Different Types of Bullets

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Different types of bullets suit different kinds of shooting needs, from hunting to self-defense to target shooting. On this page, we’ll review the different uses of four of the most common types of bullets on the market: lead bullets, full metal jacketed (FMJ) bullets, soft point bullets, and hollow point bullets. Each offers its own unique set of advantages and limitations. More questions? Check out our comprehensive ammo guide for expert tips on bullets, reloading supplies, and more.

Lead bullets

Most bullets contain some amount of lead. For the purposes of this page, we’ll use the term “lead bullet” in reference to a bullet made entirely of lead without an external metal jacketing.

Lead bullets are economical to manufacture, so they’re very affordable. But their low cost comes with a high price.

That’s because lead is toxic. It can cause blood poisoning once it comes in contact with human skin.

For this reason, it’s important to wash your hands after touching a lead bullet. In fact, this is a good habit to develop after handling any form of ammunition.

The affordability of lead bullets makes them a good choice for target practice and other high-volume shooting scenarios. However, over time lead residues can build up inside your firearm’s barrel, reducing its accuracy or even causing your weapon to malfunction. So you should always clean your gun thoroughly after firing this type of ammo.


FMJ bullets

The term FMJ refers to a bullet with a lead core completely encased in another type of metal, typically brass, copper, or, occasionally, steel.

FMJ ammunition offers several advantages over lead bullets. These include:

  • Higher muzzle velocities: Due to the increased structural integrity afforded by the metal jacketing.
  • Protection for the firearm itself: With an FMJ bullet, there is little risk of lead residues building up inside the barrel.
  • Protection for the shooter: Since the metal jacket prevents physical contact between human skin and the lead core.

FMJ ammo’s chief disadvantage is its tendency to pass through small to medium-sized targets and lodge into something (or someone) else.

For this reason, FMJ ammo is primarily used by the military, which values target penetration over internal expansion. This limits its benefits for everyday gun owners, who are primarily focused on hunting, self-defense, and/or target shooting.


Soft point bullets

This design is similar to FMJ ammo, except that the nose of the bullet has an exposed lead tip. This allows it to expand within the target, causing greater internal trauma.

Soft point bullets are good options for both hunting and self-defense situations, where stopping the prey (or the attacker) in its tracks is of paramount importance. It’s also an acceptable choice for target shooting.

Hollow point bullets

The design of a hollow point bullet is similar to that of a soft point bullet, except that a cavity exists in the exposed lead core. This makes the bullet lighter while still allowing for expansion inside the target.

Hollow point bullets are primarily used for hunting, self-defense, and target shooting. A special type of hollow point bullet uses an external plastic tip to increase accuracy while maintaining the terminal advantages of the basic design.

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Here at Powder Valley, we believe that gun safety starts with a solid foundation in firearms knowledge. Our guide to ammunition will help you to make informed decisions about your firearms purchases.

Browse our site for top-quality ammo at the lowest prices. Powder Valley can help you shoot more and spend less.