FAQs About Ammo

Are Full Metal Jacket Bullets Bad for Your Gun?

facts about ammo ammunition munition .25 .32 .380 .38 .357 .9mm .40 S&W .44 magnum .45 Colt ACP Brea

The world of ammunition is chock-full of questions, myths and misconceptions. Let’s take a closer look at some of the most frequently asked questions about ammo. 


Actually, full metal jacket bullets can be good for your gun! Let’s dig deeper on this one, as it’s a complex topic with plenty of exceptions.

A jacket around a lead-core bullet allows for higher pressure and temperature while preventing the comparatively soft lead from melting or wearing off inside of the barrel. If lead builds up, accuracy can suffer. Worse yet, pressure can increase to dangerous levels as the “hole size” of the barrel becomes smaller. So, in very general terms, the invention of jacketed bullets allowed ammunition and firearms manufacturers to produce bigger and faster ammo. And there’s less chance of dangerous lead build-up that can cause the self-destruction of your firearm.


On the other hand, and by design, the jacket material is harder than lead. So as it’s forced through the rifling of the barrel, it produces more friction and wear and tear on the steel. For handguns, this isn’t a big deal. Handguns operate at much lower pressures and velocities than rifles, so it takes a long, long time to wear out a handgun barrel. Super-fast and high-pressure rifle barrels may “wear out” after a few thousand shots.

Some handguns, like lower-pressure single-action revolvers, were designed for lead bullet use. There’s certainly nothing wrong with using lead within its intended pressure and velocity ranges. If you enjoy shooting lead bullets, just be sure that your handgun manufacturer recommends it — and keep that bore clean.

Modern Rifle Cartridges Use Jacketed Bullets

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Most modern rifle cartridges use jacketed bullets because the pressure, temperature and velocities are too much for lead bullets to handle without the protective jacket. The lead round shown here is for a .300 Blackout subsonic cartridge which runs at handgun velocities. (Photo by Tom McHale) 

U.S.A. Law Enforcement agencies Use Hollow-Point Ammunition

Law Enforcement agency Sheriff Police Department P.D. Hollow-Point Ammo Ammunition Training Brea

Nearly every law enforcement agency in the country uses hollow-point ammunition, not only for effectiveness on target but also for the safety of officers and bystanders. 

Not all expanding bullets are hollow-point designs. This Federal Guard Dog uses jacketed bullets designed to expand on impact. 

How ammo ammunition made step-by-step production guide NRA Hornady learn firearms self defense Brea


Get an inside look at the how ammunition is made with this step-by-step production guide from NRA E-Media and the experts at Hornady. 

FAQs About Ammo

What Improves When a Bullet Spins as It’s Fired?

how made ammo ammunition munitions .25 .32 .380 .38 .357 .9mm .40 S&W .44 magnum .45 Colt ACP Brea

Good things happen when bullets spin. To understand the classic analogy of why rifles and handguns use internal barrel rifling to impart spin, just envision a football quarterback. We’ll use John Elway, the king of high-velocity bullet passes, as our example. When Elway launched a long bomb, he always spun the ball. In fact, all quarterbacks do. That’s because a spinning object has inherent stability in flight. Physics concepts of gyroscopic stability and inertia encourage spinning objects to maintain their trajectory and orientation. For an object like a football, that means the pointy end remains aimed in the direction of flight. If footballs or bullets don’t maintain orientation (pointy end forward), then they are flying in a sub-optimal way and experiencing more drag and wind resistance. Just as throwing a football end over end will slow it down faster and embarrass you in front of the fans, a bullet tumbling end over end won’t go as fast or as far. And it certainly won’t be as accurate

What’s the Best Ammo for a 9mm Gun?

This is an easy one, so we can answer it exactly like the questions of what brand of truck is best and whether New York or Chicago pizza is better.

OK, so that was a trick answer. Which ammo is “best” depends on what you want to do with it. For range plinking, the best 9mm ammo is safe but inexpensive. For competition, the best ammo has to meet minimum power factors and be accurate and reliable. Misses and malfunctions cost points and trophies. For self- or home defense, things get complicated.

