Bullet Types & Common Uses
Bullets Commonly Used by Shooters
FMJ – Full Metal Jacket Bullets
This is the most commonly found among modern ammunition. Full Metal Jacketed rounds have the sides and front of the bullet, which is usually lead, encased in a stronger envelope or jacket, typically a copper or nickel alloy. It is also referred to as “ball” ammo within military circles. Developed in the early 1880s the primary purpose of this type of bullet was to prevent deforming bullet tips in the growing number of magazine fed military firearms that were replacing single shot service weapons. The cycling of actions often jarred bullets and caused damage to soft lead, altering its shape and adversely affecting its ability to feed correctly as well as its accuracy. It is often assumed that FMJ rounds were adopted as a result of The Hague Convention banning expanding bullets in warfare, but jacketed rounds entered common service several years before to attend to the mechanics of the newer firearms, lead bullets continued on for a while in military revolvers where the bullet heads were not damaged.
While preserving a bullet’s aerodynamics and precision, the jacketing also maintains the bullet’s mass and velocity. This results in transferring very little kinetic energy into the target. Consequently, it is not ideal for personal or home defense, especially in projectiles that exceed 1000 feet per second muzzle velocity. Use in such situations may not only fail to provide adequate stopping power but to also penetrate through the intended target and endanger those behind, even on the other side of internal walls. Consequently, outside formal military use, FMJ rounds are mostly only ideal for target, training and competitive purposes and only used for hunting when deep penetration is desired over expansion.
TMJ – Total Metal Jacket Bullets
Similar to FMJ bullets, this helps maintains a bullet’s shape in cycling and feeding as well as after firing, maintaining ballistic integrity throughout the process and accuracy to the target. In fact, there is often confusion as to the difference between Full and Total metal jackets, which is understandable. Total Metal Jacket bullets have a completed jacket around the bullet core, including the rear. This encapsulates the lead core completely. Because of the additional material and step in manufacturing TMJ, or encapsulated bullets, there may typically be a slight increase in cost over the more common Full Metal Jacket bullet types, leading to the question of what benefits could account for any increase in cost. Like FMJ, these bullets are only suitable in hunting applications where penetration is required over expansion, where thick hides require accurate shot placement.
The performance benefits of using these bullets over the Full Jacket variety is negligible to non-existent. Consequently, the valid question is why these instead of others? Like FMJ rounds, they are intended for training and competitions, but their primary purpose is for use in the growing number of indoor ranges open to the public. While state and federal law requires indoor firing ranges to operate immense and complicated air filtration systems to reduce the threat of airborne lead particles that may be released when a bullet is fired, TMJ bullets prevent lead exposure as its core is completely sealed in the jacket. Consequently, many range managers may require the use of this bullet type over any and all others, with it being the only option to purchase for use in the ranges.
LRN – Lead Round Nose Bullets
Lead Round Nose bullets represent the traditional bullet type going back to the beginning of metallic cartridge design: a cast or molded soft lead projectile with no jacketing. In addition to being praised among Cowboy Action shooters for the authenticity, they are also popular among competitive shooters as the soft lead more readily grabs onto the lands and grooves of a firearm’s barrel for improved accuracy. Further, lead deforms more readily making it, until more efficient bullet types arrived on the scene, a suitable choice for personal defense with a marginally reduced threat of overpenetration. Finally, without the additional manufacturing steps and costs of applying a metal jacket, LRN tend to be the simplest and most economical to manufacture both commercially and recreationally.
