HGR 035 - Bullet Types & Performance

HGR 035 - Bullet Types & Performance

Hello and welcome to episode 35 of Handgun Radio. I’m your host Ryan Michad from the wild woods of Central Maine, and this is your home for all the news, information and discussion in the handgunning world.

This week, I have with me Steve Remy, the Marketing Director of the Firearms Radio Network, to discuss the different bullet types and the performance they offer.

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Week in Review:


  • Attended the preview of the upcoming James D. Julia firearms auction in Fairfield, ME this past weekend. I got the chance to see and handle many different rare firearms. Some of the highlights were a WWII vintage MP-40 in full working order, a fully-automatic HK MP5, a M60E3 with two replacement barrels, an Ithaca Auto & Burglar gun as well. There were many unfired Colt DA Revolvers on display, with many Lugers, Mauser Broomhandles, Colt Percussion pistols and much, much more. Go check out the catalog at James D. Julia website!
  • I broke ANOTHER gun today. My Colt 1903 Pocket Hammerless broke its firing pin today. There is a video that will be up on the YouTube channel. Go check it out!
  • Did the new We Like Shooting contest this weekend. This contest involves trying to shoot a smiley face like Riggs does in Lethal Weapon. I used my Model 19 just like Murtaugh had in the movies, and I didn’t do too terrible. Go check it out at the link above!


  • Preparing for next weeks intermediate handgun training, 8 hours of training with 500 rounds. Not sure what to expect and not sure what level “intermediate” actually is.  I’ll either reinforce current behaviors or learned now ones.
  • Diving into new job as Director of Marketing. Continuing to make industry contacts and bring them to various shows on the network.

Main Topic: Bullet Types & Performance

This will just be a basic overview/discussion of the various types of bullets that are out there, along with their advantages & disadvantages. Broken up into categories such as bullet shape, bullet material, hollowpoints vs. roundnose, etc.

Bullet Shapes:

  • Round Nose - The standard bullet shape for many years. If you were a cop in the 30’s, 40’s 50’s and even into the 70’s, you probably carried a revolver of some sort carrying .38 Special Lead Round Nose. Round nose bullets do hit the target, but they tend to pass right through, and depending upon the material used in their construction, they may not deform at all. Jim Cirillo noted that in his first gunfight, two of his .38 Spl. roundnose bullets glanced around the skull of the robber he shot, with the third one actually putting the criminal down. The round nose is easily deflected. Some people choose to use round nose bullets in calibers such as .25 and .32 because hollowpoints won’t reliably expand at the low velocities that those calibers produce, and penetration is key with those small calibers.
  • Full Wadcutter - The standard target bullet for shooting competitions, especially in the heyday of PPC and Bullseye competition. The perfectly circular shape of the bullets face cut a clean round hole in the target for easy scoring.  A typical target load used to be a 148 grain double-ended or hollowbase wadcutter, with 2.7 grains of Bullseye powder. Wadcutters resemble a soup can in shape, and can have flat ends on both sides, or have a hollow base on one side. It is thought that the hollow base helps to stabilize the bullet, much in the manner that a birdie from Badminton does. Some people also think a wadcutter bullet is a great self-defense round from a snubnose revolver.
  • Semi-Wadcutter - A semi-wadcutter bullet retains the ability to punch a fairly circular hole in a piece of paper, but also has a truncated cone shaped nose, much like an inverted flowerpot. Semi-wadcutters were popular, especially in hollowpoint form, for police officers before there were jacketed hollowpoints as we know them today.
  • Hollowpoints - The typical self-defense and hunting type bullet. The hollowpoint can be made out of several different materials; jacketed or unjacketed (or semi-jacketed!) and is designed to deform upon impact with the target, transferring the largest amount of energy possible to the intended target. Some people prefer full lead hollowpoints, others prefer jacketed hollowpoints like the Speer Gold Dot or Hornady XTP lines.

Bullet Materials

  • Lead - The most common and economic material to make bullets out of, lead has been used for hundreds of years in the history of firearms. Lead can be made harder or softer by adding different materials to the mix. This can allow the manufacturer to tailor the bullets to their intended use. Some people still prefer the standard pressure, 158 grain lead hollowpoint in .38 Special snubnose revolvers as a defensive load. It works.
  • Jacketed & Semi-Jacketed Lead (jacketed versus plated / copper vs nylon)- This is simply a lead bullet with a copper jacket over it. The bullet can take many different designs, from a jacketed hollowpoint, a semi-jacketed hollowpoint, or even a semi-jacketed soft point. Your typical self-defense loads will be a jacketed or semi-jacketed hollowpoint.
  • Frangibles & Other Sintered Type Metals - There exists a need for ammunition that disintegrates when it hits a hard target close to the shooter. Used in shoot houses and the like, frangibles are typically made of some mixture of sintered metal, which makes it extremely fragile. The instant the bullet strikes a hard target, it essentially turns into dust, making ricochets virtually impossible. Frangibles typically aren’t recommended for self defense, because they usually have a lower than average bullet weight and don’t retain energy as well.

+P or No +P?:

  • There is a huge debate over the use of +P ammunition. If your firearm is rated for +P, IT IS OKAY TO USE IT! However, you need to be aware that the use of +P will accelerate wear on your firearm. Factory +P ammunition will not cause your gun to blow up or anything like that, but it will definitely stress the parts more than standard pressure ammunition. I prefer a standard pressure 158 grain lead hollowpoint in my snubnose revolvers. +P just isn’t necessary for me, but your mileage may vary.
  • I shoot more .38 Special +P out of my revolvers, even if they are chambered for .357 Magnum.

This is not a comprehensive list, but a short primer for those who may be confused by the advantages and disadvantages of the different types out there.

Gun Guy Radio Bond Arms Backup Givewaway. 45ACP 2 shot derringer-type handgun. Bead blasted matte black/steel finish, 2.5” barrell and 4.5” OAL.  $400 MSRP.  All reviews must be submitted by April 30, 2014; winner will be announced May 4, 2014 on Gun Guy Radio.  Firearmsinsider.tv/submit.


  • Dont forget to shop Brownells using our affiliate link, www.handgunradio.com/brownells
  • Make sure you shop Paladin Press using our affiliate link www.handgunradio.com/books for all your firearms-related reading needs!
  • Leave us a review on iTunes!
  • Listen to Tactical Paradise on the Firearms Radio Network!
  • Be sure to visit the Firearms Insider for review and SHOT Show 2014 coverage!
  • We are also doing the first ever Handgun Radio giveaway! We have 10 weeks worth of products for this giveaway so the way in which we conduct the contest will vary. We are giving away EDC Tape which was very generously donated by Anthony of the Firearms Radio Network. Anthony states “I came up with EDC tape after I was at a concert with my wife and her sandal broke , I thought if I only had a few inches of tape I could fix it, and the idea was born. I started making them for family and friends and realized it might be worth trying to market a few. Each roll is approx 24" of brand name duck tape. No bigger than a roll of Chapstick. Currently we are producing them in black ,camo ,and  pink. Available is packs of 3 or 5 for $15-$18  at our website Edctape.com”
  • This week’s giveaway and winner will be announced when the podcast version of this has been released. It will be added to the end.
  • Winner is Listener Jim from Facebook. I will be in contact with you for you to claim your prize. The next weeks contest is to leave a iTunes review by next Monday Night!
  • Until Next week, have fun and SAFE SHOOTING!!!