Army researchers patent self-destructing bullet designed to save lives

Army Photography Contest entrant: "Enhanced Camoflage" Credit: flickr/familymwr

Researchers from the U.S. Army Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center recently patented a new type of bullet capable of self-destructing after traveling over a predetermined distance.

The idea behind the new and advanced projectile is that it might help limit the extent of collateral damage (read: innocents dying) during battle or in other operational settings and environments.

As for how it all works, the U.S. Army explains that when one of these limited-range projectiles is fired, a pyrotechnical material is ignited at the same time and reacts with a special coating on the bullet.

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 transforms the projectile into an aerodynamically unstable object.
The transformation into an aerodynamically unstable object renders the projectile incapable of continued flight.

The researchers add that the desired range of its limited-range projectile can be adjusted by switching up the reactive materials used. Put simply, the Army has come up with what effectively amounts to a self-destructing bullet that is rendered ineffective over certain distances.

Currently, the invention is nothing more than a proof of concept, but the Army researchers involved are confident that they're onto something transformative.

"The biggest advantage is reduced risk of collateral damage," researcher Stephen McFarlane said. "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 Army notes that the project currently lacks any funding from the U.S. Government, so it may be a while before this proof of concept becomes a working prototype, let alone an actual tool used in a combat setting.

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