Different Types of Ammo – What Are They & What Does Each Do?

When it comes to guns there are tons of different types of ammo for you to consider. What type of ammunition you choose will depend on what kind of shooting you plan on doing with it. At first different types of ammo can seem confusing and overwhelming. Once you break it down though, it is not as confusing as you may think. It actually is quite simple.

Different Types of Ammo. Common Questions.

What types of ammo for rifles are there? What types of ammo for handguns are there?

Why choose one type of ammo for rifles and handguns versus another?

What types of ammo for shotguns are there?

Why choose one type of ammo for shotguns versus another?

Does brand of ammunition matter?

What are popular brands of ammunition?

What are the Different Types of Ammo For Rifles? What Types Of Ammo For Handguns Are There?

I put rifle and handgun ammunition under the same category, because handguns and rifles both use bullets. You have the same options of ammunition types with both.

There are many different types of ammo you can use for rifles and handguns. They include:

    • Full Metal Jacket (FMJ): A very aerodynamic projectile where the tip of the bullet is covered, or “jacketed” in copper.
    • Open Tip: Projectiles with an opening at the tip of the bullet.
    • Hollow point: Similar to the open tip bullet, however the opening of these projectiles is much larger.


  • Soft Point: A bullet in which some of the lead from it’s center is coming out the front of projectile.


  • Ballistic Point: Bullet with an open front that is covered by a pointed, plastic tip.

Why choose one type of ammo for rifles and handgun versus others?

Full Metal Jacket ammunition is a popular choice for the shooting range due to their low cost.  This allows you to get a lot of practice in without spending a lot of money. Because of their aerodynamic shape, FMJ’s are popular long range bullets. For this same reason though, they are not recommended for home defense or hunting. These bullets often will go straight through their target, leaving the animal or perpetrator only slightly wounded.

Shooters often choose Open Tip bullets for long range shooting. They perform very similar to FMJ’s but are better quality bullets.

One of the most popular type of home defense and hunting bullets are Hollow Points. They way Hollow Points work is that when they are fired the opening at the front of the bullet forces the projectile to expand, thus causing a big impact. A bigger impact, means a bigger wound, which is perfect for home defense and hunting.  

While great for home defense and hunting, Hollow Points are not recommended for long distance shooting. This type of ammunition creates quite a bit of drag which makes shooting at long range not optimal.

Soft Point ammunition is an in between bullet of sorts. It is more accurate than Open Tip bullets due to the lead coming from the top of the bullet making it more aerodynamic, but less impactful than Hollow Points. In places where Hollow Points are illegal, this is a good bullet to use.

Ballistic Point bullets combine the FMJ bullet and the Hollow Point bullet. The opening at the the front of projectile allows for the projectile to expand on impact, causing a big wound, like with Hollow Points. And the plastic pointed tip that covers the opening, makes it aerodynamic and great at long ranges. Many hunters choose this type of bullet due to its long range capabilities and large impact.

What types of ammo for shotguns can you use?

Shotguns do not shoot bullets like rifles and handguns. Instead shotguns shoot shells. When it comes to shotguns there are three types of ammunition you can use:

    • Bird Shot: The smallest type of shotgun pellets. These shotgun shells are full of tiny spheres of metal. When the shell is shot from the gun, the tiny metal spheres scatter from the shell.


  • Buck Shot: Is very similar to bird shot. Instead of small pellets though, buckshot uses larger ones. There are not as many sphere that scatter when buck shot is fired due them being much larger than birdshot.
  • Slugs:  A shotgun bullet in which only one solid projectile gets shot from the gun. There are different variations of slugs, such as lead and rubber slug shots.

Why choose one type of ammo for shotguns versus another?

Most people use bird shot when hunting birds. Using a shell with only one projectile would make it extremely hard to hit a fast moving bird. You would have to be super accurate and be able to guess the birds movement pattern. Since hundreds of small metal spheres explode from a bird shot shell in various directions when fired, it gives you a greater chance of hitting a the small, moving target.

Because buck shot scatters a larger, and more impactful spray of metal pellets, it is usually used in hunting large animals, like deer. Buckshot is big enough to kill larger animals, but small enough to not blow it to pieces, like if used against a bird.

Slugs are very lethal types of shotgun shells, and are very similar bullets. For these reasons they are often used by hunters at long range. Some hunting areas however forbid this time of ammo, and instead require you use buck or bird shot.

What are popular brands of ammunition?

There are hundreds of brands of ammunition out there. Some of the most popular brands include:

  • Hornady
  • Remington
  • Winchester
  • Federal Premium
  • Nosler
  • Swift

Does brand of ammunition matter?

Many shooters will argue that brand name DEFINITELY matters, while others will disagree. For the most part many shooters will agree to some extent that as long as it is a big brand, or a well known brand you probably can not go wrong with the ammo.

Some people will argue for certain brands over others and they will have their varying reasons, but most of their reasoning comes down to personal preference. In truth, certain brands do make better bullets than other brands. In truth, you will like shooting certain brands over other brands. As you become more experienced in shooting, there may be certain things you like about various brands and you might create a preference.  Until then go with a popular brand, that is well-known, and well respected you will get decent ammunition.

Final Thoughts

There are many different types of ammo out there for you to choose from as you can now see. They all comes with their set of strength and weaknesses. When it comes down to it you will probably end up needing many different types of ammo. What you need will greatly depend on what you plan on shooting. Now you know what different types of ammo you should consider for your rifle, handgun, and/or shotgun and the various activities you plan on doing.