Experiment: Bullets Loaded Backwards

10/17/2014 – On occasion I would hear stories of bullets being loaded backwards, for various reasons. Sometimes it was to improvise the expansion of a soft point, other times to improve effectiveness against targets shielded by armor plate. The theory on that is that the harder impact would cause chunks of armor to flake off and cause damage to the target even though the bullet did not fully penetrate. Of course I cannot verify any of this but a viewer requested that I conduct some tests, it sounded interesting…

I decided to test this concept using 308 Winchester rounds loaded with 147 grain lead core bullets.  First I fired traditionally loaded rounds for comparison.  Both the regular and reversed rounds were identical other than the bullet installation.  The tests did show significantly increased effect against soft targets.


The diagram above depicts the wound channel created by a regular bullet, top, and the backwards loaded bullet, bottom.  The backwards loaded bullet did indeed expand and fragment almost immediately upon impact.  The recovered projectiles are shown below with an unfired specimen for comparison.

 The regular bullet passed out the back of the 16″ ballistic gel block intact and impacted some wet paper sideways.  It lost 13 grains of weight, presumably from lead squirting out the base.  The backwards bullet fragmented immediatelt upon impact, 67 grains of it was recovered from the ballistic gel block while the remainder was not found and must have exited the block.


The water jugs shown above really demonstrate the destructive performance of the backwards bullet.  That jug was impressively destroyed while the regular bullet caused the jug to split significantly. 

I also tested these rounds against 1/2″ mild steel plate.  The two craters are very different in appearance, as shown above.  The regular bullet penetrated approximately 1/16″ deeper than the backwards loaded one.  See data table below for figures.

Steel Penetration Data
  Penetration Depth Rear Bulge
Regular Bullet 0.378″ 0.210″
Backwards Bullet 0.310″ 0.163″

The data above also shows the size of the bulge on the back of the plate.  Bear in mind this was mild steel which is very malleable compared to armor plate which would be more prone to fracturing.


I had concerns about pressure going into this, which were later proven correct.  A traditionally loaded bullet will have a flat bottom for expanding gasses to push against while a pointed bullet, when reversed, provides no flat bearing surface.  It acts almost like a reverse funnel creating a gas ‘wedge’ resulting in increased pressure.  This pressure is evident in two way, cracked case necks and flattened primers, pictured above.

In conclusion it is obvious from the results that backwards loaded bullets do have an increased effect but at the great cost of safety.  Over pressure rounds pose a great threat to both the shooter and the firearm.