Review And Guide To Bullet Sizes And Types For Beginners

Review & Guide To Bullet Sizes And Types For Beginners

bullets on a table with different bullet sizes

There was a time when there were only a couple of types of bullets and they were used all around. However, over time, the ammunition industry evolved to manufacture a plethora of types and sizes of bullets.

Before we get into the details of the sizes and the types, it is important to know the basic terminology associated with ammunition. The entire unit that we generally understand as the bullet is called a cartridge which further constitutes of a bullet. A bullet is the metal projectile inside the cartridge along with the gunpowder, the casing generally made from steel or brass and the primer which is an ignition for the propellant.

The caliber is the diameter of the barrel, which is actually the diameter of the bullet or the bullet size in layman terms. Hence, when you go shopping for bullets and asking about bullet sizes, you are essentially looking for caliber size of the cartridge.

Things To Consider Before Deciding On The Bullet Size

Before you make your decision about the caliber size you want to buy, there are certain aspects you should know about.

  • The weight of the bullet is measured in ‘grains’. One pound is equivalent to 7,000 grains.
  • The exact speed of the bullet in feet/sec.
  • The stopping power of the bullet, i.e, the number of bullets it would take to hit the target and drop it.

Types Of Bullets

Bullets with gun

While there are a number of typical and complex bullet types available in the market, we’ll go over the ones that are the most commonly used in hunting, self-defense and shooting ranges.

Hollow Point Bullets

Considered among the more dangerous ones, hollow point bullets are structured to expand on collision with the target. They are mostly used for home defense and by armed forces, mainly police force, due to their intense stopping power. Individuals carrying concealed guns also prefer hollow point bullets.

While considered dangerous, they are the best in case of an attack since their high stopping power ensures maximum damage with every subsequent bullet and restricts the attacker.

Full Metal Jacket

Full metal jacket, or FMJ as they are called, are the most common type of bullets, mainly used in shooting ranges with short distances.

The bullet is made of a soft metal like lead in the center and which is covered by hard metal like copper. The presence of an outer metal covering ensures that the lead is not left in the barrel on firing the bullet. These bullets come in all kinds of shapes - be it pointy, round, or flat.

FMJ bullets are not very suitable for self-defense or attacks due to low stopping power. They cut channels, small in size, through which they go through the target. FMJs are designed in a way that the bottom of the cup they are made from become the tip of the bullet.

Open Tip Matches

OTMs have a very small opening on the top which makes them quite similar to hollow point bullets, however, they can’t expand due to the opening. They are made in a way that the bottom of the copper cup they are made becomes the bottom of the bullet.

This type of bullets is preferred mainly by long-distance shooting ranges and target shooters since they are manufactured in a way that the bullets are standardized when it comes to their roundness. The consistency enables their suitability for shooting long-range targets.

Ballistic Tip

Ballistic tip is the combination of full metal jacket and hollow point bullet types. It takes the stopping power of the hollow point and the physical structure of FMJ to create a bullet that is long with a boat-tail base and has a plastic covering.

Ballistic tip bullets are pointy with consistent and sleek bottoms. The tip is made of plastic which enables it to keep the shape intact. These types of bullets are mainly used in hunting due to the high stopping power. The weight is mostly collected in the back of the bullet to give it more speed.

Soft Point

Designed to expand on hitting the target, soft point bullets are made of a soft metal, like lead, at their core and have a covering of a strong, hard metal. The front tip is left open with some of the lead exposed so that the soft metal can easily expand on hitting the target.

Therefore, soft point bullets are quite similar to the full metal jacket bullets. They can cause some serious wounds since they do more damage due to expansion than their original caliber size. They are available in both boat-tails and normal cylindrical ends.

Bird Shot

As the name suggests, these are small cartridges used for hunting birds, primarily. These are available as shotgun rounds and come in multiple quantities, more than a dozen, in one shell.

Bird shots are used only as shotgun rounds and for shooting birds and pigeons, but never for attack or self-defense.

Apart from the above, there is buck shot that is the best bullet type for home security. Then there are slugs that can cause serious damage if used by an expert and can shoot a target within a 100 yards.

Bullet Sizes

It’s quite natural for a novice to get confused when it comes to buying ammunition. There are so many sizes of bullets, technically called caliber sizes, available in the market today that it can be tough to select the one that fits best with your requirement.

The most common use for bullets for people generally is hunting, self-defense or targeting shooting at the range. Therefore, we’ll cover the bullet sizes that mostly cater to these objectives.

