What is a "Full Metal Jacket"?

by Martin Jangowski & Clark Walker
Additional informaton by Glenn Porter

Martin Jangowski: An FMJ (opposed to a softpoint or hollowpoint bullet) doesn't expand inside a soft ('soft'= human) target. Even when hitting bones it is will bend and deform, but not expand. On the other side, softpoint and hollowpoints will expand and/or fragment.

The landwar convention from The Hague doesn't allow fragmenting bullets for purposes of war, so every army in the world uses FMJ bullets. Usually a hit from a conventional FMJ doesn't kill, but leaves a clean hole. No hunter will use FMJ, since they want to kill, not to wound.

Clark Walker: This, in theory is better for two reasons -- one, it creates a situation where instead of creating a dead enemy soldier it creates a wounded one, which must be cared for by his buddy, thus taking two men out of action with each hit. The second reason behind the idea is that it is more humane to wound than to kill. This type of ammunition was agreed upon by the Geneva convention, and both sides of the vietnam war agreed to it's use. The irony is of course that men calmly agree on rules for slaughtering one another and then stick to them.

Of course in the field this creates situations like what the Lusthog Squad gets into -- a sniper can continuously torture a downed man and thereby draw out his buddies into the open to murderous effect. And conversely, when Rafterman finally gets the girl, she doesn't die right away and Joker has to finish her off.

Martin Jangowski:The M16 used in Viet Nam was something new. It uses a small, fast bullet that doesn't fragment, but tumbles violently, leaving horrible wounds. This wasn't foreseeable in the 1900's, when the convention of The Hague was signed. The actual rifle of the eastern armys uses a long, marginally stabilized small bore FMJ bullet, which is guaranteed to tumble...however, the Vietcong used the then actual AK47 with a .311 bullet.

Clark Walker:As an aside, another bitter irony of vietnam was that the M16 was a shitty gun for the jungle. It was designed as a cheaper knock off of an AR-15, a gun that was more reliable, but manufactured by a smaller company. The large corporation that made the M16 configured it with a cheaper barrel, and the FMJ's weren't really compatable with the weapon. They got dirtier quicker than they should have and many a grunt ws found dead in the field with the cleaning rod in his barrel - trying to unjam the gun in the heat of a firefight. . It all had to do with who got the contracts to make guns and bullets for war -- money, not logic was the reason. One of the sayings soldiers had about the M16 was, "You can tell it's Mattel" which was a toy company's slogan at the time -- the gun had a lot of plastic parts, which can't stand up to the vibrations like wood can but it is cheap, and it benefits the oil companies to use it instead of wood....

Glenn Porter: Mr. Walker's point that the M-16 was not a good jungle weapon was absolutely correct, but he attributes it's poor performance to corporate manoeuvring, while in truth it was the way in which the U.S. Army fielded the rifle, as well as decisions the Army made about ammunition production, that made the rifle earn it's early reputation.

It is pure drivel to suggest "many a grunt was found dead in the field with the cleaning rod in his barrel". Colt, the primary manufacturer, (not just some "large company" but the manufacturing licensee for the rifle) made the barrels of the finest steel available at the time. The Army, however, had failed to train or equip soldiers to maintain the rifles before they issued them. Additionally, the Army changed the powder used in the ammunition to a type that leaves significant fouling all over the works of the rifle. This problem was addressed fairly quickly however, and the soldier in the field soon learned how to deal with almost any stoppage. Upgrades and improvements to the rifle, including chrome plating the barrel bores, eliminated the corrosion problems. Furthermore, the rifle was developed to fire full metal jacket bullets from the beginning. In fact, it is hard to imagine a rifle barrel that isn't "compatible" with full metal jacket bullets.

Mr. Walker also quotes a saying from the early days of the Army's use of the M-16: "You can tell it's Mattel," commenting on the quantity of plastic used in the rifle. However, he has obviously never asked any marines who used the M-14 how they liked wooden model, because they were the very people who pushed for the development of a fibreglass alternative. In jungle conditions wooden gun parts were susceptible to rot, warping, insects, and all sorts of other nasty wear and tear that plastic parts were simply immune to. Plastics made rifles lighter, easier to carry and easier to deploy. While there were issues regarding some plastic breakage, they usually related to misuse or abuse of the weapon (it was never intended to be used as a club after all!)