By Kellene Bishop
Photo c/o military.co.il
While men roaming the earth seem to possess an innate understanding about the various types of ammo to use for this and that, my female friends tend to be more focused on how to convert a quart into cups, which jeans make us look fat, the pursuit of career and education, and how to whip up a mean dish of something or another. So, forgive me, my gentlemen readers, for taking time to give a little tutelage to our sisters in arms on the various merits of ammo—Ammo 101.
Ladies, have you ever giggled at a person who refers to a truffle dish as a salad bowl? Or perhaps you’ve seen that blank look when it comes time to change a diaper. Or have you wondered how anyone in their right mind could put the toilet paper “under” instead of “over”? You know what I’m talking about. We women are walking dictionaries and encyclopedias of everyday information, but when it comes to understanding rounds of ammo, well, we usually fall short. So here’s some education in what may not only save you some embarrassment in the future, but may very well save your life through making educated decisions.
Ammo 101: It’s not a “bullet”—it’s a “round” or a “cartridge”
First of all ladies, let’s be sure that you never commit the gaff of calling any part of the ammo something it’s not. For example, the “bullet” isn’t usually what you think it is. Usually what you see lying on the ground after someone else has been shooting is called a casing, though many newbies call it a bullet. The casing is the part of the round that has housed the primer and the bullet tip and has been expelled from the gun when it was shot. If you really want to be knowledgeable, you may want to test yourself as you go to the shooting range and see if you can identify the types of rounds used simply by looking at the leftover casings. For example, a Shotgun round, 9mm, 357 magnum, .22, etc. A lot of folks refer to these casings lying around as “brass.” In fact, you may see signs at the practice facilities which instruct you to “clean up your brass.” It’s the casings that are being referred to. Bottom line, the case/casing is what holds all of the components of the ammunition round in place.
The bullet is actually the pointed top or tip that you typically think of when you picture a round. A shotgun round does not have an actual “bullet” housed inside. It has either buckshot, a lot of little round pieces or a “slug” which is shaped like a bullet.
Ammo 101: Powder is not the same as primer
Looking at a cartridge from top to bottom, your first layer is the bullet. That’s what leaves the gun towards your target when you pull the trigger (assuming all goes well J). The next layer is your powder charge. This is the part that actually is quickly ignited by the next layer of the bullet. The very bottom of your cartridge, usually the round shape at the base, is your primer. Primers can be ignited by striking the outside of that round shape or right on the inside of the round base, depending on whether or not it’s rim-fire or center-fire ammo. What happens when you fire a gun is that the firing pin inside the gun hits the rim or center fire. This causes an ignition of the powder inside the casing, which causes the bullet to propel forward towards your target and the casing to expel out the ejection port. This is how the casings end up landing all around, and sometimes even down your shirt. Since the casings have housed the fiery dance between the primer and the powder, they are inevitably hot–thus, you don’t want them to land down the front of your shirt and nest. ;) Don’t worry ladies. I’ve even seen some men do the “hot casing line dance”, too. It does happen and for the most part you don’t have any control over them with the exception of what kind of clothing, hat, and eye protection you wear to inhibit the rogue piece of hot brass.
Ammo 101: Self-defense roundsThe best type of self-defense rounds are much more expensive than what I would use to practice with. The ideal self-defense rounds are known as hollow-point bullet. The reason why they are ideal for self-defense is because of their stopping power. Perhaps you’ve heard the expression of the “bullet went clean through.” If a bullet does not expand once it hits mass, then it can indeed go clean through and thus not have the efficacy of stopping the threat that you need in a self-defense scenario. However, a hollow-point bullet head will actually expand outwards, like a well-rounded claw, once it hits mass. Some describe this as mushrooming as well. This is ideal for a couple of reasons.
1) When you’re using hollow-point bullets for self-defense and it does hit your target, it will actually expand and do sizeable damage within the body cavity as it passes through. Most times a hollow-point bullet will not actually exit the cavity, or if it does, there will definitely be a significantly larger exit wound than the entrance wound.
2) If you were to miss your target, say, while you’re defending your home, the bullet will expand as it hits the wall, and thus stop traveling sooner. This means you’re less likely to shoot through your walls or doors and harm bystanders or neighboring property.
Now, in terms of hollow-point ammo, many shooters swear by the use of Hydra-Shok™ ammo. Reason being is it has been found to reliably mushroom upon impact, whereas some of the hollow points mushroom simply by hitting clothing fiber. The good news is a hollow-point round will also give even a 9mm more stopping power, and as such I still recommend it as a self-defensive round. (FYI, Hydra-Shok bullets will expand at any velocity much over 800 feet per second, and perhaps even less. Ordinary hollow-points generally require 1,000 feet per second of velocity to reliably expand.)
Ammo 101: It’s grain, not grains.
Grain is the actual weight measurement of a bullet—not the cartridge. Newbies often call it “grains”—plural. If you want to sound like you know what you’re talking about, refer to it as grain—singular. The more a cartridge weighs, the more grain it has. Standard weight for .45 ACP ball ammunition (full metal jacket – FMJ) is 230 grain. Standard for 9mm is around 115 grain. Generally the heavier bullet moves slower than a lighter bullet. There is quite the battle raging among shooters as to which is better for defense. Some say to use a big, heavy, slow bullet for target penetration and some say to use a lighter bullet at higher velocity for expansion. Personally, I’m in favor of a heavy bullet with a good hollow point. After all, a heavy bullet still moves “at the speed of a bullet,” right?
Ammo 101: +P or +P+ ammo
“Plus P” or “Plus P Plus” designations simply mean that a cartridge is loaded with a higher pressure than standard ammunition. Essentially what this does is give your round more firing power and a greater impact on your target. It’s one of the variations of ammo that I recommend for women to use who are more comfortable with shooting a 9mm for self-defense. Be sure that your gun is designed for such ammo use though. You can see whether or not your ammo is +P or +P+ on the cartridge box, or sometimes it’s stamped on the base of the cartridge. +P or +P+ cartridges are usually center-fire cartridges.
That’s all for Ammo 101 today! Tune in for more later on.
Copyright 2009 Kellene Bishop. All rights reserved. You are welcome to repost this information so long as it is credited to Kellene Bishop.
Filed under: Ammo, firearm education, self defense, women and guns | Tagged: +p, Ammo, ammo 101, ammunition, brass, bullet, cartridge, casing, grain, gun powder, hollow bullet, hydra-shok, primer, round, self-defense rounds | 21 Comments »