Bullet Sizes

.22LR

The .22LR is the most commonly sold bullet due to a variety of factors. The .22 long rifle, as its called, is the starter caliber for shooters, used to hunt snakes, birds, etc. Here are some specific features of the bullet:

  • The bullet weighs about 30-40 grains.
  • Negligible recoil, therefore, makes a great caliber for people who are just beginning to shoot.
  • It’s a rimfire, i.e, the primer is located in the rim rather than the center.
  • Priced at 7 cents a round, making it extremely cheap.
  • High speed and intense shooting power with small size.
  • Apt for shooting ranges and hunting or training.
  • Bullet velocity of approximately 1200-1600 feet/sec
  • The .22LR is the best option for beginners due to its cheap price and minimum hassles of handling. While it is meant for shooting birds and snakes and targets, it can cause serious wounds if shot at a human as well since the caliber keeps moving inside the body and damages the internal organs.

    .25ACP

    .25 ACP, the Automatic Colt Pistol, is an upgraded version of .22LR, being a little larger and slightly higher stopping power. It’s a centerfire caliber, which means that the primer is placed in the center.


    It is considered more reliable due to the centerfire covering. Let’s see some of the features of .25ACP:

  • Slightly larger than .22LR, but still compact.
  • Has a higher stopping power.
  • Centerfire caliber, i.e, primer is located in the center, and straight-walled.
  • Used for short ranges and the caliber has low velocity.
  • Reliable due to the centerfire casings.
  • More expensive, priced at 20 cents a bullet.
  • The .25ACP is meant to be in handguns used for home security since they can cause more damage due to higher stopping power and the reliable centerfire design.

    9mm Luger

    The 9mm Luger or the 9x19mm Parabellum, as it’s technically named, is basically an all-rounder bullet that can be used in self-defense as well as for recreational shooting. The shooting power depends on the type of gun used with the caliber. However, they do have a very low recoil which makes them more popular.


    Here’s what you get when you purchase the 9mm Luger:

  • Bullet weight between 115 and 147 grains.
  • Big bullet size, similar to .380ACP.
  • The standard caliber used in NATO nations and by most of the police officers universally.
  • Can be used with multiple guns, and the guns can have 15-17 rounds of these on an average.
  • Priced at 25 cents.
  • The 9mm Luger can also be used in concealed guns. The size is ideal to be used in a lot of types of guns.

    .56×45 mm

    Also called as the .223, the .56x45mm is used both by the armed forces as well as the civilians. The caliber is good to use for long-range, therefore, it’s popular as a home defense round among civilians.


    Here’s what you need to know about the .56x45mm:

  • Has a slight recoil, therefore, should be handled by professionals.
  • Bullets weigh around 55 grains.
  • Used in some specific rifles, like M16/M4.
  • The cartridge has a long-range accuracy but shoots mildly.
  • Used both in the military as well as common use, but it isn’t used in hunting.
  • Priced at 30 cents, the .223 caliber is not very popular since you can’t use it for hunting, but nevertheless, packs power and is widely used in self-defense.

    .40 S&W

    Manufactured for the FBI initially as a 10mm caliber, the .40 S&W has been heavily popular with such defense and law enforcement agencies. It has more stopping power than other handgun cartridges used and also costs less.


    Here’s what you should know about .40 S&W before choosing to buy it:

  • Bullet weight between 165 to 180 grains, therefore, more lightweight and preferred for quick handling.
  • Packs more stopping power than the 9mm.
  • Costs less with bullets priced at 30 cents.
  • Also used for self-defense.
  • Strong recoil, therefore, not easy to handle.
  • While the FBI has shifted back to use the 9mm cartridge mostly, the .40 S&W is more suitable and is still used by many law enforcement agencies due to more power and energy.


    Apart from the ones listed above, there are many other bullet sizes you’ll find when you go for ammunition shopping, with the more popular ones being the .380ACP, .45ACP, the 12 gauge for shotguns, and many more. There are some less popular ones as well, like the .357 Magnum used in revolvers and more expensive than the rest, priced at 80 cents.

    The Conclusion

    More options mean more confusion, therefore, it can be overwhelming to buy the right caliber considering there are myriad sizes available in the market. Wrong bullet size and type with respect to the gun you possess can severely backfire, literally.

    There are a lot of factors that need to be considered before purchasing the bullet, along with understanding a lot of technical terms. The bullet sizes and types covered above are the most common ones and should give you a fair idea about the popular ammunition.

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