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Army Researchers Patent Self-destructing Bullet Designed To Save Lives (networkworld.com) 230

An anonymous reader writes: Researchers from the U.S. Army Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center recently patented a new type of bullet capable of self-destructing after traveling over a predetermined distance. The idea behind the new and advanced projectile is that it might help limit the extent of collateral damage (read: innocents dying) during battle or in other operational settings and environments. As for how it all works, the U.S. Army explains that when one of these limited-range projectiles is fired, a pyrotechnical material is ignited at the same time and reacts with a special coating on the bullet. "The pyrotechnic material ignites the reactive material, and if the projectile reaches a maximum desired range prior to impact with a target," the Army writes, "the ignited reactive material transforms the projectile into an aerodynamically unstable object." The researchers add that the desired range of its limited-range projectile can be adjusted by switching up the reactive materials used. Put simply, the Army has come up with what effectively amounts to a self-destructing bullet that is rendered ineffective over certain distances.
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Army Researchers Patent Self-destructing Bullet Designed To Save Lives

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  • LESS! (Score:2, Informative)

    >self-destructing bullet that is rendered ineffective

    self-destructing bullet that is rendered less ineffective

    There, fixed that for you.

    • Re:LESS! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by TechyImmigrant ( 175943 ) on Wednesday February 24, 2016 @06:59PM (#51578039) Homepage Journal

      Or less effective even

      • Re:LESS! (Score:5, Funny)

        by wonkey_monkey ( 2592601 ) on Wednesday February 24, 2016 @07:37PM (#51578311) Homepage

        Fewer effective.

        Morons.

        • Re:LESS! (Score:5, Funny)

          by Shoten ( 260439 ) on Wednesday February 24, 2016 @07:40PM (#51578331)

          Fewer effective.

          Morons.

          Actually, as I understand it, the project started under George W. Bush, so the original research proposal stated that the desired bullet would be "morer ineffectivicated" after it went "kinda far."

  • by DaHat ( 247651 ) on Wednesday February 24, 2016 @07:00PM (#51578047) Homepage

    I'm sure someone in the Army has read the Hague Convention of 1899, Declaration III [yale.edu] which prohibits "the use of bullets which expand or flatten easily in the human body".

    Unless these things have a built in kill switch which causes them not to explode upon entering a human body, I'd think these things would be illegal for normal warfare.

    • by Entrope ( 68843 ) on Wednesday February 24, 2016 @07:11PM (#51578107) Homepage

      It sounds like the reacting coating causes the bullet to start tumbling in the air, and the increased drag is what stops the bullet. It could come apart, or just get a groove on one side; it doesn't have to flatten out anything like tgat.

      Presumably one novel part of the research involves ensuring that the coating only reacts when the bullet has been fired and is moving at high speed.

      • by Rei ( 128717 ) on Wednesday February 24, 2016 @07:22PM (#51578201) Homepage

        These things can have unintended consequences, however. Anyone else remember the DIME [wikipedia.org] explosives Israel's been using? Small explosive radius! High lethality within that radius, but the fragments slow down rapidly outside it! Peppers the people around it with countless bits of inoperable, highly carcinogenic shrapnel! Wait, forget that last one.... Small but effective blast radius!

        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by tnk1 ( 899206 )

          War sucks. There's really no way around it.

        • by tsotha ( 720379 )
          Been accused of using. There's not much in the way of actual evidence.
    • Pretty sure Geneva Convention prohibits the use of unmanned craft (which the US does use) and cluster bombs (which the US does use).

      At this point pretty much all that is out the window.

      • by DaHat ( 247651 )

        The United States is a signatory to the Hague Convention of 1899 but not the Convention on Cluster Munitions.

        • by DaHat ( 247651 )

          Scratch that... it seems the US opted not to ratify the specific part of the 1899 agreement relating to flattening bullets.

      • When somebody says "the Geneva Convention" without specifying which one they're talking about, it's a good sign they don't know what they're talking about.

