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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I recently saw a program called "Digging Up the Trenches" on the History Channel.

It was record of a ten day dig to see what evidence could be found of the trenches at a specific site outside of Ypres.

During the course of this dig there was found the remains of a rifle that was theorized to be a British "sniper" rifle and some .303 cartridges that had the bullets reversed.

The presenter claimed that these cartridges were significant in that they were "solder made" and that they were used specifically to induce "spalling" in the iron plates used as shields by marksmen of the opposing forces.

Does anyone have any reference to this "field modified" ammunition and how effective was it?

If this explanation is true there must have been a document created describing the field mod. as the military always tries to spread the word about successful modifications to equipment and tactics. Besides, they would have to have been the luckiest archeologists in the world to find the one spot in the entire trench system that had this type of remains if they were not common.

It is not that I doubt the explanation, most of the other conjectures presented were supported by reference and period photos, I'm just looking for the references on this one.

Thank You
 

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Hey Bob,
I have heard stories about modified ammunition, and somewhere, I have a bullet that had the tip cut off, possibly to make a hunting round. What I do know is that the early projectiles were not full metal jacket, the base was open, and if the tip was cut off, the lead core would be pushed through the jacket, potentially leaving the jacket in the barrel (the bullet I have, has a lead tounge about ¾ inch long protruding from the tip.
I suspect that there is no official record of reversing the projectiles, as this would be considered bad form. If it was something that was done offically, I think the instructions would have been passed on by word of mouth. I can not see this type of ammunition being very accurate.
Best
Gus
 

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I imagine it was done. Troops sitting in a trench day after day with time on their hands will think up new and interesting ways to inflict greater nastiness on the enemy.

That said, I'm not at all sure how a hit from a reversed projectile would cause all that much more spalling than one hitting point first. And there is the question of accurancy that Gus raised. I'd wonder how much chance such a handmade round would have of even hitting the target in the first place.

One thing I'd like to know is whether or not there was any issue ammo that may have had a blunt tip - some special purpose round, perhaps - that when dug up nearly a century later looks like a nornal projectile loaded backwards.
 

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i would think the bullet would revers its self in longer flight. do in part to bullets wind Resistance and turing around unstable till it bucked to proper streamed line flight.
maybe it was used in closer situations to inflect dumb dumb type of wounds.? 50 to 70 yards <><dk
 

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According to some old literature on the Krag rifle (which material I do not have with me), US soldiers would reverse the bullets in the issued ammunition when on guard duty in the Southern Philippines, so that the flat end would exit first. It was alleged that this was done to create an unstable, key-holing bullet which would prevent "juramentado" Moros from getting to the soldier on guard by creating wounds too serious for the Moros to overcome. This may have been a myth. Old firearms literature (and new) is, to say the least, subject to myths.
However, if this is actually how a bullet would operate, you can see its utility in trench warfare, at close quarters.
How the ammo would feed, however, is a question, with the flat end of the bullet forward. Also, why would the energy of a bullet cause it to spall armor more, just becasue it was unstable?
 

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bandook i agree totally- ive turned mixed bullets back wards reloading to see if there was a difference?
, was less accurate and side way bullets<><dk
 

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...
One thing I'd like to know is whether or not there was any issue ammo that may have had a blunt tip - some special purpose round, perhaps - that when dug up nearly a century later looks like a nornal projectile loaded backwards.
I would like to know also. A few years ago I saw a French 3 round charger with what appeared to be purpose made 'dum-dum' bullets. I'm curious what history tells us about these types of ammo. (maybe I should watch more TV?)

neat topic
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
The ammo in question was, in fact, described as "soldier made", which excited the archeologists a great deal, because of its rarity.
As the trenches being dug up were relatively close, at that point, (one of the reasons they chose to dig there), long range accuracy was probably not an issue.
I'm sure that such ammo violates several of the, so called, "rules of war" but as many, many "rules" were being broken in that conflict, I believe it was a case of "So what?"
I also wondered about the "spalling" theory, as the .303 hits pretty hard anyway, at close ranges.
On the German side of the line they found one of the shields that had to be, at least, an inch thick and angled, so maybe this tale is true. At least as far as the attempt to get at the targets behind it. How successful this ammo was is not reported, although the evidence points to very heavy artillery engagement at that specific point of the German trenches, at least according to the presenter.
I know that the US military records "field mods" for later incorporation, or to solve a specific problem that is not already in the book, so I just wondered if the British did the same.
 

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To get the best spalling, you would need more energy, and reversing the bullet would give less energy at the target,and less spalling. I would guess that is was more likely an effort at making a soft point projectile for close range, people always like to try to tie smething to snipers, as that makes it rarer and more interesting.
Best
Gsu
 

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I agree Gus. Reversing the bullet, would have a reverse effect on steel. It would splatter, with no penetration at all. It would hit the plate, with more frontal energy, possibly knocking it down, exposing the one behind it? However, on flesh and bone, a reversed bullet, would create an exit hole, the size of a softball.
 

