I've had a few folks ask me to do some tests to see what rifle rounds did when fired into water.

Mythbusters did something like this a while back, but I wasn't satisfied with their methods.

First, we went to Wallyworld and bought 24 gallons of water.

We were afraid that we would start a rumor that another hurricane was on the way and a riot would ensue.

But no problems.

Rifles often penetrate further than pistol rounds. But when shot into water, it is possible that a rifle bullet is traveling at such a high velocity that it will "tear itself to pieces" when it hits the water.

Let's see what happens.

This is the setup.

This is the setup.​

The box has 12 gallons of water in a row. If the rifle rounds penetrate more that that (about 7 feet), then we will be out of luck.

One problem we will face is trying to get the rifle lined-up so that the bullets stay in the middle of the box.

But we found that the bullets sometimes deviated from a straight path and this caused some problems, as we will see.

First an AR15 shooting a round of M-193 Ball.


The first gallon of water was blown up and the round penetrated about 4 jugs.

19-2It then went sideways and hit the side of the box.


It came to rest between two gallons after bouncing off the side of the box.


Then I tried a round of Remington .223 Jacket Soft Point.

Even from about 20 feet, I got wet almost every shot.


It tore the first gallon up, and then penetrated 3 more gallons.


Once again, we saw that the Ball did not "fragment" as some folks expect.

Lead was squished out the rear of the jacket like toothpaste out of a tube, but it did not fragment.

The JHP did fragment.

These are the pieces of the JSP next to the spent round of M-193 Ball.

These are the pieces of the JSP next to the spent round of M-193 Ball.​

Several folks have asked if the .30 Carbine JHP ammo will work as designed.

I tried a round of Winchester 110 grain "Jacketed Hollow Soft Point".

I got wet again.

Pretty neat picture.

Pretty neat picture.​

It penetrated 5 jugs, but came to pieces.

These are the results that we got out of the jugs.

Some was obviously lost. Maybe it left the top of the box.


We decided to try a round of .30 carbine Ball to compare.


It penetrated 7 jugs, or almost 4 feet, and had little bullet deformation.


Several have asked about the 8MM Mauser.

It was always considered a big penetrator.

This is a round of Ball Ammo.

It penetrated 4 jugs, but then deflected and went out the top of the box.


But look at the damage to the box cause by the hydrostatic shock.

The sides of the box are 1/2 inch particle board.


Some have asked about Armor Piercing (AP) ammo.

Let's try one.

I shot a round out of my Springfield 1903-A3.


I had tried to straighten out the box a little, but this busted it up even more.


It penetrated 7 jugs and finally stopped.

I was surprised that it did not break up at all.

When fired into armor or dirt, an AP round will usually shed its jacket covering and leave the hardened penetrator.

But the water did not cause this one to break up at all


At this point we had gone through almost all of the water.

We only had 6 gallons left and decided to give the Shiloh Sharps .45-70 a shot at it.

Tman caught me in full recoil.


I was shooting my handload of a 510 Grain lead round nose, gas checked.

It busted all six gallons, busted through the back of the box, and was last seen headed to Oklahoma.


And finally, here I am with 33 dead gallons of water.

A fine day by any standard.


Lessons learned:

  1. Let's say it once more: Rifles are rifles, and pistols are pistols. Anyone that says, "I'd just as soon have a rifle in a pistol caliber", hasn't seen the difference in performance. There is no comparison.
  2. The rifle rounds tended to depart from a straight line after contacting the water. Some rounds even left the box.
  3. The 5.56 Ball did not fragment. It blew up the water jugs just fine, but it did not fragment.
  4. 8mm and .30-06 penetrated pretty far, as expected. The hydrostatic shock from the big rifle rounds was impressive.
  5. The .30 carbine penetrated further than we expected. The JHP round expanded and fragmented, while the round of Ball did not.
  6. Three feet of water will not slow a 510 grain .45-70 down much.
  7. And, as always, shooting stuff is fun.
(Thanks to Tman for the photo and water-hauling help)