Official Kansas Hunting Safety Course Link to Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks

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The following course material is for reference only. Please go to the new course to complete your Kansas certification.

What Is Ammunition?

Modern ammunition varies depending on the type of firearm. Rifles and handguns use a cartridge containing a single projectile (bullet). Shotguns use a shotshell containing either a single slug or a large number of small projectiles (shot or pellets). However, the basic components of cartridges and shotshells are similar.

Information to be found on the headstamp of a shotshell

cartridge: Ammunition used in modern rifles and handguns; a case containing primer, gunpowder, and a bullet
shotshell: Ammunition used in modern shotguns; a case containing primer, gunpowder, wad, and a slug or shot

Basic Components of Ammunition

The basic components of ammunition are the case, primer, powder, and projectile(s). Shotshells have an additional component called wad.

Diagram of basic components of both a cartridge and a shotshell
  • Case:The container that holds all the other ammunition components together. It’s usually made of brass, steel, copper, paper, or plastic.
  • Primer: An explosive chemical compound that ignites the gunpowder when struck by a firing pin. Primer may be placed either in the rim of the case (rimfire) or in the center of the base of the case (centerfire).
  • Gunpowder: A chemical mixture that burns rapidly and converts to an expanding gas when ignited. Modern smokeless powder will burn slowly when ignited in the open (outside of the case). Black powder is less stable and can be explosive when impacted or ignited in the open.
  • Projectile: The object(s) expelled from the barrel. A bullet is a projectile, usually containing lead, fired through a rifle or handgun barrel. A slug is a solid projectile, usually of lead, fired through a shotgun barrel. Shot is a group of lead, steel, tungsten alloy, or bismuth pellets fired through a shotgun barrel.
  • Wad: A seal and/or shot container made of paper or plastic separating the powder from the slug or shot in a shotshell. The wad prevents gas from escaping through the shot and holds the shot together as it passes through the barrel.

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Official hunting safety course for Kansas hunters last modified: August 25, 2011
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