Two-hundred ninety-nine patients who sustained penetrating ballistic trauma to the abdomen were divided into two groups: Group A consisted of 133 patients with shell fragment injuries from mortar artillery and Group B of 166 patients with bullet injuries from rifles and automatic or semiautomatic weapons. Both groups were analyzed retrospectively in order to compare the extent of injury and outcome. In Group A, the findings at laparotomy were negative in 15 of 133 patients (10%) compared with 9 of 166 patients (5%) in Group B (p less than 0.05). The most commonly injured abdominal organs in Group A were the colon (42%), liver (22%), small bowel (20%), stomach (14%), diaphragm (11%), spleen (10%), major vessels (40%) [corrected], and kidney (9%). The abdominal organs commonly injured in Group B were the colon (50%), small bowel (41%), liver (33%), major vessels (20%), diaphragm (17%), stomach (15%), spleen (15%), and kidney (15%). Associated extra-abdominal injuries were present in 26% of Group A patients and in 21% of Group B patients (p greater than 0.05) [corrected]. Major postoperative complications occurred in 7.5% and 8.4% of the patients in Group A and Group B, respectively (p less than 0.05). Perioperative mortality was 2.3% in Group A versus 7.2% in Group B (p less than 0.01). Our data suggest that high energy bullets to the abdomen cause higher tissue penetration and a greater blast effect than shell fragments.