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Old October 22, 2010, 12:21 AM   #1
FALacy
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How powerful is .50 bmg, really?

My friend and I were discussing how powerful .50 bmg actually is and we seemed to have differing viewpoints. According to Wikipedia .50 bmg is essentially a scaled up 30-06 and its dimmensions are about 60% larger. There is no arguing that it is a very impressive round and as far as I know its energy isn't surpassed by any other commercially available caliber. But how powerful is it really? I've seen videos of pumpkins on Youtube getting hit by .50 bmg and all it left was about a 1.5" diameter entrance wound and a 8" diameter exit out of the rear. I've seen electronics hit by .50 bmg and it simply punched about a ~.75" hole through it. He was under the impression that .50 bmg is powerful enough that even a near miss is enough to destroy the target because of the energy following the bullet as it zips downrange. Is .50 bmg as powerful as the movies make it seem, with limbs getting completely ripped off and bodies split in two?

How powerful is .50 bmg and what kind of effect does it actually have on soft tissue targets, such as a deer? Would it blow a hole a foot wide through the target or rip it in two, like the movies portray?

Last edited by FALacy; October 22, 2010 at 10:01 AM.
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Old October 22, 2010, 12:42 AM   #2
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It think it actually tear off limbs. The 50 BMG supposedly has anti material capabilities (meaning vehicles, light fortifications maybe).

I think 60% of bmg is grossly overestimated. Just looking at energy levels on a few velocities on wikipedia, the 06 shows as having just under 3000 ft-lbs.

The BMG has between 13,000 and 15,000 ft-lbs (according to wikipedias numbers)

I don't know about vapor trails. I have seen a few videos on youtube a few years ago back before they started censoring war videos of insurgents being shot up. They were in tact, but not fully, if you know what I mean.
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Old October 22, 2010, 12:51 AM   #3
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Seen a man shoot a bronze boat tail at a 2 inch thick steel flange, first one went through and the second one split the plate (12 inch diameter).

What people DONT realize is how PLEASANT it is to shoot compared to some other guns, no worse then a 12 gauge. I was very nervous none the less. Seriously I have an old single shot 12 gauge with a steel butt plate that I wager will drive a framing nail into a beam if you touched on off with the but plate on the nail.

It was one of those steyr carbine single shot numbers. Lot of foot pounds of energy, not alot of practical use.........


Im saving up for one, the hand loading alone would be a fascinating hobby. Although I imagine in the next 20 years it will be relegated as a "marginal" deer round.:barf:, if its anything like the cannons I see that weigh under 8 lbs and are meant to be shot from the shoulder.
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Old October 22, 2010, 12:52 AM   #4
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The 50 BMG is indeed powerful, but it is a far cry from a nuclear warhead. 50 BMG develops around 13,000 ft-lbs of energy at the muzzle, roughly 4 to 5 times what a 30-06 does.

50 BMG was not developed to shoot people, it was developed in 1920 to shoot the then-new tanks, and during the past 90 years it has done many tasks well (including shooting tanks). IIRC, a 50 BMG will shoot through 6" of armor plate or 13" of reinforced concrete.

Shooting a person with a 50 BMG will definitely ruin their day but will not necessarily dismember them, but it could break them apart if hit just right. Shooting over a person's back will not generate sub-molecular disturbances that will cause tissue to burst asunder and degenerate into their elemental state, although a person hearing it go by may void the contents of their intestines in hopes of trying to get a little lower in the dirt.

And finally, the 50 BMG was developed from an experimental WW1 German anti-tank round, and it is much closer dimensionally to a scaled-up 8X57 than a scaled-up 30-06. Not that it really matters, though.
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Old October 22, 2010, 12:58 AM   #5
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The vapor trail thing is what snipers use to track and spot where the bullet hit, it's actually a disruption of the air that can be seen from a position behind or to the side of the shooter.

50 BMG will go through armor plate and mechanicals that an ought six won't. I've put one through the engine of a car lying on it's side.

Based on a scaled up .30-06 has zero relationship to power comparisons with one.
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Old October 22, 2010, 01:02 AM   #6
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Talking to WWII and Korean war vets about the big 50 they were all duly impressed with the damage it could do. While primarily an anti material weapon it is devastating when coming in contact with human beings. I had the great pleasure and honor of knowing Pappy Boyington. His description of what the 50 would do to enemy aircraft and their occupants was testimony enough for me. He had nothing but praise for the weapon explaining that the target aircraft would literally come apart at the seams by the 50 BMGs impact. Tracer rounds would torch the Zeros more often than not. While people might not vaporize upon impact the damage can be extreme. That's powerful enough in my book especially since kills at one mile and greater have been confirmed in Iraq and Afghanistan by snipers using it.
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Old October 22, 2010, 01:15 AM   #7
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Dead is dead in my book, but to answer the question yes, the 50 really will remove limbs (or worse, depending on what kind of ammo is used). The 50 also has a number of advantages in the bullet arena, in that its larger projectile allows for a wider variety of ammunition types (last I heard, they don't make a High explosive armor piercing 30-06).
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Old October 22, 2010, 03:13 AM   #8
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the .50 has more than 3 times energy at 1000 yd than 30.06 at point blank range....I have seen 50's pass thru multiple concrete walls!!! And yes a .50 will explode people....anyone ever hear of hydrostatic shock?...in fact it will go true concrete and steel and still explode you!! there is nowhere you can hide from a full auto .50cal BMG!!!

