several 50 caliber rounds standing

How Much Does A 50 Caliber Bullet Weigh?

While perusing the internet the other day I can across an image of a 50 caliber round, and the picture made it look huge. 

A 9mm round looked tiny by comparison.

My first thought was wondering about the range of that thing, but the second I wondered how much the ting weighed so started doing a bit of research.

So, how much does a 50 caliber bullet weigh?

A 50 caliber bullet has an average weight of 660 grains (43g), with a low of around 600 grains (39g) to a high of around 800 grains (52g).

Being one of the most common cartridges used by NATO and non-NATO states people often interchange .50 Cal and .50 BMG.

a single 50 caliber round

What Is A 50 Caliber Bullet?

The .50 caliber Browning is the standard cartridge for the NATO and non-NATO forces. It’s a larger grain bullet than the standard infantry weapons, and as such is used in either belt fed machine guns or in sniper rifles.

It was developed in the late 1910s by C.I.P for Browning the .50 caliber machine gun. The cartridge comes in many variants such as generations of tracer, saboted, subcaliber, incendiary, regular ball, and armor-piercing.

The cartridge is designed for a continuous belt using links for use in machine guns. 

The .50 BMG (Browning Machine Gun) caliber is also available for anti-materiel (AMR – designed for use against military equipment), 50 caliber machine guns, and long-range targets. 

There are .50 caliber rifles that take the cartridge as well, and it’s used to accurately hit targets around 2000 yards away.

Two non-compatible and distinct metallic links are used in .50 BMG. The choice depends on the machine used. Browning M2 and M3 use pull out designs while M85 machine guns use push through links. 

The .50 BMG was primarily used in M2 Browning Machine gun during World War II. Years later, the cartridge was chambered in high powered rifles.

There are a plethora of bullets produced with .50 caliber cartridge each with different specifications. Some of them include tracer, armor-piercing (AP), ball, and armor-piercing incendiary (API).

a single 50 caliber bullet

Difference Between A .50 Caliber And A .50 BMG Round

The .50 caliber rounds are large rounds with a diameter of 12.7 mm. The .50 BMG, on the other hand, is a type 50 caliber round. .50 caliber comes in different rounds commonly used in multi purposes machine guns for shooting down aircraft and destroying vehicles.

The .50 BMG was designed for multipurpose and used extensively in WW II. They are also used in anti-tank rifles, aircraft machine guns, and vehicle-mounted machine guns. 

In most cases, when people mention the 50 Cal, they are usually referring to the .50 BMG since it’s the most popular .50 Cal bullet.

Although the .50 BMG is still popular today, the United States Army uses bigger rounds or relatively smaller rounds for specific tasks. However, many countries still use the cartridge widely.

When ranking long-distance and sniper rounds the .50 BMG used in the Barret sniper rifle is top of the list. The .50 AE is also a common type of .50 caliber round. However, the .50 BMG dwarfs the .50 AE in weight and energy.

50 Caliber Bullet Weights

Below are a few .50 Cal bullets and their weights.

Round Bullet Weight
FMJ M33 – Lake City Ball Round 660 gr (43g)
A-MAX Match – Hornady 750 gr (49g)
FMJBT – PMC 660 gr (43g)
PMC Bronze 660 gr (43g)
PMC; Bronze Line  FMJ Boat 660 gr (43g)
Speer 50 cal 647 gr (42 g)
American Marksman – M33 BALL FMJ  660 gr (43g)
American Marksman – MK263 AP GMJ 750 gr (49g)
Lake City – M20 APIT FMJ  619 gr (40g)

The bullet is quite weighty, and the cartridge is large to propel rounds of that weight and caliber down the barrel.

It seems around 660 grains is the average with quite a few rounds at exactly this weight.

The .50 Caliber vs. 9 mm

The .50 BMG is relatively bigger than 9mm bullets. A 9 mm weighs from 115 to 147 grain and has velocities between 1000 and 1200 ft/s.

Most FMJ 9 mm NATO weighs 124 grains while self-defense 9 mm rounds weigh more than 135 grain. Heavy bullets weighing 165 grain are also available albeit uncommon.

The muzzle energy of a 7.45 grain Federal FMJ 9 mm bullet is 355 ft.lb. A 14-grain Cor-Bon JHP+P 9 mm bullet energy is 434 ft.lb.

As a 660 grain (43g) 50 caliber bullet has a muzzle velocity of around 3000 fps a 50 caliber round is 4 to 5 times the weight of a 9mm and has 3 times the muzzle velocity.

a single 50 caliber bullet

The .50 BMG vs. 7.62mm Round

Comparatively, 50 cal is more powerful than a 7.62 bullet. While 50 BMG has a muzzle energy of more than 13,000 ft/lbs the 7.62×51 muzzle energy is about 2500 ft/lbs.

The 50 caliber BMG will kill if it hits a person pretty much anywhere. On the other hand, a person can survive a 7.62 wound if the vitals are not hit. 

The velocity of 146 gr FMJ 7.62 bullet is 2800 ft/s while a 175 gr M118 long-range BTHP 7.62 bullet has a velocity of 2600 ft/s. The velocity of a 655-grain ADI .50 BMG round is 3029 ft/s.

A typical 660 grain (43g) 50 caliber bullet has a muzzle velocity of around 3000 fps a 50 caliber round is 3 times the weight of a 7.62 bullet and is about 5% higher as muzzle velocity.

The .50 vs. 5.56 Rounds

The 556 round is much lighter so this should be an interesting comparison.

A 5.56×45mm NATO cartridge with 62 grains penetrates between 38 and 51 cm. It’s a round designed to take an enemy off the battlefield.

A 50 caliber cartridge in the palm of a hand

It is less lethal than a 7.62 bullet. The muzzle velocity of 5.56 is 3038 ft/s which is less than that of .50 BMG but much higher than the 2352 ft/s sec muzzle velocity of 7.62 rounds. 

The muzzle energy of the 5.56 rounds is 1311 ft/s which is lower than that of the 7.62 cartridges.

With the same 660 grain (43g) of the 50 caliber, it has a similar muzzle velocity to the 556 NATO but the 50 caliber is 10 to 11 times the bullet weight.

Final Thoughts

The .50 Cal refers to bullets that are of 12.7mm in diameter and have 3000fps muzzle velocity, propelling bullet weights from 620 grains to 800 grains.

It is the standard cartridge for NATO and non-NATO forces. The .50 BMG is the most popular round of the .50 Cal family, bet there are several of them available to sniper rifles.

When compared to the 7.62, 9mm, and 5.56 NATO, the .50 Cal is one of the most lethal cartridges one can ever use.

It’s quite a weighty bullet that will be fired.

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