Ammo, the short form of ammunition, is a set of assembled components fired from a firearm. These components include propellant/gunpowder, projectile, cartridges, primers, and ignition tubes, manufactured separately before being assembled into the cartridge. Whether you need ammo for your hunting or personal defense firearms, selecting the right type is an important decision as it ensures optimal performance.
Many types of ammunition can be confusing when you are new to handling firearms. But worry no more, for in this article, we will tackle 24 different types of ammo, and all the bits and pieces that you need to know about them.
Ball ammo, also known as a full metal jacket bullet, has a soft core made of lead, and is encased in an outer jacket/ shell made of harder material like copper. Ball ammo is one of the most used and least-expensive types of ammo in the world.
It is very accurate and readily available to civilian gun owners. It does not expand upon impact, but it is designed to go through the target with precision. It comes with the possibility of hitting objects behind it too.
The fact that the projectile can go through the target and cause unintentional collateral damage behind it, can be a disadvantage. Ball ammo is not recommended for concealed carry.
Ball ammo can be flat nose, truncated cone, or boat tail types, all of which are made for penetration while leaving less residue in the barrel. Less residue means increased velocity rate of the shot and increased accuracy.
ACP stands for Automatic Colt Pistol. ACP ammo is a rimless straight-walled cartridge that has headspaces on the case mouth for accuracy. The Colt Pistol was designed between 1900 to 1908 by John Browning. He also developed the ACP ammo for use in the automatic pistol. The Automatic Colt Pistol remains one of the most accurate designs for law enforcement officers and civilians.
Grain stands for mass’ unit of measurement, and ammo grain is a measure of the bullet weight. In simple terms it means how large is the cartridge’s projectile. Each caliber has different grain sizes, ranging between 5 grains to 750 grains. If the packaging of the ammo says 124-grain FMJ, it means that the actual bullet weighs 124 grains. Grains also measure gunpowder (or propellant) but is not indicated on the box.
The choice of ammunition will depend on a person’s need, and each caliber has a range of bullet weights. The 9mm, for instance, loads 115, 124, and 147 grain, and sometimes the 110 grain. Under the same caliber, lighter bullets’ velocity is higher than that of heavier bullets.
9mm is one of the best guns for home defense, with a perfect expansion and penetration power balance.
The main difference between the 9mm’s 115 grain and the 124 grain is velocity. The 124-grain bullet has lower velocity compared to the 115 grain one, but maintains it longer and transfers more energy into the target.
Plinking ammo is the inexpensive ammo that people use in informal target shooting for pleasure. The term plinking comes from the sharp, metallic sound that is made by the projectile when it hits the non-standard targets like cans, water bottles, logs, and the like. My favorite plinking ammo is 22 caliber. 22’s are easily available and relatively cheap.
ACP stands for Automatic Colt Pistol, which was designed by John Browning. When ACP is used in ammo, it means that the ammo is made for an automatic gun. Browning designed the ACP cartridge specifically for the Colt.
Rimfire ammo is a type of primer-ignited metallic firearm cartridge whose primer is contained in the cartridge’s rim. The cartridge fires when the firing pin strikes the primer. This type of ammo is not reloadable. Rimfire ammo is usually low-pressure and cheaper hence it’s popularity in sport shooting, plinking, and small-game hunting.
Remanufactured ammo is processed using specialized equipment to reload brass casings that were once fired. This ammo has a cost-efficient price point and is still of decent quality that many people trust.
Caseless ammo is a small arms ammunition that attempts to reduce the cost and weight of ammo and simplify its operation by eliminating the cartridge case that usually holds the propellant, primer, and projectile together. The lack of metal casing decreases the weight, allows for smaller cartridges and higher cyclic rates. However, the sealing of the chamber and heat sensitivity over sustained gunfire is an issue of concern.
You can easily identify centerfire ammo because the primer is in the center of the cartridge. This ammo is high-pressure and high-velocity. It is used by police forces as well as civilians for defensive purposes. This ammo can be reloaded and is used in shotguns, handguns, and rifles. Larger loads of centerfire ammo can produce a recoil that is unmanageable for some shooters.
