Wounding mechanism of projectiles striking at more than 1.5 km/sec

J Trauma. 1986 Mar;26(3):250-4. doi: 10.1097/00005373-198603000-00007.


In 1976 Charters and Charters (2) described experiments intended to study effects of projectiles with a striking velocity greater than 1 km/sec. They postulated that the projectiles at higher velocity would cause shallow wounds with wide tissue destruction on the surface, especially when striking velocity exceeded the speed of sound in tissue (about 1.5 km/sec). We found no other studies reported dealing with projectiles in this velocity range, the conclusions and assumptions of Charters and Charters have been quoted by others and accepted as fact. We designed and performed experiments to test the hypothesis of Charters and Charters by comparing temporary cavity morphology and penetration in gelatin. We fired two types of blunt projectiles over a velocity range from 650 m/sec (2,137 ft/sec) to 2,016 m/sec (6,614 ft/sec). In these studies we found no evidence to indicate that shape and characteristics of the disruption in ordnance gelatin change significantly when missile striking velocity exceeds sonic speed in the target.

MeSH terms

  • Forensic Medicine*
  • Humans
  • Wounds, Gunshot*