First and foremost, the “best” 9mm ammo for defensive use will be designed specifically for that purpose. Especially with the small and fast 9mm, round-nose or full metal jacket ammo tends to penetrate and make small holes. While that can certainly be lethal, that result isn’t desirable because lethality isn’t the goal. Stopping an attack as quickly as possible is. If you can do that without causing the death of your attacker, all the better. Most defensive 9mm ammo is designed to quickly stop an aggressor by expanding and slowing when it hits an organic target. That causes more fight-stopping damage more quickly than a smooth bullet passing through cleanly. Now let’s get to how to find the “best” defensive ammo.

The FBI and other law enforcement agencies spend millions testing ammunition to ensure that their officers are equipped with the most effective fight-stopping bullets possible. These tests evaluate three major performance metrics. How much will the bullet penetrate an organic target? They look for 12 to 18 inches before the bullet stops forward motion. While that sounds like a lot, it’s not when you consider angles and the possibility of shots passing through extremities first. Second, they look for expansion performance of the bullet to determine how large a wound channel it creates. Last, both of these metrics are tested in scenarios where the bullet first passes through barriers such as clothing, wood, drywall, automotive glass and light steel.

Your challenge is to find ammo that meets these criteria when fired from your gun. If you shoot a subcompact pistol with a short barrel, the velocity will be less than when the same ammo is fired from a full-sized handgun. So you may need to consider special short-barrel loads offered by many manufacturers. You may also want to consider the weight of the projectile. For example, 9mm ammo is most commonly found in 115-, 124- and 147-grain bullet weights. Those heavier bullets might be great for a longer-barreled pistol, but they might not perform from a compact. 

Barrel Rifling: What is it?

Rifling process cutting lands grooves inside bore rifle pistol spins the bullet round like football

There are a number of different ways to impart rifling to the inside of a rifle's bore. Some sources indicated that rifling was invented near the end of the fifteenth century in Augsburg, Germany. Despite that, actually finding a rifle that has been rifled during that era is very rare and certainly not found on every rifle, despite its benefits to accuracy. Rifling did not become commonplace until the nineteenth century. (Wikipedia and other sources)

In the United States, rifling played a key role in the actual history of the war for independence. During the war, most military rifles involved were smoothbores with an effective range of a bit over 50 yards, but the militias -- the citizen army made up of ordinary people and many frontiersmen -- used much finer rifles with rifled bores that were capable of effective ranges reaching out several hundred yards. These were "long rifles" or "Kentucky rifles" as they are most often called. They proved very effective and made a contribution to battlefield successes on occasion and played a key role in guerrilla warfare, benefiting the colonists. 

The process. Rifling is the process of creating grooves inside the bore of a rifle, pistol and some shotguns. These grooves cause the projectile to spin as it moves down the barrel and exits the muzzle. The spinning of the bullet imparts a greatly increased amount of bullet stability which significantly increases accuracy. Before rifling, the accuracy of smoothbore rifles and pistols was greatly limited. 

The Reason Why Modern Guns Shoot 10 Times Farther & More Accurate Than 18th Century Weapons

Spinning football tops rotating bullet speed distance accuracy gun barrel twists Brea Placentia CCW

 The rifling on a gun barrel twists the bullet so it spins as it flies. If the bullet doesn't spin as it flies, it only shoots straight and fast if it keeps its body exactly in line with the path of its flight. If its body goes out of line, due to a slight wobble as it leaves the barrel or anything else that might nudge the tip sideways, it tumbles end over end. You can see this with any symmetrical oblong object. Push directly behind and along its axis of symmetry, and it will move straight. Nudge the front a bit to the side but keep moving in the same direction, and it will just spin around and around. 


Get the bullet spinning, and different forces come into play - forces like angular momentum. If the bullet is spinning fast enough, it will stop behaving like a a stationary oblong object and develop characteristics similar to that od a top. Nudge a stationary object and it'll fall over. Nudge a spinning top and it won't. It often won't even be nudged out of place. Instead, it will spin a little circle with its tip. This is called: Precession, which  is a change in the orientation of the rotational axis of a rotating body. 

Precession or precessing is what a spinning bullet does as it moves through the air. Instead of cartwheeling end over end, it keeps going along the path on which it was shot, while the tip is just tooling around in a little circle. 

