I’ll warn you in advance that you’re going to want to take two Tylenol to deal with the stupidity on display in this story out of Harrah, Oklahoma, a city in which lead paint chips are apparently a local delicacy:

Oklahoma County Bomb Squad was busy at Harrah Middle School Monday morning after a student brought bullets to class.

The child brought three bullets. He did not bring a gun, but it was one bullet in particular that caught the attention of the School District’s Safety Director.

It was a .50 caliber bullet.

“I wouldn’t want my kids around it,” said Helen Tolbert.

A feeling shared by Safety Director Phil Stewart.

“I wanted it out of the building,” said Stewart.

A former marine and former police officer, Stewart knows these .50 calibers are some of the most powerful available to the public. The bullets are fit for a large sniper rifle. They can shoot something from a milie[sic] away. He says the bullet the child brought in looked to him like WWII era ammo. So, he called the bomb squad.

“If anything you would have had an explosion risk, and that’s it. But, we didn’t know what was inside that bullet or if it even had an internal core,” said Stewart. “We couldn’t tell just from looking at it.”

Actually, Phil, you can tell precisely what it is by looking at it, which a “former marine and former police officer” should presumably know.

I’m not even sure where to begin unpacking this one.

expended bullets

Perhaps we should start with the fact that if he thought it was a .50 BMG bullet, you would hope that a former member of the military would know that the .50 BMG bullet isn’t explosive. There are ball variants, match variants, armor-piercing variants, incendiaries, armor-piercing incendiaries (API) and tracers, but the military never issued explosive .50 BMG ammo. A half-inch diameter simply couldn’t pack enough explosives to make it worthwhile to develop.

Oh… did we mention this isn’t .50 BMG bullet?

While we understand that not every Marine is exposed to every weapon system, anyone familiar with a ruler can easily tell that the largest of the three expended bullets is not a .50 BMG, but something far larger.

We’re looking an an expended 20mm Vulcan practice slug.

Left to Right: 5.56 NATO, .338 Lapua, .50 BMG, 20mm Vulcan Training Round
Left to Right: 5.56 NATO, .338 Lapua, .50 BMG, 20mm Vulcan Training Round. Image via Anzio Ironworks.

In the photo above, the third cartridge is a .50BMG. The cartridge to the right of the .50 BMG cartridge is that of a 20mm Vulcan training round. The child brought in an expended version of the Vulcan round.

Note again the blue color.

Military ammunition colors exist to tell soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines what kind of ammunition they have at a glance. Blue indicates that it is a non-explosive training round.

You can buy all you want of these expended 20mm slugs at $3.99 a round.

The child brought three inert chunks of metal to school, and the “former marine and former cop” should have known he was looking at scrap metal that was only dangerous if the kids started throwing it at one another, or if they tried to eat it.

But as bad as Stewart screwed up, the reporter entered “shoulder thing that goes up” territory as she attempted to explain why the expended round wasn’t dangerous.

Experts at local gun store Locked and Loaded say by the looks of the bullet the child brought in to school, it wouldn’t have caused harm because it wasn’t connected to the gun powder chamber. Someone had alaready [sic] fired the round.

What that heck is a “gun powder chamber?” Is that a key component of a sniper automatic weapon that can fire a 30-magazine clip in half a second?

I’m not putting this one on the local gun shop.

I strongly suspect that Locked and Loaded attempted to tell reporter Courtney Francisco that a bullet is only a threat if it is loaded in a cartridge with powder and a primer and the complete cartridge is loaded in the chamber of a firearm. They may as well have attempted to describe gene splicing to a trout. The complete and utter destruction of that logical thought falls squarely on the head of the reporter.

* * *

Perhaps I’m dating myself, but I think it’s absurd that school administrators and reporters lack the common sense to know that fired bullets are just chunks of metal.

Then again, we’re dealing with an educational system that has become an anti-intellectual idiocracy, where finger guns and pop-tarts are treated as weapons, so perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised.

Update: As several EOD/ordnance types have noted that 40mm grenades have small marking charges to better show where they’ve impacted, we’ve removed that photo reference in order to clarify the issue.