        In this case, the Geneva Conventions do not address the use of unmanned aircraft, and the Convention on Cluster Munitions (to which the US has not acceded) was worked out in Geneva but is not generally counted as a Geneva Convention.

    • I'm sure they are aware the US didn't sign the Hague convention. The Army is actively considering using expanding projectiles anyway, as they are eager to improve wounding performance and reduce over-penetration.
    • Yes the idea does seem fundamentally flawed in that it could never transform instantly therefore there is a range after a point beyond the target and before the point of complete self destruction where the projectile would probably do far more damage to a soft target than it otherwise would.

      As a ground to air type projectile it may be ideal, however just having them explode on a timed fuse would do the same job and that is a very old idea.

      I am not surprised that they have no funding.

      The only accept
    • I'm sure someone in the Army has read the Hague Convention of 1899, Declaration III [yale.edu] which prohibits "the use of bullets which expand or flatten easily in the human body".

      I'm USAF and I read it. However, I'll point out that the USA didn't sign that convention. Our non-use of expanding bullets is based on the Geneva 'no undue harm' standard, which bans weapons that cause unnecessary suffering, which is taken to be small explosive rounds(below .50 Cal), non-metallic(so it can't be seen via x-ray and metal detectors), and expanding bullets.

      However, I once wrote a paper arguing that expanding rounds SHOULD be issued, showing that lethality and disability tends to be on a per-b

  • by Anonymous Coward

    The point of war is to cause so much damage to your opponent that they give up whatever they were fighting for or you wipe them out completely, having a safe war where only the fighting soldiers die in designated warzones is utterly pointless, you might as well sort things out with a game of football or something. If we really don't want civilian casualties we need to drop the pretense of concepts like "precision" bombing / strikes, safe-T-bullets and/or whatever other NERF-coated garbage makes war a desira

    • by ScentCone ( 795499 ) on Wednesday February 24, 2016 @07:35PM (#51578293)

      The point of war is to cause so much damage to your opponent that they give up whatever they were fighting for

      But that is NOT the point, necessarily, of every Special Forces operation. Or the circumstances in which SWAT operators have to do their thing. I can see wanting a high-powered rifle round that is absolutely devastating at close and intermediate distances but which quickly begins to tumble and rapidly bleed off velocity down range. That feature is not inconsistent with causing "so much damage" to bad guys, but it can help preserve the lives of non-combatants that are a kilometer away.

      • by drnb ( 2434720 )
        For close range you are effectively describing the characteristics of a shotgun. Which is popular with police and the military for these reasons. The first marines to drop into Iraqi trenches and bunkers during the first gulf war were as likely to be armed with pump shotguns as M16s.
  • Certainly not destructive, just range limited. Actually, makes a lot of sense, especially during training where you'd like to keep bullets inside a well defined area.
    • Seems a mound of dirt and some general rules about keeping the muzzle pointed down range when firing would accomplish the same thing, and they are cheaper and largely already in place for training..

    • Or in hostage rescue scenarios, or in close quarters urban combat in an area where there are thousands of non-combatants just blocks away.
  • by Joe Gillian ( 3683399 ) on Wednesday February 24, 2016 @07:16PM (#51578147)

    The chemicals they're using for this sound similar to the ones used in tracer ammo. Tracer ammo is notorious for causing unintentional fires, and if this stuff has to burn hot enough to melt the lead bullets I can only imagine how effective it must be at starting fires.

    • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
      Re 'I can only imagine how effective it must be at " ...
      A mini phosphorus "like" round at a given distance? The optics of a few treaty obligations when even considering such munitions is interesting.
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]
      Why are such military systems been pushed again considering the reasons for their past international regulation?
      So that ever more larger teams are needed recover and work on just one wounded individual and rush them to ever more expensive long term expert care?
      No pr
  • How common is this? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Copid ( 137416 ) on Wednesday February 24, 2016 @07:24PM (#51578213)
    Is there any data on how much of an issue this is? Even in a war zone? It seems like in an area of active engagement, stray bullets from a distance would be on the low end of things that cause collateral damage. I mean, we have bombs getting dropped from aircraft and missiles being shot from drones. I'd be willing to bet that even a tiny increase in the specificity of those types of weapons would save far more lives than limiting the lethal range of bullets.
    • by Mal-2 ( 675116 )

