Flechettes

During the Vietnam war, the United Statesmilitaryusedammunitionloaded with steel flechettes. A flechette is a small arrow-shaped projectile with a metal tail fin. It is made in both 8- and13-gr. form. The8-gr. flechette, which is the more common type, measures 1 mm in diameter by approximately 2.7 cm in length. Flechettes were fired from 90-mm recoilless rifles, 90-mm guns, the 105-mm howitzer, and the 2.75-in. air-to-ground rocket. The 90-mm gun fired from 4100 to 5600 8-gr. steel flechettes per round. These flechettes were driven at sufficient velocity for them to perforate steel helmets. Entrance wounds in the skin may have an X shape due to the tail fin.

12-Gauge shotgun shells loaded with flechettes were manufactured for military use. These rounds have hulls of either Federal or Western manufacture. The Federal round contains 25 flechettes; the Western round 20. The tips of the flechettes are exposed in the Federal rounds but are concealed in the Western by a crimped mouth. The Winchester shells are packed in military cardboard boxes of 10 shells each. The boxes are labeled "18.5-mm Flechette Plastic Case" and state that the shells should be fired in cylinder bore guns only. The 20 flechettes in each round weigh 7.3 gr. each and are packed in a plastic cup with granulated white polyethylene (Figure 10.20). A metal disk lies at the base of the cup. The shell is sealed with a pie crimp. Small quantities of shotgun shells loaded with flechettes appear to have been manufactured for civilian use by one or more small ammunition companies.

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