perhaps one attraction of putting mercury is to increase bullet density. In spite of that rational I think the Mercor bullets are just like almost all of the speciality bullets/magic bullets we see advertised. Their manufacturers are trying to capture attention and sell their product, and everything else is just hype to achieve that end. This approach even works on military procurements on occasion.



Absolutely correct that Mercury is about 20% more dense than Lead (specific gravity 0f 13.6 vs. 11.7 for Lead). It’s also much more expensive than Lead, and difficult and hazardous to handle also (but not nearly as much as supposed - over 45 years ago, I had a job which literally required wading around in Mercury daily, and I’m still around). It wouldn’t add much, if anything, to penetration and would not enhance accuracy. I think the main purpose of using Mercury in bullets is as previously discussed.


You are right, there is absolutely no problem to handle mercury
And even if you eat some you will have no problem

People must stop to believe all the BS made by the media and trust their TV
(it would be interesting to make a correlation between substances supposed to be dangerous (as mercury, lead and so on) and the use you can do with them)

Indeed there is a big difference between mercury and mercury salts (these last ones been poisonnous).

Regarding the mercury bullets,
** yes the mercury is heavier than lead, therefore it is interesting beacuse it is increasing the momentum, the only problem being its price (and the fact you can get an amalgam with other metals)
** no you will have no effect due to the elevation of the temperature when the bullet touches the target (the raise in temperature is not enough and its duration is too short)
** yes you will have a good result in the target (like schrapnels) (this is due to the momentum conservation)

Another bullet more interesting and even better is fuel bullet
(esay to understand : the fuel is explosing by itself when it is compressed (like in the car motors)



You are correct. There are a great many substances regulated by USEPA as being very hazardous when in fact there is little to no hard evidence that they are “…harmful to human health and the environment.” PCB is a prime example. I spent nearly 20 years as an environmental engineer and learned a lot about the EPA corporate mindset during that time. One must realize that all government regulatory agencies (including BATFE) exist for the purpose of writing regulations and rules and enforcing them. If they don’t continue to come up with new regulations to enforce, they do not grow and prosper. It’s difficult to do that without using scare tactics, which government agencies excel in performing. Look at the blatant attempts to create a scare over guns crossing the Mexican border from the US. That one sort of blew up in their face in the case of Fast and Furious, but they haven’t given up trying to limit gun sales. Witness the BATFE decrees this week about recording rifle sales in the border states.

I am unaware of a Diesel bullet. Can you explain?


Dennis, your commonet on PCB reminds me of what the electrical teacher at the college where I did my engineering apprenticeship said. Apparently when he first started work in the 1960s he worked around large capacitors containing PCB. Every so often one of them would explode, and he would be sent down to clean up. All he did was wipe the electrolyte off the wall with a rag and then go and eat his sandwiches without even washing his hands.

As for mercury, my friend’s dad told me that when he was at school, him and his friends used to break open thermometers and collect the mercury in pill bottles. They would then sit playing with beads of mercury on the table during class. If you tried that today they would close the whole building down for decontmaination, and your parents would probably recieve a large fine.


My teeth are full of mercury amalgum. Most people of my generation are the same. Also years, decades! of serious heavy duty bullet casting must have exposed me to a lead overload by now.

What the heck! I never did fancy living to 90 sitting in a wet diaper anyway. Keep going till the lights go out.