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Ballistics, Cartridge, and Ammunition Components P1 Case

Ballistics, Cartridge, & Ammunition Components P1: Case

The Components of a Cartridge

Called a cartridge, not bullet.

  • Cartridge is entire thing
  • Bullet is the projectile
  • Case is what is left over after it is shot.
  • I don’t really care, and mess it up myself
  • Learn the proper names, because it makes research easier.

Again, The whole thing, bullet, case, powder and all is called a cartridge.



The Case

The biggest part of the cartridge is the case.

It is the big brass hollow thing that holds your charge.  

The Neck

Part of the Case that resembles a bottle neck is called the neck.

The Rim

The brass ring at bottom flat part of the case is the rim.

  • The rim will usually have writing on it.


Small metal circle in the center of the rim is called the primer.

  • The Primer is hit by a pin and ignites the powder charge
  • Two different types of primer: boxer and berdan.
  • Boxer Primers are easier for reloading.
  • Both boxer and berdan primers today use similar, non-corrosive compounds.

Center-Fire vs Rim-Fire Cartridges


  • Center-Fire Cartridges have the small primer in the center.
  • No visible primer is called a “rim-fire” cartridge.
  • In rim-fired cartridges, the entire rim has the priming compound.

ammo components

Most Ammunition is center-fired. Here are some rim-fired cartridges:

Rimfire Ammunition From Left to right 22 short 22 long rifle 22 wmr 17 hm2 17 hmr

Rimfire ammunition, from left to right, .22 Short, .22 Long Rifle, .22 WMR, .17 HM2, .17 HMR

The Cup

The indention around the bottom of the case above the rim is called the cup.

This is commonly used by auto and semi-autos to eject the case after firing.

Firearm Cartridge Powder, Black Powder

Inside the case is housed the powder charge.

Black Powder

  • Older cartridges used black powder.
  • Products of combustion are 55% solid products
  • Leaves thick, heavy coating that holds moisture and rusts the barrel of firearms.
  • Until 1920s, primers still used black powder.

Smokeless powder

  • More accurately called propellant
  • Products of combustion are mainly gaseous.
  • Not free of smoke, just less smoke.

Ammunition Powders for Reloading

Ammunition Powders for Reloading

The Bullet

The bullet is the shiny copper part that is located inside the neck of the case. It has lead inside it.

Bullets can be many shapes:

  • It can be pointed on the nose
  • Rounded
  • Flat nosed
  • Hollow pointed (the nose is drilled out and notched.)  

Lead is used in a bullet core because it is cheaper to cast and is heavy.

Penetration Power

Penetration of a bullet is affected by many different factors.

  • Weight
  • Jacket
  • Shape
  • Many other ballistic designs (beyond the scope today)

Types of Bullet Designs

  • Full Metal Jacket
  • Open Tip (opposite of fmj)
  • Hollow Point
  • Soft Point
  • Ballistic Tip

Full Metal Jacket Bullet (FMJ)

  • The entire bullet core (the lead) is encased in a copper jacket.
  • There is no softening of the nose, or tip.
  • Use by the military because it is a very efficient way of getting penetration. It is thought to be more humane and to cost more for every soldier that is injured, instead of killed.
Hague Convention, and the Geneva Convention
  • Treaties between many governments that are typically followed.
  • Requires no hollow point or expanding rounds.

Open Tip (Match) Bullet (OTM)

  • Opposite of metal jacket.
  • More of the core is covered, but the opening is at the tip.
  • Held at higher standard in manufacturing.

Hollow Point Bullet (HP)

Great for defense or hunting.

Similar manufacturing process as OTM

Exaggerated opening at front of the bullet

HP opens upon impact causing larger shock wave and wound

Soft Point Bullet (SP)

Think of a HP filled in with lead and protruding a little.

SP has better ballistic properties than HP

The flattening of the bullet isn’t as dramatic as HP.

Ballistic Tip

Use a Ballistic Tip for FMJ accuracy and HP benefits at the same time.

It is a small piece of plastic stuck in the tip of the bullet.

Others Bullet Types:

  • Frangible- Compressed Copper granules. Shatters on impact.
  • Steel core / Armor Piercing- Instead of a lead core, it is a solid piece of steel.
  • Tracer- The round is painted by a chemical that burns as it flies downrange. It can keep burning after landing and can start fires.

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Ken is addicted to fitness and mountain biking. He is such a thrill seeker, people are starting to be concerned!He enjoys MTBing, Hiking, Climbing, Geocaching, Orienteering, Weight Lifting, and Wilderness Survival.

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