Wood bullets?


July 16, 2003, 09:35 AM
I've often wondered about this.. Several years ago I was up at Fresno Highland games, where we had a group of 18th century re-enacters there with a Gatling gun.

I was helping out with crowd control, boy did that thing shake the ground from 15' away. I asked the guys what they were shooting, he showed me the wood bullets in their .45-70 cartridges (I think it was .45-70, may have been shorter). He said the bullets disintegrate very shortly after leaving the barrel.. well nobody died at least.

Can somebody shed some light on wood bullets of this type? Are they specially prepared in some way? It just seems to me that if you made a bullet outta a solid piece of wood.. that'd hurt!

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July 16, 2003, 10:09 AM


First I have ever heard of them.

Wil Terry
July 16, 2003, 10:31 AM
They will not stand the forces of acceleration and rifling twist and disintegrate after exiting the barrel, which of course is the whole idea.
During WWII in Europe 8MM ammunition was found having wooden bullets. A huge hue and cry went up among the allies the Nazi's were shooting our men with wooden bullets that X-rays couldn't find etc etc etc.[ the newsmen of those days were at least as stupid as those today ] This 8MM ammunition was training ammunition having a wooden bullet that would feed in the standard '98 Mauser and you could pull the trigger, hear a bang, and do it all over again while learning to handle your issue '98 rifle/carbine.

July 16, 2003, 10:34 AM
Usually these are bullets made to the same outer dimensions as the standard ball bullets they're meant to replace, but with a VERY deep hollow base; that way, the over-pressure inside the bullet causes them to "explode" as soon as the exit the bore, without leaving any large fragments to continue down-range. Because they're so much lighter than the ball bullets they're meant to replace, they have to be loaded up with faster-burning powder, and yes, if you made one out of solid wood, it would be just as lethal as the real thing, only at a shorter range.

July 16, 2003, 10:54 AM
I was helping out with crowd control

i hear Gatling guns are really good for that






Swedish Mfg. NC/BE Brass Cases. Par Packed 20 rds per box 200 rds per pack. 800 rds per case. Wt. 28# per case. Special care must be taken when firing this ammo. Wooden bullets can penetrate.

* 11.9 cents per Round
* 200 rds $ 23.80
* $ 95.20 per case

Mike Irwin
July 16, 2003, 11:32 AM
There were also devices for attaching to the muzzles of some European firearms that served to shred the wood bullet.

The US, as far as I can determine, never used wood bullets, but did use hard paper and paste composite bullets for training. I've got a .30-40 Krag so loaded.

Well, that's not entirely true...

American commercial firms did use "wooden bullets" but not for training... They were hollow and partially split up the sides, and filled with shot pellets.

July 16, 2003, 12:17 PM
Thanks, I didn't think about the forces of rifling.. that'll mess up a soft wood bullet pretty quick.

It was quite fun watching, a bit of a jam-o-matic at times.. but impressive.. I think I need one ;-)

July 16, 2003, 12:40 PM
theres always the 22lr versions...

July 16, 2003, 12:45 PM
Seems dead link Gun Fucious!:(

July 16, 2003, 01:05 PM
The Japanese used wooden bullets in their Arisaka rifles during some of the island campaigns of World War II. On Guadalcanal, they learned (the hard way) that if your forces are on either side of an enemy force, and shooting toward the enemy, the "overshoots" go on to kill your own men. As a result, they developed the wooden bullet. It would burn up inside 100 yards, but could inflict serious or lethal injury out to about 50-60 yards from the muzzle. This meant that in a situation such as described above, their forces could shoot at the enemy from any direction without worrying about "overshoots" injuring their own side.

July 16, 2003, 01:10 PM
Many years ago there was an article in one of the gun magazines, where the writer experimented with wood bullets. He felt that the increased velocity and frangibility would combine with low barrier penetration and provide some use for home defense. He found some dowels that were bore sized, and cut them off and shaped the bullets with a rasp and sandpaper, IIRC. Might be handy for vampire hunters, the modern equivalent would have been the Thunderzap plastic bullets.

July 16, 2003, 01:33 PM
link is slow but does function

heres more fun data

July 16, 2003, 02:12 PM
The .22/.30carbine stuff is cute, but I don't think it qualifies as Gatling by any stretch of the imagination.. The rotating barrel I think is required...

