Reloading Ammo-Bullet Basics Part 1
Perhaps the most expensive part of the cartridge is the
reloading brass casing itself. That’s also why it is often reused multiple
times until it is no longer safe to use. If the case is the most important
part, the bullet comes in a close second. Unfortunately, the bullet cannot be
reused. However, the job of the bullet is the most important.
bullet is what gets the job done downrange, whether that be puncturing a tin
can, a paper target, a groundhog, a big game animal, or even (heaven forbid)
another human being. The effectiveness of the cartridge rests upon the bullet.
Furthermore, the bullet is the prime determining factor of accuracy. Sure, case
uniformity, powder charge, and primers play a role, but the bullet has the most
effect when it comes to accuracy.
Today’s reloading shooter has a vast assortment of bullet
types to choose from for any caliber you need to reload. And, while there are
over a hundred rifle cartridges alone currently in use, many use the same
caliber of bullet. In part 1 of this 2-part series, we will look at
types that are not often used in reloading brass.
The Beginning Bullet
While it was once common to shoot round stones and pieces of
metal out of a gun, today we have several bullet types from which to choose
from. Often, the decision on bullet type is determined by what the round will
be used for. Let’s look at some common types and what they might be used for.
The lead Ball
Perhaps the first actually bullet shot from a gun, lead
balls are primarily used to be shot from muzzle loaders, though shotgun shells
filler with many lead (or steel) balls called bbs. There are
also some cap and ball revolvers used today, as well.
They are capable of excellent accuracy and pack plenty
of punch for small game hunting. The soft lead expands (flattens) readily upon
impact, and lead balls can inflict very lethal wounds.
Also primarily used in muzzleloading rifles, these lead
“conical balls” offer an increase in sectional density, along with an increased
weight. These two things combine
give conical bullets the ability to penetrate
deeper and retain more energy down range. However, the disadvantage of using
conical bullets is their decrease in accuracy. This stems from the fact that
it’s difficult to align the bullet perfectly with the bore as you seat the
bullet in the muzzle.
Modern Lead Bullets
The simplest bullet for modern cartridge firing guns is the
lead bullet still commonly used in revolvers. These are the direct descendants
of the black powder conical. Lead is a very soft metal, and it is rubbed off
bullet by the heat and friction of its trip down the bore. It jams into the
rifling grooves and degrades accuracy. It can also be difficult and time
consuming to remove. Modern lead bullets are usually not pure lead, commonly
being alloyed with 1.5-5% antimony to reduce the
leading that occurs at the
higher velocities (compared to black powder arms) achieved by most modern
cartridge arms. Lead bullets can be cast or swaged. Cast bullets usually
contain more antimony and leave less lead fouling in the bore after firing
Often, lead bullets are used in small calibers and
low-velocity rifles, such as the
.22 short, long, and long rifle cartridges.
This is because lead is cheap and easy to acquire. In part 2, we will look at
some of the more advanced bullet types in today’s shooting world.