More accuracy, but less than ideal. And ideal bullet it perfectly aligned with its course. But when things get less than ideal — and they frequently do — the spin keeps the bullet going along its course with nothing more than a slight wobble. This is a big difference, as the spinning bullet, allows a much longer shot that's ten times more accurate than previous smoothbore guns.

It's amazing how one simple change in a design allows for such a massive change in performance.

FAQs About Ammo

Are Hollow-Points Illegal?

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Yes, hollow-points are illegal.

                                                                             No, hollow-points are not illegal.

So, there you have it. The real answer is that it depends on where you live and what you consider “legal.” In the vast majority of the United States, there is no law against the possession and use of hollow-point ammunition. In fact, the overwhelming majority of law enforcement officers in the country are carrying hollow-point ammo in their duty guns as you read this. While difficult to measure, one can assume that most legally armed citizens are also carrying hollow-point ammunition.

However, some places do restrict hollow-point ammunition. Since laws change frequently, you must always check to make sure you’re up to date. New Jersey provides an example of hollow-point ammunition restriction. In New Jersey, you can own hollow-point ammunition, and you can store it at home, but there are strict laws regulating how you can transport and use it. We can’t cover all the details here, so check the NJ Attorney General website.

The other “legal” consideration pertains to the use of hollow-points in warfare. While it seems a bit silly to have laws governing warfare (isn’t the very definition of war what happens when civility and discussion break down?), certain treaties and accords prohibit the use of expanding ammunition. The Hague Convention of 1899 banned the use of bullets designed to expand or flatten in the body. The United States was not a signer of that agreement so technically was not bound to its terms. However, the U.S. agreed to a second Hague agreement in 1907 that prohibited the use of ammunition designed to cause unnecessary suffering. As a matter of practice, the U.S. Military has not used expanding ammunition since, although that has begun to change as of 2018.

Why Are Hollow-Points Banned?

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Remember that we’re talking about very few places where hollow-point ammunition is banned. In those areas, there is a general perception that hollow-point bullets are designed to be extra lethal and inhumane. It seems to me that the act of shooting someone with anything, while possibly warranted in self-defense situations, could be considered inhumane. So I’m not sure of the distinction.

Similar reasoning exists for the ban of hollow-point expanding ammunition in warfare, although the arguments can be real head-scratchers. The Hague Conventions seemed to determine that an expanding bullet that might require fewer shots to stop a soldier is less humane than a non-expanding one that requires more hits. Why this particular aspect is called out while killing enemy soldiers with fire and explosions is deemed OK continues to be a mystery.

What Is Black Talon Ammo?

Winchester Black Talon hollow point ammo Ranger SXT Police self-defense brea Placentia Yorba Linda

Black Talon ammo was introduced by Winchester way back in 1991. Because it had a scary-sounding name and the bullet was coated with a dark gray material, it quickly developed its own library of urban folklore. According to legend, it was armor-piercing, produced razor-sharp “talons” on expansion that would slice almost anything to shreds and caused the Earth to wobble on its axis. OK, so maybe the Earth-shifting thing is an exaggeration, but we only threw that in because the others are fantasy too.

So, what is Black Talon really? It’s essentially the same as any other hollow-point ammunition with the exception of that black Lubalox coating. The coating was only present to protect rifling of the barrel. In fact, newer versions of Winchester ammo, such as the SXT and PDX1 line, have strikingly similar designs to the Black Talon. Nothing to see here folks; it’s an ordinary hollow-point round.


Black Talon

Black Talon is a brand of hollow-point pistol and rifle ammunition introduced in 1991 by Winchester, primarily intended for law enforcement and personal defense use. Black Talon rounds were known for the unique construction of the bullet and its sharp petal shape after expansion following impact with tissue or other wet media. Black Talon ammunition was produced in the following calibers: 9mm Luger, 10mm Auto, .40 S&W, .45 ACP, .357 Magnum, .44 Magnum, .300 Winchester Magnum, .308 Winchester, .338 Winchester Magnum, and .30-06 Springfield. 

The ammunition was decried by those opposed to civilian ownership of handguns, despite the FACT that expanding hollow-point pistol and rifle ammo is actually more humane and safer because it stops inside the intended target instead of traveling through & through. Law Enforcement prefers hollow-point ammo because they are responsible for every shot fired and where those rounds end up. And, on a personal level hollow-point rounds will reliability stop an aggressor faster and with fewer shots.  

