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Dum Dum Bullets


Barney
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We probably all know what we understand the modern term 'Dum-Dum' to mean i.e. a bullet with a cross cut in the head.

But does anyone actually know what it actually is, how it came about and how it got its name?

Barney

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The 'dum-dum' was a British military bullet developed at the Dum-Dum Arsenal in India. It was used on the North West Frontier and the Sudan in the late 1890s.

The dum-dum comprised a jacketed .303 round with the jacket nose left open to expose its lead core. This increased the expansion of the bullet on hitting its target.

The Hague Convention of 1899 outlawed the use of dum-dum bullets during war. It was at this time taken to mean any hollow point or soft nosed round designed to expand on impact.

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I have also heard of a nasty variant of this. It a round with a long hole drilled down from the top of the apex, almost to the base.
A piece of mercury or lead ball bearing is placed in the bottom of the hole. The hole is sealed at the top, ensuring that a gap is left.
The theory is that on firing , the filler is forced to the rear of the round, and on impact, the filler is impacted forward, causing the roung to fragment/explode forward.
Sounds time consuming. sad.gif

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  • 2 weeks later...
Guest John Sukey

The Cartridge SA Ball.303inch Cordite Mark II Special was approved for service in 1896 for use on the Northwest frontier in India
However the Cartridge SA ball MkIII was a Royal Laboratories design approved for Land service in October 1897. It was unsuccessful and almost immediately withdrawn.
The Cartridge SA ball .303inch Cordite Mk IV was approved in Februrary of 1898 for land and naval service. The main production of mark 5 was in the year 1898-99 when over 15 million rounds were made at Woolwich, further quantities being made elsewhere under contract. In 1903/04 Woolwich made another 5,798,100 rounds of mk5 for special service on Somaliland.
So the government found that bullets of this type were quite suitable for use in colonial wars. smile.gif
At this time it was thought that this ammunition was at risk in contravening the St. Petersburg Declaration and the Hague Convention.

Therefore the Mk6 (solid jacket) round was introduced in in January 1904 for use in Land and naval service.

By the way the Snider bullet had a nose cavity. Earlier versions had this filled with a sycamore plug while later types left the cavity hollow, but spun over, giving the appearance of a solid bullet.

One more thing, cutting a cross in the head of a bullet really does'nt affect expansion much if at all. The british soldier did have a very effective hollow point bullet until the advent of the Mk6. I suppose cutting that cross would make them effective on Vampires.

Edited by John Sukey
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  • 2 years later...
Guest Darrell

Eons ago growing up on the farm we used to be able to buy hollow point .22 caliber bullets for our rifles. We used these on the neighborhood gophers. Man .. absolute destruction. Destroyed the target. I've been away from this activity for years and don't know if you can even buy them anymore :unsure:

Edited by Darrell
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what a great subject,been around ammo ever since a kid (until british gov. decided to put restrictions in place ),used allsorts of stuff including hollowpoint and modified rounds against test targets (never a living thing,just one of my personnal things). but saying all this i never knew where the term dum dum came from,

this is great info i`ll try and store in the grey cells.

just goes to prove this is going to be a great forum for newbie me.

thanks all

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  • 3 months later...

Ouch! That must still hurt a fair bit!

Is my impression that german soldiers back in the 2ww had a booklet with some regulations that specified that the use of dum dum bullets was not permitted..... or am I dreaming or simply confusing this with something I read many years ago?

Jim :cheers:

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Ouch! That must still hurt a fair bit!

Is my impression that german soldiers back in the 2ww had a booklet with some regulations that specified that the use of dum dum bullets was not permitted..... or am I dreaming or simply confusing this with something I read many years ago?

Jim :cheers:

Jim

Seems redundant to me: "You fire what we issue you, Private!" I doubt many dum-dums were issued in this century but some guys probably did "field modifications" such as the ones issued above.

I'd guess, however, that the ones who did had a serious hate on for the enemy - not as common as you might think - and were brave or dumb enough not to worry about the consequences of getting captured with dum-dums on their person. That would likely have extremely negative effects on one's health - sort of like having a sawbacked bayonet in War One did.

My tuppence worth

Peter

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I have also heard of a nasty variant of this. It a round with a long hole drilled down from the top of the apex, almost to the base.

A piece of mercury or lead ball bearing is placed in the bottom of the hole. The hole is sealed at the top, ensuring that a gap is left.

The theory is that on firing , the filler is forced to the rear of the round, and on impact, the filler is impacted forward, causing the roung to fragment/explode forward.

Sounds time consuming. :(

Explosive bullets was the term for these was'nt it? Also against the convention (poisonous too), I was unaware of "homemade" ones, but there were commercially produced ones.