With so many benefits, there has to be a cost. One is the reason FMJ rounds were created: lead bullets can be easily damaged in handling and action cycling and are mostly popular for use in revolvers only “these days. The other detriment is dirt or, more precisely, fouling. Lead leaves behind traces of itself in the actions and barrels of the firearm necessitating more frequent cleaning of both. Also, their use in polygonal rifled firearms (Glock, for eg) is not recommended as the “softer” rifling will not usually grab lead bullets and impart and spin. Additionally, there is an increased awareness of health threats when firing exposed lead bullets in confined, poorly ventilated spaces over long periods of time, such as indoor ranges, with inadequate air recycling and filtration systems. Environmental concerns further complicate the issue when extended use of lead ammunition is fired into an outdoor embankment incurring additional “clean up costs”, though this is likely to be the fate of any decommissioned firing range regardless of the type of ammunition used.
FMJ-BT – Full Metal Jacket Boat Tail Bullets
Similar to the rounds used by the military, a FMJ BT bullet is encased in a metallic sleeve, but unlike traditional cone shaped projectiles, the back of the bullet is tapered. The primary purpose of these rounds is the same as standard FMJ: target shooting and competition as well as hunting thick skinned game. The boat tail provides several benefits over the traditional bullet however. One is assembly, a tapered bullet base more readily seats itself into the cartridge in progressive loading machines without damaging the case neck or scratching the bullet itself; consequently, custom reloaders gravitate towards this sort of bullet. Second, the tapered rear provides a more stable ballistic co efficient and stabilization in flight, making the bullet more accurate over medium to long distances; ideal for competitions and hunters alike. Finally, the tapered bullet is more often than not completely jacketed sealing the lead core within and providing the benefits of a TMJ bullet.
However, FMJ-BT bullets are typically used in a select number of common military rifle calibers (5.56x45/.223 Remington, .308 Winchester/ 7.62 NATO and .30-06 primarily), designed for Civilian Marksmanship competitions and the like. As a result, not all indoor ranges are set up to accept such cartridges in their backstops making the total jacket lead retention perk a bit of a moot point. Nevertheless, the other benefits of this bullet design have made it popular for custom and competitive rifle work.
Bullets Typically Used for Self-Defense and/or Hunting
HP – Hollow Point Bullets
Hollow points can have anything from a concave tip to an obvious hole at the tip and are designed to open, commonly referred to as mushrooming where the bullet shape essentially peels backwards like a banana. This has two purposes: one is to create a broader surface area than the caliber of the gun to create a wider wound channel resulting in desired results of dropping the target, be it a game animal or an intruder with malicious intent; and two, by opening up it transfers the kinetic energy of the bullet into the target rather focusing that energy in a narrow line, pushing the bullet through and beyond, as can happen with LRN and FMJ bullets. Unsurprisingly, HP bullets are preferred by hunters, security and law enforcement officers and for personal and home defense applications. While no bullet or caliber is ever a “death beam” that will guarantee one shot solutions, HP bullets provide extra security to innocent bystanders as well as increased certainty to hunters of not having to track a wounded animal.
For use in revolvers or manual loading firearms, they remain very popular for accuracy as well as, like the LRN round, the lead bullet readily grips a barrel’s rifling. Also like their lead round nosed kin, they are also prone to increased fouling and a need for regular cleaning. Another potential drawback on this type of ammunition has nothing to do with its design but its perception: because it is a popular and natural choice for defensive applications, many jurisdictions banned the use of hollow points for defense or even completely: their use against humans is considered a crime, even in some cases by certified law enforcement. This appears based on the assumption that having to shoot multiple times to incapacitate a threat is more humane than shooting just once or twice. This curious philosophy is backed up by referencing the Hague Convention which bans formal military personnel from using HP ammunition though private military contractors, and anyone else who uses a firearm for defense and is not prohibited, will. Amusingly, the reason they are used and banned seems to be the same: they appear to work.
