Dum dum bullets: what are they and why are they banned worldwide?

A doctor in Juliaca (Puno) reported that some of his wounded appear to have been hit by dum dum bullets (Point and Solution)

A few days ago, a doctor from Fist made a serious complaint in the context of the violent protests that these days are plaguing the southern part of the Peru. The doctor said that the Carlos Monge Medrano Hospital had been receiving a considerable amount of wounded bullet.

The curious thing for Enrique Sotomayor, head of the Emergency Department of the aforementioned hospital, is that these people presented their wounds without an exit hole. What usually happens when someone gets shot.

According to the doctor, the injured had destroyed organs and various damages. It is as if they had received the projectiles known as dum dum bullets. But what are these bullets and why does this cause concern?

Model .303 soft point bullet very similar to the original dum dum.  (I, Arthurh)
Model .303 soft point bullet very similar to the original dum dum. (I, Arthurh)

As specified by the National Superintendency for the Control of Security Services, Weapons, Ammunition and Explosives for Civil Use (Sucamec), These expansive bullets have as their main characteristic their fragmentary effect that gives them an explosive quality. That means that when the bullet hits its target, the bullet expands causing more pain and damage.

Similarly, these should not be confused with those of hollow pointsince these do not have that fragmentary effect of the first ones nor are they explosive.

English Army Captain Neville Bertie-Clay is considered the inventor of dum dum bullets (The Scribe's Rest)
English Army Captain Neville Bertie-Clay is considered the inventor of dum dum bullets (The Scribe’s Rest)

Although many may believe that this terrible invention is a novelty of recent times, the truth is that they have been around for more than 150 years of existence.

Over the years they have received many names, but the one that ended up remaining in the popular imagination was ‘dum dum’, which was the name given to a cartridge created based on a British model that was manufactured in the Dum Dum Arsenal, near Calcutta (India) by Captain Neville Bertie-Clay.

It must be remembered that this term is only applied to expansive bullets that are not like the first models of the .303 British. In the same way, this name is used as an example for the construction of similar projectiles.

Another popular name at the end of the 19th century was ‘fungus bullets’ (mushroom bullet). This name was coined by General Tweedie, according to the New York Times.

German WWI propaganda: French dum dum bullets (1916) (Liersch & Co).
German WWI propaganda: French dum dum bullets (1916) (Liersch & Co).

On this type of bullets, the Sucamec that banned them in 2016. As reported six years ago, “the manufacture and trade of (these bullets) are prohibited in the Peru and worldwide. It is worth saying that neither Law 30299 nor its regulations authorize the use of these bullets”.

And there is also a special quality that makes them banned in our country. “All ammunition that includes projectiles with steel coreas well as armour-piercing, tracer, incendiary or explosive ammunition”, says the law.

This prohibition does not include other bullets that have a hollow point but they do not have the fragmentary or explosive effect.

“The cartridges authorized for this modality must be lead projectile or alloy with it; likewise, they must have a soft or hollow tip,” the law states.

The first protest against the use of this type of projectiles it was given in 1898, when the German government complained that the injuries produced by the ‘dum dum’ were inhumane and violated the laws of war.

This criticism had its first result when the Hague Conferences in 1899, and in 1907 afterwards, they prohibited them, despite the refusal of the British, whose pretext was that they did not use it against other European citizens, but in the wars they waged in their colonies against blacks, Asians, etc.

The manufacture of the ‘dum dum’ also was banned in 1905 and ratified in 1907.

However, these measures were overlooked every time there was a war in the world.


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