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1-shot killer
This 5.56mm round has all the stopping power you need — but you can’t use it. Here’s why:

By John G. Roos
Special to the Times


Ben Thomas and three colleagues were driving north out of Baghdad in an SUV on a clear mid-September morning, headed down a dirt road into a rural village, when gunmen in several surrounding buildings opened fire on them.
In a brief but intense firefight, Thomas hit one of the attackers with a single shot from his M4 carbine at a distance he estimates was 100 to 110 yards.

He hit the man in the buttocks, a wound that typically is not fatal. But this round appeared to kill the assailant instantly.

“It entered his butt and completely destroyed everything in the lower left section of his stomach ... everything was torn apart,” Thomas said.

Thomas, a security consultant with a private company contracted by the government, recorded the first known enemy kill using a new — and controversial — bullet.

The bullet is so controversial that if Thomas, a former SEAL, had been on active duty, he would have been court-martialed for using it. The ammunition is “nonstandard” and hasn’t passed the military’s approval process.

“The way I explain what happened to people who weren’t there is … this stuff was like hitting somebody with a miniature explosive round,” he said, even though the ammo does not have an explosive tip. “Nobody believed that this guy died from a butt shot.”

The bullet Thomas fired was an armor-piercing, limited-penetration round manufactured by RBCD of San Antonio.

A new process

APLP ammo is manufactured using a so-called “blended-metal” process, said Stan Bulmer, president of sales and manufacturing for Le Mas Ltd. of Little Rock, Ark. Le Mas is the distributor of RBCD ammo.

Various bullet types made by RBCD are designed for different effects, Bulmer said.

The frangible APLP ammo will bore through steel and other hard targets but will not pass through a human torso, an eight-inch-thick block of artist’s clay or even several layers of drywall. Instead of passing through a body, it shatters, creating “untreatable wounds.”

Le Mas gave Thomas a small number of APLP rounds after he contacted the company.

After driving off their attackers, Thomas and his colleagues quickly searched the downed enemy fighter for items of intelligence value. They also took time to examine the wound.

“There’s absolutely no comparison, whatever, none,” to other wounds he has seen from 5.56mm ammo, Thomas said in a telephone interview while on home leave in Florida.

He said he feels qualified to assess a bullet’s effects, having trained as a special-operations medic and having shot people with various types of ammo, including the standard-issue green tip and the Black Hills Mk 262, favored by spec-ops troops.

Thomas was the only member of the four-man group who had RBCD ammo. He said that after the group returned to base, they and other members of his group snatched up the remaining rounds.

“They were fighting over it,” he said. “At the end of the day, each of us took five rounds. That’s all we had left.”

Congress wants tests

Last year’s defense budget included $1.05 million for testing blended-metal bullets, Bulmer said. Fourteen months into the 24-month period during which those research and development-testing funds must be spent, the military has not purchased a single bullet from Le Mas.

Publicly, at least, military officials say RBCD ammo is no more effective than other types now in use and, under certain conditions, doesn’t even perform as well. Those conclusions are derived from a series of tests conducted a few years ago in which RBCD ammo’s effects were observed in ballistic gelatin, the standard means for testing bullets.

Naval Reserve Lt. Cmdr. Gary Roberts, a recognized ballistics expert and member of the International Wound Ballistics Association, conducted the gelatin tests in March 2002.

According to his findings, “Claims that RBCD bullet terminal performance can vary depending on target thickness, size or mass were not shown to have merit, as bullet performance remained consistent irrespective of gelatin block size.”

Roberts found that in gelatin, a 9mm, 60-grain slug exhibited “tissue damage comparable to that of other nonexpanding 9mm bullets and is less than that of standard 9mm [jacketed hollow point] designs, since the RBCD bullet does not create as much tissue damage due to its smaller recovered diameter.”

A .45-caliber bullet “offered average terminal performance in bare and denim-clad gelatin, similar to that noted with the 9mm bullet. ... The RBCD bullets do not appear to be a true frangible design, as significant mass is retained after striking a target.”

Not surprisingly, Roberts’ assessment remains a major impediment to getting RBCD ammo into military hands. Considering his standing in the ballistics community, his findings are accepted as gospel by many influential members of the special-operations community.

