Basic Bullet Sizes, Calibers & Types (Explained)

bullets

Matching the right bullet sizes for your gun can be tricky. It’s never going to be an easy task, whether you’re just getting started buying guns or you’ve owned guns for a while.

Bullets and guns are evolving daily, so it can be hard to keep track of it all. Here’s a guide to explain how to buy the right bullets for your guns.

3 bullets on a wooden table

Most people don’t realize how many different kinds of bullets there are, which is why they buy the wrong kind of ammo.

Bullet Calibers

For guns, caliber means the diameter of the barrel and the diameter of the bullet that is going through it. It’s usually in inches or millimeters, depending on if your country uses the metric system or the imperial system. Calibers are just bullet sizes, but that isn’t what they’re called in an actual sense. This is because the bullet is just a metal projectile. 

The round that you fire is called the cartridge. It includes the casing, powder, and primer. For a casual shooter, it’s not easy to understand and you might end up buying the wrong bullet size. There are different types of calibers, and each of them has its advantages and disadvantages. 

The rifle cartridge’s shooting process mainly involves the rifle and the cartridge. The rifle is obviously very important, but the cartridge is the key to this entire process. When buying cartridges, there is always a wide selection to choose from. There are small calibers and large calibers; it all depends on what you’ll be shooting at. 

When choosing a caliber, you should consider:

  • Energy: this means the approximate power of each round
  • Bullet weight: this is typically measured in grains, with 7,000 consisting of a pound. The highest level trait, in this case, will be the stopping power, which means the number of bullets it will take for you to hit the target
  • Velocity: this is the precise speed of the bullet in feet/second
  • Price point: this is the price of a single round

Common Bullet Caliber Sizes

While there are many types of calibers in the market today, you’re more than likely to use only a few kinds in your lifetime. This is because many people use their guns for the same reasons: game hunting, sporting, and self-defense. Some of the common calibers are used for these same reasons. 

The .22 long rifle is the most popular in terms of units that have been sold. It’s a small round that has a low recoil output for rifles and handguns. This caliber has a rimfire instead of a centerfire, and this is because the firing pin is designed to hit the rim of the case and not the center. 

This kind of rifle cartridge is loved for its compact size and high speed; it’s also very easy to handle. It’s a great choice for beginners who are looking for a caliber that will always be easy to use. It has the power to achieve whatever your goals are. This cartridge is good for firearm training, recreational shooting, and small game hunting. Because of this, it’s sold in bulk. 

Its loads come in different variants, ranging from subsonic or target rounds to high speed (about 1200 to 1310 feet) to hyper/ultra velocity (over 1400 feet). The subsonic rounds are smaller in size and obviously slower. That is why they come fitted with extra-heavy bullets in order to make it easy for them. The bullets are usually of about 46 to 61 grain. 

This caliber is meant for firing at smaller targets, like snakes, rats, and birds. It’s more commonly used in target shooting. It can do a lot of harm to human targets; it can actually kill. Because of this, it’s best to be extra careful when you’re around people. 

a military soldier holding a gun

The .30 carbine is very popular among the military.

.30 carbine is not as common these days, but it has a great history. For example, it was used in M1 carbines during World War 2. It was really popular up until the Korean War. While it might not be used as frequently these days, it’s still the best option for people who use an M1. 

It was the first personal defense weapon to come on the market, and the armed forces loved it so much because it wouldn’t interfere with their tasks and duties. The caliber is handy and lightweight, weighing slightly more than 5 pounds. It also has non-corrosive primers, which is something that couldn’t be said about other calibers that the military used back then. 

Now, it’s still as great. Loading and reloading it is very simple and easy because it comes with an economical plinker. It can also be used with fast-burning propellants. This caliber is also able to maintain a consistent accuracy when supported with Winchester 110 grain FMJ bullets. It weighs 110 grains, has a velocity of 2,000 feet per second, has an energy of 1300 Joules, and has a price point of 40 cents per round.  