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Old October 22, 2010, 05:56 AM   #9
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If is indeed possible to see an artillery projectile going downrange if you are standing behind the gun but I've never been able to do that with a .50 caliber, never having fired one. It isn't difficult to see a mortar round either, even from one side. Not sure about any of these things coming at you.

There are even heavier machine gun rounds in use but I'd say the .50 caliber is pretty much the standard. Oddly enough, some countries made little use of heavy machine guns like that in WWII, arming airplanes with rifle caliber machine guns.
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Old October 22, 2010, 07:04 AM   #10
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Quote:
30-06 is about 60% of what .50 bmg is.
No, no it isn't. I'd say your buddy is closer to the truth than you are.

From wiki:

Quote:
A common method for understanding the actual power of a cartridge is by comparing muzzle energies. The Springfield .30-06, the standard caliber for American soldiers in World War II and a popular caliber amongst American hunters, can produce muzzle energies between 2000 and 3000 foot pounds of energy (between 3 and 4 kilojoules). A .50 BMG round can produce between 10,000 and 15,000 foot pounds (between 14 and 18 kilojoules) or more, depending on its powder and bullet type, as well as the rifle it was fired from.
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Old October 22, 2010, 08:05 AM   #11
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I'm sorry for this really stupid question, but people keep saying that the .50 BMG can actually rip off limbs and "explode" people... So what I'd like to know is if the effect it really as devastating as depicted in the latest Rambo movie or if that is only Hollywood fiction? I know it's stupid to ask if anything from a Rambo movie is realistic, but some of you guys' descriptions of the .50 make that particular movie scene seem more likely than I thought before...
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Old October 22, 2010, 08:11 AM   #12
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I still remember a quote from my weapons instructor almost 30 years ago. "There no place on the average city block where you can hide from the .50 cal M2."
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Old October 22, 2010, 09:26 AM   #13
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A .30-06 is hardly 60% of the power of a .50 BMG round.

Many .50 BMG rounds churn out 12,000+ foot pounds of energy.

Most .30-06 rounds operate in the 2,500 ft lbs. of energy range.
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Old October 22, 2010, 09:38 AM   #14
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I'd love to have one, but I think it irresponsable to shoot it in flat populated areas, such as most of southern MN ( where I live ) I have a 300 yard rifle range, with a 6ft thick back stop built out of treated wood, & filled with dit & junk, & I'm betting putting a target on my backstop would mean holes out the back side with a 50 BMG

my old backstop, when I 1st started shooting at my place, was a big old freezer, 2 ft thick, that I packed solid with sheet rock scraps... at 200 yards, my Browning 338 Win Mag was blowing through the freezer with Federal Safari Trophy Bonded Bear Claws... I'm betting the BMG has at least 3 times the energy of that round...
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Old October 22, 2010, 09:56 AM   #15
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It pumps out 12,000 ft-lbs, but it's not a cannon. It'll put a big hole in the target, but usually, it doesn't cause a human to explode when hit.
The only weapon I have heard of blowing terrorists into a red vapor, is the M1 Abram's canon.
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Old October 22, 2010, 10:07 AM   #16
FALacy
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I was more curious as to how it performs on soft tissue and if how it is portrayed in movies like Rambo is actually correct.

I found a ballistic gel test of a 750 grain Hornady A-Max, and while it is pretty impressive, it's not what I expected.

http://www.brassfetcher.com/hornadyamax.html

Quote:
50 BMG was not developed to shoot people, it was developed in 1920 to shoot the then-new tanks, and during the past 90 years it has done many tasks well (including shooting tanks). IIRC, a 50 BMG will shoot through 6" of armor plate or 13" of reinforced concrete.
I understand that, which is why I don't believe it would be that devastating on soft tissue targets. The majority of .50 bmg rounds as far as I know are FMJ's or designed to punch through barriers, so they wouldn't expand in soft tissue which means most of the damage on the target would be from hydrostatic shock. But would that be enough to create the devastating results portrayed in Hollywood?

Last edited by FALacy; October 22, 2010 at 10:15 AM.
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Old October 22, 2010, 10:16 AM   #17
Bartholomew Roberts
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I watched an 80lb shoat get shot with a .50 BMG (old Malaysian surplus FMJ). At about 100-120yds, they hit it in the gut. It ran about 50-60 yards and then flopped over to die.

