Two bullets flying past each other

The Anatomy of a Bullet


The majority of the time, ammunition and bullets are mistaken for one another. What you mistake for a bullet is really ammunition. In actuality, a bullet is just a projectile. It is a piece of metal that emerges from the gun's barrel. The entire assembly is referred to as the cartridge case or the ammo prior to firing.


Basic Parts of Ammunition

 An open and closed bullet with ammunition gun powder on the side

Credit: Joshua Engler


Now that you know that ammunition and a bullet are not the same things, let's learn about the components of ammunition. For a gun to shoot, 4 essential ammunition components must be present. They are the projectile (bullet), case, gunpowder, and primer.


1) Projectile or Bullet

 A bullet that is in the air with smoke behind it

Credit: iStock


Every firearm has the ability to dislodge a projectile that will be used to strike the intended target. Although the phrases bullet, slug, or shot are sometimes substituted in their place, this object is referred to as the projectile.

Rifles and handguns discharge bullets, while shotguns discharge slugs or shots, the latter term denoting a cluster of pellets fired from a single casing or shell.

The majority of bullets are made of metal and are either of lead, steel, tungsten, bismuth, or mixtures of these metals. There are many different kinds of bullets. Following is a list of some of the most typical types:


Hollow Point Bullets


These kinds of bullets grow larger when they hit the target, delivering more damage. Since hollow point bullets have a higher success rate in stopping an attacker, they are frequently used for self-defense. They are also commonly referred to as hunting bullets.


Armor-Piercing Bullets


These kinds of bullets are made to pierce Kevlar or metal body armor. Usually, the military or law enforcement employs them.


Incendiary Bullets


Bullets that are intended to cause fires when they strike their target are known as incendiary bullets. They are typically used in combat to destroy opposing supplies or equipment.


Explosive Bullets


These projectiles are intended to detonate upon impact with their target. They are typically used in combat to harm the people or property of the opponent.


Blank Bullets


There is no projectile in these bullets. They are utilized in movies and television programs as well as for training purposes to replicate the sound and recoil of a real pistol.


Tracer Bullets


The tip of these rounds contains a small trace of phosphorous. Tracer ammo is mostly used for training purposes or in actual warfare.


2) Case or Casing

 Some open empty cases that are used for bullets

Credit: PantherNOW


The case holds all of the other components of your ammunition together. Cases can also be made of steel or aluminum, however, brass is the most common material used.

Different guns have different casings. When firing a semi-automatic firearm, the casing is removed from the weapon. Think of an action movie where expended brass casings are shown dropping to the ground during a fierce gunfight and flying around during the action. On the other hand, a revolver's used casings remain in the cylinder's multiple chambers until they are manually ejected. Shotgun shells have a distinct kind of case; they are normally constructed of plastic with a thin layer of metal on the bottom, which houses the primer.


3) Propellant or Powder

 Some casings next to gunpowder

Credit: Freepik


Gunpowder, also known as a propellant, is often a mixture of saltpeter, sulfur, and charcoal. Since this substance burns more quickly than rocket fuel, the gas inside the cartridge expands quickly. Since the expanding gas has nowhere else to go, it takes the easiest route and pulls the bullet free of the casing. It then accelerates as it moves down the barrel and toward your intended target.


4) Primer

 The propellant needs a small charge to be properly ignited and this is done with the help of the primer.

Credit: Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic


The propellant needs a small charge to be properly ignited and this is done with the help of the primer. When a trigger is pulled, the gun's firing pin hits the primer. The primer then ignites the gunpowder and causes a small explosion.

Rimfire and centerfire cartridges are the two types of primers. This means that the primer can be placed either in the middle of the case (centerfire cartridge) or along the rim(rimfire cartridge).


5) Wad

 A person holding a wad in his hand

Credit: GearJunkie


Wad is an additional part found in only shotgun ammo. A shotshell's slug is separated by a paper or plastic seal called a wad. It holds the shot together and stops gas from escaping through it as it travels through the barrel.


Ammo Firearm Safety Rules

 A lot of different types of ammunition and their components

Credit: DefenceXP


You can handle ammunition and its components securely by using the following advice.

  • Find out in advance what type of ammunition is needed for your specific model of firearm.
  • Before loading and shooting, make sure the barrel is free of any blockages.
  • Stay in the shooting stance for a few seconds if your gun doesn't discharge its ammo the first time. If it still won't fire a projectile, carefully fire your weapon while aiming it in a safe area.




By using proper vocabulary, you can get the respect of other shooters. If you're on a search for shooting targets to improve your shooting skills, check out the EasyShot site.


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