JHP – Jacketed Hollow Point Bullets
Jacketed Hollow Point ammunition provides all the bonuses of hollow point bullets – that being namely expansion and energy retention in target – but, obviously, with a metallic jacket. Unjacketed bullets have no protective coat to prevent marring or gouging in the soft, usually lead, material. Just as FMJ is a better choice for self-loading firearms, JHP bullets are the same for such weapons used for defense and/or hunting: the jacket offers better protection to the bullet shape while being loaded by the action, as well as less fouling. Further, the jacket offers better initial penetration before opening up to create a wide wound cavity
The largest complaint about these rounds is that the jacketing may help prevent the bullet to expand should they strike heavy clothing. Some observations were made in the 1980’s that under certain circumstances, the tips of JHP bullets would clog with material such as denim and fail to open, thus becoming little more than a FMJ bullet and negating all the plusses of using a hollow point. These reports tended to circulate more often than actual reported instances, and usually had more to do with the cartridge loadings than the actual bullet design. Modern ammunition is offered with certain features to dispel the fear of underperformance: these include polymer or metallic tips to force open the bullet on impact or notches in the rim of the hollow to encourage rapid and maximum expansion. One other important point on this type of ammunition may be the most important: being a hollow point (HP), it is subject localized restrictions for defensive use and/or even possession, so consultation of local ordinances is fervently recommended.
HP-BT – Hollow Point Boat Tail
Combining the benefits of expansion and long-range accuracy, the Hollow Point Boat Tail, which is sometimes referred to as a Boat Tail Hollow Point or BTHP, remains a popular favorite by long range competitors and hunters of larger game such as elk, moose and deer. It is also promoted for use against thicker skinned game like wild boar. This bullet type is offered in a greater variety of calibers than the FMJ BT bullet as its application exceeds military style target and competitive shooting to various game hunting. However, target shooters still enjoy this round for its effects against improvisational targets such as filled water jugs, watermelons, pumpkins and the like which offers a cathartic deviation from the standard point scoring on paper. In addition to different calibers, different manufacturers offer their own divers, proprietary bullets with their own features that promise precision and terminal results.
BT ammunition is favored by handloaders because of its ease in seating of bullets into the cases and for use at extended range, the improved ballistics of the rear of the bullet compensate for any drag the hollow point may develop though some manufacturers have opted to insert a cone of polymer or other soft material into the hollow point to maintain aerodynamics and accuracy. Even more recently is the use of a tip of harder material to help “push start” the bullet’s expansion, much like driving a wedge into the bullet, encouraging maximum expansion creating a wider wound channel.
Copper-Plated Hollow Point Bullet (CPHP)
This is essentially a specialized, jacketed hollow point commonly reserved to refer to .22 rimfire bullets. The most common Long Rifle ammunition is Lead Round Nosed, though an increasing number of self-loading firearms are available in that caliber which can often crimp or mar the bullet tips while loading and cycling within the action. Plating these bullets with a thin layer of copper gives them both a greater resistance to any abuse in handling and firing as well as a greater penetrative potential down range. CPHP bullets are therefore the most versatile of the .22 LR ammunition line up being affordable enough for casual plinking, tough enough for impressive penetration (for its caliber) downrange as well as expansive potential making it a good choice for small to medium game hunting and even personal defense, especially in the woods against most common threats.
As stated, besides protection in handling and cycling, the primary benefit of the plating is that it helps maintain the structural integrity of the bullet during expansion, preventing fragmentation. When small caliber bullets break up, they not only cause smaller and less effective wounds, they lose mass and driving energy resulting only in shallow and small wound cavities: this not only fails to deliver desired effects in a defensive scenario but also can cause unnecessary pain and only wounding in game animals. Therefore, many rimfire users select CPPHP ammunition from any one of a number of modern manufacturers.
Soft Point Bullets
Soft point ammunition is a niche type designed to offer some of the benefit of a hollow point without actually being a hollow point. This is necessary when ordnances prevent the use of hollow point ammunition for either hunting or self-defense – this is usually predicated upon the woefully misinformed opinion that hollow points cause unnecessary damage and are therefore less humane than bullets that may only wound but not incapacitate the target. Soft point ammunition has, as indicated, a soft tip designed to deform after contact which can either cause the round to expand more than a LRN or FMJ bullet would, or change shape and alter the course of the bullet in tissue cause it to either deviate or tumble and create a wider wound channel that way. Another feature is that the bullet may fragment after contact creating multiple wound channels, but this can also lead to relatively shallow wounds since the bullet loses mass and energy in the break up and will fail to penetrate as deeply if it otherwise remained in one piece. They are not “better” than hollow points for this application, but they do have the benefit of not being politically questionable in firearm ignorant locations.
