Hollow-point, flat nose, wad cutter, jacketed, semi jacketed, full metal jacket, frangible and the list goes on.
Before we get dragged too deep into the minutia of bullets, let's limit this to two: full metal jacket (FMJ) and Hollow Point.
To further clarify this piece is about handgun rounds in general and the bullet (the projectile of the round) in particular.
When we look at the study of Ballistics we look at three elements:
Internal Ballistics concerns the construction of the round. The primer, powder, casing and how it all fits together. The quality of these components can matter a great deal; but with centerfire hand guns, most target ammo shoot close to point of aim. Granted some are slightly more accurate and burn cleaner, but they are also more expensive and 9 out of 10 shooters surveyed want the cheapest ammo for range use.
External Ballistics tells us what the bullet will do once it leaves the barrels of the gun. Again, in centerfire handgun rounds the difference is slight; though not completely irrelevant. Competition shooters generally prefer a heavier grain bullet, which many feel are more accurate. Many swear by federal Syntech rounds claiming they provide the best accuracy. This is as likely due to the bullet’s internal ballistics (lower recoil, smoother burn) than actual improved flight offered by the coated bullet.
Terminal Ballistics for those concerned with personal and home defense is where the rubber meets the road. This is what a bullet does when it impacts a target.
Full Metal Jacket rounds perform universally similar in that they either over penetrate when they hit a soft target or flatten and possibly ricochet whey then hit something solid. This makes FMJ ammunition a poor choice for a defensive round. To understand FMJ Rounds one need look no further than the most famous bullet of American History; the “Magic Bullet” that killed President Kennedy, striking him in the back, exiting his body and proceeding to cause a total of seven wounds. It was found in what was called “Pristine” condition. Conspiracy theorists claim this is impossible, yet it is almost exactly how we would predict a high powered FMJ rifle round to perform.
Hollow-point rounds are designed to expand on impact. Thus, they tend to transfer most of their energy to the first target they hit. As a hollow point contacts a soft target, it will fill the hollow cavity in the nose of this bullet. The subsequent pressure forces the nose of the bullet to expand. This will cause the bullet to slow rapidly. The baseline effect is that primary targets receive more damage while reducing the chances of over penetration.
There are a lot of different manufacturers and styles of Hollow Point bullets. Each year most companies try to come up with something new (often just packaging) and either claim their new design is extra safe or more effective.
Most commonly the new bullets are some sort of frangible round. A round that breaks apart on impact and causes several wound paths. This takes away some of a bullet's immediate impact and, from a self-defense perspective, that is what matters.
In general, what we would like to see from terminal ballistics, in a defensive perspective, is a bullet that would start to open upon impact, retain its full weight and reach complete expansion quickly. This would release more energy to the target and create a larger trauma channel within the body. You still want enough penetration to get deep into a body cavity even if passing through heavy clothing. These wants are at odds with each other and getting it right is a matter of applied physics.
What is the best bullet?
There are hundreds of web sites you can visit to learn more about ballistics and bullets. For myself, I prefer the Federal HST. I have seen numerous ballistic tests and no other round has performed as consistently as the Federal HST round.
The Federal HST opens like a flower with six points. This creates more surface area than a standard round and allows the bullet to retain weight thus, giving good penetration while causing a larger trauma channel. This is not to say that other round and brands are not good, but at the end of the day, the importance of defensive ammo is that its performance breeds confidence in the round.
I’m confident in Federal HST.
What round has won your trust? Come talk to us about it at Stock and Barrel.
Stock and Barrel is Minnesota’s premier gun club, pro shop and indoor shooting range located just south of Minneapolis with locations in Chanhassen and Eagan.