Cutaway of the Sabot Tank Round
Sabot rounds work like a basic arrow. They don’t have any explosive power; they penetrate armor with shear momentum. The heart of the sabot round is the penetrator — a narrow metal rod (typically depleted uranium) with a pointed nose on one end and stabilizing fins on the other. Before the round is fired, the rear part of the penetrator is attached to a propellant case, and the front part is attached to the sabot structure. The sabot’s purpose is to keep the narrow penetrator centered in the wide gun barrel.
On firing, the propellant casing remains in the chamber, and the expanding gas pushes the sabot and attached penetrator down the barrel. The sabot is attached to the penetrator with relatively flimsy plastic, so it falls away as soon as the round leaves the cannon. The heavy penetrator flies through the air at high speed toward its target tank. Because of its narrow shape, the penetrator focuses its full force into a very small area, plowing straight through heavy armor. As the penetrator enters the tank, heated fragments of metal fly off in all directions, hitting anybody and anything inside.