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"You fire what we issue you, Private!"

I got a feeling its something I read in P.R. Reid's "The Colditz Story" or "The Latter Days at Colditz" - Gotta check it next time i am near them!

Let you know

Jim

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  • 3 months later...

Although an expanding bullet, the round shown by Chris B is actually not a classic Dum Dum. It is what is known as a split jacket bulllet (for obvious reasons).

The classic Dum Dum, i.e. the Mark II Special made at the Dum Dum Arsenal had a small part of the lead core exposed at the nose of the envelope and would have been headstamped either "D I" (with a small broad arrow over the I) or from one of the other Indian facilities.

The photo shows a genuine Dum Dum (headstamped "D I") alongside a British made Cordite Mark IV round which was hollow pointed. The Mark V which followed was similar, differing only in the lead

/antimony mix of the core. Although officially withdrawn around 1900 to comply with the Hague Convention, the last issues of Mark V hollow points from Woolwich was made in 1908/9 for use in Somalia.

Regards

TonyE

Edited by TonyE
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  • 2 months later...

Field modification to projectiles to 'dum-dum specification' is a very dangerous practice for the person who discharges such a round.

What often happens is that on firing the cartridge the lead core is expelled from the projectile and exits the barrel but the copper jacket is left behind up into the barrel away from the chamber as it's structure has been changed so that it can no longer grip the lead core as it is being slowed down by the barrel rifling while the core is not.

As the lead core is now exposed at both ends of the projectile it recieves the full power of the powder charge but has no front jacket (previously cut away) to keep it together with the copper jacket.

The next round may well chamber correctly but when fired will encounter the previous jacket as an obstruction with the result that the barrel will more than likely burst with possible catastrophic results for the person discharging the weapon.

Hollow point and exposed tip projectiles have jackets specially designed not to separate from the lead core on firing.

Hollow point projectiles such as those used by full bore target rifle shooters have the jacket drawn from the rear of the projectile hence the jacket and lead core always remain together.

Stories of soldiers adapting their issue ammunition do exist but if true they usually they only carry out and practice such modifications once.

Regards

Chris

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You are of course quite right about the dangers of modifying service full jacketed bullets to "Dum-Dum" type configuration, but the original Dum-Dum rounds were in fact made like this. The jacket was open at the base in the normal manner. When the British military adopted the Mark III and Mark IV hollow point bullets there were occasions of the core blowing through and it was not until the introduction of the Mark V hollow nosed bullet with a harder lead antimony core that the problem was overcome.

In the Egyptian and Sudan campaigns at the end of the 19th Century troops were allowed to file the tips from their Mark II solid bullets.

Regards

TonyE

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Hello,

The Englisch used Dum-Dum bullets in the Tunesian campaign. I know a German veteran who was hit by such a bullet in the arm. It penetrated ts arm and did actually blow his arm to pieces. After the bullet has pierced his arm and destroyed it for a large part it went on and exploded in the breast of a German soldier who was standing behind him.

The Second soldier was killed. The German veteran was able to make it back towards Germany (altough heavely wounded) and the surgeons managed to save his arm etc ... => teh endresult is that his arm where the bullet went trhough has shortened by approximatly 1,5 centimer.

He was lucky and survived untill this very day. iff this was a commonly used bullet during WWII in Tunesia is not known by me, fatc is that he was hit and severely wounded by one hwen defending his post against the Britisch during april 1943.

Cordial greetings,

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There were no Dum Dum bullets used in WWII. Apart from anything else, Dum Dums are round nosed 215 grain bullets long obsolete by WWII.

The soldier may have been hit by a British incendiary B.Mark VII which if it struck bone may have detonated and would certainly have dome massive tissue damage. However, it is much more likely that he was struck by a normal Ball Mark VII bullet which because of the alumunium tip broke up as it passed through his arm and the main part hit the second soldier.

The ball Mark VII was known to produce worse wounds that a normal lead cored bullet and is prone to breaking up and tumbling whatever it hits.

Regards

TonyE

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Hello TOny,

Its possible, i am in no ways a bullet expert or anything like that. I can only base myself on the reuslt i have seen on the veterans arm and the fact that his friend was killed by the very same bullet that did hit his arm.

Whatever it was, it had a terrifying result.

Cordial greetings,

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  • 6 months later...

Hi leigh kitchen,

29.10.1914

Wilhelm Hoffmann told his sister in law about the shot to the head, 6 weeks ago. That is the connection to the bullets on the post card.

He would be restored to health soon.

With greatings to his brother Anton.

Regards

Uwe

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