Insurgents using Chinese armor-piercing bullets

Human Events has an interesting article about the use of Chinese armor-piercing bullets in Iraq and Afghanistan by insurgents.

China’s robust arms industry has been able to duplicate U.S.-made, armor-piercing rounds, and the bullets are being found with the enemy in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Two government sources tell HUMAN EVENTS the sniper ammunition is sending alarm bells through the Pentagon as it hurries to keep pace by producing improved body armor for soldiers, Marines, airmen and sailors.

The sources said the Chinese munitions are not thought capable of defeating the super-hard ceramic plates that now protect service members against smalls-arms fire, including armor-piercing bullets.

I know very little about AP ammunition. Does anyone know if M948 (7.62mm Saboted Light Armor Penetrator) or M993 (7.62mm AP) can penetrate Type IV ballistic vests and a ceramic plate insert?

Picture 35-1
AP bullets. Click to expand. Image from

Defense Review discusses the implications of this and its potential impact on the mythical XSAPI armor plates that are in development.

Hat Tip: Defense Review

Steve Johnson

Founder and Dictator-In-Chief of TFB. A passionate gun owner, a shooting enthusiast and totally tacti-uncool. Favorite first date location: any gun range. Steve can be contacted here.


  • Shane

    Pinnacle armor has a ballistic chart which puts M948 and M993 under Level V:

  • Shane, thanks for the link.

  • jdun

    Pinnacle Armor is a piece of crap. It weighted more and offer less protection then the standard IBA that our troops are using. The CEO is being investigated for fraud. The US Army spend over $1,00,000 trying to defend themselves that their testing of pinnacle armor was flawed. As far as I know, the US military has cut all ties to Pinnacle Armor.

    The current ESAPI that the US military are using is rated to protect at least one 30-06 API round.

    Tungsten core is what make a small arms bullet AP. Steel, lead, and aluminum core are not AP. Tungsten are use because they have the highest melting point and tensile strength. In other worlds, when the tungsten bullet hit a hard object like steel it doesn’t deform. It keep its shape. In fact you can reuse tungsten bullet if you want too. I have a few pictures where .50 cal AP embedded it self in hard still and the bullet is in prefect shape (no deformity). I’ll try to post the pictures once I get home, if I can find them that is.

    Any ammo company or anybody can make AP with the right machine. It’s not like its high tech or anything that require deep knowledge of ballistic. AP bullets use a different material at its core. So the reporter as usual has no idea what he/she is talking about.

    • Diesel

      Pinnacle Armor is a piece of crap? Is that why Blackwater Mercs, U.S. Generals and most other ‘higher ups’ still wear their Dragon Skin vests? So, in your mind all of the dozens of independent tests done with Dragon Skin that proved it superior, including Mail Call with R.Lee Ermey, FutureWeapons with Richard “Mack” Machowicz, the History Channel’s Test Lab and of course the CBS special, are all lying even though they have nothing to gain? Yet the U.S. military, Who had resisted for nearly 3 years spending a mere $1500/vest for every fighting soldier to have an interceptor, isn’t willing to spend $4000/vest on Dragon Skin so they do a private ‘test’ to give them an answer they already decided on long before their ‘test’. Yes, Dragon Skin’s adhesive,when subjected to 148+ degrees Fahrenheit, did have some issues which have since been resolved. If the military gave up on everything that had teething problems then they wouldn’t have any equipment at all. If Pinnacle Armor is crap then why did the government make it illegal for them to sell Level V Dragon Skin to civilians?

  • jdun1911
  • jdun1911

    Tungsten core bullet aren’t new. They been around pre WWI or earlier. Every major countries have them in their stockpile. So for the life in me I don’t understand what they mean by copy.

  • jdun1911, great photos! Thanks for posting them.

  • Pete

    blah, silly reporting to uninformed worry wort do-gooders. Any of us can buy AP rounds on the white market here in the US, never mind the black market. Like jdun1911 says, they aren’t exactly high tech. Insurgents using DU rounds would be something to worry about. Steel core penetrators are flat out common. Tungsten core 7.62×39 shouldn’t be a prob for ESAPI plates if it even exists. Tungsten core 7.62x54R or .308 might be, but insurgent snipers are more likely to just go for head and armpit shots at <100yds like the Baghdad snipers.
    Nobody is surprised by Chinese copying US arms or munitions, they have been doing it for decades.
    Nice Pics jdun, I guess you could reuse the penetrator, you’d have to rejacket it obviously though – PITA

  • Lance

    So why do we do business and buy military contracts with these Commies that arm tthe scum that kill our men??

  • Shaft

    “The current ESAPI that the US military are using is rated to protect at least one 30-06 API round. ”

    It’s actually M2AP, STEEL core 30-06, no incendiary component in it.

  • sayed arabysalem

    penetration bullet type 7.62/51in steel wall –find thicness rang to became final velosity zero

  • sayed arabysalem

    bullet fired 7.62 penetration steel range thickness in chart

  • Dave


    For the bullets that you showed, only M995 is an AP bullet. M885 is not an AP round, its more like an enhanced penetration FMJ round. M855 has better penetration than lead core FMJs but most Lv3 body armor can stop them. Tungsten cored bullets like M995 and M993 can penetrate most Lv4 body armor. SLAP rounds would have even better penetration than M995 or M993.

    • Dave, thanks, yep I just posted that to show the different bullets

  • Dave


    You are incorrect when saying that only bullets with a tungsten core are AP rounds. Although rounds with a steel nose, like m855 green tip, and some steel core rounds like the 5.45mm 7N10 are not AP, generally, what makes a round an AP is a tungsten or hardened steel core. Examples of steel core AP ammo are .30-06 AP and 5.45mm 7N22. Most modern AP rounds use tungsten because tungsten is a better penetrator than steel.

  • Thanks for your posting and the other comments here. This is great and I learn something from reading the blog and the comments. Thank you guys for sharing. Looking forward to another blog post of yours Sir.

  • Im trying to make some bullet shaped tapers. Armored piercing bullets though is something I haven’t heard of yet.

  • X1/75ranger

    Anyone that loads there own ammunition can make armor piercing rounds without damaging your firearm.