One other bonus of SP bullets is that they are also well suited for use in tube magazine firearms – pump and lever action for example – as the soft tips are unlikely to inadvertently set off the primer of the cartridge in front from recoil or the shock of being dropped. This has led to a fair number of manufacturers developing proprietary designs of soft point ammunition specifically designed for use in such hunting rifles.
Jacketed Soft Point (JSP)
A Jacketed Soft Point is just as it sounds: imagine a full metal jacketed projectile with lead left exposed at the tip. This offers the same benefits as the unjacketed bullet, a round that will deform or expand on contact without being a hollow point that may be banned in specific locales. The deformation can cause wider wound cavities or even make the bullet tumble creating catastrophic wounds and one shot terminal results. These bullets are meant to be a compromise between a full metal jacket’s penetration and a hollow point’s expansion without really achieving the full potential of either but at least offering some aspects of the other. The primary benefit over HP ammunition is that they do not have a hollow point and are therefore legal for use in hunting and defense (assuming those activities themselves are not prohibited, of course) where hp ammunition is prohibited. The advantage of this bullet type over general soft points is that the jacket holds the bullet together to maintain mass and driving energy into the target for better results without fragmenting and bleeding off energy.
Additionally, just like non-jacketed soft points, these bullet types are safe for use in firearms that use a tubular magazine, making them a common choice for hunting as an alternative to hp ammunition. Once again, there are proprietary bullet brands that have remained popular for decades such as Winchester’s Power Point or Remington’s Core Lockt bullets that bond the lead cores to the jacketing to maintain structural density while expanding within the target.
Specialty & Competition Bullets
Rather than bullet shaped a Wadcutting bullets simply look like a plug. Usually loaded flush to the case, they take up more room in the shell leaving less room for powder and are therefore loaded “light” and typically are subsonic. Making them slow has a noticeable benefit of also making them stable and accurate and so they are therefore used in competitions where their shape also creates crisp cuts in paper for easier scoring. Further, v makes these rounds ideal for training novice shooters who may be initially skittish or otherwise uncomfortable with loud reports and stout recoil. Finally, the bullet shape also offers improved lethality for low velocity firearms such as snub-nosed revolvers where the flat surface creates “crushing” trauma and instantly transfers kinetic energy into the target. While they my not have the penetrative or expansive qualities of more purpose specific ammunition such as jacketed hollow points, wadcutters have claimed a niche among shooters needing a close-range round that is delightfully controllable and serves multiple roles from target, training and defense.
While capable of being used for multiple roles, and admittedly not ideal for defense (but not a dismal choice either) these bullet types are not made to be reloaded quickly: their flat front makes lining up in revolver cylinders somewhat difficult, especially in stressful situations. Further, their lack fo a sloped front makes loading in self-loading or manual action firearms besides revolvers problematic if not downright impossible. Consequently, they are a cartridge meant for revolvers or single shot firearms exclusively.
Lead Semi-Wadcutter (LSWC) Bullets
The versatility of the wadcutter is severely hampered by its use in only one or two types of firearms. When it comes to target and competitive shooting, where the bullet type really shines, it was decided that a slight modification was acceptable to broaden the types of guns the bullet can be used in, hence the Lead Semi-wadcutter bullet. Still sporting a flat front, which is clearly narrower than the caliber, the SWC bullet sits above the case like a traditional bullet and has a conical profile. This allows it to load more efficiently in both speed competitions as well as most manual action firearms and even self-loaders. The front face still gives clean reads on targets, as well as causing “crushing” trauma in defense, but the bullet has greater versatility in types of firearms that can be used.
