Guns may be getting all the credit in the shooting and self-defense world, but it’s ammunition that works hard to hit your targets! A great handgun is not enough to keep you safe or guarantee game, because you still need to know how ammunition works, what distinguishes the different varieties, and how to pick the right ammo for your specific firearms and matches.
If you’re a beginner, it’s okay to find it daunting when choosing the right ammunition. Here’s a comprehensive buying guide that will help you know what kind of ammunition to buy!
Common Ammo Terms
Most people call that single unit in the handgun a bullet, but that is actually incorrect. The bullet is the projectile that fires from your gun, while the unit loaded in the firearm is the cartridge or round.
Other important terms about ammunition are the following:
- Ball. Aspherical projectile
- Brass. This is also referred to as the cartridge case. These are the spent casings that are ejected each time you fire a semi-automatic firearm or are left in the cylinder after firing a revolver.
- Magazine. This holds cartridges for use and spring-feeds them into a gun’s chamber.
- Velocity. This is the speed at which it leaves your firearm.
What’s it for?
When determining what ammo to use for your handgun, the first question you need to ask is “what’s it for?”. Here are some of the common purposes of buying handgun ammunition.
- Competition. There are specific requirements for ammunition made for competing. Some are based on accuracy, while others are based on speed. Competition shooters look for ammo with less felt recoil. Be cautious when purchasing ammunition designed for competition, as it may not function all firearms.
- Sports. Target ammunition is the term for this. These are the types of ammo you see in bulk packaging at sporting goods stores. What makes the ammunition for target shooting different from the competition is its ability to function various firearms reliably without the same level of recoil for hunting or self-defense. This ammunition is also the most commonly used by shooters.
- Hunting and self-defense. Most preppers and survivalists fall under this purpose of buying handgun ammunition. Ammunition made for hunting and personal defense is designed to have a higher velocity, a heavier bullet, and a bullet designed to expand when it strikes the target. It’s also typically purchased in containers with smaller quantities. One last thing to note about ammunition for hunting and self-defense is its higher price compared to other types of ammunition.
Wadcutters are a type of bullet that is inexpensive, low-recoil, and low-energy with a square-off nose. These are the kinds used for practicing in revolvers. They don’t work well in semi-auto pistols because of the design and shape of their projectiles. A semi-wadcutter has a rounder nose than a wadcutter and is sometimes popular as a defensive round in revolvers.
On the other hand, the FMJ is a round-nose bullet that is made up of lead and e thin layer of copper on the exterior. It’s popular for target practice using semi-auto pistols. These rounds are not the best for self-defense because their design lets them pass through a target, creating over-penetration concerns.
If you’re looking for defensive rounds, go for hollow points. They contain an open cavity at the edge that will make them expand more than an FMJ bullet. They decrease the chances of overpenetration as the hollow point transfers the maximum amount of energy to the target.
Meanwhile, frangible are expensive and help prevent overpenetration. They consist of a bullet-shaped capsule with many small lead pellets on the inside.
These are just some of the bullet types you should consider. Other options include +P, +P+, and magnum rounds. For starters, +P or +P+ is ammunition loaded to a higher internal pressure than standard ammunition. Magnums are even more powerful bullets that require a firearm designed for them.
Other Important Factors
Here a couple of other things you need to take into account when buying handgun ammunition:
- Quantity. You don’t have to buy in large quantities when it comes to new ammunition, especially because most places do not take ammunition back.
- Accuracy. Some bullets shoot better out of some guns than others no matter how expensive or new it is.
- Manufacturer. Ammunition can destroy a gun, so always consider the source. Go for trustworthy brands and those that offer repairs or replacements when needed.