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.50 BMG vs. .50 Russian

Updated on August 3, 2015

The worst word in the language

Wog. Spastic. Queer. N****R. Dwarf. Cripple. Fatty. Gimp. Paki. Mick. Mong. Poof. Coon. Gyppo. Gay. Lesbian. You can't really use these words anymore and yet, strangely, it is perfectly acceptable for those in the travel and hotel industries to pepper their conversation with the word Beverage.

There are several unnecessary words in the English language, too. Tasty. Meal. Cuisine. Nourishing. And the mysterious "gift". I also have a biological aversion to the use of "home" instead of "house". So, if you were to ask me round to "your home for a nourishing bowl of pasta" I might get sick because of you.

But the worst word. The worst noise. The screech of fingernails down the biggest blackboard in the world, the squeak of polystyrene on polystyrene, the cry of a baby when you're hung-over, is "Silencer".

Apparently, during WWI, the first machine gun, made by Sir Hiram Stevens Maxim, was deployed and it was the loudest. At that time, the sound of the gun was ferocious as it was the first time anyone had seen a single-barreled, rapid-fire weapon. His son, surprisingly, Hiram Percy Maxim, made the quietest. And therein lies the problem. Soldiers on the battlefield or in steel-reinforced concrete bunkers didn't need the extra weight of a silencer. The old Maxim Machine Gun alone weighed in at 60 lbs. Sure, in a gym, that's fine. I could lift it. But when you add other soldiers shooting at you, it becomes a completely different situation.

And, through the development of the machine gun, bigger bullets were made and I'm thinking of two rounds. Something like...... .50 caliber anti-anything bullets.

Enter, the American .50 BMG and the Russian .50 cal.

Husband and Wife

Russian on the left and American on the right.
Russian on the left and American on the right.

America's .50

12.7x99mm. That's been the standard American .50 caliber machine gun bullet since 1921 to the present day. It's so successful that it's still being used today by the U.S. and other NATO countries and even some non-NATO countries.

The bullet was so effective at taking out or killing enemy troops that it was adopted as a long-range precision bullet for use on purpose-built sniper rifles such as the Pauza P-50, McMillan TAC-50, AS-50 and the M107A1 Barrett. As a matter of fact, anyone, even body builders, will fall easily to a .50 caliber weapon. Be it a Desert Eagle, S&W Magnum, Beowulf, or the Browning M2, if you shoot someone with a .50 caliber bullet, they will drop. There are even reports that the .50 BMG can cut someone in half from 1,500 yards away.

And it's understandable because of the sheer power and kinetic energy delivered. In terms of instant energy, it delivers a massive 14,895 lbs-ft of power. That's 30 times the power of a 9mm Parabellum at 500 lbs-ft. At 1,500 yards, it's got more kinetic energy than a .45 ACP being fired from point-blank range.

It's so powerful, that even if you were inside a bullet-proof vehicle or Armored Personnel Carrier, you'd still fall prey to the .50 BMG. I've heard reports in Korea, Vietnam, and even in the Middle East where Armored Carriers just cant stand up to it and keep getting decimated. And hiding behind a wall? Forget it. It could kill 3-5 people after it penetrated the wall.

I tell you one thing, dear readers, if you know someone with a .50 BMG trying to kill you, run. Run for your life.

The Question

Make your choice

See results

.50 BMG and popular ammo

From L-R: .50 BMG, .300 Win Mag, .308 Winchester, 7.62x39mmR, 5.56x45mm, .22LR
From L-R: .50 BMG, .300 Win Mag, .308 Winchester, 7.62x39mmR, 5.56x45mm, .22LR

Russia's .50

12.7x108mm. It's rather strange. It's rather unethical. It's rather fifty caliber. Actually, this bullet was designed to be a direct competitor to the American .50. Obviously, it's got more power. It's 11mm longer than the American one. And if you put them side by side, the size difference is phenomenal. And so is the power.

You see, the longer the cartridge, the more the powder. And the more the powder, the more the power. Russia understood this principle and went out to design and build a .50 caliber bullet more powerful than the American .50. Did you know? No, you didn't.

Actually, did you know that the Russian version of a .50 caliber bullet can actually penetrate the armored rear end of a tank - TANK - and still penetrate the engine block as well? At least, Armor Piercing can do that. Normal Full Metal Jackets simply ricochet off the armor and therefore cause no damage; a mere tickle.

The power of the ".511" is so massive, it will destroy unarmored vehicles, penetrate lightly armored vehicles and damage external ancillary equipment. It can destroy searchlights, radars, steel-reinforced walls and even heavy body armor.

Now, you're probably wondering how much power it has compared to the American .50 BMG? Strangely, it has less power than the American .50 BMG. At a mere 13,737 lbs-ft of instant energy, that's slightly less than the 14, 895 lbs-ft of the American .50 BMG. I'd wager a loss of ten percent, wouldn't you agree?

If you know someone who's also got a .50 caliber Russian round, run for your life. Run harder this time.

Prepare the popcorn and soda!


You might be surprised, like I am, that the Russian bullet is 9mm longer but provides slightly less power than the American bullet. As I am an avid modern military fanatic - some call me a freak - I shall now dare to say what may never have been spoken of before in bullets as big as these: Propellant powder.

You see, for those of you who don't know, propellant powder is the key to providing energy, velocity and bullet weight is what provides kinetic energy; weight transfer from bullet to human/animal. There's a difference. For the uneducated/amateur shooter, it's like this: If you have a weapon, say the legendary AK-47 with bullets that weigh 250 grains and your powder is say, black powder (used in all wars from the 15th to 19th century), good luck hitting something 100 yards away. I'll bet $100 that you couldn't hit a 6' by 6' target from that distance.

Now, say you had the same rifle, and had bullets that weigh 115 grains with modern smokeless powder and viola! You just solved all your problems. And I don't just suspect, I know that Ivan uses heavier bullets than Uncle Sam. But I have no idea what powder they're using. Probably, it could be the same smokeless powder, or it could be something completely different. Other propellants include Poudre B, Ballistite, Pyrocollodion, Cordite and Nitroguandine. Or you could simply try to make an explosive propellant, like C4 or PE4, put it in a cartridge and see what happens. That ought to spice things up a bit.

The Chart

14,895 lbs-ft
2,895 ft/s (882 m/s)
13,737 lbs-ft
2,700 ft/s (820 m/s)
Strangely enough, the larger Russian bullet isn't as fast or as powerful as it's American counterpart.

And another thing

On your marks for a shoot out!

Hear ye! Hear ye! I'm about to end and what's to be done to avoid a cataclysmic theory and actually prove which round is the best? Well, we could hand the whole job over the the Germans. In Hanover, Germany, is the largest marksmen's funfair in the world with more than 5,000 marksmen, 250 rides and inns, 5 large beer tents. It also includes something called the "Marksmen's Parade". And it's called the Schützenfest. It'd be a most wonderful and marvelous experience if you go there. I dream of heading there one day.

Or we could hand it over to the Army. I'm sure they've got a few .50 BMG's and Ivan's laying around.

That being said, however, I think I'd take the American bullet. It's more common here in the Philippines and most of them are military surplus or hand-me-downs. But I suspect that the Russian's is just as good.

All the same, as long as your keeping the enemy's heads down, throwing half-inch diameter lead plums downrange and occasionally cutting enemies in half, either bullet will do for me.


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    • profile image


      6 weeks ago

      Hi there,

      I enjoyed your article! So the reason the BMG rounds have a higher velocity is due solely to the type of propellant, and not anything to do with the projectile differences?


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