LWSC bullets can also take advantage of being loaded to higher pressures than the straight WC round allowing them to achieve +P and +P+ pressures – care should be taken to only fire such rounds in a firearm rated for the extra energy. Shooters looking for a bullet type with more competitive applications adopt this type of bullet as a compromise over LRN or WC. As with all lead bullets, however, their use in polygonal rifled barrels is not advised as lead is better suited for traditional lands and groove rifling.
Round nose and hollow point bullets made of solid copper have become a growing trend in some circles, most notably for the “lead free” feature in a growing number of ranges as well as game lands. Because copper is not as heavy as lead it can achieve higher muzzle velocities. Additionally, because it is not as soft, expanding bullets in this material often employ design features (notches, a driving wedge tip, etc.) to encourage expansion on contact. Besides the benefit of being lead free, copper bullets can employ more intricate casts that will maintain their shape in handling and firing: many new “saw toothed” and similarly malicious looking bullet designs would not maintain their fine details if made in lead, while solid copper can, and does. The down range benefits of such custom bullets is a subject for debate.
Acceptable for wetlands game hunting, this is where copper bullets have an established venue are recognized as really being the best, if not legislatively deemed only, choice. They are also suitable for other applications such as target and defense when match/target or defensive bullet designs are used respectively. The only detriment for this type is of course cost, when compared to other rounds. Unless lead free is required, copper bullets are usually substituted by traditional ammunition types.
Modern ammunition design is often focused on smaller and faster projectiles, which also means less materials and, hypothetically, reduced costs. At least in production if not market price. These modern bullets excel at penetrating which makes them problematic in many defensive and sporting applications, so a bullet that does not penetrate [much] was developed: frangible ammunition. Made of compressed material such as tin, zinc, copper and even tungsten molded into shape. This type pf bullet has a couple applications: the first being for training, it is safe to use at VERY close range without fear of ricochets or “splatter hitting the shooter or neighbors. In fact, the bullet design was first pioneered for use in “old timey” shooting galleries. Indoor ranges also find this sort ammunition advantageous as the cores are not usually lead and they are designed to disintegrate on contact, releasing no lead particles nor doing much damage to backstops: an advantage when training with high powered rounds such as 5.56/.223.
For defensive applications, frangible ammunition was at one time promoted for use by air marshals or others where concerns of misplaced shots causing dangerous or catastrophic results. However, given the bullet’s tendency to vaporize when impacting anything solid, its effectiveness is somewhat limited and airborne security, instead, faces strict accuracy requirements for service with more traditional defensive ammo. Consequently, frangible bullets remain a mainstay of training for defensive purposes rather than a defensive round itself, where close range practice and point blank drills allow metal plate targets without the threat of harm to the shooter from rounds “bouncing back.”
Truncated bullets are similar to Full Metal Jacketed ones, but are more cone like with a flat nose. And like FMJ, or ball ammo which is mandatory for military use and is favored by competitive shooters, TC bullet are as well since the jacketing protects the ballistic integrity of the bullet when being loaded into the chamber. However, competitive shooters have endeavored to find a round that maintains that sort of utility while gaining the target scoring edge of a flat nosed round. The Full Metal Jacketed Truncated Cone (FMJ TC) bullets, unsurprisingly, have become a favorite of competition target shooters as it gives them the best of both worlds. Sloped bullets with a flat tip, these are essentially an improved semi wadcutter specifically designed for semi-automatic or self-loading firearms. The improvement is essentially adding a protective jacket to a semi wadcutter bullet.
