What is this crazy 50 cal projectile, defect?

I have been hooked on sectioning and practicing on anything I can find lately. I have 2 different 50 cals so I decided to work on them. While sectioning the projectile of this one a hollow pocket emerged and it appears to be filled with tiny “shot balls”. I really do not know much about 50 cals or their various designs. This one has a copper jacket over what seems to be a steel core. At the base is a copper disk that covers what looks to be a semitransparent white/clear plastic material (it lights up if I put a LED to it). Is this plastic a tracer??? Just above the plastic is the shot balls. I wonder if this is just a defect of sorts were the metal did not fully melt when it was formed as it is not uniformly distributed? I really have no clue.


I stood it up here to show the copper disk part better.

Is there absolutely no trace of as tip colour? A flat-base bullet is almost always a tracer, but the double cannelure is almost always an indicator for an incendiary round. Do you have any of the material left out of the other side, and does it burn at all? If it’s a metal, it could possibly be magnesium?

The entire projectile is copper colored with no paint at all. I do not have any of the other side to check that great theory.


PS: Also, it looks like what ever the core material is, it may also be wrapped in a copper colored jacket? Look at the scanned picture and you can see both a copper tip over the core and on its edges.

In the 4th picture down with the vertical bullet section; It looks like just above the “pellet hole” about halfway between the top of the hole, and the bullet tip there are two little inner copper-jacket indentations which are part of the design, and it also looks like the steel core may be tapering off at this point just slightly above, and inline with the inward indents and the metal above this point looks a little different. It also looks like there’s sort of a pyrotechnic train from the core area going back towards the base of the plastic tracer element’s copper disc on the right side of the bullet along the plastic area?


That’s the dangest bullet I have ever seen and I have seen some dangy ones.

I have no idea what it is but eventually the 50BMG guys will wake from their naps and ID it for you, I’m sure.

I believe it has a steel jacket and what you described as “wrapped in a copper colored jacket” is actually the inside of the jacket being copper plated. Steel jackets were typically plated both inside and out so as to protect the steel from corrosion when it came in contact with tracer or incendiary compounds, or even the dissimilar metal of the hardened steel or lead core itself.

Do you know what the headstamp is/was?


Thanks DK & Ray!

DK, what you think is a powder train is really a smudge from the buffer wheel on the plastic tracer part. :-) I may try cleaning this up better so it photographs nicer.

Ray, it is really weird. I have not seen the guts of many projectiles in my life yet compared to most but this jumped out at me as unusual. The funny think is that I had the projectile cutout all smoothed and was about to polish it up when I accidentally dropped it. When I picked it up, I noticed part of the metal broke off exposing this compartment with the shot looking pellet things. I do not think these were present on the mirror side that was removed?
Also, thanks for explaining the copper colored edges. That makes allot of sense.


Ray, forgot about the headstamp question. It is marked, L C 6 8 (not sure if the 6 is really a 9?)


That is one of the strangest sectioned projectiles I have ever seen.
If I were to venture a guess, which is all I could possibly do, I would say that perhaps it was made by an individual or very small company. They may have bought up a lot of .50 projos that were unfinished tracers, i.e. had not had the trace compound or tip coloration added yet, and they made their own quasi-ball projectiles out of them by filling the empty space in the back with plastic. …The shot pellets though, that is weird, just plain weird.
I sure hope somebody else here knows for sure what the hell the deal is with this one. Because I certainly don’t.

This is an interesting found, absolutely! Usually, a plastic core is used for short range projectiles. But in this case that doesn’t match with the steel front-core. Those shot-like pellets between the two cores only increase the mystery. Are they loose or more like a solid mass?

Thijs, the shot balls are not loose but more of a mass of stuck together balls. They are almost as if they were a bunch of shot pellets squeezed together so they stick but still maintain their shape???

I just polished it a little to see if it helps get a better picture.

I am going to agree with ASCorley sort of. I am going to assume assume that this is some sort of home brew or small enterprise modification of a standard 50 caliber tracer projectile. I dont know how you aquire projectiles that haven’t had the tracer pellet pressed in, but scraping out the tracer compound isn’t particularly problematic. There is a guy here in town that makes dummies and those 50 caliber and 20mm ball point pens, he burns out the tracers from pulled down projectiles with an acetylene torch. He has a steel plate that must have about a hundred holes in it that he uses to hold the projectiles base up. It must be quite a show when he lights them off!