But Bulmer insists that tests in ballistic gelatin fail to demonstrate RBCD ammo’s actual performance because the gelatin is chilled to 36 degrees. Their bullets seem to shatter most effectively only when they strike warmer targets, such as live tissue. Bulmer said tests using live animals clearly would show its effects. Despite his appeals for such testing, and the funds set aside by Congress to conduct new tests, the military refuses.

Bulmer said authority to spend the testing funds initially went to U.S. Special Operations Command in Tampa, Fla., which delegated testing responsibility to the Army Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg, N.C.

Queries to the command confirmed that it was aware of the testing requirement but had not decided when, or if, the tests will be conducted.

Bill Skipper, president and CEO of the American Business Development Group, is a lobbyist representing Le Mas on Capitol Hill. “When I heard of the ballistic characteristics of this ammo, as a retired military officer, I realized it has to stay in the good guys’ hands,” he said, adding that SOCom’s reluctance to test it is “irresponsible.”

“This is an issue of national security,” he said.

Some supporters of RBCD ammunition suggest SOCom officials may be reluctant to test the ammo because it threatens “in-house” weapons and ammunition programs underway at the command.

Special-operations forces long have sought a more potent standard round than the 5.56mm, which lacks the punch needed during the long-distance engagements that frequently occur in Afghanistan and Iraq. In response, SOCom is working with weapons and ammunition manufacturers to develop a new round and new upper receivers for M4 and M16 rifles.

The command apparently has narrowed its search to a 6.8-by-43mm round.

Indication of industries’ involvement in this effort was seen in October during the annual Association of the U.S. Army exhibition in Washington.

If Le Mas’ 5.56mm APLP round delivers the performance SOCom is seeking in the new 6.8mm ammo — and Bulmer insists it does — the rationale and the potentially lucrative contracts for producing a new ammo type and modifying thousands of weapons used by special-operations forces would disappear.

Thomas said he isn’t familiar with the reasons that might keep RBCD ammo from getting a realistic test within the military.

“The politics, that’s above my pay grade,” he said. “All I really care about is that I have the best-performing weapon, optics, communications, medical equipment, etc. I’m taking Le Mas ammo with me when I return to Iraq, and I’ve already promised lots of this ammo to my buddies who were there that day and to their friends.”

When military officials in the United States got wind that Thomas had used the round, he quickly found himself in the midst of an online debate in which an unnamed officer, who mistakenly assumed Thomas was in the service, threatened him with a court martial for using the nonstandard ammo.

Although Thomas was impressed by RBCD ammo’s performance, he feels it should not be the standard ammunition issued to all U.S. forces.

“The first thing I say when I talk to people about Le Mas’ ammo is, make sure that 22-year-old infantrymen don’t get a hold of this, because if they have an accident ... if they have a negligent discharge, that person is dead. It doesn’t matter how much body armor you have on.

“This is purely for putting into bad guys. For general inventory, absolutely not. For special operations, I wouldn’t carry anything else.”

A video clip on RBCD ammo that was shot at the annual Armed Forces Journal Shootout at Blackwater is online at www.armedforcesjournal.com/bullets.

John G. Roos is editor of Armed Forces Journal.

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The blended metal rounds ARE available to civilians in the US if anyone is interested...
 

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I wish I had a BS flag to raise.

Anybody can get into trouble for using unauthorized ammo...particularly if they run their mouth about it.

We don't know for sure if the shootee died from the direct result of ONLY this trauma...was he injured other wise...did he have other health problems, i.e. bad heart or something...too many variables...

plus it sure changes the laws of physics in one fell swoop.

According to the article..
This stuff can tell the difference between a warm and cold impact medium in the time it takes to touch the surface, then penetrate, and this has a direct effect oon the performance of the bullet. The dif from 36 deg F to 98.8 deg F is not that much...what happened if it hit a surface that's been sitting in the sun for hours?

Maybe Eqqus Feceius Magnus
 

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This sort of reminds me of the unveiling of the Glaser Safety Slug. A correspondent wrote that they shot a horse with a .380 Glaser and it collapsed instantly. Jeff Cooper responded "great, if we could get them for a .45 we could down elephants with one shot!"

There is only so much power in a .223 no matter what type of bullet you put in it - unless someone comes up with a tiny nuclear device. What you shoot in a cartridge is very important but you cannot create raw power where it does not exist.