Non-Typical ammo is a trademark of Federal Ammunition. It is a set of 13 different calibers and loads specifically made for deer hunting. According to Federal, non-typical ammo, “uses an optimized soft-point bullet with a concentric jacket to provide tag-punching accuracy and consistent, lethal wound channels on any whitetail, mule deer or other species”.
Total Metal Jacket (TMJ) ammo is specifically designed for the reduction of lead particles released in the air. A thin jacket of ductile metal, usually copper, is electroplated on the bullets. This jacket fully covers the bullet for protection against corrosion, making it safe for indoor use and for healthier shooters.
XTP Ammo is a trademark of Hornady. The eXtreme Terminal Performance (XTP) ammo is a controlled expansion bullet designed for hunting, law enforcement, and self-defense. It has accuracy, deep penetration, and expansion properties.
Brass Enclosed Base (BEB) ammo meets indoor shooters’ needs, being the reverse of a full metal jacket. The front part of BEB bullets have exposed lead, and since the lead is away from the ignition source, lead particles in the air are reduced. Though rarely an issue, their downside is the potential to jam in semiautomatic weapons as a result of the indentation on the bullet’s nose where lead is exposed.
Pointed Soft Point (PSP) ammo is one of the most common metal jacket bullets that offer greater penetration and more expansion than a hollow point. It has a lead core wrapped in a copper casing and a pointed tip for accuracy. PSP ammo is intended to expand upon hitting its target. They are ideal for hunting large game because they will expand on impact to ensure a kill.
Gas check ammo is a copper gasket type component made to fit on the bullet’s base to inhibit lead buildup in the barrel and improve its accuracy. They are used where high-pressure cartridges (faster than 1400fps) use non-jacketed bullets. The bullet’s base shank that accepts the gas check is rebated, and attachment can be done without altering the bullet’s maximum diameter.
A short barrel rifle (SBR) is a shoulder-fired firearm with a buttstock and a barrel of fewer than 16 inches. The SBR requires that you fill out special ATF Form 1 paperwork and pay a $200 tax. SBR ammo is optimized to reach full speed and energy when fired through a short barrel.
Bonded ammunition is jacketed ammo that maintains its jacket and core intact even after penetrating the target. The core and the jacket can be bonded through a soldering process by melting lead inside the copper jacket. Another way to make bonded ammo is via an electrochemical process where the jacket is applied as an exterior plating on a formed core. Its primary purpose is large-game hunting as it is reliable when deep penetration is needed.
Lead Round Nose (LRN) ammo is purely made of lead and with a rounded nose that looks like a half-sphere. The ammo easily jams and leaves more powder particles in the barrel. This negatively affects downrange accuracy but can be corrected by cleaning the barrel. The ammo keeps its basic shape even when the soft metal expands, delivering a balanced penetration and expansion ideal for hunting.
Reloaded ammo has already been fired once and then reloaded for a second use. Reloading of ammo is done by shooting enthusiasts instead of buying commercial ammunition. Reloading is typically done to save money but some people make their own ammo to increase accuracy. It is good to note that the cartridge gets weaker and prone to failure with each firing.
OTM stands for open tip match ammo, one that is a hollow-point, and is used as target shooting ammo. Its rounds are more accurate compared to the Full Metal Jacket ammo, and hence are a preference for shooters who require extreme accuracy in competitions.
Snap cap ammo is an accessory device for firearms shaped to replicate a live round/cartridge/shotshell but without the ammunition components, which are the gunpowder, primer, propellant, and projectile/bullet. They are used in guns to absorb moisture, to keep bores lubricated, and to avoid damage to the firing pin. There are some snap caps whose false primer is spring-dampened but those are more expensive.
Snaps caps are completely passive and produce no sound. Their only purpose is to prevent firing pin/striker damage and aid in tactical reloading practice and dry firing.
TMJ stands for Total Metal Jacket where TMJ ammo is fully covered in copper plating. These are mainly used in Match shooting due to their accuracy. TMJ helps reduce lead contamination amounts, especially in indoor ranges. This ammo is not recommended for ported firearms, since as the bullet leaves the barrel, its casing might get sheared off.
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