Lock and Load: Understanding the Different Types of Ammo
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Imagine spending hours at the range trying out rifles and pistols. Finally, you have the gun of your dreams and have laid the money down on a purchase. You take it out for a spin, load it up, take a shot and nothing happens.
That is because the gun is only one piece of the puzzle. Ammunition is just as important, and you must give it some serious consideration as a gun owner. We take you on a journey through the different types of ammo and help you make an informed decision on your bullet of choice.
How is Ammunition Measured?
In the US, ammunition has a standard measurement while the rest of the world opts for a metric system. Metric measurements are always given as diameter to length. For example, 5.56×45 mm means a bullet is 5.56mm wide and 45mm long.
Components of a Cartridge
The gun cartridge is composed of four key components. These are the case, primer, propellant, and projectile. The case holds the other pieces in place. It is typically made from nickel, steel, or brass. The primer is the round indentation on the bottom of the cartridge. It is typically hit by the hammer and ignites the propellant.
The propellant is the substance that causes the reaction. It is commonly known as gunpowder, or is often abbreviated to simply ‘powder.’ The actual bullet is the projectile section of the cartridge. It is the part that moves forward when the gun fires and releases from the chamber.
What is the Caliber?
The caliber of a bullet refers to its size, and there is a wide range and selection available for the many guns available. The caliber is the diameter measurement of the barrel of a gun, and thus the width of the bullet that is going through it. For example, a caliber of 9mm would simply mean the bullet fits a barrel that is 9mm in width.
Rimfire and Centerfire Bullets
The part that starts the combustion when it gets hit is the primer. Primers can come in two different kinds. These are rimfire and centerfire bullets.
Any bullet in which you can see a circle in the bottom is a centrefire. The hammer hits this spot to begin the explosion. Rimfire has this spot at their outer edge, and the gun’s hammer will hit them here to begin combustion.
The 9mm bullet is probably one of the most well-known ammunition rounds due to its versatility. It is used in a range of handguns, by the defense and military forces across the globe. It is the standard handgun bullet of choice for NATO.
Used for both long and short-range combat, they are particularly good for defense. The weight can vary, as can the power. This is impacted by the choice of 9mm you fire with.
Offering little recoil, 9mm bullets let users fire quickly and with accuracy. Easily stored in smaller weapons, they can be useful for concealment. Most of these guns can hold around fifteen shots in a magazine.
Almost every ammunition manufacturer produces a version of the .22LR. They are for pistols and rifles. They are great ammunition for people learning to shoot and starting to hunt.
This is because although they can kill, they are quite a mild shot that lacks power. They have very little recoil which also makes them good for beginners. This ammunition is also extremely cheap to buy.
If hunting, you will struggle to take down anything of size with this round. It is best for smaller opponents such as rats, snakes, and mice. It is often said that they are not much more powerful than a pellet round.
The .223 also comes in the category with the 5.56x 45mm, as they are very similar in shape and size. The 556x45mm and 223 Rem differences are that one is higher pressure than the other. A 5.56 round should never be fired in a .223 rifle, as the higher pressure from the bullet will cause problems in the gun.
The bullet itself has very light recoil and a minimum level of power. You may sometimes hear it referenced as a Remington due to the association with the manufacturer.
The .308 also comes in a category with the 7.62x51mm round as they are both almost identical in look in size. The .308 debuted in 1952, two years prior to NATO adopting the 7.62 as their round of choice. It is possible to mix the round but unless you know guns well, stick with the one recommended for your weapon.
This bullet is a great all-round bullet for rifles. It has a fair recoil, but bags of power and comes in a wide range of weight categories. Because of this, it is chosen for many sniper rifles and heavy machine guns as the ammo of choice.
The Winchester brand of .308 is the most sold cartridge in the world. It is used in everything from hunting to target practice as well as the many military applications.
As well as the various caliber of bullets, you can also purchase differing types. These are based on a variety of factors such as the finish, tip of the bullet, and more. Although they are too many to mention here, we have chosen some of the more popular listed below;
The Open tip bullet bears a striking resemblance to a hollow-point bullet. Though they have an opening at the top, it does not expand like a hollow point due to the manufacturing process.
The open tip bullet is often used for long-range shooting. It is a very sturdy round and keeps straight even when firing long distances.
A hollow-point bullet will open upon impact. They have very powerful stopping power. Often, they are used in home defense and by police forces.
Full Metal Jacket
Full Metal Jacket rounds are made from soft metal such as lead, coated in a harder, metal jacket such as copper. They are the most commonly used bullet for a handgun.
A ballistic tip is the most aerodynamic of the bullets. It has the stopping strength of a hollow point but can travel like a Full Metal Jacket. They are used for fine hunting and shooting that requires precision.
Some of these bullets have a bottom that curves back in upon itself. Named the hollow point boat tail (HPBT) they are designed to be even more aerodynamic with more response.
Different Type of Ammo For Shotgun
Shotguns use very different types of ammunition, as they do not fire a single bullet down a chamber and turn it when it leaves. Instead, they fire a cluster of pellets. Shotguns are typically used for shorter ranges but have a wide field of impact.
We measure shotgun cartridges in gauges. The lower the number in a gauge, the large in diameter it will be. The most common, a 12 gauge, is around 70mm in length.
The 12 gauge is available in most gun shops and will fit easily into a wide array of shotguns. The following are types of shotgun shell;
Unlike other shotgun shells, the slug is a solid piece of metal. They can do real damage and can be quite accurate in the hands of an able shooter.
Birdshot is a shell that contains a number of tiny ball bearings. When the gun fires, the shell fires the tiny bearings out as a projectile. Each shell can contain dozens of shots.
Birdshot is not very powerful. It is best for hunting birds and small animals. You would struggle to bring down anything larger without multiple shots.
Buckshot has a lot more power than Bird Shot. Each cartridge contains 9 solid ball bearings, that are each 9mm in width per ball. That is the same as the one bullet in a 9mm gun.
They have a lot of recoils, but this is because of their power. These are best for taking down large animals when out hunting. This is the most common shotgun choice.
Now you know the different types of ammo, get down to the range and try them out. Before heading to the range, consider familiarizing yourself with the mechanics and feel of different firearms using the best dry fire training systems, which can simulate various ammunition types and help refine your technique in a safe, cost-effective manner. Every gun and round will feel unique, so attempt a few to find a shot you are comfortable with.
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