Thursday, June 30, 2016

Reading Ammo Boxes And Choosing

Ammunition Brand: Ammunition is a branded product made by several different companies. This means the name of the manufacturer is often, but not always, a dominant feature of the label. Many shooters develop a brand preference once they learn which ammunition functions best in their particular firearm, so which brand you buy can be important if you are purchasing a gift for someone else.
Bullet Diameter & Cartridge Name: The diameter of a bullet, or how wide it is across its circular base, is used as a defining feature of the cartridge name to make quick ammo identification easy. Similar calibers are usually grouped together on dealers’ shelves. Bullet diameter is usually represented on a box using one of two measurement systems: Caliber or Millimeters.
Caliber, the more common measurement for ammunition developed in the United States, is a decimal point representation of hundredths of an inch. For example, if a bullet has a 0.38-inch diameter, it would be said to be a .38-caliber bullet. When saying the name out loud, the decimal is left out, “ I would like a box of thirty-eight Special ammo, please.” Sometimes bullet caliber is displayed to two decimal points (.38 Special, .44 Magnum, .45 ACP) or to three decimal points (.223 Remington, .357 Ruger, .327 Federal).
The other measurement system used for bullet width is Millimeters. This tends to be applied to cartridges developed overseas. Bullet diameter in Millimeters can be displayed as a whole number (9 mm, 10 mm) or as a decimal point (7.62 Tokarev, 6.5 Creedmoor).
Most of the modern ammunition available today will be loaded with bullets ranging from the very small .17 Caliber bullets to large .50 Caliber projectiles. Why is the bullet diameter so important? A cartridge with a bullet that is too large for the gun will not fit into its chamber, while a cartridge with a bullet that's too small will rattle around the barrel as it flies down the barrel and produce rotten accuracy. More importantly, loading the wrong cartridge into a gun may cause it to literally explode. There are no approximations when it comes to ammunition. The caliber numbers on the box must match the numbers on the gun exactly.
The full name of the cartridge may, or may not, have more to it than the bullet caliber. For example, the 9 mm Luger cartridge is often shortened to just 9 mm, or the word following the caliber is abbreviated to conserve space on the label. Cartridge names often include the name of the individual who invented it (.475 Linebaugh), the gun company that developed it (.30-.30 Winchester), or a descriptive term (.221 Fireball).
Bullet Weight: In most cases, bullet weight is represented in Grains. This is an archaic unit of measurement that's not commonly used any more. It takes 437.5 Grains to equal an Ounce, and the larger the number of Grains listed on the box, the heavier the bullet will be. Grains can be spelled out completely on a label, or abbreviated (Grain, Gr, gr, gr.). However it's represented, the letters G and R will be in there somewhere. Shooters pay attention to how light or heavy a bullet is because the weight changes the performance down range.

Bullet Style: How a bullet is shaped, and what it's made of, will affect how it behaves when striking an intended target. Far too many bullet style abbreviations are available to list here, especially since manufacturers keep developing new ones. But here are a few common abbreviations used for handgun and rifle ammunition:
- FMJ (Full-Metal Jacket): A lead bullet wrapped, or "jacketed," in a thin covering of copper or brass along the top and sides, leaving the base exposed. Jacketed bullets can have a rounded or flat-nose shape. Copper is soft, but it doesn't melt like lead does at high velocity, so the jacket makes the bullet much stronger and allows it to travel much faster. These bullets are commonly used in practice grade ammunition.
- TMJ (Total-Metal Jacket): The same idea as a Full-Metal Jacket, but the base of the bullet is covered in copper as well.
- JSP (Jacketed-Soft Point): A bullet with the sides jacketed in copper, but the lead nose of the core is left exposed in order to allow the bullet to expand when it hits the target. These tend to be used for hunting.
- SJHP (Semi-Jacketed Hollow Point): The same design as the Jacketed-Soft Point, but a cavity, or "hollow" is cut or molded into the nose of the bullet. The combination of the exposed lead and the hollow point cause the bullet to expand more rapidly. These bullets are commonly used for self-defense and hunting.
- JHP (Jacketed Hollow Point): This is the most popular type of self-defense and hunting bullet on the market. Imagine a Full-Metal Jacket bullet that has a hole drilled in the nose, so that the jacket covers the whole bullet, but there is a cavity in the nose. Several designs are available, all of which are intended to allow the bullet to expand rapidly.
- FRAN (Frangible): A relatively recent addition, these bullets are made of compressed metallic dust. They look like Full-Metal Jacket bullets, but they are supposed to disintegrate back into dust when they hit a solid target. This disintegration is intended to reduce the chances of ricochet or over penetration. These are popular for use at indoor ranges and as training rounds.

Reading a shot gun shell box.