Some medical personnel were concerned that the sharp barb-like tips could potentially cause tears in surgical gloves and hands of the medical workers, exposing them to greater risk of infection, (i.e. AIDS). However, there are no documented reports of this actually happening. Nevertheless, most jacketed bullet designs that expand expose sharp edges or corners. 

Winchester discontinued the Black Talon line completely in 2000. The “Ranger SXT” ammunition sold later by Winchester is very similar to the Black Talon though without the black Lubalox coating on the bullet. Among shooters and Law Enforcement professionals there's a running joke that SXT stands for "Same eXact Thing",  although the official branding is “Supreme eXpansion Technology”

 In 1993 Winchester removed the ammunition from public sale, but at no time was Black Talon ammunition uniformly prohibited by US law. 

Winchester Black Talon hollow point ammo Ranger SXT Police self-defense is legal by U.S. Law Brea
Winchester Black Talon hollow point ammo Ranger SXT Police self-defense is legal by U.S. Law Brea

FAQs About Ammo

Are Hollow-Point Bullets More Deadly?

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The significant word in this question is “deadly.” If we are limiting our discussion to the realm of concealed carry and self-defense, deadly isn’t an objective. Stopping someone from doing whatever they’re doing as quickly as possible is the goal. They key word in that statement is “quickly.” Even a small bullet such as a .22 LR projectile can be lethal. However, if it takes minutes to stop a determined attacker, that’s not helping you much. A more effective caliber and bullet that stops an attacker quickly, whether or not it’s “lethal,” may be a better option. 

 Hollow-point bullets aren’t designed to “kill” more effectively. They are designed to incapacitate more quickly. That’s an important distinction. The expanding effect of a hollow-point causes more damage with each shot, all else being equal. So, at least in theory, a hollow-point may stop an aggressor faster and with fewer shots. As the theory goes, fewer shots mean less chance of lethal damage in multiple areas of the body and non-survivable levels of blood loss from multiple holes.

There’s another factor to consider. Hollow-point bullets, because of rapid expansion and increased drag, are less likely to completely penetrate an attacker and continue on their way, potentially causing injury to others. While case statistics are few, it is clear that hollow-points are less likely to exit the body.

Those are some of the reasons that nearly every law enforcement organization in the country uses hollow-point bullets in service pistols. Photo courtesy of Defense Issues.net


Law Enforcement police like hollow point ammo every shot fired rounds end up Brea Fullerton La Habra

These bullets have cavities carved out of their nose, and the intent is to make the projectile open up upon impact with a target in order to incapacitate a threat by causing a larger wound cavity and to expend all of the round’s energy in that target without passing through the target and striking an unattended, non-threat. 

The information contained on this website is provided as a service to USCCA, Inc. Members, 5150 HEAT Firearms Training Academy students and the concealed carry community, and does not constitute legal advice. Although we attempt to address all areas of concealed carry laws in all states, we make no claims, representations, warranties, promises or guarantees as to the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of the information disclosed. Legal advice must always be tailored to the individual facts and circumstances of each individual case. Laws are constantly changing, and as such, nothing contained on this website should be used as a substitute for the advice of a lawyer for a specific case. 

What Are Dum-Dum Rounds?

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The term “Dum-Dum bullet” is slang that refers to a hollow- or soft-point bullet designed to mushroom on impact. Simply put, it’s another way of describing any hollow-point expanding bullet.

The term “Dum Dum” comes from its place of origin, the Dum-Dum Ammunition Factory near the West Bengal town of Dum Dum, India. Back in the mid-1890s, Captain Neville Bertie-Clay, Superintendent of the Dum Dum Arsenal, developed a .303 cartridge designed to more effectively stop a “determined rush” of attackers in close-quarters fighting. At the time, soldiers complained of existing bullets causing small wounds that would not stop the enemy quickly enough. While not the first expanding bullet, the term stuck as the definitive slang description of hollow-point ammunition.

Learn how bullet work primer gunpowder cartridge 5150 Heat CCW Brea Placentia Fullerton Yorba Linda

How a bullet works

When you pull the trigger of a gun, a hammer mechanism at the rear of the slide pushes a metal firing pin into the back end of the cartridge, igniting a small explosive charge inside the primer. The primer ignites the propellant, (gunpowder)—the explosive that constitutes about two thirds of a typical cartridge's volume. The resulting explosion generated behind the bullet, forces the bullet, (projectile) to quickly move through the gun-barrel and out toward the intended target. 


