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Ammo Basics: Common Bullet Types

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Understanding the different types of bullets and ammunition available is essential for firearm owners and shooting enthusiasts. The world of ammunition mag can be complex and overwhelming, with various bullet designs serving specific purposes. In this article, we will delve into the basics of common bullet types, helping you make informed decisions when selecting the right ammunition for your needs.

Full metal jacket (FMJ) bullets

Full metal jacket (FMJ) bullets are among the most prevalent types used in shooting ranges and military applications. These bullets have a soft lead core enclosed in a harder metal, such as copper or steel. The FMJ design provides stability in flight and reduces barrel fouling, making them a popular choice for high-volume shooting.

While FMJ bullets are great for target practice and plinking, they might not be the best choice for self-defense due to their limited stopping power and tendency to pass through targets without significant expansion.

Hollow point (HP) bullets

Hollow point (HP) bullets are designed for self-defense purposes. These bullets have a hollowed-out tip that causes them to expand upon impact, creating a larger wound channel and transferring more energy to the target. The expansion also reduces the risk of over-penetration, making them safer in home defense situations.

Law enforcement agencies and concealed carry permit holders often prefer hollow point bullets as they offer more stopping power and are less likely to endanger bystanders. However, they can be more expensive than FMJ bullets due to the complexity of their design and the use of premium materials.

Soft point (SP) bullets

Soft Point (SP) bullets are a versatile option that combines features of both FMJ and hollow point bullets. They have a lead core exposed at the tip, covered by a partial jacket. The exposed lead tip allows for controlled expansion upon impact, making them suitable for hunting applications.

SP bullets are well-regarded for their ability to deliver lethal stopping power while retaining good penetration. Hunters often use them for taking down medium and large game, as they offer the perfect balance between expansion and penetration.

Ballistic tip bullets

Ballistic tip bullets are specifically designed for long-range shooting and hunting applications. They have a plastic tip attached to the lead core, which enhances the bullet’s aerodynamics, resulting in flatter trajectories and improved accuracy at extended distances.

The plastic tip also initiates rapid expansion upon impact, making the Ballistic Tip an excellent choice for hunting thin-skinned game. However, for larger and tougher game, hunters might prefer other bullets that offer deeper penetration.

Armor-piercing (AP) bullets

Armor-piercing (AP) bullets are primarily designed to penetrate armour and are typically used by military and law enforcement agencies. These bullets have a hardened core, usually made of steel or tungsten, to pierce through barriers like body armour, steel plates, and armored vehicles.

Due to their potential for causing significant damage, AP bullets are heavily regulated in many jurisdictions and may be restricted to military and law enforcement use only.

Frangible bullets

Frangible bullets are designed to disintegrate upon impact with hard surfaces. They are often made from compressed powdered metal or a combination of materials that allow them to break apart upon hitting a solid object. Frangible bullets are popular for shooting sports, close-quarters training, and use in indoor shooting ranges, where the risk of ricochets is a concern.

Their ability to break apart upon impact reduces the risk of over-penetration and minimizes the danger to bystanders and nearby objects. However, frangible bullets may not be suitable for hunting or self-defense, as they lack the penetration required to stop a threat effectively.


Having a basic understanding of common bullet types is crucial for responsible firearm ownership and shooting activities. Whether you’re a target shooter, a hunter, or someone interested in self-defense, choosing the right ammunition can significantly impact performance and safety.

Remember, always abide by local laws and regulations regarding the possession and use of different bullet types. Additionally, prioritise safety and continuous education to ensure you make the best choices for your shooting needs.

Jordan Wayne, a psychology graduate from the University of Hertfordshire, has a keen interest in the fields of mental health, wellness, and lifestyle.

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