They hit it low enough that the temporary cavity stretch tore a good sized hole out of the belly; but all in all, not up to some of the hype discussed in this thread.

Edited to add: a quick Google search of "hog hunting" and ".50 BMG" will probably yield some videos.
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Old October 22, 2010, 10:23 AM   #18
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50 BMG Sniper applications

CAUTION---THE ATTACHED LINK IS GRAPHIC IN NATURE. IT MAY BE UNSETTLING TO CHILDREN OR INDIVIDUALS NEVER IN COMBAT. IT DEPICTS GRAPHIC ACTS OF WAR ---CAUTION


The video speaks volumes. You be the judge if it's 60% greater than a 30-06

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z2fPdE9NwP0
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Old October 22, 2010, 10:37 AM   #19
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^ I did some Googling and that is a rock chuck getting shot. They're a fairly small animal. There was a compilation of those rock chuck kills going around on the internet with people passing them off as taliban kills.
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Old October 22, 2010, 10:52 AM   #20
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Consider this...

A 750gr (.50BMG) bullet is 5 times the weight of a 150gr bullet (.30-06). A 60% increase in case dimensions means a much, much larger volume of powder. Imagine 5 .30-06 bullets impacting at the exact same time, in a single spot. That gives you a start to figure how powerful the .50BMG is.

A .30-06 is not 60% of a .50BMG, and I don't know where anyone could come up with that idea.

A pumpkin is mostly empty space inside. Electronics are mostly thin sheets of brittle material and metal. A bullet that vaporizes a water filled jug will only leave a small hole in these things.

Under the right conditions a .50BMG could "blow up" a person, or blow off an arm or leg, just as a .22-250 will blowup a small varmint. However, most of the time, the big .50 is through and gone before that much energy is dumped in a soft target. Since .50BMG bullets are not designed like varmint bullets, "blowing up" a person (or a part of one) is a very rare event.
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Old October 22, 2010, 11:08 AM   #21
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FALacy, weather the video is real or fake the point has been made. The 50 BMG can turn a human into mush without much trouble at all. Watch some Military Channel and you will see what the big bad .50 can do to soft targets.

There are a ton of projectiles available to military Snipers outside of the 750g FMJ's and A-Max.
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Old October 22, 2010, 11:11 AM   #22
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Actually, the 50BMG was developed for the B-17 Bomber, P-47, and P-51 Fighters to penetrate the armor, at 800 meters, of the German FW-190 Fighter. A 750gr bullet, launched at almost 3000fps, is devastating on soft targets.
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Old October 22, 2010, 11:12 AM   #23
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Quote:
So what I'd like to know is if the effect it really as devastating as depicted in the latest Rambo movie or if that is only Hollywood fiction?
I guess you pretty much answered your original question with that question. Just like cars don't generally explode in mid-air when they drive off a cliff, and trucks won't explode when they crash into a car, and grenades don't create a fireball 50' in diameter, people will not vaporize when hit by a 50 BMG. That is "Hollywood hookum", as Pappy Boyington described it. While a hit from the 50 BMG would be devastating, FMJ bullets are designed to penetrate hard targets and do not transfer energy to soft tissue very efficiently. That said, if a 50 BMG round hits someone, better hope it does not hit a bone.
Quote:
Actually, the 50BMG was developed for the B-17 Bomber, P-47, and P-51 Fighters to penetrate the armor, at 800 meters, of the German FW-190 Fighter.
I am not sure where that came from. The M2 entered service in 1921, the B17 entered service in 1938, the P51 entered service in 1941. Yes, the M2 was used to arm these aircraft, but it was already in service long before they were even thought of.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/.50_BMG
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Last edited by Scorch; October 22, 2010 at 11:20 AM.
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Old October 22, 2010, 11:19 AM   #24
FALacy
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FALacy, weather the video is real or fake the point has been made.
I don't think the point is moot that it is a rock chuck and not a human. Most calibers would be capable of the same carnage on such a small animal.5.56 will essentially grenade a squirrel, and it obviously doesn't have that effect on humans.

I guess there are just too many factors that come into play here. Is .50BMG capable of destroying a target as described? Yes, I guess it is under the right set of conditions. But under another set of conditions it may perform marginally, as stated above with the gut shot goat.

Last edited by FALacy; October 22, 2010 at 11:25 AM.
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Old October 22, 2010, 11:32 AM   #25
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I really don't see anyone lining up to be the test subject to see how much carnage the various loading for the .50 BMG will create or how big a hole it will make...

I think we can all agree that it will kill anything walking on 2 or 4 legs. It may give you a little more lee-way for a poor shot to be a kill shot than some of the smaller arms used by the Military because of the hydrostatic shock created, but I for one don't count on Hydrostatic Shock alone to put something down when I'm out hunting.
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