Self Defense Ammo: The Search for the Magic Bullet

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The first thing you should know is that all handgun bullets can kill. However, very few of them will stop & incapacitate an attack instantly. The “magic bullet” that never misses, and incapacitates an opponent instantly doesn’t exist. You still have to aim!

Below, you’ll find a list of some popular calibers. I’ve used statistics from a number of sources to give stopping power percentages. However, these are not written in stone, as every bullet wound is a unique event. You could take a dozen people, all shot with the same caliber and weight of bullet, in the same place. Every wound would be slightly different. However, the statistics given have been taken from documented sources. The following percentages given refer to one-shot stops.

.25 ACP

You can blame Ian Fleming for the popularity of this anemic caliber. The creator of James Bond armed his hero with a .25 Beretta in the early books, before he was armed with a Walther PPK. Despite the fact that Mr. Bond always succeeded in killing the villain with his Beretta, the .25 is totally useless as a self-defense caliber. This is the round you want the bad guy to have in his gun!

.32 ACP

This is used by many European police agencies as a duty sidearm caliber. However, in Europe, armed crime is fairly rare, so there are few instances of police shooting it out with armed criminals. The .32 ACP it is not particularly effective, even though WW1 was started by a Bosnian assassin named Gavrilo Princip, who shot the Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand at Sarajevo in 1914 with a .32 Browning. On the plus side, however, recoil is mild, and with a well designed, high-speed hollow point bullet, or with frangible bullets like the Glaser or Magsafe, the .32 can be fairly effective. Efficiency rating is 50%.

.380 Auto

With the right bullet configuration, this can be a very good choice for a self-defense round. However, hot loads in light guns can make it hard to get good follow-up shots. Efficiency rating is 64%.

.38 Special

If you use high-speed, hollow point bullets, the .38 can be fairly effective, but the standard, 158 grain, lead bullet loading is pretty anemic. You should select a 125 grain, hollow point bullet load for maximum stopping power. Efficiency rating is 68%.

.357 Magnum

This can be a very effective self-defense round, but when used in a snubby revolver, bullet speed is cut dramatically, and there’s lots of muzzle flash in low light conditions. There’s also the danger of over penetration with this powerful round. Recoil can be a little fierce, especially for beginners. It is not recommended for use in lightweight revolvers. Efficiency rating is 95%.


The 9mm is now almost the universal choice of caliber. It generates fairly mild recoil in standard-size guns, and a little more in shorter, compact autos. This is the recommended round by most instructors for students opting for a semi-auto pistol. Efficiency rating is 81%.

.40 S&W

This is currently a well-established, popular law enforcement caliber. It is extremely effective with hollow point loads. Recoil can be fairly brisk, especially in lightweight guns. It is not a caliber for the beginner. Efficiency rating is 87%.

.44 Special

This 19th century round is an excellent self-defense caliber, with very good fight-stopping capabilities. The Charter Arms Bulldog was designed around this cartridge, and a number of new revolvers from Smith & Wesson and Taurus are chambered for it. Recoil is moderate, but can be severe in lightweight guns. If you do decide on a .44 revolver, try to find the lightest bullet weight, as this will generate less felt recoil. Efficiency rating is 69%.

.44 Magnum

This is a very good, small game hunting round, but has far too much penetration for any practical self-defense use. Recoil is severe, and the revolvers are generally far too big to be carried concealed successfully. Hollywood screenwriters have a lot to answer for! Efficiency rating is 87%.

.45 ACP

As it nears its centenary, the venerable .45 Auto is still one of the better self-defense calibers. It has far less recoil than you would imagine, even when hot loads are used in lightweight models. As a case in point, one of my students, a young woman, had never fired any type of firearm. My wife, who was instructing her, gave her a Kimber Ultra-Carry .45 without telling her the caliber. She fired a magazine full at the target, with excellent results. When the student was asked about the recoil, she answered that she hadn’t found it too bad, but as she was concentrating on the sights and trigger, she really hadn’t had time to worry about recoil! Efficiency rating is 85%.

