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Dum Dum Bullets


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#1 Desdichado

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Posted 01 November 2007 - 03:27 PM

Despite the 1899 Hague Convention's prohibition on using ammunition designed to flatten in the body, the Germans believed that British and French troops used dum-dum bullets. I came across the text of a letter written by the Kaiser to American President Woodrow Wilson in which he accuses the allies of flouting the rules of war in this fashion. Was there any truth in his allegations?

As a nipper back in the early 1960's, our neighbour, Albert Tattersall, used to tell me stories of his time in the trenches. He said that German snipers were fond of using dum dum bullets (that's where I first heard the term) to pick off allied soldiers. Anyway, here's the text of the Kaiser's letter and I'd welcome some discussion on this topic:


I feel it my duty, Mr. President, to inform you as the most prominent representative of principles of humanity, that after taking the French fortress of Longwy, my troops discovered there thousands of dumdum cartridges made by special government machinery.

The same kind of ammunition was found on killed and wounded troops and prisoners, also on the British troops. You know what terrible wounds and suffering these bullets inflict and that their use is strictly forbidden by the established rules of international law.

I therefore address a solemn protest to you against this kind of warfare, which, owing to the methods of our adversaries, has become one of the most barbarous known in history. Not only have they employed these atrocious weapons, but the Belgian Government has openly encouraged and, since long, carefully prepared the participation of the Belgian civil population in the fighting.

The atrocities committed even by women and priests in this guerrilla warfare, also on wounded soldiers, medical staff and nurses, doctors killed, hospitals attacked by rifle fire, were such that my generals finally were compelled to take the most drastic measures in order to punish the guilty and to frighten the bloodthirsty population from continuing their work of vile murder and horror.

Some villages and even the old town of Loewen, excepting the fine hotel de ville, had to be destroyed in self-defence and for the protection of my troops. My heart bleeds when I see that such measures have become unavoidable and when I think of the numerous innocent people who lose their home and property as a consequence of the barbarous behaviour of those criminals.

Signed,

WILLIAM, EMPEROR AND KING


#2 ianw

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Posted 01 November 2007 - 03:42 PM

Would a sniper use such ammunition? I would have thought that the accuracy of the shot would suffer too much.

#3 truthergw

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Posted 01 November 2007 - 03:47 PM

This is a subject which has been discussed many times and at great length. A search on dumdum ought to bring up miles of stuff.

#4 Max Poilu

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Posted 01 November 2007 - 03:51 PM

Hi,

May be interesting to have a look at these other discussions exploring 'explosive', reversed and dum-dum bullets:

http://1914-1918.inv...i...4&hl=bullet


Especially this one - lots of useful dum-dum info:


http://1914-1918.inv...i...8&hl=bullet

#5 TonyE

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Posted 01 November 2007 - 03:57 PM

This has been discussed at considerable length on the forum on several occassions. I did a quick search for "Dum-Dum" but could not find the thread I was looking for. Perhaps someone else can find it for Desdichado.

A couple of quick points. The term Dum-Dum originates from the Indian government arsenal of that name outside Calcutta where the original .303 inch soft point bullets were manufactured in 1895. The British army did not adopt this design but instead designed three Marks of hollow point bullet, the .303 inch Marks III, IV and V which were in use around the turn of the century for use against savage enemies. The last use was in 1905/6 for an expedition in the Sudan.

What the Germans frequently objected to was the construction of the .303 Mark VII bullet which was the standard British issue round. This has a two part core, the rear half being lead and the front half aluminium. When hitting a body, particularly bone, the Mark VII has a tendency to tumble as the centre of graity is so far to the rear. Also, the bullet frequently breaks at the joint in the core causing more woumd damage. As I say, all this has been discussed before.

As for the German snipers using Dum-dums, there is no evidence of this. There IS evidence though of German troops reversing the bullets of their 7.92mm rounds to give a perceived increase in armour piercing ability against tanks, before the new SmK AP ammunition was introduced.

Ian - there is no reason why a soft point or hollow point bullet should be inherently inaccurate. In fact the best modern match bullets all tend to have a small hollow point.

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TonyE

#6 Desdichado

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Posted 01 November 2007 - 04:05 PM

Thanks Tony. Max Poilu added the links for me. I searched for Dum Dum too and drew an blank and that's why I posted the topic. Maybe the Mods can move it if it's appropriate.

#7 TonyE

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Posted 01 November 2007 - 04:15 PM

Our posts obviously crossed Max. I am glad you found the old thread.

I cannot remember what pictures I posted, but this is one that may help. The round on the left with the exposed lead tip is an original Indian manufactured Dum-Dum, known as the Ball .303 inch Mark II Special in British service and the other a British manufactured Ball Mark IV. The Ball Mark III was broadly similar but was not issued (now the rarest of .303 rounds) and the Ball Mark V looked the same as the Mark IV except the core was lead antimony to make it harder. Problems of the soft lead core of the Mark IV blowing through the bullet envelope whilst still in the barrel had occurred.

