Different Kinds of Ammunition and Its Components

Definition of Ammunition

Ammunition must match the firearm and varies depending on the type of firearm. Ammunition is made up of four parts, case, primer, powder and projectile. Handguns and rifles use a cartridge (case) containing a single projectile/bullet. A single piece of ammunition is sometimes referred to as a ’round’. Shotgun ammunition uses a shell (case) containing a large number of small projectiles (shot or pellets) or a single slug.

Components of Ammunition:

Case: The container that holds all the other components together. It’s usually made of brass or steel, shotshells are usually a combination of brass and plastic.

Primer: A very small but explosive chemical compound that, when struck by the firing pin ignites the gunpowder inside the case. Primer may be placed either in the rim of the case (rimfire cartridge) or in the center of the base (centerfire cartridge).

Powder or Gunpowder: A chemical mixture that, when ignited and converts instantly into a forcefully expanding gas. Modern smokeless powder will burn slowly if ignited in the open air (outside of the case).

Black powder: Far less stable than smokeless power and is explosive even when ignited in open air.

Projectile/Bullet: The solid object that is fired from the barrel of a gun at the target.

Slug: A solid projectile fired through a shotgun barrel, generally used for hunting large mammals.

Shot: Pellets, small beads of lead, steel, tungsten alloy, or bismuth pellets fired from a shotgun.

There are a few specialty rifle cartridges that are loaded with shot.

Bullet: The common name for the projectile, commonly made of lead, fired from rifles and handguns.

Bullets come in various shapes, sizes and different materials. The bullet is commonly made of lead or may have a lead core and a jacket (cover/coating) made of copper or a copper alloy.

Bullets used for hunting game are generally designed to expand on contact causing maximum shock.

Full metal jacket bullets which do not expand on contact are illegal to use for hunting.

Bullets used for target shooting usually have solid points or flat tips that make smaller holes.

Different Kinds of Ammunition

Centerfire: The primer is a separate piece and is loaded into the center of the cartridge case. Most rifle, shotgun and handgun ammunition is centerfire. Centerfire cartridges are very reliable and can withstand high pressure. Centerfire cartridges can be reloaded at least once.

Rimfire: The primer is loaded into the rim (outer edge) of the cartridge case. This type of cartridge is low power, low pressure, used in small caliber rifles and handguns. Rimfire ammunition can not be reloaded.