In folklore, a bullet cast from silver is often the only weapon that is effective against a werewolf, witch, or other monsters. The term is also a metaphor for a simple, seemingly magical, solution to a difficult problem: for example, penicillin was a silver bullet that cured many bacterial infections.
Silver bullets also act as a calling card for The Lone Ranger in his adventures. The masked man decided to use bullets forged from the precious metal as a symbol of justice, law and order, and to remind himself and others that life, like silver, has value and is not to be wasted or thrown away. In the 3rd episode, his friend, who will be making his bullets for him, mentions killing villains with the bullets and the Lone Ranger explains that he will not shoot to kill; he will let the law dispense justice. The silver bullets will be as symbols of justice. Whether he actually used silver bullets in his guns varies depending on story and medium. In the radio series, the Lone Ranger used only lead bullets as weapons, while the silver bullets were used symbolically. In the 1981 feature film, The Lone Ranger used silver bullets in his guns as he was told that silver was far more solid than lead slugs and provided a straighter shot. The Lone Ranger's usage of bullet made from valuable metal like silver is satirized in an episode of Robot Chicken where after expertly shooting a tin can in the air, the Ranger's sidekick Tonto laments that the amount of silver the Ranger thoughtlessly wasted could have bought enough food to feed Tonto's entire village for a year.
Silver bullets differ from lead bullets in several respects. Lead has a 10% higher density than silver, so a silver bullet will have a little less mass than a lead bullet of identical dimensions. Pure silver is less malleable than lead and falls between lead and copper in terms of hardness (1.5 < 2.5 < 3.0 Mohs) and shear modulus (5.6 < 30 < 48 GPa). A silver bullet accepts the rifling of a gun barrel.
The terminal impact is somewhat speculative and will depend on a variety of factors including bullet size and shape, flight distance, and target material. At short ranges, the silver bullet will most likely give better penetration due to its higher shear modulus, and will not deform as much as a lead bullet. A 2007 episode of MythBusters demonstrated a greater penetration depth of lead bullets vs. silver bullets. Results cannot be considered conclusive, however, as the show utilized a 250-grain lead slug in a .45-caliber Colt long shell vs a lighter (190-grain) silver slug fired at closer range. Another MythBusters episode, from 2012, showed that silver bullets are less accurate than lead bullets when fired from the M1 Garand. Michael Briggs also did some experiments with silver bullets compared to lead bullets. After making a custom mold to ensure that the sizes of the silver bullets were comparable to the lead bullets, he fired them. He found that the silver bullets were slightly slower than the lead bullets and less accurate.
In this photo, you can see the marks the rifling in the barrel left on the bullet when it was fired. I'd like to see a little more on the nose, but the driving bands show very nice engraving.
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