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March 20, 2006

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When you push bullets above 4,000 fps, strange things happen

During the 1980s and 1990s, Field & Stream was owned by a corporation based in Los Angeles. Its management, from my lowly vantage point, was comprised of dimwits, lickspittles, blunderers, Harvard MBAs, toadies, and no-hopers. One of the ideas this bunch had was to hand out Lucite plaques with the company logo on one side and the company motto on the other (“Bend over. Here it comes again”) to all its employees. I believe this was done in lieu of bonuses.

Anyway, no one wanted these things but me. I thought they would make terrific targets, and when I let this be known, I shortly had more plaques than I could carry. And they did blow apart in a wonderful fashion. But when I shot them with a .220 Swift, a curious thing happened: The tiny, 4,000 fps bullets simply bored holes through the Lucite.

When you push bullets above 4,000 fps, strange things happen. I’ve seen paper targets sprayed with molten lead from a bullet’s core as it passed through. Apparently the heat and stress of the trip up a rifle barrel at that speed melted the lead cores. I’ve seen highly frangible .22 varmint bullets go through mild steel plate that .30/06 slugs couldn’t penetrate. Perhaps the bullets acted in the manner of a shaped charge and burned their way through.

And of course if you really want to make the prairie dogs fly, nothing beats 4,000 fps. But on Lucite blocks, it’s pretty disappointing.


Eric S.

I think it would be interesting if you were to try a shooting test at a range of bullets and targets to see the changed effects of ballistics at 4000 fps. It would make an interesting read, and hey, if you need a person to take some of those shots for ya, let me know.

ranger nick

4000 fps!!! it's great. Fill a little 35mm can with firecrackers and some black powder, hit with a .17 remington cartridge bullets, instance 4th of july! Make sure you are 100 yards away.
don't want any one to get hurt. Oh, have to use a scope, can't seea film can that far away with the naked eye. 4000 fps. WOW

charles tatum

Does not some guys out in Texas, Fefuson if I remember the name correctly, claim to make a .25 cal. that will push a 100 grain bullet over 4000 f.p.s. with less than 1/2" m.o.a.?

Smith W. Dewlen

The laws pf physics are beyond me. I recall a test between a .30/06 and an arrow. A one gallon glass jar and a ten pound sack of wet sand were shot by each. The arrow broke the jar and fell in front of the jar, the bullet passed well beyond the jar. The story reversed when the wet sand was hit by the arrow, as it passed through and continued for some distance, while the bullet used its energy in the sand and did not exit. Curious, isn't it.

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