A bullet is a physical object. While that may sound like a no-brainer, you’d be surprised how the world of Hollywood and modern videogaming has distorted this fact of physics. Just so we’re clear, you can’t make bullets curve in mid-air, there are no heat-seeking bullets, and while silver bullets do exist in reality there is no way to load sunlight into a bullet (sorry vampire slayers).
Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s focus on a bit of reality. Not all bullets are created equal. For a beginning-level shooting-sports enthusiast, heading down to the store and picking up any old box of ammo in your preferred caliber is a bit of a crap shoot. You need to know the distinct differences.
This is the most commonly found ammunition at your local sporting goods store. The hard, outer surface on these bullets allow them to retain their shape and approximate dimensions after impact. Because ball ammunition does not expand, it sends the least amount of energy possible into its target. Simply put, ball ammunition sends about 50% of its potential energy into the target. That being said, ball ammunition also has the deepest level of penetration because it maintains its shape.
This type of bullet expands and virtually disintegrates on contact, delivering all of its energy into the target. As opposed to being manufactured with a lead core, frangible bullets are constructed from compressed copper powder. This allows the bullet to crumble into pieces whenever it strikes something that is harder than itself at full speed. While this is the preferred bullet for a shooter concerned with over penetration and delivering as much energy into the target as possible, the drawback is that the thinnest amount of cover will protect your target from a frangible round.
This bullet type includes mushrooming, softpoint and hollow-point rounds. Expanding bullets are all fundamentally manufactured to swell in diameter after impacting their target. This allows such bullets to deliver more kinetic energy into the target. Sometimes referred to as “flying ashtrays,” this type of ammunition is wider than its counterparts. The width presents more surface area passing through the target, in order to generate a larger permanent wound channel. This is also an ideal choice of ammunition for those concerned with over penetration.