14 Common Types Of Bullets | Ammo Types Explained

The world of ammunition has evolved considerably since the round-shaped bullet of past centuries. Modern bullets feature smart designs to improve performance and power. Whether you’re a seasoned hunter, a newbie at the range, or a plinking sniper, understanding the ammunition you’re using is essential. In this article, we unpack the 14 most common types of bullets and their unique characteristics. Load up, and let’s start this ballistic journey!

types of bullets

1. Full Metal Jacket (FMJ)

A full metal jacket bullet features a design where a soft lead core is completely encased in a harder metal shell or jacket. The design ensures that the bullet does not deform or break apart upon impact. FMJ bullets are commonly used for target practice, training, and target shooting. Be sure to understand the various parts of a bullet to understand the differences between each type of round.

2. Hollow Point (HP)

Hollow point bullets have a hollowed-out shape in their tip. The unique design of the hollow point bullet is so that the bullet expands upon impact, maximizing the damage inflicted. Common use cases include self-defense and hunting.

3. Jacketed Hollow Point (JHP)

Jacketed hollow-point bullets are very similar to hollow-point bullets, but they have an extra layer (jacket) of harder metal surrounding the lead core. Jacketed hollow point bullets’ unique design improves ballistic performance and prevents fouling of the firearm’s barrel. Like hollow-point bullets, JHP bullets are primarily used for hunting and self-defense.

4. Semi-Jacketed Hollow Point (SJHP)

Semi-jacketed hollow point bullets have a partial jacket, leaving the hollow point exposed. This smart design combines the expansion characteristics of a hollow point bullet with the deep penetration of a semi-jacketed bullet. Common use cases also include hunting and self-defense.

Semi-Jacketed Hollow Point (SJHP)

5. Soft Point (SP)

Soft point bullets have a soft lead tip, which is partially exposed from the jacket. This exposed lead tip causes the bullet to expand more upon impact – inflicting more damage to the target. Soft point bullets are mostly used for hunting.

6. Wad Cutter (WC)

Wad cutter bullets have a flat front, which cuts a clean hole in a paper target. These bullets are for target shooting because they simplify scoring.


7. Semi-Wad Cutters (SWC)

Semi-Wad cutter bullets resemble WC bullets but have a slightly rounded front – featuring a shoulder between the flat nose and the shank. This design offers better ballistic performance while cutting a larger hole in paper targets. Like WC bullets, they are also commonly used for target shooting.

8. Steel Core (SC)

Steel core bullets encase a lead bullet in a steel or partially steel shell. This design enhances bullet penetration, enabling SC bullets to penetrate armor. The military mostly uses steel core bullets.

9. Ballistic Tip (BT)

Ballistic tip bullets have a plastic tip, improving long-range performance by increasing the bullet’s ballistic coefficient to reduce aerodynamic drag. The bullet also expands upon impact, causing more damage. Ballistic tip bullets are used for hunting purposes.

10. Truncated Cone Bullet (TC)

Truncated cone bullets feature a flat-tipped cone shape – offering a good balance between target damage and penetration in self-defense scenarios. They are also great for target shooting.

11. Bonded Bullet (BB)

Bonded bullets have a lead core that is fused or bonded to the jacket, increasing the bullet’s structural integrity and preventing separation upon impact. Their application is for self-defense and hunting.

12. Flat Nose (FN)

As the name suggests, flat nose bullets have a flat front. They are commonly found in revolvers and rifles where a pointed bullet could detonate the round in front.

13. Boat Tail (BT)

Boat tail bullets are tapered at the rear end, similar to a boat’s stern. This design reduces drag, which improves accuracy and stability in flight. You also get hollow point boat tail bullets and open-tip bullets paired with a boat tail design. Boat tail bullets are commonly used for long-range shooting.

14. Armor-Piercing Bullets

Armor-piercing bullets’ function is to penetrate armored targets in military applications. Therefore, they have a robust design featuring a core made of hard material, typically steel or tungsten.

What Is The Most Commonly Used Rifle Ammo?

As this question is very broad, we decided to split it into three categories. Here is a list of the most popular rifle ammo for hunters, self-defense, and target shooting.

  • Hunting: This is highly debatable, but the .308 Winchester is on top of the list for most commonly used rifle ammo. The cartridge is versatile, powerful, and ideal for medium to large game. Paired with the most common hunting bullet type, the FMJ, you get a deadly and highly effective duo.
  • Self-Defense: The most common rifle ammo for self-defense is the .223 Remington/ 5.56 NATO.
  • Target Shooting: This category is also debatable, but I have to say it would either be the .223 Remington or the .22 LR – both rounds are cheap, with the .22 LR even cheaper than the .223 and have favorable recoil characteristics to act as a training cartridge for a novice.

What Is The Most Commonly Used Pistol Ammo?

The 9mm Luger, also known as Parabellum, is the most popular pistol ammunition because of its balance of power and recoil. These characteristics make it ideal for self-defense, target shooting, and law enforcement.

Similar to rifle ammo, the Full Metal Jacket (FMJ) bullet type is also the most popular for target practice and plinking because of its cost-effectiveness. The Jacketed Hollow Points (JHP) are commonly used for self-defense because of their impressive stopping power. Although they don’t pack as much of a punch as Black Tip ammunition does.

What Is The Most Commonly Used Shotgun Ammo?

The most common shotgun ammunition is the 12 gauge because of its combination of power and versatility.

The most common type of shotgun ammo is difficult to define because of the different use cases. For instance, birdshot ammo is used for hunting birds and small game, buckshot ammo is for hunting larger game and self-defense, and slugs are single large projectiles used for hunting large game at closer ranges.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I know what type of bullet I need?

Determine what type of bullet you need based on your intended use of your firearm. This can either be self-defense, hunting, or target shooting. But as a general rule, full metal jacket bullets are always a good option.

What is the cheapest type of ammunition?

The cheapest type of ammunition is a .22 Long Rifle bullet, with a steel casing, instead of a brass casing.

What is the most expensive type of ammo?

Specialty rounds, such as armor-piercing bullets and incendiary rounds, can easily exceed $100 per round.

Are certain types of bullets illegal?

Yes, in the US, modern bullets such as armor-piercing rounds and incendiary rounds are illegal for civilian use.

The Bottom Line.

So, there you have it, a whirlwind tour of the most common bullet types. Remember, every bullet has a specific purpose. The most popular bullet type is the FMJ bullet due to its cost-effectiveness and overall good performance. Choosing the right one can truly make a difference in your shooting experience. Be informed, be safe, and most importantly, keep exploring. Happy shooting!

About the author

Patrick Howard

I have been working as a gunsmith for 20 years. Rain, fog, moisture, high temperature, or even snow are all the things a product must withstand in order to be recommended by me.


Leave a Comment