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Bullet Caliber Chart and Definitions

bullet caliber comparison picture
Click on pic for a complete visual reference of bullet calibers.

Bullet caliber should be an equally important consideration as the gun itself. Ammunition is also known as a “cartridge”, the cartridge of a gun is also called a “bullet”. There are specific sizes of bullet calibers, depending on the type of gun you have. This ammunition guide was developed to help you discover what suits your specific needs when it comes bullet caliber.

Hollow Point Bullet
Hollow point is a type of bullet that has a hollowed pit at the tip of the bullet. This bullet expands whenever striking your target or entering the body. Hollow point is one of the best bullets on the market because it has a capability of expanding and creating a lot of damage. This bullet creates a much larger hole if it exits the target. But one advantage of using hollow point is that after expanding, this ammunition typically stays in the target. An important consideration if you’re using the handgun for self defense. If you’re using it to hunt small game that you plan to eat or taxidermy, a Hollow Point may not be your best choice. JHP Jacketed Hollow Points are covered in a thin layer of a harder metal to increase bullet strength for higher velocity rounds.

FMJ or Full Metal Jacket
Full Metal Jacket bullets are a very well known and popular type of ammunition. This type of bullet is naturally made with lead. Full Metal Jacket has a soft core and covered in a harder metal. Full Metal Jacket has its disadvantages; this bullet is limited in their capability to expand, unlike hollow point. It is also capable of causing collateral damage by penetrating both sides of your target.

+P or Hot Load
+P is also known as a “hot” load because it is an over pressurized round of ammunition. This ammunition is usually used for defensive purposes or hunting. To assure your safety before using +p ammunition, you must consult the manufacturer of the gun to verify if the gun is +P rated. If it is not, then do not use +p.

All in all, the main purpose of +P is to produce a higher muzzle velocity to increase the chance of the bullet expanding. For most uses there is no need for +p ammunition. The only time you would really benefit is for taking medium game when hunting or for more velocity in a short barreled handgun. That is why many short muzzle 38 caliber revolvers are rated +p.

Magnum Load
Next in the ammunition guide is a Magnum load. The term magnum was used to name a large bottle of champagne and it was picked up by gun makers to indicate a cartridge with increased performance and ability than a normal cartridges. There are a lot of types of guns capable of accepting magnum loads such as the .327 magnum, .357 magnum and the .44 magnum.

Finally, you see grain count on all ammunition. Does grain really matter? A cartridge’s grain rating is the bullet’s weight. In certain circumstances you will want to use a specific grain but in most circumstances it does not matter.

In summary, cartridges are available in many different bullet styles and weights for their intended purpose. For self defense, 125 to 140 grain jacketed hollow points (JHP) are your best bet. For small game hunting, 125 grain bullets are recommended. For deer, 158 grain is by far the most common choice. For larger game, 180 grain bullets are preferred. And for sport target shooting, I say; the cheaper the better. I usually use the least expensive 130 to 158 grain FMJ cartridge. For hunting and self defense, premium grade bullets that have “controlled expansion” are recommended. But I’ll warn you, they are typically the most expensive. Consult for the best deals.

Remember that if you bought a gun, you must know every detail of it and the right bullets that suits your gun. Do not just load any bullets without first verifying and checking they’re compatible with your gun.


Click on the pic for a complete visual reference of bullet calibers.
bullet caliber comparison picture




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