Target Type and the Appearance of the Bullet Hole

The diameter of a bullet hole is an interaction of the target composition as well as the construction of the projectile and the amount of energy conveyed to the target.  It is not possible to estimate the nominal caliber of the projectile without considering the type of surface impacted.

Major categories of materials typically encountered include the following: Elastic - rubber like materials (leave smaller holes). Maleable - like the molded metal of a car (see related tip on this site).  Compressable - like wood (will usually leave a smaller hole). Friable - easily crumbled so it offers little resistance like sheetrock (will usually equal the diameter of the projectile)..


The image at right is of a passenger vehicle tire.  The projectiles used were .22 caliber.  One is solid nosed the other is a jacketed hollow point.  NOTE the diameter of the hole is and the wipe surrounding its perimeter.  The diameter of the hole cannot be correlated to caliber. The discoloration around the hole (lost in a moving vehicle!) can generally indicate the apporximate diameter - be careful!

Maleable (see “Bullets and Cars” tip on this site


The image at right of of a piece of fencing (cedar).  Since the wood is readily compressed (depending upon the type of wood and grain orientation) the hole will typically be smaller than the diameter of the projectile.

Caution: the bullet may dramatically deviate as it passes into the (perhaps through) the wood.  The bullet looses energy and may be deflected by the grain or inclusions in the wood (knot holes, nails, etc.)

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