While benefitting from modern designs, the versatility of this cartridge is fairly limited: it is not ideal for hunting or personal defense as the round is similar to regular full metal jacketed and will not expand or transfer much of its momentum in soft tissue. While the flat nose may cause “crushing” trauma, its diameter is limited to the caliber and frankly, there are other, better options available for such uses even when prohibited from hollow point, defensive ammunition. Further, as it is a full metal jacketed bullet, many jurisdictions prohibit its use for hunting. Therefore, TC bullets tend to be exclusively used for training and scored competitions.
Match or Match Grade Bullets
Modern ammunition has achieved a level of constancy in performance that cap and ball shooters could only imagine. Mass production techniques turn out cartridge after cartridge that is virtually identical to each other. Sort of. Even though mass production depends upon identical parts being interchangeable, there are certain variations that still sneak into the system that cause variances in chamber size, minute differences in bullet weights and even how the bullet seats in the case that can cause differences in firing pressure. What this leads to is differences in bullet performances even within the same production run, even from the same box. Imagine much of this variation will create at most a 3-6” group at 100. For plinking and even close range deer hunting, this may matter not that much. For long range precision shooting, those differences become exponentially problematic. Match ammunition is manufactured with extra care towards constancy in weight, power charge, internal dimensions of case, how the primers and bullets are seated, etc. etc to ensure that each cartridge is identical.
Look at it another way: Match ammunition may not put every round magically into the x ring, but if the shooter is doing his or her job, each round should be right next to each other down range so the shooter can then adjust to put every round into the x ring with confidence using the same match loading. Of course, this extra care in loading comes with a price increase and people blasting away will do better with bulk mil surplus. For discerning shooters looking to coax every minutiae of precision as well as accuracy out of their shots, match ammunition (typically FMJ-BT or JHP-BT types) are the way to go.
Famously associated with the Nosler brand, a partition bullet essentially has two lead cores placed one after the other encased in, and divided by, a copper jacketing. The nose is left unjacketed or exposed like a soft point. This forward core is designed to expand like a Soft Point bullet creating a wider wound channel. The second core, approximately one half or more of the bullet’s mass, is kept intact by the dividing layer of jacketing and maintains its mass and ballistic energy, driving the expanding front core deeper into the target. Partition bullets are designed to prevent the bullet from completely fragmenting and failing to penetrate deep enough to guarantee one shot drops.
The partition (and similar Accu-Bond) bullets have decades of field use and experience has created an almost religious following amongst sport hunters. It is a bullet that has earned it through real world performance. As such it has also become a bullet with one practical, specific purpose: to hunt. While there is no specific reason it cannot perform as well as any target or training round, its cost does make it specific to an “every shot” counts scenario: once the hunting rifle is sighted in, any other shooting with it is somewhat of a waste of resources.
Flex-Tip (FTX) Bullets
Flextip technology is most famously associated with Hornady brand, though it has been adopted by other brands as well. FTX is a polymer tipped cone inserted into the hollow point of the bullet. The purpose of which is not only to maintain aerodynamics and therefore accuracy to the target but to also ensure expansion after penetration. Early hollow point ammunition experienced variations in penetration and expansion, especially when encountering different materials such as leather and denim which occasionally “clogged” the point and prevented the bullet from opening up. Hornady’s Critical Defense and Critical duty lines are FTX bullets for defense in carry concealed pistols and service pistols respectively. In hunting calibers, the rounds are favored for game with thick skins such as wild boar and the like.
As with most special purpose cartridges, these are not ideal for plinking and/or target shooting due to cost effectiveness: once a box or two feeds through the gun in training, that is usually considered sufficient for keeping a carry mag or two in reserve. Another feature of these rounds is that while they perform as hollow points, because the tips are filled they may be exempt from hollow point restrictions in prohibitive jurisdictions. Finally, given the softer fronts, the bullets are considered safe for use in tubular magazines without fear of the tips setting off the primers of the next round within. These have become a popular choice for hunting with such firearms, especially wild hogs, where self-loaders are prohibited but quick and effective follow up shots are potentially life-saving.
