Would there be any advantage in using a depleted uranium, tungsten core bullets in a sniper rifle? I'm specifically thinking in the .416 calibre size, for use with the Barrett M95 Rifle. By advantantages I'm thinking of things like range, logistics etc. Also would a tungsten carbide core be any better than just tungsten?

Edit: In response to the user that is saying this may be a possible duplicate of the depleted uranium in handheld guns question, I read that question in the first place to try and answer my query before I posted this. I'm not asking if it is possible to use depleted uranium rounds in handheld weaponry, (that technology has been around for years.) I am specifically asking if there are any advantages in using them as sniper rifle ammunition.

  • $\begingroup$ It may surprise but this is an actual thing already made, however it is illegal to use in warfare. I would suggest researching into it. $\endgroup$ – Unhappymarshmellow Oct 28 '17 at 18:08
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    $\begingroup$ I'm not really bothered about the legality of it in warfare just whether or not there are any advantages. Actually thinking about it now if it is illegal it works into my story better. $\endgroup$ – C.Dixon Oct 28 '17 at 18:19
  • $\begingroup$ That's good, I still suggest researching it though. And does this take place in the future or the present? $\endgroup$ – Unhappymarshmellow Oct 28 '17 at 18:24
  • $\begingroup$ It takes place in the present, and I have tried researching it but most of the sites that it comes up with don't really state advantages. $\endgroup$ – C.Dixon Oct 28 '17 at 18:25
  • $\begingroup$ I have voted to close this question as off-topic. It has nothing to do with worldbuilding. Please review our question FAQ. $\endgroup$ – JBH Oct 28 '17 at 19:01

Higher mass gives it greater resistance to being blown about, and more penetration power at the destination. That said, it will take more powder to get it moving. Is there room for that in the casing? That in turn means higher pressures in the chamber. To make use of this you need to redesign the gun.

One way to not require a major gun redesign: Use the same weight bullet, but make it narrower in diameter, and mount it in a sabot. The sabot falls away. A narrower bullet has less air resistance, and the bullet carries further giving you better range. U is hard compared to lead. A sabot would save a whole bunch of wear on the barrel.

Still, there is a reason for bullet's shapes. Will a skinny bullet be stable in flight? Why don't we shoot 'nails'.

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  • $\begingroup$ So the advantages are: 1) less chance of being blown about by the wind and 2) more penetration power at destination? $\endgroup$ – C.Dixon Oct 28 '17 at 18:34
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    $\begingroup$ @C.Dixon Correct. Other posts give some further points I hadn't known about. $\endgroup$ – Sherwood Botsford Oct 29 '17 at 15:14

I suspect what limits very long distance sniper bullets is not the velocity or energy of the bullet, but accuracy. That said if you can be accurate at any range and are limited by distance, a more massive bullet can travel farther that a less massive bullet of the same shape etc.

Kinetic energy is 1/2 mv2

So assuming you have maximized the velocity you can impart to a bullet of a given size, the more massive you can make it the more kinetic energy it will carry, and the farther it will go / harder it will hit.

I have wondered before why the depleted uranium is popular for antitank rounds. I assumed it was the mass, but there are more massive metals; gold or even osmium or iridium.

from https://www.engineeringtoolbox.com/metal-alloys-densities-d_50.html

metal mg/kg3
Bismuth 9750
Actinium 10070
Molybdenum 10188
Silver 10490
Lead 11340
Palladium 12160
Hafnium 13310
Mercury 13593
Uranium 18900
Gold 19320
Tungsten 19600
Plutonium 19816
Platinum 21400
Osmium 22610
Iridium 22650

It turns out that for tanks, DU has antipersonnel aspects that I did not know about. The fragments entering the tank burn, and then everything in the tank burns too.


Depleted uranium is favored for the penetrator because it is self-sharpening[34] and flammable.[29] On impact with a hard target, such as an armored vehicle, the nose of the rod fractures in such a way that it remains sharp.[34] The impact and subsequent release of heat energy causes it to ignite.[29] When a DU penetrator reaches the interior of an armored vehicle, it catches fire, often igniting ammunition and fuel, killing the crew and possibly causing the vehicle to explode.

Not sure that flammability aspect is relevant to a sniper bullet. I am not sure that without the metal on metal impact it would even get hot enough to catch. Maybe if you are shooting robots that would help. But what about the mass? I assumed DU was crazy expensive but no. Per this source, depleted uranium is surprisingly cheap, very hard and easy to fabricate


In elemental form, depleted uranium's density is comparable to gold and tungsten. It is two-thirds more dense than lead, and more than twice as dense as steel. If great material weight in a small volume is needed, depleted uranium is a contender. It is far less expensive than tungsten and gold. Tungsten markets for $25 to $45 per pound depending on the form of the metal, and gold ranges from $4,500 to $6,500 per pound. Depleted uranium costs $5 per pound from old stockpiles. a Depleted uranium is more energy efficient to fabricate than tungsten. Depleted uranium has a melting point of approximately 1100o C compared to tungsten's approximately 3500o C. Depleted uranium's density is superior to the form of pressed-powder tungsten most often available on the market. Tungsten has such a high melting temperature that it is often fabricated instead by cold compaction of powder. The resulting density of the compacted metal is less than that of depleted uranium. b Depleted uranium has a high atomic number -- 92. This high number makes depleted uranium highly opaque to electromagnetic radiation and a candidate for use as shielding around all radiation generators. c Depleted uranium can be formed with a tensile strength exceeding 200,000 pounds-per- square inch (psi) which exceeds the tensile strength of most structural steels. The reinforcing steel used in Portland cement concrete requires a tensile strength of 60,000 psi.

So mass per $ it looks like DU is competitive with lead (if you can find anyone to sell it to you). Such a bullet could be hard, massive and cheap. Those aspects look good to me for a sniper bullet, especially a lower velocity (close range / quiet) bullet.

Making DU seem cool for a work of fiction would be a little tricky it seems to me. Maybe someone picks up the bullet and says "damn that is heavy!". For a work of fiction, I think it would be cool to have the sniper bullet be made of polycarbonate jacketed gold. Gold is expensive but readily available. The presence of gold fragments in the victim would be puzzling - was he wearing a necklace that was hit? Then they figure out the bullets are made of gold.

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  • $\begingroup$ Thank you for the suggestion of using a gold bullet but my story mainly involves snipers with access to military technology, and also they would be using them for extreme range sniping I.E. 3/4 mile upwards. $\endgroup$ – C.Dixon Oct 28 '17 at 18:46

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