Different Kinds of Bullets

Bullets come in various calibers, but there’s more differences than that.

Here are a few different types of bullets you can purchase:

  • Full Metal Jacket – Not just a movie. Metal coats all of the bullet, except sometimes the base. The company Remington refers to these as ‘metal cased’. Your basic, cheapest kind of ammunition, best used for practice.
  • Hollow Point – These have a concave tip that causes the round to expand rapidly on impact. These do not fly as wildly. This is usually the kind of round used for self-defense.
  • Boat Tail – Bullets with a streamlined base for better aerodynamics. These are more commonly used for target shooting.
  • Wad cutter – A cylinder-shaped round that usually has a hollow base, used to punch neat holes in a paper target. Usually used with revolvers, as they rarely get on well with semi-auto pistols.
  • Flat Point – These have a flattened metal tip. Another option commonly used for self-defense.
  • Soft Point – These have an exposed lead tip. Used for big game hunting, or in situations where hollow points are unavailable.
  • Round Nose – Bullets with a rounded lead tip, as opposed to the flat tip. A cheaper, short-range option for target shooting and is used for varmint hunting.
  • Armor Piercing – Designed to punch through armor. These come in different shapes, but all have a strong core for penetrating armor.
  • Armor Piercing Incedniary – These are deigned to not only to pierce armor, but also burst into fire on impact. Sounds like fun to me.
  • Frangible – Bullets that break up on impact, increasing chances of ricochet and over-penetration. Used frequently for varmint hunting.

These various kinds of design elements can be combined in a number of ways, i.e. full metal jacket with a soft point (jacketed soft point is usually the term).

You also have multiple kinds of shotgun shells. Shotguns have different gauges, the shotgun equivalent of caliber. Shotguns do not shoot bullets, but rather fire shells, which contain lead pellets. These scatter, penetrating the target in multiple places, or increasing the chances of hitting a smaller target.

The three basic types of shells:

  • High Brass – Shells that have a brass base that extends up the shell’s body approximately three-quarters of an inch.
  • Low brass – These have a brass base that is fairly narrow. Usually less powerful than high brass.
  • Active Shells – Made entirely of plastic except for the metal above the primer. Used in situations where there is a risk for rust, like during duck hunting.

There are also different pellet types:

  • Birdshot – Shot with a lot of very small pellets (less than .24 in. diameter). As you can tell from the name, these are used for bird hunting, since they will kill the animal but not destroy its meatier parts. The larger the number on the box, the smaller the pellets will be.
  • Buckshot – Medium-sized shot (greater than .24 in. in diameter). These are what is usually used for home defense. The larger buckshot has greater stopping power, shoving something like ball bearings into a body at a very high speed.
  • Slug – A single cylindrical projectile. These are like ‘shotgun bullets’ and must be aimed much more carefully than the pellets to hit the target. Also used often for home-defense.

As you can see, bullets and shells are very diverse, designed for various functions. Each change in design affects how the bullet or shot flys and hits. A variety of companies make the bullets, and there are price differences to each different kind. Have fun trying them out!


About kzurmehl

I'm a lifelong shooter. I grew up hunting and shooting on the range. Firearms have been a part of my life and continue to be so.
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