Basic ammo bullet points:
Sorting out ammunition types, sizes and brands can be confusing even for seasoned shooters. If you’re new to the sport, it can be downright intimidating.
At Patriot Defense Ammunition, we’re committed to shooters of all experience levels. So we’re going to break down the basics for you, along with some more in-depth tips to start along on your journey to becoming an ammo pro.
First off — you should know that, despite what the movies imply, “Ammunition, or Ammo” and “Bullet” aren’t interchangeable terms. Ammunition or rounds typically consist of 4 components:
- Casing – Typically brass, steel, or aluminum and contains the primer, the gunpowder, and the bullet
- Primer – Seated in the base of the casing, and when struck by the weapon’s firing pin, detonates and ignites the gunpowder charge
- Gunpowder – When ignited by the primer, burns and propels the bullet down the barrel of the firearm and toward the point of aim
- Bullet – The projectile, generally lead, copper or a combination of the two, that travels through the barrel of the firearm and on to the target when the guns is fired
Now that that’s cleared up, let’s get into the fun!
Top-level considerations when selecting ammo:
In order from most basic to more intermediate
|TIP: Since every ammo type will fire a little differently, you’re going to get the best accuracy by getting used to one consistent round. Explore your options until you find the one you want to practice with consistently for a while, then add new types to your repertoire from there.
Caliber isn’t just a classification — it’s a measurement of the ammunition. So your first consideration is: What fits in my firearm?
Then, you can look at which is best for the type of shooting you are doing. Our Defense, Range/Training and Hunting pages can help guide you to the best rounds for each activity.
Make sure you are using a trusted partner, especially if you’re buying online.
If you’re not sure, look up reviews on 3rd party sites. We’re pretty proud of ours!
Specification standards (“specs” or “grade”)
If you don’t know all the pressure and ballistic details yet, don’t worry — there are industry standards for quality and safety you can count on.
But, manufacturers aren’t required to follow these standards (although most do.) Every round we carry meets one of the following benchmarks:
- SAAMI Spec – The Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturing Institute (SAAMI) set industry-agreed-upon standards and specifications for cartridge dimensions and operating pressures. We recommend sticking to ammo that does at least meet these standards.
- Military Specification, aka “Mil-spec” – This is a similar quality standard system that’s set by the U.S. Military. There are differences in specs like pressure between a civilian round vs. a military round, but the differences vary by caliber. Military specifications are also influenced by international treaties and standards.Many shooters prefer military rounds for the longstanding uniformity. These standards are less subject to changes in market trends over time, or variations between manufacturers.
- Match-grade – These rounds are suitable for a competitive match, designed and manufactured to be more consistent and more accurate compared to lower-grade ammunition.Match-grade ammunition is most useful for someone who has put a significant amount of rounds through their firearm. But the higher quality also means a higher price point. So you may want to wait until you have your “sea legs” before considering the purchase of these premium rounds.
How do I know if I’m getting a good deal on the ammo I do choose?
First and foremost it’s important to realize that ammo prices are at an all-time high. The shelves at local gun shops and outdoor retailers big and small are bare. A combination of factors is driving the prices up, but the main reason is the scarcity of components.
A good way to gauge prices across the market is to subscribe to our PD Ammo Watchdog emails, which give you an objective look at the factors impacting the price and availability of ammunition.
What are some affordable options?
- “Reman” ammunition – Short for remanufactured, reman rounds are recycled once-fired casings. Because they use recycled material, the price point for remanufactured ammo is almost always lower than ammo produced using new brass. If you’re looking for an affordable way to put a lot of rounds through your firearm on the range, remanufactured ammo is a very budget-friendly option.
The process for remanufacturing has come a long way. There are now industry standards that set a benchmark for quality and safety. All Patriot Defense remanufactured ammunition meets the standards and specifications for cartridge dimensions and operating pressures set by the Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturing Institute (SAAMI).
- Rimfire – Centerfire and rimfire are named for their firing mechanism — describing the literal location where the firing pin hits the bottom of ammunition to fire. Centerfire strikes in the middle, while the firing pin hits the rim of rimfire rounds.Rimfire rounds are cheaper to manufacture. But you’ll only find them for smaller calibers, and they are less consistent than centerfire rounds. Browse rimfire rounds »
There are plenty of other cost-saving options, although cheaper usually comes with tradeoffs. As you get more experienced and explore more ammunition, you will learn what works best for you.
Did you know there’s special WinClean ammo that reduces lead so you can breathe easier (and clean less!) at the indoor range? Or to reduce ricochet or pass-through for home defense? (Frangible.)
There are a variety of rounds meticulously engineered for certain situations. (Our site helps highlight any unique rounds we have in stock!)
The bullet within your ammo can be characterized by a lot of factors: the configuration of their base, the tip covering or design, what it’s made of, the way it’s made, or even special engineering characteristics. So there are dozens of bullet styles to choose from.
|TIP: Not only can bullets be classified many different ways, some can also be combined. If you hear “Jacket,” “Point,” “Tip,” “Tail,” “Base” or “Nose,” it’s usually referring to bullet type. But there are dozens of unique type names, and some manufacturers even have their own distinct names for certain styles. It leaves you with A LOT of acronyms to learn.
These are just a few common ammunition styles:
- Full Metal Jacket (FMJ) – Short for full metal jacket, you can think of this as a hat – it covers the entire head of the bullet — but not the base.
- Total Metal Jacket / Complete Metal Jacket (TMJ & CMJ) – These two terms are interchangeable, and can also be called “full metal case.” TMJ and CMJ rounds are often confused with FMJ ammo, but these rounds fully cover the base of the bullet with copper plating.
Since they are fully covered, TMJ or CMJ rounds are a little bit cleaner, and they cut down on the amount of exposed lead in the environment. Some indoor ranges actually require the use of CMJ/FMJ ammunition so that there’s not as much lead in the air.
- Hollow Point (HP) – Hollow point ammo is designed to expand inside the target, making it a great choice for personal or home defense and hunting because it causes more damage and decreases penetration.
- Jacketed Hollow Point (JHP) – A jacket on a Hollow Point round makes it easier to feed through your firearm, and helps leave slightly less lead in the barrel.
- Boat Tail – Named for its tapered base (tail), which looks (and functions) like a boat, a Boat Tail bullet reduces drag, allowing a more accurate shot.
This is where you can start to get into growing your knowledge about ballistics: The boat tail style was created to increase the “ballistic coefficient,” which tells you how well a bullet can overcome air resistance.
The most popular casing, by far, is brass. The next most popular is steel, but far less so.
Which is better? Depends on who you ask.
Between the two, steel is cheaper in terms of raw material, which is why you’ll usually see steel ammo priced lower than brass. But over time, steel ammo is also harder on the chamber of your weapon than brass, which is a softer, more malleable metal. Steel also leaves significantly more residue in your gun and requires more cleaning and maintenance after each use.
So if you’re considering steel casing, think about how much or how often you’ll be shooting, and how that will affect wear and maintenance.
This is more advanced, but once you get used to firing you’ll start to consider the finer details of how each round will impact your target.
In our opinion — that’s where the real fun begins! So if you have more questions, we’re more than happy to help.
We’re one of few ammo manufacturers with an inside customer service team standing by, ready (and excited) to answer your questions. Call or send us an email at [email protected] and we would be happy to help you choose the right rounds!