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Can it really split an engine block?

Discussion in 'Handguns: Revolvers' started by BCRider, May 10, 2010.

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  1. BCRider

    BCRider Member

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    Looking at some threads about .357 here brought this to mind. Years back I remember either the .357Mag or the .44Mag being credited with being strong enough to split an engine block and take out a bad guy on the other side of a car. But with what I know of these two rounds now this seems REALLY far fetched. I don't doubt that either would crack a cast iron block and if the area it hits is thin enough could even bust out a chunk and let out the oil or coolant. But to punch through a block and get a bad guy on the other side?

    What say the THR Magnum faithful on this?
     
  2. shotgunjoel

    shotgunjoel Member

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    I seriously doubt that story.
     
  3. mljdeckard

    mljdeckard Member

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    It was in "Police Academy". Remember that to begin with.

    Depends on the load and the block, I suppose. But cracking it and going through it with enough energy to kill something on the other side are two VERY different things.

    I have had the pleasure of shredding a car with an AR loaded with SS109 ammo. That didn't crack the block, I doubt a .357 will most of the time. Maybe a small aluminum block. I'm sticking with the guideline that the drivetrain is the only part of a car that is considered 'cover'.
     
  4. BCRider

    BCRider Member

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    The reputation predates the Police Academy movie by many years. They just used it because it was popular urban folklore.

    Even when I heard about this many years ago I thought it was pretty bogus. But engine blocks in prewar and 50's generation cars were made from fairly brittle high carbon cast iron and not the more ductile grades typicaly used for the past 40 some odd years. So perhaps this is where the "it'll bust an engine block clean in two" came from.

    I guess I'm looking to see if anyone has first hand knowledge of such things or can point to an instance that was recorded that could lend some validity to this urban legend. Or should I join up and post it on the Mythbusters web forum.... :D
     
  5. Oyeboten

    Oyeboten Member

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    If hitting a longitudinally mounted In-Line type Aluminum Alloy Block in the right place, mid high, and missing any steel components, such as Cams, Connecting Rods, Bolts...in a tinny Car, essentially, passing through the thinnest areas of the Castings which are merely serving as Oil mist containment areas of the upper Crank case region, 'm-a-y-b-e' it could make it through both fenders, inside mud guards, other assorted junk in the way, pass through the Engine Block as described, and, out the other side...but, I doubt the Bullet would have enough energy left to more than bruise or shallowly imbed into flesh at that point, even if Jacketed.


    In my imagination, anyway...never tried it to see...


    A Colt Walker, firing a thin Lead covered short Spitzer shape Bullet of Heat Treated Steel...would be a good one to try...but then too, that'd be a dandy in .44 Magnum or .357 also of course...being then an Armor Piercing kind...which would deform less, and have less resistence in passing through stuff.

    Lol...
     
    Last edited: May 11, 2010
  6. BCRider

    BCRider Member

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    Let's keep in mind that the original reputation came from the 30's when the cars were all inline 4's or 6's or 8's for the most part. Think Model A and the equivalents.

    I'm REALLY starting to see a Mythbuster's episode here.... :D
     
  7. Oyeboten

    Oyeboten Member

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    I doubt any present day .357 or .44 Magnum would more than barely make it through even one side of any of the usual 1930s Engines...even hitting the sheet metal outer Water Jacket part, as some had, which would merely buy a few inches till hitting the Cast Iron of the Cylinder Water Jacket Casting part proper, where it maybe, depending on how and exsactly where it hit, it could break a hole there.

    Many of which were Side Valve or 'Flat Head' inlines or Flat Head V-8s, which sat low in the Engine compartment.

    Overhead Valve in-lines were taller...having a lot less room between the top of the Engine, and, the underside of the Hood.

    When Hoods still had large vertical side panels which one unlatched and raised up to get to the Engine, ( up through say 1934 ) sure, a powerful enough Bullet could pass through the two Hood Sides, missing the Engine completely...though many such Hoods were of pretty stout Steel...so unless the Hood had high Louver pattern, where a Bullet could enter through a Louver, pass over the Engine, and pass through a Louver on the other Hood side...then sure, but that is definitely NOT an instance of a Buller passing through an Engine.

    By 1935, and increasingly then for the rest of the decade, Hoods changed and got lower, fenders got farther back, and the 'window' for missing Fenders to shoot 'through' the Hood Sides, hitting the Engine or going over the top of it, the 'window' got a lot smaller, and, also, the way the Hoods curved down at the sides more and more over the decade, would decrease the possibility of a Bullet making it through the then lager sections of on-edge sheet metal, at that angle.

    Most Car sheet Metal then would only dent with .45 ACP Hardball unless very close to the Muzzle, even Thomson rounds were not found to penetrate well for many Cars, where, usually just leaving deep dents, the Bullet might penetrate the single layer of sheet metal sometimes, but would have lost most of it's enery to do more.

