A wadcutter is a special-purpose bullet specially designed for shooting paper targets, usually at close range and at subsonic velocities typically under 800 ft/s (244 m/s). They are often used in handgun and airgun competitions. A wadcutter has a flat or nearly flat front that cuts a very clean hole through the paper target, making it easier to score and ideally reducing errors in scoring the target to the favor of the shooter. Because the flat nosed bullet is not well suited for feeding out of a magazine, wadcutters are normally used only in revolvers or in specially-designed semi-automatic pistols.
Wadcutters are typically made from lead; as such, deposition of lead into the rifling grooves of barrels, and into the forcing cones of revolvers, limits the maximum usable velocity of wadcutters to less than about 900 ft/s; as few as a few shots fired at higher velocities may cause severe leading of the rifling and of the forcing cone, introducing a potentially dangerous condition from overpressure if FMJ bullets are subsequently fired without first removing the lead buildup. Either a mechanical lead removing tool (i.e., a Lewis Lead Remover or a generic equivalent) and/or chemical removal techniques may be used to remove the lead build-up from shooting wadcutters at too high a velocity.
Wadcutters can be loaded flush with the brass case, such as seen in the accompanying picture, or they may also be set to extend out of the brass case, depending on what provides the most accuracy, the desired powder capacity of the case, or other desired criteria. Both varieties of wadcutters (flush, or extending out of the case) are commercially available. Although primarily intended for target practice, wadcutters are also sometimes used for close-in self-defense and hunting, since their sharp edges and close-range accuracy increases lethality. (See Keith bullet for more on these wadcutter and semiwadcutter applications involving self-defense and hunting applications.)
Target airguns generally shoot wadcutters at even lower velocities, around 400 ft/s (122 m/s). The use of wadcutters is nearly universal in airgun target shooting where paper targets are used.
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