Types of Ammo | What You Need To Know
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bullets of varying sizes

Different Types of Ammo | What You Need to Know

When walking through the gun store, it can be overwhelming to see all the different types of ammo. What’s more, each type has its own pros and cons, which makes choosing a type of ammo even harder. So what do you need to know about all these different types? Is one better than another? Do they perform differently? Let’s dig into it!

Basic Ammunition Types

  • Shotgun
  • Rifle
  • Handgun

When shooting a shotgun, shells are used, whereas when you are shooting a rifle or a handgun, cartridges are used. Shells are typically composed of either a plastic or paper casing. Cartridges are typically a type of metal. In either case, the shotshell or the cartridge is what holds the powder and secures the projectile. 

Shotshells are broken into three main types: 

  • Bird shot
  • Buck shot
  • Slugs

Rifle and handgun cartridges are broken down into two main categories: 

  • Rimfire
  • Centerfire

We recognize the existence of black powder, but those will not be focused on here. 

Understanding Calibers

Caliber represents the diameter of a bore of a firearm, and therefore the size of ammunition it uses. Calibers usually measure in millimeters, hundredths of an inch or thousandths of an inch but may not be exact measurements. Most firearms have the caliber for rifles and handguns or gauge for shotguns clearly marked on their barrel or side of the receiver.

Types of Bullets

Bullets have different applications, including, but not limited to target, hunting, or self defense. Each bullet has its own weight, size, and shape that affect how it performs in different situations. Knowing what you will use your gun for should help you determine bullet type.

Three of the most common bullet types are: 

  • Full metal jacket (FMJ) commonly used for target shooting and competitions.
  • Hollow point (HP) commonly used for self defense.
  • Soft point (SP) commonly used for hunting.
Cartridge Casing Material

There are many different types of cartridge casings, including brass, steel, and aluminum. Each type has its own set of benefits and drawbacks.

  • Brass: The most common type of material for cartridge casings is brass. Fundamentally, brass is the most stable metal casing available on the market, thanks to its low coefficient of expansion. This means it is unlikely to suffer deformation under pressure. The composition of the brass alloy has a big influence on the performance of your cartridge. Its rigidity ensures that bullets don’t expand, retain velocity and with all other components packed carefully within the cartridge, works to prevent explosion or leakage as a result of over pressure, during the firing process.
  • Steel: Steel is harder than brass, and any time two hard metals rub together, there will be wear. Over the course of thousands of rounds, using steel cases does have the potential to wear down vital internal components in the firearm faster than brass. Steel will be harder on components such as extractors and the interior of the chamber. While the wear won’t be noticeable until the firearm has gone through thousands of steel cases, it is a concern for these cartridges.
  • Aluminum: Aluminum-cased ammunition is an interesting choice for gun owners. On the one hand, it’s lightweight and easy to carry around in bulk; on the other hand, there are some problems with this type of cartridge. The main issue comes from the fact that aluminum expands when heated, so it can get stuck in the chamber of your weapon. This can cause a “smokestack” effect where you have to remove it with a paper clip or thin knife—and it’s not fun! It seems that this problem is caused by expansion of the case. 
Full Metal Jacket Ammunition

Full metal jacket bullets have a soft core that is encased in an outer shell made of harder metal. The use of full metal jacket bullets reduces the risk of pitting or erosion when firing. This can be useful for certain applications, such as law enforcement and military purposes. 

FMJ ammo performs well ballistically. The casing on FMJ bullets enables them to feed reliably from magazine, to chamber, to ejection. Also, the outer jacket helps prevent FMJ ammo from leaving deposits in the barrel of the gun.

These bullets use a harder outer casing around the lead core, which makes them more resistant to deformation and offers greater penetration. They are also known for their smooth feeding when used in semi-automatic firearms. Because of these reasons, they are often the choice for competition, target practice and plinking.

Common types of full metal jacket bullets are:

  • Full metal jacket boat tail
  • Full metal jacket flat nose
  • Full metal jacket truncated cone
Hollow Point/Defensive Ammo

Defensive ammo is exactly what it sounds like: Ammo designed to stop an attacker from advancing his attack. 

Hollow-points are preferred for self-defense because they expand as they hit the target, creating more surface area of impact and causing more damage. Full metal jackets are also effective, but they don’t expand.

That means that if you use FMJ bullets during a self-defense situation, there’s a chance that those bullets might pass through your target and continue on to hit other things.

If you want to protect yourself and others from harm in situations like these, then it’s important that you choose defensive ammo! Defensive ammo are designed specifically for situations like this. They expand when they hit their target and expend all of their energy into one single point.

Soft Point Ammunition

Soft point bullets offer three main advantages:

  1. Versatility: Soft points expand more than full metal jackets. They penetrate better than hollow points. They also offer a wide array of uses from hunting large game, to hunting small game, to target shooting. 
  2. Can sometimes be used where hollow points are banned: sometimes a jacketed soft point is as close as you can get to the performance of a hollow point should hollow points be banned where you are.
  3. Lever action use: Because soft point bullets have a softer, smoother tip, this issue is often resolved with lever-action rifles with tube magazines.

There are so many different types of ammo out there, and each one serves a different purpose. The key is to know what type works best for your situation so that when it comes time to buy new ammo or stock up on some old favorites, you can make the right decision.

So now you know the three common types of bullets and what they’re used for. Which one is the best for you? That depends on which gun you shoot, what kind of situations you may be in, and what kind of targets you have. Hopefully we have helped you make this choice by teaching a little about each bullet type.

Next, we will visit different calibers, and the pros and cons of each. Stay tuned!  

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