Caveat Emptor,
Cordially,
Jim Higginbotham
 

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I just think the military should test the rounds to once and for all shut the dude up from RBCD. I get tired of reading the "controversy" threads.
 

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:rolleyes:
 

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The important thing isn't the temp of the medium it's the fluidity. The geletin is the right density but body tissue is a combination of gels and fluids, not just a gel. The fluids are what disrupt the structure of the rounds and cause them to frament, at least from what I can tell.

This is why animal tests would have vastly differant results than the gelitin, not the temp. If you had the geletin enclosed and in fluid or semi-fluid state it would lose it's "recording" capabilities but in theory the ammo should behave correctly.

This is all speculation, I don't have any direct experiance or evidence. Have fun guys :D
 

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"Magic Bullets" = Santa Claus = Easter Bunny = Tooth Fairy
 

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Black Snowman said:
The important thing isn't the temp of the medium it's the fluidity. The geletin is the right density but body tissue is a combination of gels and fluids, not just a gel. The fluids are what disrupt the structure of the rounds and cause them to frament, at least from what I can tell.

This is why animal tests would have vastly differant results than the gelitin, not the temp. If you had the geletin enclosed and in fluid or semi-fluid state it would lose it's "recording" capabilities but in theory the ammo should behave correctly.

This is all speculation, I don't have any direct experiance or evidence. Have fun guys :D
From what I have read on other forums the manufacturer has turned down repeated offers for independent testing.
 

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Can anyone corroborate Ben Thomas' story. Also there has been nothing done to test RBCD ammo against helmets, body armor, load bearing gear, rifle magazines, brick walls, buildings, parapets and other forms of cover, vehicles, and all the other stuff thats out there. How does it hold up in a hot barrel in a fire fight. Will the bullets in your pack survive getting chucked out of the back of a five ton? There's a reason why M855 was adopted, did it address all problems, no. Create new ones, yes. Solutions? beats me. But jumping on the latest and greatest bandwagon probably isn't it.
 

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One case is hardly conclusive of anything; but the bullet - or part thereof - may have struck the lower spine and or pelvis to send secondary bone fragments around the lower abdominal cavity. A bullet in the buttocks may not be much at all if all it does is perforate muscle tissue. A bullet to the lower spins/pelvis is another matter altogether. The lower spine in particular might produce enough clinical shock alone could cause a rapid death.

The 36 degress of test gelatin is one of the criteria for it to replicate living tissue. Warm it up and it ceases to be an accurate (as accurate as gelatin can be that is) medium.
 

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They don't make BS meters big enough for the story.

Shot in the buttock and killed. What they aren't telling you is that if so, then the guy was laying prone and the medic shot him from the and in the rear with the round traveling parallel to the length of the body. In other words, it traveling UP into the chest cavity from the butt. You can get lethality that way with any number of rounds with no problem. The guy was probably hit in such a manner because he was otherwise wounded. His butt was to the Americans because he was probably running away. I have no problems with this aspect, but that would account for how a person could be shot in such a manner. My guess is that the wounding was NOT intentional on the part of the medic.

Strangely, RBCD (or whatever their name is) seems to think modeling clay is the answer to ballistic testing. I have seen their videos and when the claymation forces rise up, I am buying all they have.
 

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Up at our hunting camp is a large pile of old magazines. One of them is/was an issue of True, the Magazine For Men, dated about 1965. Had the exact same stories about miraculous kills in VN using the new mystery rifle, the AR15, and its hyper-velocity bullet (now known as M193 of course). A round going in one way and turning to go another is pretty common, especially in this caliber-- I believe it was the M193 round for which the term "J-hook" was coined....so...... ho-hum. I'd like to know some credentials on the author, exactly which "Times" he was writing for, and what "Special to the Times" means..... I almost think it means "submitted but never published". Anybody know how to find out?
 

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The important thing isn't the temp of the medium it's the fluidity. The geletin is the right density but body tissue is a combination of gels and fluids, not just a gel. The fluids are what disrupt the structure of the rounds and cause them to frament, at least from what I can tell.
At the speed the bullets are travelling, air acts as a fluid doesn't it? And the manufacturer has explicitly stated that heat is the mechanism at work. Of course, somehow the bullet knows to look for the relatively small heat differential between metal and flesh, and not to expand during the massive heat influx caused by having an explosive go off under its base and being propelled down a barrel (inducing friction) by hot gasses.
 
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