    Engine Crankcases and sides and so on were almost all Cast Iron in the late 'twenties and through the 'thirties and on, if earlier ones had often been Aluminum Alloy for all but the Cylinders which bolted to the Crankcases...and Cast Iron Blocks and Cylinder Banks were a very hard and tough material...not especially brittle.


    I would not expect any present day, or of the day, .357 Magnum Bullet to be able to do more than punch into one side of such Engines, at best, and maybe not usually even that.

    No way would .357 or a .44 Magnum go through both sides of the Hood or Fenderd and Hood sides, ( unless through the Louvers maybe ) and through the Engine literally, to come out the other side.

    And virtually no one was using any .357 Magnums till after 1935 when maybe four guys in the whole world had one, anyway...and no one had any .44 Magnums till what, 1956 or so?




    Light gauge sheetmetal modern cars, if with aluminum Alloy Engines mounted in the long axis, if it hit just right, at the thinnest areas above the Crankcase, below the Cylinder Bank...'m-a-y-b-e', as a sort of freak incident, could happen with a heavy .357 Magnum, or a .44 Magnum...could make it through.

    I my opinion...
     
    Last edited: May 11, 2010
  8. loadedround

    loadedround Member

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    Betcha Dirty Harry could with his big bad 44 Mag! :)
     
  9. Double Naught Spy

    Double Naught Spy Sus Venator

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    We shot at an engine block with a .50 BMG using regular ball and API ammo. None of the rounds went all the way through and the block never "split" even after lots and lots of impacts from .50 BMG, .308, and .223 rounds.

    The issue is all the compartments within the the block. The rounds have the ability to penetrate through one wall and into one of the internal compartments, but not then not have the ability to penentrate the next wall.
     
  10. LeonCarr

    LeonCarr Member

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    With a straight on shot the bullet has to penetrate the grill, radiator, fan clutch, fan, water pump, timing chain etc etc, before even reaching the water jacket area of the engine block. Even a direct hit with any of the various African Big Game cartridges shooting solids or shotguns shooting slugs will still result in the vehicle going probably several miles before stopping or seizing up.

    Just my .02,
    LeonCarr
     
  11. MachIVshooter

    MachIVshooter Member

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    An armor piercing .50 BMG round has great difficulty penetrating even a Honda Civic engine through and through shortways. Tested this one personally. We also put many rounds of AP 7.62 and 5.56 NATO into that car. While the vehicle certainly would have been disabled, anyone small enough to hide behind the engine would have been perfectly safe from direct hits passing through, as none did. Not even the mighty .50.

    It's not just the sum of the metal, it's the funny angles at which bullets strike the surfaces and the space between that allows them to tumble and hit sideways or backwards.

    A good hard cast from a .44 might break out a chunk of water jacket on a completely exposed engine, but that's about it.
     
  12. jfh

    jfh Member

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    The reputation / myth of the 357 was well-established by the end of the 30s. Someone else can google it, but IIRC no less a luminary than J. Edgar Hoover himself promoted it. However--weren't all 'early' 357 bullets lead, and fairly soft lead at that? When did FMJs come in?

    Oyeboten's analysis of the design of the 30s' cars covers some of the penetration issues. Now, think back to how Bonnie and Clyde were taken out--it was with .30-06 BARs and a .351 Rem, I think.

    Jim H.
     
  13. alsaqr

    alsaqr Member

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    It is not necessary to destroy an engine block in order to disable the car. All one has to do is put a hole in the block and the engine will soon heat up and seize. There was a special armor piercing truncated cone .357 bullet that was designed to bust engine blocks: That round was manufactured until about 1960 or so.

    Nearly any current .357 round will knock a hole in a modern car engine block. In the 1960s car engine blocks got much ligher due to thin casting technology. Most modern car engine blocks are very thin-3/16" inch or less between the freeze plugs.
     
  14. heviarti

    heviarti Member

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    Packard still had a butterfly hood in '37, and Peterbilt kept it til 1965. Cadillac had an all aluminum engine in the late '20s early '30s.

    That being said, I think the only thing that might pass though a block is SLAP. Anybody fired SLAP in a non-military setting?
     
  15. MachIVshooter

    MachIVshooter Member

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    Please, go out and test your theory. Trust me, they're tougher than you think, and there's lots of webbing that reinforces that water jacket you feel is so fragile. We've shot lots of different rounds at lots of different things, including many engines. Common handgun rounds are easily deflected nearly all of the time.

    As for the propogation of the .357 myth, the round was developed for use against vehicles, but not the engines. The .38 Spl. couldn't get through the car body to hit the gangsters inside. The .357 could.
     
  16. Double Naught Spy

    Double Naught Spy Sus Venator

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    The claim wasn't that the round would disable the engine, but that it would split the engine block. There is a significant difference. I have seen a .22 disable a car's engine where the engine seized up. It was accomplished by a shot to the radiator. With that said, a shot to the computer can shut it down as well.

