The response of metallic materials to shock loading, like all loading regimes, is controlled largely by factors operating at the microscopic or atomic levels. Over the past few years, face-centred cubic (fcc) metals have received a level of attention where the role of features such as stacking fault energy and precipitation hardening have been investigated. We now turn our attention to body-centred cubic (bcc) metals. In the past, only tantalum, tungsten, and their alloys have received significant attention at high strain-rate conditions due to their use by the ordnance community. In particular, this investigation examines the shear strength of these materials at shock loading conditions. Previous results on tantalum, tungsten, and a tungsten heavy alloy are reviewed, and more recent experiments on niobium, molybdenum, and Ta-2.5 wt% W presented. Results are discussed in terms of known deformation mechanisms and variations of Peierl's stress. © 2011 Her Majesty the Queen.