Shotshells are generally larger shells loaded with multiple pellets that release a pattern as dictated but the barrel’s opening, or choke. Birdshot is generally smaller or finer shot that runs in sizes from small pellets or BB sized on down to virtually the size of course sand and are measured in units of numbered shot. For example, #12 is .05” and for each number of shot that decreases, the diameter of the shot increases. #9 is .08”, #8 is .09”, #7 is .10” and so on until #1 is .16”. Then there is B (.17”), BB (.18” and the BB caliber of .177”), BBB (.19”) and T (.20”). As the shot gets larger, it enters what is known as Buckshot calibers. The amount of shot is measured out in ounces, with larger gauges obviously being capable of delivering more shot at greater velocities. Shot material is most commonly lead but is also available in steel and polymer.
An ounce of #7.5 (.095”) lead shot equals approximately 350 pellets, while the same weight in steel is as many as 490 pellets: more shot, more speed, better penetration and no lead pollution. The increased number of shot also helps offset the over penetrative nature of steel where it may pass through without causing enough damage, it makes up for in number of hits. Steel shot has become the only lawfully acceptable shot to use in wetlands to answer concerns over lead contamination. A common complaint of steel shot, however, is if not all of it is removed from game destined for the plate, chipped or broken teeth are not an uncommon occurrence. Magnets may become a common cleaning and prep tool for such purposes. Another lead free alternative is shot made of polymer for waterfowl, however, the reduced mass negatively impacts the terminal performance of such shot, especially at distance and is therefore more commonly used in clay birding.
Like birdshot, buckshot is multiple pellets in a single shell, but these pellets are larger and designed for larger game. #4 shot is .24”, #3 is .25, #1 is .30”, #0 is .32”, #00 is .33” and #000 is .36”. A 2.75” 12 gauge shell can be loaded with up to a dozen #00 pellets which is the equivalent of twelve .32 caliber bullets at close range. The effects of which can be devastating for both hunting and self defense applications. Buckshot, as its name suggests, is good for deer hunting, but is also a popular choice for personal and home defense. Comparisons between it and birdshot for home defense is often spirited, but at close range, an ounce of lead moving at 1000 feet per second is an ounce of lead moving at 1000 feet. Yet, because buckshot is heavier, with more mass, it penetrates deeper having a greater terminal effect upon game and assailants. Of course, this also means that buckshot is more likely to penetrate interior walls, a consideration to be made for home defense.
Further, the firing of multiple projectiles per shot delivers a greater chance of scoring at least a coupe hits at further range. This makes buckshot a popular choice for home defense among shooters who are not avid sportsmen or often visitors to the range. In fact, it is more likely that the 12 gauge scatter gun loaded with heavy shot is the gun that won the west instead of the iconic six shooter. It was capable of putting game on the dinner table and defending hearth and home against all transgressors with effective finality in the hands of those who did not have to be skilled with precision rifle or pistol.
Shotguns are capable of also shooting solid shot as well as pellets. Solid shot, or slugs, are a single pellet or cylinder of lead designed to deliver a knockdown blow. The most popular gauges can be measured in their bore diameters as follows: 12ga is 73” [caliber], 20ga is .61” and 410ga is .45”. Some slugs can have spiral fins on them to encourage a gyroscopic stabilization in place of rifling in the barrel. Rifled slugs should NOT be used in rifles barrels, however, as the rifling can work to cross purposes. Further, shot shells, though they CAN be used in rifled barrels, though the spin imparted upon the shot will encourage a rapid spread of shot upon leaving the muzzle, increasing the chances of a strike, while dispersing the density of the shot.
Rifled slugs are designed for traditional shotgun barrels, that is to say smoothbore, while rifled barrels are used for the more commonly seen smooth slugs. Both are meant to encourage greater accuracy over longer distances than shotguns are typically employed for, making them ideal hunting tools, especially for larger game. Slugs are not, however, often selected for personal or home defense as their power can easily blast through several interior walls endangering bystanders.