.45 Colt

Although it has been around for well over a hundred years, this caliber is strictly for the cowboys. The revolvers are simply too large for concealed carry purposes. Efficiency rating is 64%.

From the above listings, you’ll see that stopping power is a trade-off between caliber and controllability. For the average person, a handgun in any caliber between .380 and .40 S&W will cover most eventualities.

For all of the calibers that we’ve mentioned, the ratings given were for hollow point bullets. Round nosed, military style, hardball ammo is great for practice, but for self-defense purposes, always use high-speed hollow points or frangible types of ammo, such as Glaser or Magsafe.

What Does +P+ Ammo Mean?

Bullet ACP increased pressure, ammunition +P+ Ammo SAAMI Brea Placentia La Habra Fullerton Anaheim

To understand what +P, or increased pressure, ammunition is, you must first understand that each caliber has carefully defined performance attributes. In the United States, the Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturing Institute, Inc. (SAAMI) coordinates these specifications. One element of cartridge standardization is internal operating pressure. For example, the 9mm cartridge has a maximum defined operating pressure of 35,000 pounds per square inch, and the .45 ACP limit is 21,000 psi. SAAMI also specifies “proof” pressure levels (for case and barrel testing) that are far higher than one would encounter in normal ammunition lot variance. For most handgun calibers, the proof pressure ceilings are 1.3 to 1.4 times greater than the defined SAAMI maximum.

Ammunition with a +P rating carries a 10 percent increase over standard maximum pressure. That still keeps the operating pressure well below the higher proof guidelines but is more than the SAAMI standard, hence the “+” identification. The idea is that higher operating pressure can yield increased velocity, all else being equal.

SAAMI does not define +P specifications for all calibers, but it does publish data for some common ones. For example, the 9mm and .45 ACP calibers carry SAAMI +P pressure ratings of 38,500 and 23,000 psi.

Weight and velocity significantly impact expansion performance. These two bullets are the same weight. The one on the left is a +P version that travels at higher speed, hence the improved expansion performance. (Photo by Tom McHale)

For the concealed carry user, +P ammo means more power but at the cost of more muzzle blast and recoil. In addition to control issues, you also must check with your handgun manufacturer to make sure your firearm is rated to handle +P ammunition.

Standard vs. +P: A Look at the Numbers:

Muzzle Velocity:

  • Hornady Critical Defense .38 Special: 1,010  ft/s 
  • Hornady Critical Defense .38 Special +P: 1,090  ft/s 

Muzzle Energy:

  • Critical Defense .38 Special: 249 ft/lbf 
  • Critical Defense .38 Special +P: 290 ft/lbf

As you can see, the +P ammo has slightly higher speed and power, creating enhanced terminal ballistics.

Let’s look at another example. This time, we’re examining 9mm Luger Speer Gold Dot Personal Protection 124-grain rounds in both standard and +P. 

Muzzle Velocity:

  • Speer Gold Dot 9mm Luger: 1,150  ft/s 
  • Speer Gold Dot 9mm Luger +P: 1,220  ft/s 

Muzzle Energy

  • Speer Gold Dot 9mm Luger: 364 ft/lbf
  • Speer Gold Dot 9mm Luger +P: 410 ft/lbf

 Once again, we have higher ratings for speed and energy thanks to the higher internal pressure. 

 Here are some YouTube videos - Take a Look! 

9mm +P Hornady CRITICAL DUTY Ammo Gel Test

Winchester Ranger T-Series 9mm +P+ 127 gr JHP AMMO TEST

What Is the Strongest Bullet in the World?

Most powerful Bullet World .700 Nitro Express ballistics Brea Placentia La Habra Fullerton Anaheim

The .700 Nitro Express is a big game rifle cartridge made by Holland & Holland, London, England. It was developed in 1988 by Jim Bell and William Feldstein and built by H&H.  

Ballistics: The .700 Nitro Express develops an approximate average of 8,900 foot-pounds force (12,100 J) of muzzle energy with a 1,000 gr (65 g) bullet at 2,000 ft/s (610 m/s). However hand-loaders can push the cartridge to generate as much as 15,000 foot-pounds (20,000 J) of energy in a modern bolt action, by using a 1,000 gr (65 g) bullet fired at 2,600 ft/s (792 m/s). 

