Think of a Flechette as a miniaturization of an arrow. It’s long, thin, pointed, and has stabilizing “fletching” like an arrow. But, unlike an arrow, it is made entirely from hardened steel.
The first use of the Flechette was in WWI, when they were dropped from the sky by the thousands, intended to incapacitate the enemy soldiers in their trenches. That’s some painful rain.
During the 1950’s the United States tried various ways of introducing biologic agents to the Flechette. The intention was for it to act as an injection of the agent when the enemy soldier was hit with a Flechette. It was never fielded.
The 1960’s saw the use of the Flechette in theatre during the Vietnam War. Infantry fielded 12 gauge shotguns with Flechette rounds. Each shot sent about 20 Flechettes down range. Although small (or because it was small), the Flechette was a particular nuisance on the battle field.
This was because whenever a soldier was hit with one, it bent and twisted its way through the body. This was notorious for causing serious tearing damage to tissue and organs, much more damaging than a bullet.
Then, once a soldier was hit, due to their small size it was extremely difficult to locate and remove the Flechette. Also, the damage caused by the Flechette was often too much to repair with field surgery, and the soldier would not survive. This attributed to making them particularly lethal. Another feature of the Flechette was, since they were thin, hardened steel, they were armor piercing.
Besides being fired from a shotgun, another method of delivery of the Flechette during the Vietnam War was the beehive round. This was an artillery round fired from the 105mm Howitzer and the 90mm tank cannon. These artillery rounds sent thousands of Flechettes downrange. The buzzing sound of which gave these rounds their nickname.
The United States currently has the Hydra 70, 70mm rocket that can fire anti-personnel Flechette rounds. They are fielded by the Cobra and Apache attack helicopters. Each warhead contains 96 Flechettes.
Although the Flechette round has not been outlawed in warfare, it is generally frowned upon by human rights organizations because of its tendency to be inaccurate and so causing harm to non-combatants.
The Flechette round in civilian use
It is generally up to the individual state to determine whether or not that states citizens may possess “exotic ammunition”. The Flechette falls under that category of exotic ammunition.
Here is a video showing a guy firing store bought 12 gauge and .410 Flechette ammo. It appears woefully underpowered and useless.
While many states allow exotic ammunition, others do not. Within the states the cities may also ban certain ammunition. Personally, I feel this is a violation of our second amendment right to bear arms as granted under the Bill of Rights, but that is another topic of discussion.
If you aren’t sure about your state laws pertaining to ammunition you can look them up here.
Flechette use during SHTF
Whether or not Flechette rounds are legal in your country or state, they could be very useful in the case of SHTF or TEOTWAWKI. Just think, every time you pull the trigger on that 12 gauge 20-30 needles of death spew at the intruders. Ouch!
You can still buy Flechettes online. Here is a listing for 500 of them for only $39.99 plus shipping. The ad states that the sale is only restricted in California and Florida, which means anywhere else in the United States it is legal to buy them. Awesome!
Loading the Flechette Round
If you wanted to purchase some Flechettes and load your own 12 gauge Flechette ammunition it isn’t really difficult. The Flechettes for sale online are 1” long, so you will need to buy 3” birdshot shotgun shells to accommodate them.
Any size shot will work, as long as the end of the shell is crimped. Slugs and some buckshot loads aren’t crimped so they won’t work. Besides, you wouldn’t want to waste a slug or buckshot shot shell. If you don’t want to buy Flechettes, you can always make your own.
To load your own Flechette rounds:
- Un-crimp the crimped end of the 3” birdshot shot shell:
- Dump out the shot, save for later use:
- Put as many Flechettes in the shell as will fit. It should hold around 20, depending on the Flechette style:
- Re-crimp the end of the shell. That’s it, you’re done. (Sorry, I skipped this part because I didn’t have any Flechettes)
Making your own Flechettes
If you would rather make your own Flechettes, that’s not too hard to do either. To make your own flechettes, all you need are:
- Flat, metal surface (a bench vice has a small anvil on it, or you can use a 1/4″ thick piece of steel plate, or even a big rock if that’s all you have)
- #8 hand drive finish nails (or similar)
- Propane torch
- Container of oil (a bowl or an empty nut can etc.)
Once you gather the supplies all you have to do is follow these simple directions.
- Use the hammer and steel plate (or rock) to flatten the head of the finish nail, also flatten about 1/4 of the head end of the nail (this acts as the stabilizer fin)
- Hold the nail by the very tip of the flattened end with the pliers and heat with the propane torch until cherry red
- Drop nail (now a Flechette) into the oil
It is best to have an assembly line of sorts. Flatten all the nail ends first, then heat and drop in the oil. After you heated them all (or the oil bowl is full), simply remove them from the oil and dry them off.
You now have heat treated, hardened Flechettes to load in your shotgun shell. Simply follow the previous instructions for loading Flechette rounds and you will be ready to send a devastating flurry of angry bees at any enemy intruders.
The video link earlier in the article showed store bought Flechette ammo being fired, and it appeared to be very underpowered. I have not personally fired that particular ammo, but I know very well how a 12 gauge pump should kick and sound when fired. The one in the video looked as if it wasn’t even being fired.
There was no noticeable recoil, and a 12 gauge has plenty of recoil. I think that the home made Flechette rounds will have a little more a$$ behind them because they are being made from full powered shells. This would hold especially true if you loaded turkey shot shells with the Flechettes because turkey loads are generally really hot loads.
Since we are on the topic of exotic shotgun ammunition I would like to mention a couple of others that I am fond of. One is the bolo round. This consists of two, large lead balls joined together with about 12” of steel wire. These rounds can basically bifurcate an enemy. (Bifurcate means cut them in half).
Here’s a video of a bolo round being fired into ballistics gel. He was really too close for them to open up enough for maximum effect.
You can also make your own bolo round. Cast your own lead balls with a length of braided steel wire in place then load them into a 3” shot shell like you did the Flechettes.
I also like several of the new solid copper and steel 12 gauge slugs being offered. Like the one in the video here:
Then there is the dragon’s breath. If you always wanted a flame thrower, the 12 gauge dragon’s breath probably isn’t very good on your gun, but it’s worse for anything you are pointing it at.
Here’s a video with some stills of people firing the dragons breath. It happens so fast in real time it doesn’t really look like much, but when you see the still you realize just how much fire is coming out of the muzzle.
Well, there you have it, how to make your own Flechette rounds and a couple of ideas for other fun stuff with your 12 gauge. Just put your mind to it and you can make it a reality.
More improvised arms and ammo:
Eric Eichenberger is an avid outdoorsman, skilled marksman, and former certified range officer and instructor with nearly 40 years experience handling and repairing firearms.
A skilled craftsman with a strong love for working with his hands, Eric spent 20 years as a carpenter and custom woodworker in high end homes. As a gold and silversmith he has created hundreds of pieces of jewelry over the years using the lost wax casting method.
The grandson of humble country folk, he was raised with the “do it yourself” mentality and so is accustomed to coming up with unique solutions to problems utilizing materials at hand.