In our basic classes, we always take a few moments to discuss ammunition. We do this because there are some misconceptions about ammunition, bullets, and the like. First, let’s make sure we are using the correct nomenclature. Bullets are not the loaded ammunition. Bullets are what exit the muzzle and strike the target. The bullet is a part of ammunition. The loaded ammunition is commonly referred to as a cartridge. The cartridge is comprised of the brass casing, the primer (located on the bottom of the case) the powder inside the brass case, and finally the bullet which caps it all off. When the cartridge is fired, the primer is ignited, burns the powder, creates expanding gasses, which in turn propels the bullet out of the barrel.
Now, on to the bullet itself.
Bullets are made and sold based on caliber. Caliber is the diameter of the bullet or barrel. Caliber can be measured in either percentage of inches (i.e. .45 ACP, .357 Magnum, etc) or millimeter (such as 9 millimeter, 10 millimeter or 5.56 millimeter). Some bullets are measured in both caliber and millimeter. The .223 and 5.56 millimeter are the same diameter (although the loaded rounds differ in some ways).
Bullets are often constructed in what is termed a “cup and core” configuration. The cup is made of a copper coating with a lead core. Lead bullets are also available without the copper exterior. There are also some specialty bullets, the construction of which we will discuss shortly.
In addition to caliber, bullets are also measured by weight. The common method for weighing bullets is in grains. There are 7000 grains to a pound, so the weight is very fine. For example, 9 millimeter rounds may be in 115 grain bullets, or as heavy as 147 grain bullets. There are other bullet weights for 9 millimeter but this is the most common range. Some serious shooters will tailor the weight of the bullet to their particular gun, trying different weights to see which shoots most accurately in their firearm.
Finally, bullets come in different shapes. The common shapes are round nose, which is a smooth, conical shaped profile which feeds easily, hollow point, which has a cavity in the leading point, and in several other common shapes. Hollow points bullets are frequently preferred for defensive use because they are designed to expand on impact with tissue, creating a hole larger than the actual bullet diameter.
For the hunters among us, in California, we are limited to a bullet that does not contain lead. Those bullets are usually a blended metal of mostly copper. These bullets are typically more expensive than the standard cup and core bullets. Their effectiveness may vary depending on the manufacture. Having used lead-free bullets for hunting on several continents, I can attest to the quality and effectiveness of several manufactures.
Finally, a quick reminder. We are heading into a new era for California shooters. Ammunition will only be available for purchase via specially licensed dealers, and buyers will need to undergo a background check. The good news is that check is usually only going to cost $1 and this cost can be off set by bulk purchases.
Ammunition, in larger quantities, will be available for purchase at the Pro Shop, at California Tactical Academy. Shooters coming to the range can expect to be able to buy all the ammunition they will need for a range trip, match.
About the writer
Military and Law Enforcement Veteran
FBI certified firearm instructor
MP5 and Sub Machine gun instructor
Defensive tactics instructor