The Shooter’s Log readers may find it hard to believe, but three U.S. Army engineers have received a patent for a bullet that will become “aerodynamically unstable” after flying a certain distance. A proof-of-concept bullet developed by the U.S. Army will disable after flying a certain distance, helping to prevent injuries from stray rounds.
Recently awarded U.S. patent 9,121,679 B1, the bullet is equipped with a reactive material that will ignite when the bullet is fired and burn during flight, causing the bullet to become aerodynamically unstable at the desired range.
Brian Kim, Mark Minisi, and Stephen McFarlane filed collectively for the patent on May 7, 2013 and were notified of its approval on Sept. 1, 2015.
“We wanted to protect the U.S. government’s interests and position,” McFarlane said. “The biggest advantage is reduced risk of collateral damage. In today’s urban environments, others could become significantly hurt or killed, especially by a round the size of a .50 caliber, if it goes too far.” The concept for the limited range projectile includes pyrotechnic and reactive material. The pyrotechnic material is ignited at projectile launch. The pyrotechnic material ignites the reactive material, and if the projectile reaches a maximum desired range prior to impact with a target, the ignited reactive material makes the projectile aerodynamically unstable.
The original idea was intended to apply to .50 caliber ammunition. However, the patent covers the idea and technology, so it could theoretically be used in various small arms munitions.
The concept for the limited range projectile came to fruition when the small caliber ammo development team was funded to investigate the feasibility of a pyrotechnically actuated disassembling limited range .50 caliber bullet.
“It was essentially my idea to create a self-destructing small caliber round akin to the larger caliber ones,” Minisi said. “The type of reactive materials to use and how to test it was Steve’s idea.
“Brian was instrumental with executing the effort, particularly the modeling and simulation to confirm the concept,” he said.
Currently, funding for the project has ceased. However, engineers hope their concept will resurface as the constant need to provide greater technology for the warfighter increases.
Kim, Minisi, and McFarlane are employees of the U.S. Army Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center (ARDEC) based at Picatinny Arsenal, N.J.