There is a considerable variety of handgun ammo available, given the different pistol calibers available. It can get tricky figuring out which one you need. The type of handgun ammunition you will use depends on the type of firearm you have, and tends to be very specific.
The naming conventions used by the various manufacturers may be different but often refer to the same round.
For example, a .45 ACP is the same round as a .45 auto.
Everyone who shoots should have a basic understanding of the parts and uses of ammunition.
In the 1700s and early 1800s, shooters had to add the ball or bullet and gunpowder separately. When someone says bullet today, we envision a pointed piece of lead set into a brass cartridge filled with detonating powder to propel the piece of lead down the barrel of the gun and downrange.
This sort of self-contained ammunition didn’t appear until the early 1800s.
The rimfire cartridge became the first bullet that someone today would recognize and is still produced. The .22 Short was the first round manufactured in this manner. The round weighed only 29 grains, and you could only use it for hunting very small and vulnerable animals like squirrels or rabbits.
Eventually, manufacturers introduced other calibers including the .45 Colt, .44-40 ammunition, and more.
By the 1870s, companies like Colt began producing centerfire cartridges for revolvers.
Once companies began producing handguns in the same caliber as rifles, shooters could use the same ammunition for their rifles and pistols: A distinct advantage for the military and the frontiersman.
Since 1900 the basic design of handgun ammunition has not changed, although the types, calibers, weight, and more have been tested and marketed. Manufacturers have learned that slight differences in weight, number of grains of propellent, and other features an individual bullet can make a difference in accuracy and effectiveness.
Types Of Ammunition
There are two main types of ammunition, centerfire, and rimfire. Most of the components are the same, with one significant difference. Both types have an outer part, called the casing that contains everything. Inside, there is powder at the back and the bullet at the tip. Finally, there is the primer, which is where the differences occur.
The primer sets off the spark that ignites the powder, which propels the bullet. In a centrefire cartridge, the primer is located in the middle of the base. It can be seen as a small circle, which is the centerfire’s primary identifier. A rimfire has a weaker casing because it’s struck on the rim, crumpling it slightly and causing a spark to ignite the powder.
Rimfires are low calibers, with nothing more potent than a .22. If you want a more robust caliber than that, it will always be a centerfire. Each requires its own firearm as the striking hammer hits a different location.
It’s not uncommon to see a 9mm listed as a 9x19, and it can be confusing to see at first but is quickly explained. When you see ammo, that’s one number by another. It is merely width and length in millimeters. So in terms of that 9x19, it’s nine millimeters wide by nineteen millimeters long.
Further confusion can happen based on the name. For example, you will see 9mm Luger and 9mm Parabellum ammunition sold by different manufacturers. The words “luger” and “parabellum” are merely naming conventions and have nothing to do with how the ammunition is made. Both brands will fit your 9mm handgun.
The type of weapon you shoot and the shooter’s accuracy depend to an extent on the characteristics of the bullet caliber’s specific type. If you have a concealed carry permit and often travel in an urban environment, you may want a lower velocity bullet that won’t carry as far.
The muzzle energy and velocity can vary depending on the type of round. The technical performance of the ammunition varies. The difference is usually in the cartridge.
.38 Caliber Ammunition
For example, when people mention .38 specials, used by police officers for decades until the 9mm weapon, with its larger magazine capacity, they refer to the cartridge. A .38 special cartridge is longer than some of the other types of .38 caliber bullets.
However, the diameter of a .38 is essentially the same. Any .38 round should fit in a handgun made for .38 caliber bullets.
Even so, .38 diameters have some slight variance though within tolerances of any particular handgun or rifle made for that round. The bullet weight of the rifle or handgun cartridge may also give the bullet different flight characteristics while moving downrange to the target.
The amount of powder, type of cartridge, and other components of a particular round may give you the best results depending on the gun you use, your personal shooting style, distance to the target, and if you are using the round for hunting, target shooting, or something else.
.45 Caliber Ammunition
The .45 caliber round has been in use for over a century not only as a handgun round but also as a bullet in some of the military’s most successful machine guns and rifles.
Manufacturers make a lot of different types of .45 caliber cartridges of varying masses. The mass of the round has a profound effect on the velocity and terminal performance.
For example, a 165 grain Federal Hydar-shock round travels at 1,060 feet per second.
The 230 grain Winchester FMJ round travels at 835 feet per second.
Home Defense and Ammo Sizes
Although many think of some sort of 12 gauge tactical shotgun when looking for a good home defense weapon, others like to keep a handgun available.
A .357 magnum or a 40 S&W will usually stop an intruder in his or her tracks. Many use soft point ammunition to improve the stopping power. If you live in an apartment building or have children or other people living in the house, a lower velocity round will decrease the risk of a stray shot penetrating the walls and potentially harming others.