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[attachment=70903:Image5.jpg]

#8 Gunner Bailey

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Posted 01 November 2007 - 04:20 PM

My penny's worth.

I expect there was the odd rogue soldier on all sides who may have clipped the end off a bullet in the thought they were making a dum dum bullet, but I think the reality was the people faced for the first time with the destructive effect of modern high velocity ammunition made the mistake of saying 'he was hit by a dum dum bullet' because of the nature of the wound. Anyone hit in the head by a sniper is likely to have a pretty ugly exit wound and false assumptions could easily be made.

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#9 Max Poilu

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Posted 01 November 2007 - 04:26 PM

Just about to post exactly what GB just said - sure this is in one of the linked topics above - consequences of a wound by a .303 were as catastrophic as to appear to have been caused by an explosive round in many cases.

#10 Desdichado

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Posted 01 November 2007 - 04:37 PM

QUOTE (Max Poilu @ Nov 1 2007, 04:26 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Just about to post exactly what GB just said - sure this is in one of the linked topics above - consequences of a wound by a .303 were as catastrophic as to appear to have been caused by an explosive round in many cases.


They tend to bounce around in the body so you can have an entry would say in the chest and the exit wound in the back of the neck. With the toppling effect of the bullet, the exit would would be quite large, especially if the round hit bone on its way out. Getting hit by a ricochet was in many ways worse as the bullet was misshapen upon inpact leaving a large entry and exit wound.

#11 Gunner Bailey

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Posted 01 November 2007 - 04:51 PM

QUOTE (Desdichado @ Nov 1 2007, 04:37 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
They tend to bounce around in the body so you can have an entry would say in the chest and the exit wound in the back of the neck.


That's more true of the new smaller .223 or 5.56 x 45 'Nato' type bullets. A .303, 7.62mm or similar just knocks you down and leaves one small hole in the front and a big one in the back. Hence modern snipers using rounds of older calibre or larger.

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#12 Max Poilu

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Posted 01 November 2007 - 05:01 PM

We could branch this out a bit:

I have always understood that a bullet causes wounds by a variety of methods:

1. The physical impact of the projectile itself against tissue.

2. The impact upon say bone causing bone splinters that themselves act as projectiles causing further injuries.

3. The shock wave caused by the kinetic transfer of energy when the bullet hits effecting destruction of soft tissue.

4. Shock waves travelling through fluid carrying vessels again causing further damage some way from the initial impact.

Comments welcome!

#13 Tom A McCluskey

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Posted 01 November 2007 - 05:30 PM

Max

Dont forget the force of the bullet, and the subsequent vacuum, drawing minute pieces of clothing and equipment (much of which is dirty) necessitating debridement of the wound. Because of the lengthy time that some soldiers took to get treated on the first day of the Somme: you may be shot in the foot, but end up losing a leg due to a lack of prompt medical treatment.

Aye

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#14 Mick D

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Posted 01 November 2007 - 05:50 PM

cavitation is the word for this effect.

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#15 Max Poilu

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Posted 01 November 2007 - 06:06 PM

QUOTE (Tom A McCluskey @ Nov 1 2007, 05:30 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Max

Dont forget the force of the bullet, and the subsequent vacuum, drawing minute pieces of clothing and equipment (much of which is dirty) necessitating debridement of the wound. Because of a the lengthy time that some soldiers took to get treated on the first day of the Somme: you may be shot in the foot, but end up losing a leg due to a lack of prompt medical treatment.

Aye

Tom McC


Nasty business all round Tom. Similar to when previous generations of combatants deliberately dipped their arrows or suchlike into excrement to purposely introduce such an infection.

#16 Gunner Bailey

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Posted 01 November 2007 - 08:17 PM

Here are some links from a useful website.
Physical effects of the olders style 7.62 bullet and the modern NATO bullet.

http://www.firearmst...rofiles/M80.jpg


http://www.firearmst...ofiles/M193.jpg

This is the main site.

http://www.firearmst...om/tactical.htm

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#17 MikB

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Posted 01 November 2007 - 08:45 PM

QUOTE (TonyE @ Nov 1 2007, 03:57 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
As for the German snipers using Dum-dums, there is no evidence of this. There IS evidence though of German troops reversing the bullets of their 7.92mm rounds to give a perceived increase in armour piercing ability against tanks, before the new SmK AP ammunition was introduced.

Regards
TonyE


But Hesketh Prichard in 'Sniping In France' describes German bullets as inflicting turnover wounds similar to those you described for Mk.VII 303. It's reasonable to think the Mk.VII's partitioned core was deliberately designed to promote this, but almost any normally-stabilised spitzer would tend to behave similarly.

In designing bullets like this, military ballisticians would have had to balance this effect against the loss of penetration in cover that the same terminal ballistics could produce.

You have to get the bullet into the enemy first.

Regards,
MikB