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To select the correct cartridge for your rifle or handgun, carefully compare the barrel stamp on the firearm against the description on the ammunition box and the stamp on each cartridge.

Barrel stamps on gun barrels showing gauge and caliber designations
The rear of the shotgun barrel should be marked with the gauge and the length of the chamber.
Barrel stamps on gun barrels showing gauge and caliber designations
The barrel stamp of a rifle is usually stamped toward the rear of the barrel.

Bullets used in rifle and handgun cartridges come in various designs, sizes, and weights. The bullet usually is made of lead and may have a jacket made of copper, brass, or another metal. Bullets used for hunting game may have soft or hollow points designed to expand (mushroom) upon impact. Bullets used for target shooting usually have solid points that make smaller holes.

Common Types of Rifle Bullets

  • Pointed Soft Point: High velocity, accurate bullets with a flat travel path (trajectory); excellent mushrooming
  • Rounded Soft Point: Popular for low-velocity calibers; recommended for tubular magazines
  • Protected Tip: Highly accurate with excellent expansion
  • Full Metal Jacket: Maximum penetration without mushrooming; these bullets are illegal for big game hunting in most states

Common Types of Handgun Bullets

  • Roundnose Lead: Good penetration, little expansion
  • Full Metal Jacket: High penetration, no expansion
  • Semi-Wad Cutter: Balances penetration and expansion
  • Hollowpoint: Designed for high expansion on impact
  • Wad Cutter: Flat-ended, used for target shooting; creates clean hole in paper