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More than likely the bullets

were reversed for added knock

down power. Usually a fmj

would go completely trough

a soldier and with his mind

set in the heat of battle could

get off several rounds before

blood loss made him ineffectual.

With the dum dum like force of

the reversed shot he likely went

down , severely wounded and

stayed down. This would be at

close range combat of course.


2 cents

fiveshot
 

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I'd tend to go more with the better knock-down power rational, more so than causing more spalling of protective armor shields. If soldier-made, which seems to have been the case, it probably reflects more conventional wisdom on the part of the troops, than any actual ballistic reasons. Somebody heard from somebody that a backwards bullet would put a man down better, so next thing you know there's a minor cottage industry going to pull and reverse bullets. It reminds me of the way US tankers would add sandbag armor to their tanks during WW2. It gave little or no actual extra protection from AP rounds, but did make the tankers feel better.

It's a bit ironic, actually, since the regular .303 Mk VII round was already one of the better manstoppers.
 

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Although it is certainly tried/fabricated by soldiers in the trenches with nothing to do, such ammo wouldn't be more effective as the normaly issued one. Without a doubt it would be less accurate and certainly not a better penetrating bullet on "panzer"-plates. The idea of using such ammo by snipers is IMHO ludicrous. A known position of a sniper would normaly have been devastated by mortar fire. Even if the so-called sniper was at only 100 yards. They were feared but didn't last long. It was "the man to get"! And they got him! I'm not the person to bragg about the adventures of his own dad but one of the stories he let escape from his own mouth (99% I know from my late mother, because men tell more about their fears and "escapes" to their wives as to their offspring) was that "One day we were "annoyed" by this German sniper, no way to pinpoint his location and the men got nervous and exposed themselves to find out were "he" was located. I made an agreement with my friend and buddy who was a sniper himself to stop the treath wo had taken some lives. My buddy placed himself some 70 meters at my right and was ready to shoot when I called the German sniper ... "Hey Fritz ... Hey Fritz ... Hey Fritz ... exposing myself only a little bit ... just to have his attention. After a minute or so he responded ... "Jawohl!". At that moment he moved and his location was recognized by my buddy the (Belgian) sniper ... One shot and the exclamation "Ach ..." from the other side ... and the problem was solved.
Like I said, it is one of the extremely rare occasions he told his sons something about "the WWI trenches", I think he was proud at that moment to have solved a problem for his friends. A sniper at "hearing distance" is something I would never have imagined, but suppose that these were "other times". I know this story to be true because I had the occasion to look into his eyes when he told it.
 

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i imagine boredom and guys discussing over dinner, or before sleep talking about the possibilities of doing something with a idea-- is like in a hunting came i do this and this is the best way to do this just happens when people try to entertain them selves in bad situations.<>< dk
 

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Secretly, quietly, at the moment of decision, just like the 80 to 85 percent of World War II soldiers observed by Marshall, these soldiers found themselves to be unable to kill their fellow man.
I once asked an uncle who was a gunner in a US tank destroyer during WW2 what they did about snipers. Being only about 12 at the time I had visions of fierce gun battles to flush them out, just like on "Combat." His answer? "Oh, we'd just put a few 3" shells into the building, and that would be that."
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Yes, I have read that the life of a "sniper" in that context was rather short if a fixed position was used to much or to often.
The use of maximum firepower to address such problems is doctrine, to this day.
Likely "hides" or Positions of same are routinely given the attention of a few rounds of artillery just to make them less likely to be occupied.
Of course, that sort of thing requires good supply lines and a somewhat less than caring attitude about civilian casualties or property damage.
The location being dug up in this program was apparently a minor salient in the line so the Germans had apparently fortified it with concrete and steel, hence the evidence of bombardment to make it less tenable.
Still, the original question was if anyone had any reference to "reversed projectiles" and so far there seems to be nothing official.
Thanks to all for your attention.
 

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I am a non-believer about the "needed" effects of a reversed projectile that indeed certainly was made by men that were bored. There are always "wise guys". The one that shoots regularly rifles knows that no "embellishment" is needed ... there is more as enough power by using regular ammo. The only account I ever read about the effectivity of "reversed" bullets dates from an article written by the late Texas Ranger (I think, it is so many years ago) Bill Jordan in a US magazine. His theory (and probably practice!) was that of a reversed .38 Special Wadcutter bullet because they were more effective (mushrooming) than any other classic bullet. He was a firm believer in wheel guns ... that makes at least two of us. Sorry to be OT.
 

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years ago the armorer of the local police station I lived in at the time gave me a box of .38 Special, wadcutters, with the bullet reversed so the cup face forward. He said they would be good home defense rounds; I eventually shot them all; not at a bad guy but at paper. They did not tumble in flight and were reasonably accurate.
 
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