      They could be quite useful in a civilian context though, or when infantry are going block-to-block in an inhabited area. If I'm using a firearm defensively in my own home, I probably don't want to hit anything more than 50 feet away. Sure it still has to stop somewhere, but losing velocity and tumbling will hopefully remove some of the potential to harm someone who happened to be near the firing line but in the background. Even better if this means it gets stopped by the first wall it hits.

      • I can see them being quite useful in a police context. SWAT teams need fairly high-power rifles to defeat body armor, but usually operate in dense urban areas.

        It might also be useful in an explosives-disposal scenario. Standard procedure for a bomb is to evacuate the area, then shoot it with a .50-cal rifle to either set it off, or do enough damage to the mechanism that it won't work and can be more safely defused. An explosive bullet that can be set to detonate at a fixed distance, instead of on impact, co

    • Is there any data on how much of an issue this is? Even in a war zone? It seems like in an area of active engagement, stray bullets from a distance would be on the low end of things that cause collateral damage. I mean, we have bombs getting dropped from aircraft and missiles being shot from drones. I'd be willing to bet that even a tiny increase in the specificity of those types of weapons would save far more lives than limiting the lethal range of bullets.

      My first thought is this has some interesting applications for things like CQB where not everyone in there is going to be the enemy. Like hostage rescue teams.

  • We have Very Special Fuckwits in my city, who every New Years and Independence Day, go outside and shoot their rifles into the air, in lieu of fireworks. (Because "gravity is just a theory.") If the bullets would fall apart at apogee, that'd be great, and if they explode all pretty-like, that's even better.

    And please understand, even if it's ten dollars a bullet, that's ok. We'll pay any cost as an alternative to [contemptuous sneer]education.[/contemptuous sneer]

  • I mean, not being pedantic, but... the bullet is designed to take lives, but more specifically.

  • Just replace the metal part of the bullet with a paintball, and it will save even more lives.

  • ...you can begin by not invading so many countries, eh.

    /Bonus: you'll save a lot of money.
    //Double-bonus: you can use that money to pay for single-payer medical care.
    ///Double-plus-bonus: single-payer will save you even more money.
  • by AndyKron ( 937105 ) on Wednesday February 24, 2016 @09:15PM (#51579053)
    And within the range you get a reacting bullet in your gut.
  • Bullets that don't shoot civilians in the background, nice idea. But if ammo is made for a given distance, in what circumstance will someone using a weapon have the time to perform the reload required to change their clip based on their distance to target? If you're going into something like a hostage situation, it's a valid skill to be able to assess friend/foe and pull a trigger faster than the guy who doesn't hesitate before shooting.
  • If you were firing these would they not leave a material trail in the air pointing straight at your location? I can't imagine that that is a particularly desirable outcome...

  • I always wondered why the range of Terran marines was so shitty, they must use these bullets.
  • I'm really glad the US Army patented this concept. I would hate for an invading force to show up in America with similar bullets that will disintegrate when they've missed our National Guard troops. Instead, the invading force's bullets will continue to travel for another two miles or so and deliver kinetic energy to whatever object they impact.

    Thank you, US Army, for ensuring the overall lethality of enemy bullets! Bravo!
  • Self-destructing bullets are well and good, but if you really want safety then you want to get away from bullets entirely.

    What you want is to release the swarm of 10,000 mosquito-sized drones, each carrying a hypodermic needle full of concentrated THC. These will be guaranteed not to kill anyone, while at the same time making it easy for the police to arrest anyone they need to arrest.

  • by ihtoit ( 3393327 ) on Thursday February 25, 2016 @04:15AM (#51580843)

    The Radically Invasive Projectile: exploding inside a breech near you! http://g2rammo.com/ [g2rammo.com]

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