To make an easy job of modifying the projectiles it would be nice to have one of those Corbin swaging presses.( corbins.com/ ) Corbin sells polyethylene balls for the purpose of filling space in a jacket, usually in the nose for added stability.
I am not sure why someone would fill the rear of a projectile with plastic other than to make an unstable short range round. Now if for some reason the maker of this round wanted to increase the weight or stablity of the projectile, lead shot could be added and compressed into an almost solid mass with a swaging press.

This is all conjecture on my part. Thinking up stuff like this is what some guys live for and some of those guys may even work for the Army. The first big clue would be to determine if this is a reload. Has the primer crimp been reamed off or swaged out? Is the grey appearance of the interior case walls due to burned powder residue?

Chilled lead shot is very hard (for lead) because it is high in antimony. It is also coated to prevent corrosion that would lead to clumping, which gives shot a darker appearance than plain lead bullets. You could check the weight of the recovered pellets against the weight of of standard shot pellets to see if that is their origin. You could also try to determine if the plastic is all one piece, or made up of compressed balls as the Corbin method would yield.

All of this is just guess work and doesn’t ID the maker unless someone here has more detailled knowledge of experimenters and experimental designs. With all of the projectile forming gear that is available to a guy with a bit of extra cash this projectile could be produced in somebodies garage or in an Ordinance lab. Have fun tracking it down.

WOW! Thanks so much Curt! Great information and theory it makes gobs of sense to me.

I will say, I know absolutely zero about home made hobbiest ammunition making but if this was not made by a commercial factory, whoever made it sure has some serious equipment including that device you mentioned. Unfortunately, the methods used to section this projectile did not leave me intact pellets to weigh or analyze in anyway. Looking at the plastic piece it appears to be one homogenous piece and not compressed but I could be wrong. It fits very very tight almost like it was a liquid plastic poured and hardened??

Not sure if relevant but, this round was purchased many years ago in the late 80’s at a flea market in Key Largo as was a live round until recently.

I tried experimenting taking a picture of the plastic part in the dark with a pen light tin-foiled and taped to its base. Not very successful

This shows the set up which hopefully will make the next picture more understandable.

Lights off you can see the transparency of the plastic part.

I added a link to Corbins (corbins.com/) in an edit you might want to check it out.

Nice! Thank you very much Curt. Just checked that link out and it is extremely interesting. Some of those press devices are incredible and so high tech. Maybe my 50 was made in some ones garage? Thanks a lot :-)


Thinking about this some more, it seems to me to be very unlikely to be a “home-made” sort of thing, since the first photos show a base closure disc on the bullet, of the sort that the military uses to protect tracer compound from residual moisture in the powder. However, there’s no reason for that, unless that “plastic”-type compound at the rear of the bullet is meant to burn (If it was me, I’d probably try to find another one, just to see if it was flammable). The “balls” in the front core are probably just an artifact of manufacturing; I’d thought that these cores were cut and swaged to size, then stamped into a formed jacket, but there’s no reason they couldn’t do it faster and easier just by pouring a measured quantity of shot into the jacket, then using a punch to compress that shot into a slug.

I sure don

I think I am going to try to draw a line drawing of this to show all its parts better. I am not sure if they are completely visible in the photos above, but if you look midway up between the top of the plastic part and the tip of the inner core you will see 2 triangular shaped copper points on the outside of the core / inside of the outer part. I would think (just a guess) that the presence of these triangles which is really a triangular cross sectioned ring encircling the inside of the jacket, would inhibit the use of any “Press” device forming the core material?? Just a guess. Also, if shot pellets were poured inside and then a press was used to squish them into a single dense solid core, I would think the area were the shot is visible in this specimen (closest to the press tool) would be flat and the artifacts from a bad press would be more towards the tip? I am making all this up as I really have no idea about how 50s are made except what I learn here from you guys.


Just doodled a quick line drawing. Hopefully the parts will make more sense?


I think I recall seeing ads for various ammo that had been through a “popper” used to cook off suprlus ammo with heat to fire off the poder and primer and presumably and tracer/incendiary elements. Then the residue is sold a scrap.

This may explain how a projectile might reach the market minus a tracer element.