Particle system inside particle system?

I want to have a particle system emitting objects that in turn have their own particle system. Is this possible? It does not seem to work.

Imagine, say, a sphere shooting off a bunch of bullets in all directions… then each of those bullets explodes after a certain amount of time.

I have my bullet object set up with a particle effect to explode, but when the sphere emits the bullets, the particle instance bullets have no particle effect themselves.

Also, metaball particles seem to lose their metaball properties. I would like to be able to have my particles form together as metaballs were inteded to behave. Is this not possible either? Can someone else please try this out and post findings?