July 16, 2003, 02:18 PM
Seems you all have this topic PEGGED!


July 16, 2003, 02:20 PM
Yup, figured somebody here would know the info.. The information on other uses of Wood bullets (Japanese and the like) are quite interesting..

July 16, 2003, 02:23 PM
Hey guys, out of curiosity, what is the legality on the equipment found in those links? My boss is claiming that it is illegal, I think he's wrong. Who's right, me or him?


edit: nevermind, found the answer http://www.gatlingguns.com/batfletter/batf.htm

Mike Irwin
July 16, 2003, 02:52 PM

You have any references or citations for the Japanese use of wooden-bulleted ammo?

Nothing I've got makes that claim.

I'd be a lot more inclined t obelieve that the use of wooden bullets was simply a necessity because someone screwed up in the Japanese QM corps.

The Japanese small arms ammunition supply situation was horrendous, with something like 8 or 10 separate and distinct variations on the theme.

I also find the wood claim to be very dubious given the jungle nature of most of the Pacific islands (wooden bullets wouldn't have a tinker's chance in hell of going more than a few yards through that vegetation) and the nature of the warfare there.

July 16, 2003, 03:11 PM

I remember my Dad, who served in Europe in WWII, talking about seeing 8mm Mauser rounds with wooden projectiles. He also maintaned that he knew of one occasion where a prisioner was killed because they found them on him when he was captured. The belief was that the wooden projectiles fragmented on imopact and the splinters didn't show up on x-rays therefore increasing the chances of infection and death from wounds. He said the GIs thought the rounds were prima facia evidence of "war crimes". I've never seen other documentation of their use, other than as target or practice use. But my Dad never talked about the war very much so when he did, I beleived him. He was not given to lying or exaggeration on any matter.

July 16, 2003, 03:15 PM
I have heard about the Japanese wooden bullets many times. Yet, when I just did a google search I found nothing more than anecdotal stories about US soldiers finding them here and there.

The following PDF link explains things. The wooden bullets were used to launch rifle grenades. No doubt, our guys occasionally found such bullets and made a lot of assumptions.


Mike Irwin
July 16, 2003, 04:12 PM

Yep, you're right, the wood-bulleted cartridges were also used to launch rifle grenades.

I'm going shooting tonight, but I'll try to check out my copy of Jean Huon's "Military Rifle and Machine Gun Cartridges" to see what they have to say about

July 16, 2003, 05:22 PM
My grandfather who served in Europe told me one of his squadmates was shot with a wooden bullet in western Germany.

July 16, 2003, 06:00 PM
I remember seeing a slae on wodden bullets in the Shotgun news a few years back, Israeli MFG, 7.62x39 (now thers some vampire medicine).

I also understood that wooden "Blanks" were still fired with a blank adapter to destroy the stuff coming out of the barrel, yet still have enough pressure to create recoil or operate a semiauto/auto action.

July 16, 2003, 06:08 PM
Mike, I've read about them in several accounts of the Pacific war from those who were there. The first mention of them I've found is in the post-Guadalcanal campaign in the Solomons and the New Guinea area. IIRC, Chesty Puller's outfit had a run-in with them late in the Guadalcanal campaign. These are the only sources I have, from the "I-was-there" books I've read. I don't have any official documentation.

Mike Irwin
July 16, 2003, 11:03 PM

I really think this might have been a case of either mistaken interpretation of what the wood bullets were for (remember, the US didn't have wood-bulleted ammo in inventory, so it's likely that US troops were seeing this stuff for the very first time), or a case of Japanese desparation for anything that went bang in the later stages of certain battles when the US Navy had largely choked off Japan's seaborn supply system.

In 6.5x50 mm Huon only lists training blanks being made with wood bullets in both the rifle and machine gun pattern ammunition.

In 7.7mm Huon only lists paper-bullet type blanks, and only wood bullets used in dummy cartridges.

July 16, 2003, 11:31 PM
Could be, Mike... I wasn't there, and have been going by the accounts of those that were. You're quite right: they might have found training ammo. and assumed it was intended for use up at the sharp end.

Jim March
July 17, 2003, 06:21 AM
Didn't Tom Clancy do a story on these?

Oh ya, that was it: "Splinter Cell"...


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