    I don't think many people would know where to aim on the outside of a vehicle so as to be able to hit the area of the freeze plugs within the engine compartment where the metal is so thin.
     
  17. Thaddeus Jones

    Thaddeus Jones Member

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    I doubt the 44 or 357 would.

    I remember a homicide case I worked back in the early 90's. Two perps were chasing an Olds 88 down a road. They got in front of the Olds and fired three 12 guage slugs into the car. One penetrated through the engine block according to the crime scene techs.

    I know one of the other slugs went through the hood, dash, front seat, pregnant woman in the rear seat, rear seat and lodged in the trunk. Killed the woman and her unborn baby.

    Don't remember what make the shotgun was. it was long barreled though. TJ
     
  18. Sniper X

    Sniper X Member

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    OK guy's, Ill pick up the gauntlet here and produce a video not unlike Mythbusters, but from someone who knows guuns! Ill try it with a car and a .357mag and .44mag. I'll try both the engine block deal and the complete car penetration one as well. Should be abou ta month or less Ill post it up on Youtube and let you guys' know, if you want to see it. I use to do all the training videos for a major firearms training academy and have been doing film and video production for 30 years.
     
  19. gearhead

    gearhead Member

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    If it was a Crosley (the early ones had a furnace-brazed sheetmetal engine block) then perhaps...
     
  20. MachIVshooter

    MachIVshooter Member

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    Most definitely would. However, that's a pretty small target, and usually well protected (very often mounted inside the passenger compartment behind the kickpanel or dash). As well, I work on the dang things every day of the week, and with lots of driveability repairs, yet I couldn't tell you exactly where to aim to hit the PCM on 90% of the cars out there.

    Firing into the engine compartment, there's a good chance that you'll cripple or shut down the engine poking holes in the plastic intake manifold on many newer vehicles, hitting various sensors, fuel injectors, throttle body, etc. But it could sure take a lot of rounds to get that done, especially with everything that surrounds the motor from the sides and front. A hole in the radiator will eventually cause an overheat condition, but that's gonna take some time. I had a Dodge Ram with a 360 not too long ago that drove 12 miles down the interstate with the water pump seized, and was still running when he pulled into the parking lot. It was so hot in that engine bay that it was painful to hold your hand anywhere above the engine. It was definitely hurt, but not dead.

    If one want's to stop a vehicle with small arms, best bet is the driver. Otherwise, I wouldn't count on anything smaller than a 20mm to get it done quickly.
     
  21. Steve_NEPhila

    Steve_NEPhila Member

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    The simple answer is, NO.

    Handgun bullets are designed as anti-personnel tools. I personally would not want to carry something that could punch through an engine block (even if it could, which it cannot). This is a myth with no real basis.

    Use the right tool for the job: if it is a car that is your target you should be using .308 or larger and crew served is better. If it is people, .38 special is just fine.
     
  22. BCRider

    BCRider Member

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    I've always tended to think that it was a fairy tale. Car sheet metal I can see but the engine always seemed like it would be more than enough to stop a round. Those of you that have shot up cars with 50BMG pretty much tested this enough to lay this one to rest.

    As for sheet metal it's often not as tough as we'd think. There was an old clothes dryer that needed "disposal". I was one of the folks that got to play. 12GA slugs zipped right through it easily. So did full power 00buck rounds. 9mm ball and .357 (don't remember the bullet type) were no problem but .38Spl 158gn jhp only made it into the drum but not out the other side. I can't remember if we tried any .45ACP on it or not. The sides of these are not particularly heavy. Likely 22ga. But the drum was quite a bit thicker at around 16 or 18ga Likely the sort of metal that would have been used on car doors of the early gangster rides. In many cases I'd think that .38 and .45 would pass through the door but it's highly probable that they wouldn't have had the power to do more than wound lightly or maybe just punch and leave a bruise depending on the door construction, distance and angle.
     
  23. Sniper X

    Sniper X Member

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    And a washer and dryer have thicker sheet metal than most cars.
     
  24. batmann

    batmann Member

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    I seriously doubt that this anything more than an urban myth started in the 30's just after the .357M came out. Both the Colt .38 Super and the .357M were in response to the gangsters of the era starting to use some armour and 'bullet' proof glass in their autos.
    My friend and I shot some old bowling balls with everything from .357m and .44M (solids) and various rifles and slugs. I know angle means a lot in penetration on a round surface, but the ONLY round that would bust the ball was a .375 H&H. ALL the handgun rounds would do is nick the surface.
    I have never shot an engine block, but my money is still on it being a myth.
     
  25. CraigC
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    CraigC Member

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    Absolutely not, no handgun would. Not even with the best penetrators of today, heavy hardcast bullets at 1200-1400fps, which will outpenetrate any available jacketed bullet on the market. So certainly not the gas checked, swaged lead bullets of the original .357's. Just ain't gonna happen.
     
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