Explore The NRA Universe Of Websites

Lesson #6: Do you Know Ammo?

Lesson #6: Do you Know Ammo?

I have another confession to make. I have been sheltered. I’ve had the luxury of learning how to shoot from one of the best NRA Certified Instructors, at the best indoor range, ever. (Maybe, I’m a little bias…) I had the privilege of having access to test out any pistol I could dream of, and have never had to think about what type of ammunition I needed and why. I’ve had a million (ok, that might be an exaggeration…) range officers watching out for me since I stepped into the range for the first time.

But the other day, I went to a sporting goods store where they happen to sell ammo, and found myself walking down the aisle just to take a gander. And all I could do was stare at all the different types of ammo available! 

How does one learn what type of ammo they need and why? There are so many different types.

Did you know there are armor piercing incendiary bullets that have the same abilities of armor piercing bullets, but with the added function of bursting into an intense flame upon impact? I won’t be shooting with that anytime soon, but that brings me to Lesson #6: Ammunition for Application

Let’s start with the basics. Meet Carty the Cartridge. As you can see, Carty is made up of four components:


The case holds everything together, the primer ignites the propellant, the propellant (powder) burns and creates pressure inside the case, and finally the bullet – which is what comes in all sizes, shapes and designs.

I talked about caliber back in November, Lessons from the Gun Range, With Love from a Beginner: Part 2 (my, oh my, how I’ve come a long ways since then…) but if you’re unsure of what caliber to use for your gun – check your owner’s manual or the barrel of the gun, which usually has the caliber stamped right into it. Using the proper caliber for your gun is important.

Currently have three goals:
      1. Become even more familiar with firearms
      2. Improve my accuracy
      3. Determine which gun should be my first gun

In order to do all of these things, I spend a lot of time at the range target shooting. (I love to use these free targets too…)

Target shooting can get expensive, to say the least, but it’s the only way I will successfully achieve my goals! So the more range time, the better, am I right or am I right?

Manufacturers produce a wide-range of loads, they vary in some way or another. Understanding the various kinds of ammunition available and how they perform will help you select the ammo fit for your intended purposes. 

Training/Target Practice
Whether you’re a serious shooter or a casual plinker, you need ammo. Most of the time, that means buying ammo that is widely available and relatively inexpensive. The cheapest cartridges are those featuring a full metal jacket (FMJ). An FMJ bullet is made with a soft core (typically lead) encased in a hard outer shell. It requires less manufacturing, therefore making it less expensive to produce, and cheaper for the consumer.

*Pictured Above Full Metal Jacket

Aside from cost, you want to consider the amount of recoil the projectile produces, especially if you’re planning on shooting a few hundred rounds per range session. A light-recoil load won’t tire you out as quickly. Small-bore rimfire cartridges are great for new shooters who are unfamiliar or intimidated by recoil. Avoid magnum loads if possible! 

Personal Defense 
Personal defense ammo is about performance. You want to ensure that it is reliable in stopping the threat as quickly as possible. Therefore, you want a load that has maximum impact. This means using cartridges with a hollow-point projectile. A hollow-point bullet features a cavity in the tip and is designed to make the bullet expand upon impact. This is important for a few reasons, it will increase damage and also control penetration to keep the round inside to target. 

Hunting is similar to personal defense – you want to ensure a reliable load that will stop the target as humanely and quickly as possible. You want a bullet that will expand upon impact. However, unlike personal defense ammo, hunting bullets need to be strong enough to penetrate thick skin, dense muscle tissue and bones of game animals, therefore the will be heavier and retain more of their weight. 

Match Ammo
If you’re looking for match ammo, you probably are familiar with the different types, but for those of us who are unsure what is considered match ammo, or if match ammo should be used, here’s what you need to know… there’s no specific design or feature that makes them better than general everyday ammo, but wadcutter ammo or semi-wadcutter. They are designed with a flat nose that creates holes in the target to look exactly like you took a hole puncher to the target. They make cleaner holes which tend to be better for scoring in competitions.

*Pictured above Wadcutter, Hollow Point Wadcutter, Wadcutter

If you are up for the challenge I would say try out several different types and brands of ammo to see what you like, and works best for your shooting style and gun. Also, again be sure to use the right caliber for your gun. If you put in some time and look into the different ammo options you will end up with more knowledge, and knowledge is power.

Lesson #6: Ammunition for Application
From the More You know Girl. (ba-da-da-daaaaaaaaaaa)  


Comments On This Article

More Like This From Around The NRA