Ballistic Terminology

Basic terminology of ballistics is important. Bullets, Cases, Primers, etc can be confused an misinterpreted by many.

The Cartridge is a unit composed of the bullet, case, primer, and propellant.  Cartriges are also referred to as rounds or ammunition (ammo).

The primer is the round button on the bottom of the cartridge that is contacted by the firing pin of the firearm.

The case is the brass or aluminum body that contains the everything, including the bullet, primer, and propellant, and fits into the firing chamber of the firearm.

The propellant is the explosive gunpowder that explodes to move the bullet forward.  It is carefully metered to create an explosion that will not harm the firearm, while providing maximum power to the projectile exiting the firearm.

The bullet is the actual metal that leaves the gun after pulling the trigger.  Bullets are composed of lead, lead alloy, copper, or several other materials depending upon the manufacturer.  Bullets come in many different shapes and sizes.

The most common bullet is the Full Metal Jacket (FMJ) bullet which is a round-nosed projectile covered with a thin layer of copper known as a “jacket.”  This layer allows the bullet to travel down the bore at a higher velocity than with pure lead bullets.

The second most common bullet type is a Jacketed Hollow Point (JHP), which expand upon impact.  This action allows for a larger damage area and limits the penetration into objects beyond the intended target.  Jacketed Hollow Point is the most common self-defense ammunition.

Dummy rounds that do not fire can be used to practice operating the firearm without the wasted ammo, noise, and safety issues associated with target practice.

Bullets are not cartridges, just the piece that leaves the barrel of the firearm.

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