Hunting Bullets 101

Hunting Bullets 101

The ammo shortage has forced people to purchase what’s available rather than what they’re familiar with.

Slowly but surely, we are starting to see an increase in the quantity of ammo readily available at our local sporting goods stores. But we aren’t out of the deep water just yet. The ammo shortage has forced hunters to purchase what is available, instead of being able to take their favorite load afield. This unfortunate reality necessitates a simple understanding of the various bullet types and their capabilities. This was made crystal clear last fall when a deer hunter showed up to camp shooting an FMJ bullet. The unfortunate ending to this story is that this error was not figured out until after he shot a deer. As would be expected, the bullet penciled straight through and the buck was not recovered.

What follows is a simple breakdown of the different types of bullets you might encounter at the ammo counter and the applications and limitations of each.

Full Metal Jacket

Full metal jacket (FMJ) bullets are a cheap option for plinking at the range but rarely, if ever, should be used for hunting purposes. FMJ projectiles are not designed to expand and so subsequently punch straight through the intended target. You could get away with shooting squirrels and other small vermin, but leave the FMJs home for anything bigger than a coon.

Cup & Core


A cup-and-core bullet is an encompassing family of projectiles with a wide range of applications. The basics of this versatile bullet include a copper jacket encasing a core of lead. Since its introduction in the late 1800s, bullet manufacturers have tinkered with the thickness of the jacket and shape of the bullet to produce cup-and-core bullets that perform in a variety of hunting scenarios. These include everything from fragmenting, ballistic-type varmint bullets, such as Hornady’s V-Max, to elk- and moose-capable meat missiles, such as the Nosler Partition and the Remington Core-Lokt.

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Bonded bullets, often referred to as controlled-expansion bullets, were designed to deliver the terminal performance of the traditional cup-and-core design while delivering the deep-penetrating ability that they often lacked. Bonded bullets appear similar in design but differentiate themselves by bonding the lead core to the copper jacket. The result is a slower, controlled bullet expansion and subsequent deeper penetration. Popular bonded bullets include the Federal Terminal Ascent, the Nosler AccuBond, and the Swift A-Frame. With the appropriate cartridge and bullet size, these projectiles are built to take on everything from dainty antelope on up to the giant Yukon moose.



The idea behind a solid copper or monolithic bullet was to create a projectile purposely built to break bone and punch through dense muscle while still creating a sizeable wound channel. Since their introduction, monolithic projectiles have gained a lot of popularity for delivering devastating terminal performance on the biggest mammals around the world. Besides their proven terminal-performance track record, a solid copper bullet also offers hunters a non-toxic bullet alternative. Some of the best monolithic projectiles include the new Hornady CX, the Barnes TSX, the Winchester Extreme Point, and the Nosler E-Tip.

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Ethan Smith is a seasoned marine veteran, professional blogger, witty and edgy writer, and an avid hunter. He spent a great deal of his childhood years around the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona. Watching active hunters practise their craft initiated him into the world of hunting and rubrics of outdoor life. He also honed his writing skills by sharing his outdoor experiences with fellow schoolmates through their high school’s magazine. Further along the way, the US Marine Corps got wind of his excellent combination of skills and sought to put them into good use by employing him as a combat correspondent. He now shares his income from this prestigious job with his wife and one kid. Read more >>