multiple bullets scattered

Understanding the Main Bullet Types: A Guide for Beginners


When it comes to firearms, understanding the different types of bullets is crucial. Bullet selection can make a significant difference in how a gun performs, and it can impact both accuracy and effectiveness.

In this blog post, we will explore the intricacies of bullets, their mechanics, and the wide array of options available, empowering you to make informed decisions and choose the optimal ammunition for your needs. Let's get started.

What Is a Bullet and How Does It Work?


man holding bullets
Credit: Envato Elements/ osbmxhouse

First things first, what is a bullet? Simply put, a bullet is a projectile, often made of metal, that is expelled from firearms when they are fired. Although people often use the term "bullet" to refer to the entire ammunition cartridge, including the casing, propellant, and primer, technically speaking, the term "bullet" specifically refers to the projectile itself.

The operation of a bullet is simple. When you pull the trigger of a gun, it sets off a reaction. This reaction begins with the ignition of the gunpowder contained within the bullet casing. As the gunpowder burns, it produces a large volume of gas. This gas accumulates and exerts pressure, propelling the bullet out of the cartridge and down the barrel of the gun. Subsequently, the bullet is propelled forward and travels towards its intended target. The entire process is driven by the force generated by the ignited gunpowder, which expels the bullet from the firearm.

What Are the Different Types of Bullets?

Now that we have defined what a bullet is and how it works, let's explore its various types:

1) Hollow Point Bullet


bullet with flat nose
Credit: Envato Elements/ photobalance

Hollow point bullets, or HPs, have a hollowed-out center. This design allows the bullet to expand upon impact, causing a larger wound channel and transferring more energy to the target. These bullets are a preferred choice for self-defense and law enforcement because of their stopping power.

A variant of this is the jacketed hollow point ammunition and semi-jacketed hollow point ammunition. Jacketed hollow point bullets (JHP) are types of bullets where the hollow point is encased in a jacket of harder metal. This jacket improves the bullet's strength and aids in controlled expansion upon impact.

Semi-jacketed hollow points (SJHP), on the other hand, feature a partial jacket that leaves the lead tip exposed. This design helps the bullet expand on impact, making it a popular choice for self-defense.

2) Full Metal Jacket Bullet

The full metal jacket bullet, or FMJ, is a staple in the bullet world. FMJs have a soft lead core wrapped in a harder metal shell, typically copper. These bullets do not expand upon impact and are known for their ability to penetrate targets. Because of their design, FMJs are a popular choice for military use and target practice.

3) Open Tip Bullet


bullet piled ontop of each other
Credit: Envato Elements/ NoteworthyHQ

Open tip bullets, often mistaken for hollow points, have an open tip resulting from the manufacturing process. Unlike HPs, these bullets do not expand upon impact. They offer superior accuracy, making them a popular choice for competitive shooting and precision shooting activities.

4) Soft Point Bullet

Soft point bullets, or SPs, feature a soft lead tip exposed outside the jacket. Upon impact, SPs expand more slowly than HPs, creating a larger wound channel than FMJs but smaller than HPs. This balance makes SPs a common choice for hunting game where deep penetration and expansion are required.

5) Boat Tail Bullet

bullet with pointy nose
Credit: Envato Elements/ perutskyy

Boat tail bullets have a base that tapers off, resembling a boat's tail. This design improves the bullet's aerodynamics, making it a preferred choice for long-range shooting.

A variant of this is the hollow point boat tail bullet (HPBT) or the boat tail hollow point. This type of bullet combines the properties of boat tail bullets with the expansion feature of hollow points, offering both precision and stopping power.

6) Lead Round Nose Bullet

Lead round nose bullets or lead bullets, as the name suggests, are made entirely of lead and have a round nose. Their simple design and cost-effectiveness make them a popular choice for target shooting.

7) Ballistic Tip Bullet


bullet with plastic tip
Credit: Nechako Outdoors

Ballistic tip bullets are a variant of the SP bullets where a plastic tip replaces the lead point. This design enhances the bullet's aerodynamics while also promoting rapid expansion upon impact, making them an excellent choice for hunting small to medium-sized game.


Choosing the right bullet involves understanding its characteristics and matching them with your needs. Whether you're a sports shooter, a hunter, or interested in self-defense, the information above will help you make an educated choice.

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