A recoverable plate impact testing technology has been used for studying the growth mechanisms of mode II crack. The results show that interactions of microcracks ahead of a crack tip cause the crack growth unsteadily. Failure mode transitions of materials were observed. Based on the observations, a discontinuous crack growth model was established. Analysis shows that the shear crack grows unsteady as the growth speed is between the Rayleigh wave speed cR and the shear wave speed cs; however, when the growth speed approaches 2cs, the crack grows steadily. The transient microcrack growth makes the main crack speed to jump from subsonic to intersonic and the steady growth of all the sub-cracks leads the main crack to grow stably at an intersonic speed.