That said, defining the strongest bullet in the world is a bit like trying to identify the most powerful car. Are you talking about a car that can carry the most weight? Or perhaps the one that fits the most people? Or maybe you consider the most powerful car the one that goes the fastest.

As with automobiles, the “power” of a bullet can be defined in different ways. Without spiraling into a black hole of physics, you might consider bullet “power” using two conventions: kinetic energy and momentum. Let’s take a quick look at each.

Kinetic energy is the most common measure of ammunition “power” and is expressed in foot-pounds of energy. For example, a solid 9mm round might generate 350 to 400 or so foot-pounds. Kinetic energy is a measure of destructive power, so you might make a loose analogy to a power drill. That has potential destructive power thanks to its high velocity measured in revolutions per minute, but it won’t knock things over. The underlying math of kinetic energy emphasizes velocity, so light and fast bullets can have very high kinetic energy measures.

Momentum represents the ability to impart force and move an object. Rather than destructive force, like a power drill, momentum represents the energy capability to move mass. A bullet with more momentum will do a better job of moving an inert object on impact.

Let’s consider some examples to better understand these concepts. A standard 124-grain 9mm bullet traveling at 1,150 feet per second generates 362.4 foot-pounds of kinetic energy and 20.37 pounds-feet per second of momentum. To put those numbers in perspective, a PGA Tour golf ball drive delivers 127.8 foot-pounds of kinetic energy but more momentum than the 9mm with 28.86 pounds-feet per second. A 16-pound bowling ball carries just 173.4 foot-pounds but a whopping 422.40 pounds-feet per second of momentum.

So, what’s the strongest caliber? That depends on how you define “strongest.” It also depends on how the specific cartridge is loaded. Bullet weight, shape, power charge and type, and even the primer can all have an impact on velocity and the resulting energy. With that said, in the handgun world, some contenders for “most powerful” include the .500 Smith & Wesson and .460 Smith & Wesson Magnum. The .500 firing a 400-grain bullet can generate 2,877.1 foot-pounds of kinetic energy and 102.9 pounds-feet per second of momentum. The .460 Smith & Wesson Magnum with a 360-grain bullet delivers 2,885.1 foot-pounds and 97.7 pounds-feet per second.

Here are some YouTube videos - Take a Look!

Smith & Wesson 500 Magnum Hand Cannon

Giant .460 S&W Magnum Revolver - Destroys Everything

Cameron fires the .700 Nitro Express

Are Heavier Bullets Better Grain one pound is equal to 7000 grains 437.5 grains ounce Brea Placentia


Are Heavier Bullets Better?

Whether a heavier bullet is better depends entirely on the job at hand. If you’re trying to knock over bowling pins or steel plates in a competition, we can make a case to use heavier and slower bullets. For self-defense, there are a myriad of other factors to consider.

All else being equal, a heavier bullet will travel slower than a lighter one. That can be great for penetration, but if you are also counting on bullet expansion, that lower velocity may impact results. For example, if we look at 9mm ammo, it’s easier to get a lighter 115- or 124-grain bullet to expand than a 147-grain version. Of course, bullet manufacturers make adjustments to the projectile design to cause expansion at lower velocity. But physics is physics, and at lower speeds, it’s tougher to balance penetration and expansion.

Did we answer your question? Is there more that you want to know? Let us know in the comments. Or keep the conversation going at USCCA.com/community.

What’s a Grain?


Bullets are measured in a unit of mass called grains (abbreviated “gr.”). One pound is equal to 7000 grains, and there are 437.5 grains in an ounce. Bullets can weigh anywhere between 15 grains for the lightest 17 HMR* bullets, all the way up to 750 grains for the heavier .50 BMG rifle loads.

(*)  The 17 HMR was developed by necking down a .22 Magnum case to take a smaller .17 caliber (4.5 mm) projectile, which can deliver muzzle velocities in excess of 2,650 ft/s.  

Is a heavier bullet better? It depends on the job at hand. These 450 SMC loads range from 160 to 230 to 255 grains left to right.

