The Anatomy of Ammunition

There are so many types of bullets that people often don’t know which bullet they should choose for their purposes. Furthermore, one type of bullet could be suitable for many different uses. However, where the anatomy of a bullet is concerned, there are similarities between all ammunition.

The word “bullet” originates from the French word “boulette” which translates literally as “little ball.” Bullets used in firearms have been around for hundreds of years. Bullets generally consist of 4 main parts:

  • Projectile
  • Cartridge case
  • Powder
  • Primer


The projectile at the tip of the ammunition is referred to as the bullet. Bullets are usually discerned by their diameters such as nine millimeter or .357 inches. They are also distinguished by their styles such as full metal jacket or hollow point. The material of the bullet is usually lead alloy, and in some cases, it has a jacket made of copper alloy. Some bullets are manufactured out of lead-free alloys for special purposes.

The cartridge case

This part of the ammunition is referred to by many names including brass, shell and round. The cartridge contains a housing for the primer at the rear. It has a hole that connects the primer pocket to the inside of the cartridge, and the head can be designed in several different ways. These include rimless, semi-rimmed, belted and rebated. Rebated heads have a smaller diameter than the case.

The body of the cartridge case can come in different styles including straight, tapered or bottleneck. Straight cases have a uniform diameter all the way up its body. The inside of a case should have a uniform thickness up to the point where the base of the bullet sits. The area near the bottom of the primer pocket is called the web.


The two most common types of gun powder in ammunition are black powder and smokeless powder. Black powder consists of charcoal, potassium nitrate and sulfur. Smokeless powder contains a base material containing nitrocellulose and sometimes nitroglycerine. Once gunpowder is ignited, it burns very quickly, which creates a rapid expansion of gas that propels the bullet at supersonic velocity.


The primer is a round part that is contained within the center of the head of the cartridge case. The primer mixture ignites when it is struck by the firing pin of the weapon. The resulting flame ignites the powder when the weapon is shot.

Even if you’re not a gun dealer or craftsman, knowing the anatomy of ammunition can be helpful. If you’re a gun enthusiast or sportsman, these terms can be helpful the next time you’re choosing ammunition. Choosing the right ammunition is sure to help you become a better shooter.

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