Generally, the first number on the top of the box identifies the gauge of the shells in the box. Gauge is a measurement of the diameter of the shell case. The shotgun gauges manufactured today are: 10, 12, 16, 20, 28 and .410 bore. The larger the number, the smaller the shell diameter. The gauge of the ammunition must match the gauge of the shotgun which can be found on the shotgun barrel. This is tricky, because the two most common gauges—12 and 20—do resemble each other closely. Never place a smaller gauge shell in a larger gauge shotgun. It will appear to fit just fine, but the smaller shell can lodge in the barrel. If a correctly sized shell is then placed in the shotgun and fired, an extremely dangerous barrel rupture will occur.
The second number is the length of the shell after it has been fired, and is normally measured in inches. Most shotguns are chambered for 2¾-inch or 3-inch shells, with some guns being chambered at 3½ inches. Check your gun barrel or owner’s manual to verify what maximum shell length your gun will accommodate. Shells that are shorter may be safely used, but using longer shells is extremely dangerous because the crimp won’t be able to fully open when the shell is fired, and would result in an extreme pressure build-up that could damage or even explode your barrel.
Next, the velocity tells you how fast the shot leaves the muzzle and is usually specified in feet per second (fps). Velocities may range from 1,100 fps to near 1,400 fps. Some boxes of modern ammunition may contain a velocity indicator: “Dr. Eq.” This stands for Dram Equivalent. The first shotshells were loaded with black powder. Black powder volume was originally measured in “drams.”
When companies switched from black powder to smokeless powder, they placed the Dram Equivalent on the box to give the shooter an indication of shot velocity. While less commonly used today, the Dram Equivalent can still give the shooter an idea of the muzzle velocity. This requires knowing the gauge, shot weight and the dram equivalent. An easy-to-use conversion table can be found on the internet. Some shell boxes may show the velocity as “Max.” (maximum) or “MAG.” (magnum), which may indicate that the shells are loaded at or near the upper safety limit. In certain clay target sports there are restrictions on the maximum muzzle velocity permitted. Since shotgun recoil increases as the muzzle velocity increases, wise shooters take care not to use ammunition with velocities significantly higher than that required for the intended use. While a hunter may not mind excessive recoil when firing only a few shells on an upland bird hunt, they may find using that same load to shoot 75 shots on a dove hunt a bit uncomfortable.
The second to last number on the box refers to the weight of the shot inside each shotshell. This may range from ½ ounce to 2 ounces. Most 12-gauge shells contain 1 ounce, 1 1/8-ounce, or 1¼-ounce loads. The standard 20-gauge shell has 7/8 ounce of shot. Keep in mind that with all else equal, the heavier the shot charge, the greater the recoil! Use a shot charge large enough to be effective. Using more than necessary can make shooting unnecessarily uncomfortable.
BIRDSHOT - Shotgun ammunition which uses very small pellets with individual projectiles of less than .24" in diameter are designed to be discharged in quantity from the shotgun. The size of the shot is given as a number or letter--with the larger number the smaller the shot size. It is so named because it is most often used for hunting birds. The finest size generally used is #9 which is approximately .08" in diameter and the largest common size is #2 which is approximately .15"
BUCKSHOT - A type of shotgun ammunition that uses medium-sized to large-sized pellets of .24" in diameter or greater, designed to be discharged in quantity from a shotgun. Generally the larger the pellets, the fewer of them in the casing.
SHOTGUN SLUG - An individual cylindrical projectile designed to be discharged from a shotgun. As a single projectile, slugs must be carefully aimed to be effective.

Size Type Weight Diameter
0000 Buck 82 grains 9.70 mm (0.380")
000½ Buck 76 grains 9.40 mm (0.370")
000 Buck 70 grains 9.14 mm (0.360")
00½ Buck 59 grains 8.60 mm (0.340")
00 Buck 53.8 grains 8.38 mm (0.330")
0 Buck 49 grains 8.13 mm (0.320")
#1½ Buck 44.7 grains 7.90 mm (0.310")
#1 Buck 40.5 grains 7.62 mm (0.300")
#2½ Buck 36.6 grains 7.4 mm (0.290")
#2 Buck 29.4 grains 6.86 mm (0.270")
#3½ Buck 26.3 grains 6.60 mm (0.260")
#3 Buck 23.4 grains 6.35 mm (0.250")
#4 Buck 20.7 grains 6.09 mm (0.240")
FF Waterfowl 18.2 grains 5.84 mm (0.230")
F (or TTT) Waterfowl 16.0 grains 5.59 mm (0.220")
TT Waterfowl 13.9 grains 5.33 mm (0.210")
T Waterfowl 12.0 grains 5.08 mm (0.200")
BBB Bird 10.2 grains 4.82 mm (0.190")
BB Bird 8.50 grains 4.60 mm (0.180")
BB (air gun) Bird 8.10 grains 4.57 mm (0.177")
B Bird 7.40 grains 4.50 mm (0.170")
#1 Bird 6.15 grains 4.10 mm (0.160")
#2 Bird 4.40 grains 3.76 mm (0.150")
#3 Bird 5.07 grains 3.6 mm (0.140")
#4 Bird 3.30 grains 3.28 mm (0.130")
#4½ Bird 2.90 grains 3.18 mm (0.125")
#5 Bird 2.60 grains 3.05 mm (0.120")
#6 Bird 2.00 grains 2.77 mm (0.110")
#7 Bird 1.50 grains 2.50 mm (0.100")
#7½ Bird 1.29 grains 2.39 mm (0.095")
#8 Bird 1.09 grains 2.26 mm (0.090")
#8½ Bird 0.97 grains 2.16 mm (0.085")
#9 Bird 0.75 grains 2.01 mm (0.080")
#10 Pest 0.51 grains 1.80 mm (0.070")
#11 Pest 0.32 grains 1.50 mm (0.060")
#12 Pest 0.19 grains 1.30 mm (0.050")
Dust Pest 0.10 grains or less 1.00 mm (0.040") or less

Learning what ammunition is available and how best to use it is a process that seems endless. There are many caliber and gauge ammo. A little research will teach you a lot quickly. Find out what works well in your guns and for your applications.
Ammo makes me happy!

Semper Paratus
Check 6