.25 ACP is a centerfire pistol caliber that is semi-rimmed and straight-walled. ACP stands for Automatic Colt Pistol. It was designed for the first blowback pistols that didn’t have a breach locking mechanism. This caliber is a little bigger than the .22 and has a little more power. It was designed to at least duplicate the performance of the .22. 

There are just a few guns that can use this size of caliber. Because of this, it’s a little more expensive. The best benefit to this is that it’s very reliable, especially when it comes to its centerfire casings. When compared to the .22 again, it has a slightly higher stopping power. It’s also short-ranged and low-powered, which means it’s less dangerous when used on humans. 

This is a great choice for personal home defense handguns. It’s very reliable, and it makes for a very compact gun that is lightweight. .300 BLK came on the market just 6 years ago, so it’s a very recent addition to the world of rifles. Its main goal is to introduce the larger .30 caliber round to the AR platform. It’s able to provide great control to most modern magazines.

It weighs 125 grains and has a velocity of 2,200 feet per second. It has an energy of 1360 Joules and a price point of 70 cents per round. The caliber is gaining lots of popularity because of its flexibility and power. It’s able to perform in many different conditions. It can use adjustable gas blocks to give it even more flexibility. Its subsonic bullet is able to over-penetrate and expand under, which is what makes this caliber a shooting range firearm. 

With lots of practice, you can load this really fast. This is very helpful if you’re in a hurry to defend yourself. Its potential for self-defense is very high. Its carbine brings more to the fight than the defensive pistol. For example, you can add a AR 15 pistol to your .300 BLK to make it work even better for you. 

.380 ACP is great for anyone who prefers bigger bullet sizes. It’s sometimes called the 9mm short, and its popularity has grown so much in recent years after the arrival of different pocket pistols. It’s loved by lots of people and is entertaining. 

It has low recoil and can penetrate deeply when shot at close range. However, it’s a low power round. Based on the nature of guns that are used to shoot it, it won’t benefit you much if it’s not shot at close range. But, there is a catch. The .380 ACP has a great carry size because it’s compact and lightweight. 

When compared to modern pistol cartridges, it has less stopping power. It still remains one of the most popular self-defense cartridges for shooters who prefer to use lightweight pistols with recoil they can manage easily. .223 Remington or .56x45mm is available in both military and civilian grades. It’s a very accurate cartridge that has the capability of shooting softly. The round is considered inhumane, which means that hunters in some states aren’t allowed to use it for big game hunting. However, you can use it at home to shoot at garden dwelling pests and anything else. 

Because it’s not used for hunting, this round isn’t very popular. Although, it does have long-range accuracy, which makes it a safe option for people who might want to use it for self-defense. Its bullet weight is 55-62 grains and its speed is 3,100 feet per second. It has an energy of 1.770 Joules and a price point of 30 cents per round. 

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The 9mm is mostly used by law enforcement around the world.

The official name for this caliber is 9mm Luger or the 9x9mm Parabellum, which is just a way to tell it apart from the other 9mm rounds in use today. It’s a very good round for anyone who wants to enjoy some while shooting at close range. Because of this, it’s also good for self-defense. It’s the standard use bullet in NATO countries and most law enforcement in the world. It’s standard use for law enforcement because it’s mild in its shooting. 

It’s the same size as what is used in the .380 and the .38 special. The only difference is the amount of gunpowder that they use. The caliber weight varies between 115 and 147 grains, and its stopping power varies too. The bullet is very affordable and has very low recoil. These are the types of bullets that can be used in many different guns. You can also use a 9mm gun for a concealed carry. 

.40 Smith & Wesson was initially designed for the FBI as a compact 10mm cartridge. It’s been very popular, especially with law enforcement agencies in the United States, Australia, and Canada. You can get this powerful cartridge that has more kick than most popular handgun cartridges in use today, even the 9mm. 

You’ll love it because it’s cheap and lightweight. The weight varies between 155 and 180 grains. Its price point is only about 30 cents per round. Most FBI agents still prefer the 9mm cartridge. This is because it’s able to shoot faster and more accurately when compared to the .40 S&W.