Ammo how a bullet works cartridge primer gunpowder gun-barrel spin bullet Brea Fullerton Yorba Linda


 There are so many critical logistics of materials & manpower that must come together to manufacturer a single solitary .22 caliber Long Rifle rimfire cartridge. 5150 HEAT Firearms Training Academy thanks the good people at CCi & Speer for allowing a tour of their 68-year old munitions factory. We couldn't possibly show everything that went on at the facility. Hopefully, we've been able to show enough for our students to grasp awesome concept of just how rimfire ammo is made. 


Expert Firearm Tactics Instruction by Retired Law Enforcement Officer & Range Master

facts about ammo ammunition munition .25 .32 .380 .38 .357 .9mm .40 S&W .44 magnum .45 Colt ACP Brea

Giving good people the security they deserve and yet  another reason to worship, educate or do business with you. 

Through our partnership with both the NRA and the USCCA, 5150 HEAT Firearms Training Academy is thrilled to be able to offer men & women with several fantastic training courses.

Course enrollment is now open with space available. Call or Email Today! 

For additional details, Let's Talk!

5150 HEAT Firearms Training Academy

(714) 680-5500


Firearms Marksmanship & Safety are Perishable Skills

Basic advanced Tactical Combat Pistol handgun Training Learn safe gun Personal Home Protection CCW

Practice does not make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect. Vince Lombardi   

Many people don't realize it, but firearm marksmanship and safety are perishable skills that must be continuously renewed and reinforced through “proper” practice and training. Every expert firearms instructor recommends regular range time or dry-fire training to both improve and maintain safe, speed & accuracy and the skills needed to ward off deadly attacks... Check back often! 

Concealed Carry Fundamentals

Women’s Basic Firearm Ladies Intermediate Pistol men Home Defensive LASER Pistol Training CCW safety

Concealed Carry Fundamentals is a comprehensive course for anyone considering owning or carrying a firearm for self defense. In this class you will learn conflict avoidance, situational awareness; shooting fundamentals; the physiology of violent encounters, legal aspects of using deadly force (including knowing what to do in the aftermath); and a complete guide on gear, gadgets, and ongoing training. Following the course, training and live-fire exercises are conducted on the range.  



Basic advanced Tactical Combat Pistol handgun Training Learn safe gun Personal Home Protection CCW

This course is designed to give participants an entry level understanding of handguns and how to utilize them in self-defense situations. The curriculum is divided into four modules, each with several chapters. Classroom and Laser Pistol simulator time. Each participant will receive an excellent textbook: Concealed Carry and Home Defense Fundamentals. Intro to Laser Pistol training. 


Certified USCCA NRA Police Firearms Tactics Instructor retired police Firearms Tactics Instructor

USCCA, Home Defense Course, is a comprehensive course for every skill level that focuses on firearms as a tool for home defense. Ultimately, the goal is for students to develop a home defense plan. Plus, many more useful subjects! Intro to Laser Pistol training. 

Each participant will receive an excellent textbook: Concealed Carry and Home Defense Fundamentals.  


Women’s Basic Pistol Intermediate advanced combat Ladies Home Defensive LASER Pistol Training CCW

Women’s Handgun & Self-Defense Fundamentals covers the basics — along with the fun, seriousness and importance of being a responsibly armed female. The basics of shooting will be introduced, reviewed & built upon, while also exploring universal safety rules, situational awareness, common types of handguns, ammo types, marksmanship skills, advanced firearms handling/defensive essentials  & the use of deadly force.  Intro to Laser Pistol training.

Certified NRA Police Firearms & Tactics Instructor & Range Master

Certified NRA Police Firearms Tactics Instructor Range Master CCW retired Brea Police Department

Certified NRA Police Firearms & Tactics Instructor & Range Master - Prior to my retirement from law enforcement I served as a Police Firearms & Tactics Instructor and Range Master with Brea Police Department since 1992. 


Certified USCCA NRA Firearms Tactics Instructor Range Master gun CCW retired Brea Police Department

CCW - Concealed Carry Fundamentals Course... This is an EXCELLENT course!

Concealed Carry and Home Defense Fundamentals is a comprehensive seminar for anyone considering owning or carrying a firearm for self defense.

Certified USCCA Firearms Instructor & Range Master

USCCA Certified Instructor retired police officer CCW firearms safe self-defense tactics Best price

The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. 

The great teacher tells, explains, demonstrates and inspires students to think!