“In 1980, I treated a soldier shot accidentally with an M16 M193 bullet from a distance of about ten feet. The bullet entered his left thigh and traveled obliquely upward. It exited after passing through about 11 inches of muscle. The man walked in to my clinic with no limp whatsoever: the entrance and exit holes were about 4 mm across, and punctate. X-ray films showed intact bones, no bullet fragments, and no evidence of significant tissue disruption caused by the bullet’s temporary cavity. The bullet path passed well lateral to the femoral vessels. He was back on duty in a few days. Devastating? Hardly.
The wound profile of the M193 bullet (page 29 of the Emergency War Surgery—NATO Handbook, GPO, Washington, D.C., 1988) shows that most often the bullet travels about five inches through flesh before beginning significant yaw. But about 15% of the time, it travels much farther than that before yawing—in which case it causes even milder wounds, if it missed bones, guts, lung, and major blood vessels. In my experience and research, at least as many M16 users in Vietnam concluded that it produced unacceptably minimal, rather than “massive”, wounds.
After viewing the wound profile, recall that the Vietnamese were small people, and generally very slim. Many M16 bullets passed through their torsos traveling mostly point forward, and caused minimal damage. Most shots piercing an extremity, even in the heavier-built Americans, unless they hit bone, caused no more damage than a 22 caliber rimfire bullet.”
Fackler, ML: “Literature Review”. Wound Ballistics Review; 5(2):40, Fall 2001