However, the .40 S&W is still a better option when it comes to more manageable recoil and more energy. It has rightfully earned the status of the most ideal cartridge for personal defense and law enforcement after undergoing a series of tests. 

62x51mm or .308 Winchester is the civilian version of a cartridge that was used by the United States’ military, 7.62. However, it’s larger and better looking than the NATO round. The .308 is the most preferred caliber for snipers all over the world. It has a speed of between 2,600 to 2,700 ft/s and an energy of between 3,300 and 3, 500 Joules. Its price point is 75 cents per round, and its bullet weight is between 147 and 175 grains.

It costs more than most cartridges because of its size and power. When paired with its fierce recoil, these are the reasons why it’s not as popular as it should be. Although, you will love its knockdown power and extended range. Its pros are enough to make up for its cons. 

.45 ACP was designed for the popular 1911 pistol. It has a great history, is big in size, and has great stopping power. It weighs 230 grains, and it has moderate recoil. It requires some gun shooting skills, so it might not be the best choice for beginning shooters. The price point is 40 cents, and this caliber is recommended for self- defense and practice. 

.357 magnum is a big improvement from the .38 special because the .38 special was mainly designed for revolvers. It gained popularity for its great stopping power, and the price point is 80 cents. The price is worth it because it has decent recoil. 

bullets

Different types of bullets work better in certain situations.

Common Bullet Types

Hollowpoint bullets are designed to expand when they hit the target. Because of its stopping power, they are mostly used by police officers. They are also great for those who have guns for home defense and concealed carry. These bullets are viewed as the most dangerous bullets for home defense; however, they are the safest to use in the care of an attack.

They are able to stop an attacker much quicker, and every bullet that you shoot does more damage than the last. Full metal jacket bullets are the most common kinds of bullets on the market today. You’ll find this bullet in most homes over all the others. It comes with a soft center metal that is protected by a harder outside metal. 

This type of bullet is usually round, pointy, or flat. They usually cut small channels through the target, and they are good for short-range shooting. However, they aren’t the best option to use in self-defense scenarios. One advantage of this bullet is that it’s mostly surrounded by copper, which is used to prevent lead from depositing itself in the barrel when you fire your gun. 

Open tip bullets usually have an opening at the top from the way they were manufactured. The openings are really small, which means that they never expand. They’re made from small cups whereby the bottom part of those cups forms the bottom of the bullet. 

They’re called OTMs (Open Tip Matches) because they’re mainly loved by long-distance shooters. They are very consistent, which makes them great when one is shooting hundreds of yards. These bullets are used for target shooting. The military can use them, but hunters aren’t allowed to because it’s thought of as a hollow bullet. 

Soft point bullet is jacketed and expands once it hits its target. It has a soft metal core that is enclosed by a very strong metal jacket, which is left open at the front tip. This bullet is expected to expand once it touches flesh, which means that it can cause a massive wound. 

Ballistic tip bullets give you the aerodynamics of an FMJ bullet and the stopping power of the hollowpoint bullet. It’s basically a hollowpoint bullet that has been covered in plastic to look like the FMJ bullet. It’s mainly used for hunting. The bullet is long with a boat-like tail, which means that most of its weight is in the rear. The bullet is sharp, with a plastic tip that’s able to retain its shape for great consistency. 

Final Verdict:

You need to pick the best bullet caliber and type for you. If you want a rifle caliber, you should probably consider the .22 long rifle. If you want a handgun caliber, you should consider the 9 mm or the .25 ACP. As far as bullet types go, you should get the ballistic tip if you’re going hunting. 

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    Riley Draper

    Riley Draper is a writer and entrepreneur from Chattanooga, Tennessee. As a world traveler, he has been to more than fifty countries and hiked some of the most elusive trails in the world. He is the co-founder of WeCounsel Solutions and has published work in both national and global outlets, including the Times Free Press, Patch, and Healthcare Global. When he's not writing, he's probably on a hiking trip or climbing in the mountains.