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

  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.

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

  1. why didnt you try fmjs or hard cast lead bullets? hps are for bigger wounds, fmjs and hard cast are for deep penetration. Using hp for this type of test is a waste of time and in NO way represents the 357 magnums capabilities..

    • Sure an fmj would have better penetration with the 357 but that would not be realistic anyone who carries a 357 for protection would carry a jhp.

  2. I reckon an armor piercing projectile in 44 magnum caliber (240gn) at factory load, ie 1425fps, would have done the trick. I once shot a half jacketed .460 Weatherby magnum at a 1.5″ mild steel plate, from 100yds away. The bullet almost made it through. The back of the plate was bulged out and had fatigue lines). I got peppered with fine bits of ? lead ? steel ? From that distance. Had I not been wearing sunglasses, I’d have gotten eye damage. That’s a whole lot of power. Sad I sold it but the recoil was ridiculous) I’d love to see a 50 cal doing the sane test….

  3. What about a 357 AP (metal piercing) round? This is the one I heard called a “engine block buster” in the 1970s..

  4. Chad McSwain // June 24, 2017 at 1:51 am // Reply

    Enjoyed ur article and pics but you need to give the 357mag credit where it’s due. Your test is a severe misrepresentation of a 357mag. You should state “Your only testing the effects of a hollow point”. To say a pistol is a pistol and a rifle is a rifle is true, but you could falsely label the 357mag round as inadequate in the eyes and mind of someone who doesn’t know any better. I myself was a law enforcement officer and started just about the time the transition of 38/357 to 9mm began (1990 for most departments in my area). I got to play around with various 357mag loads in my first year and fell in love with the round. Although the 9mm was a superb carry round (as far as recoil, rapid fire, fast follow up and extra round capacity), it in no way compared to raw power of the 357mag. At 50 yards, a decent loaded 180 grain hardcast 357mag will penetrate better than that civilian marksmanship 30-06 your using for your test. I have over thousand rounds of that exact Korean ammo. It’s manufacture by Tallon Industries. It’s actually weak compared to regular Remington corlokt. Using a hollow point 357 mag bullet against other center-fire bullets with ball or somewhat solid cores, is like putting 2 heavy weight boxers in the ring and tying one of the opponent s hands behind his back. If your going to use the rifle calibers in your test, do so with exact same style bullet so that your test will be accurate and true. I think you will find none of the calibers mentioned will punch through the block with this scenario.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.