The Box O’ Truth #54 – Busting an Engine Block

Back in the early 1970s, I was told, as a young policeman, that one of the advantages of the .357 Magnum was that it would “bust an engine block”. I did not know if it would, but that was the persistent rumor. I’ve always wondered what it would really do, but hauling a heavy engine block to the range and then hauling it off to the dump was too much for me to tackle. But my old friend Boyd called me last week and told me he had a solution. He had a couple of old engine blocks and a tractor on a trailer and wanted to know if I wanted to shoot them. I said, “Sure!” Today we went to the range and he used the tractor to place the block down range. We agreed that any day a man gets to play with his tractor is a good day. This engine block is from a 1974 Dodge 360 ci engine. It is pretty heavy compared to modern engines, but anything that will penetrate this one shouldn’t have any trouble with a modern aluminum block. 54-01 Keep in mind that on any engine block there are “thick” and “thin” areas on the block. And all different kinds of engines have different thicknesses. We are not trying to draw conclusions about “all” engine blocks, but just want to see what happens to this one, as an example. Also remember that before a round even gets to the engine block in a car, it will have to penetrate fenders, fender shirts, and other assorted stuff. First I will shoot the block with a .357 Magnum, with a 158 grain JHP round. Here we go. My first shot hit a freeze plug. Wouldn’t you know it? The only 1 ½ inch area I don’t want to hit and that’s where I hit it. 54-02 Well, let’s try another round on more solid metal. It only made a lead smear on the block. No “busting” of the block at all. 54-03 Well, let’s try a .44 Magnum shooting a 240 grain JHP, loaded hot. 54-04 I will use my Ruger Super Blackhawk .44 Magnum. 54-05 It actually made a hole in the thin part of the block, but did not penetrate the cylinder wall. I was surprised, to tell the truth 54-06 Let’s try a 12 gauge foster slug. This is a solid lead slug. 54-07 I shot it with my 870. 54-08 And it blew a hole in the side of the block. 54-09 Well, let’s try an AR-15 shooting standard M-193 Military Ball. 54-10 It made a hole in the block. 54-11 I also tried a round of SS109 Green Tip ammo in the .556 It also penetrated the block, but did not penetrate the cylinder wall. 54-12 Let’s try the big boys. We will try a round of standard .30-06 Military Ball 147 grain ammo. 54-13 And then a round of .30-06 Armor Piercing (AP) ammo, which happens to be around 60 years old. 54-14 First Boyd shoots the Ball ammo from his Garand. I wasn’t too worried about him hitting the block, as he is a retired Master Sergeant, and a Triple Distinguished Marksman. 54-15 It poked a hole right above the cartridge, but did not penetrate the cylinder wall. 54-16 Then a round of .30-06 AP ammo. 54-17 It also penetrated the wall, but this one went through the cylinder wall and would have rendered the engine inoperable in short order. 54-18 Boyd had also brought a plate from a railroad track that was about ¾ inch thick for us to shoot. A lot of folks have asked me over the years to shoot steel plate, but I have resisted as there are literally dozens of different kinds of steels, with many different compositions, and different hardness. Shooting one kind of plate doesn’t really tell you much about “all plates”. But it will tell us something about “this plate”. We backed up to 50 yards and I shot it with the 5.56 Ball. 54-19 It made a crater, but did not go through. 54-20 Then a round of 5.56 Green Tip ammo. It also made a crater, but not much different than the Ball. We were kind of surprised. 54-21 Then Boyd shot it from 50 yards with the .30-06 Ball. 54-22 It made a crater, but did not go through. 54-23 Then he shot it with a round of .30-06 AP. We expected it to make a hole right through the plate, but it only made a deep crater… 54-24 And cracked, but did not exit the back side of the plate. 54-25

Conclusions:
  1. I hate to sound repetitious, but pistols are pistols and rifles are rifles. The .44 Magnum from the Ruger Super Blackhawk made a hole, but the .357 Magnum could not do the job.
  2. The shotgun slug busted the block, but did not penetrate the cylinder wall.
  3. The 5.56 rounds penetrated the side of the block, but did not enter the cylinder wall.
  4. The .30-06 AP round not only penetrated the side of the block, but also penetrated the cylinder wall.
  5. Neither the Ball nor the Green Tip in 5.56 were able to penetrate the steel plate.
  6. The .30-06 AP almost made it through the plate. That’s what it was designed to do.
  7. It’s fun to shoot stuff.