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.
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.
- Case:The container that holds all the other ammunition
components together. It’s usually made of brass, steel, copper, paper,
- 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.