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I have seen this in a lot of movies and noticed it again now in "Taxi Driver". There is a scene where Robert De Niro cuts an 'X' into his pistol rounds with a knife.

I don't know much about weapons, is there any technical reason to do this? Does it somehow improve the ammunition? Does he do that to open up the round?

Or does it have some symbolic reason, like marking the ammunition in a personal way? What is this kind of scene usually supposed to tell the viewer? Is there any special meaning?

cutting scene from Taxi Driver

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Cutting a round in this way guarantees that the round will fragment upon striking the body creating more severe wounds. There is a forum of ammunition specialists answering a similar question.


Bottom line: While it is not illegal to modify the rounds (though the MURDER is illegal), don't do it unless you know what you're doing since inaccuracy can cause you to lose some of your own body parts, because it may fragment even before it leaves the gun barrel causing blockage and/or explosion.

For those looking into the forum entry I listed above, a lot of acronyms abound. I found the translations of the first few:

  • JSP - Jacketed Soft Point
  • JHP - Jacketed Hollow Point
  • FMJ - Full Metal Jacket
  • HP  - Hollow Point
  • LRN - Lead Round Nose

    • Great, thanks! So I suppose they put this kind of scene in a movie to tell us that the character is really tough, determined and knows what he is doing, right? – magnattic Mar 4 '12 at 13:10
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      At least the tough and determined part. – wbogacz Mar 4 '12 at 14:51
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      "... guarantees that the round will fragment upon striking the body..." one should be careful with such definite statements (especially if the source is a internet forum, whose posting members may or may not actually be "ammunition specialists"). - A similar question has been posted at our StackExchange sister site Skeptics. – Oliver_C Oct 13 '15 at 9:07
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    It does nothing - I have done this myself for hunting. It's just a tough thing to do without any results. If he got himself a cordless drill and drilled the bullet in by 3 or so millimeters, then it's a hugely different story, as then the bullet will expand by approx 3 times the size, which is what's wanted when hunting, so that the game comes down fast and the kill is fast, clean, and humane.

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      Hey - is there any chance you could give us some source material, as well as your personal experience? And out of curiosity, what do you mean when you say that, "it's a tough thing to do without any results"? Thanks! – ghostdog Oct 13 '15 at 0:05
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      I think he means it's alot of work cutting them, for nothing to show for it. Drilling the bullets turns them into hollow points, on the other hand. And ianal but is that even legal? – cde Oct 13 '15 at 0:31
    • @cde: It is. You can make your own ammo so you can modify ammo. The only question is if the resulting round would be legal, and you can buy them just fine so it is. – Joshua Mar 27 '17 at 16:21
    • Also, if I don't misunderstand you american's weapon laws, "legal to own and shoot" does not always imply "legal to use to hunt an animal with"? – rackandboneman Dec 12 '17 at 23:19

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