Many people who own or shoot guns in today’s time have a good idea or knowledge about ammunition. If you do not have proper knowledge about ammunition, the effectiveness of using a gun to its fullest potential falls down drastically. Here are a few things you should know about ammunition.
What are cartridges?
A complete “bullet” is actually known as a cartridge. Rifle and Handgun ammunition is known as cartridges, while shotgun ammunition are called shells. A cartridge is a finished product that can be loaded into a gun in one single process unlike the old black powder muzzle loading which required several separate parts to be added to the recipe. Cartridges can be bought from your local gun shops, providing you have the proper licensing for the purchase.
The case is the metallic body which holds the cartridge together and is the majority part of the cartridge visible to the naked eye. Different types of cases are used for different types of ammunition. Some cases can be re-used again, this is also known as reloading. Steel and aluminium cases are a one use only case, the steel and aluminium expands and doesn’t like to be re-shaped which is required to reload. Brass is used in higher quality cartridges that allows for the casing to be re-loaded after firing. Like everything there is low and high quality brass cases. Most big name brands can be reloaded, some far better than others. If you bought factory ammo really really cheap, the chances are it might not reload well. Higher priced factory ammunition and also brand new brass cases reload far better. Eventually even the highest of quality brass cases fail to the point of not being able to reload it any more whether it’s a split case, bulged to the point of no return or even the head separating from the body. When reloading it is always vital to check the cases for wear and signs of age.
The primer is the ignition source which is struck by the firing pin or hammer once the trigger is pulled. There are 2 main types of primer, Rim-fire and Centre Fire. The centre fire primer is located in the middle of the base of the casing, while rim fire is around the outer edge of the rim, hence its name. Rimfire cartridges in general are only smaller lesser powered loads with smaller projectiles including .22Long Rifle, 22 magnum and 17 HMR, yes there are lots more, these are just the most common.
The list of centre fire bullets make up for 95% of the ammunition out there, small and large primers allowing for very varied powder charges and pressures within the casing.
The powder and the bullet
The gunpowder inside the case sits between the primer and the projectile aka the bullet. The powder is ignited by the primer and burns at a fast rate which creates a gas pressure build up behind the bullet. Once that pressure gets to a certain point it pushes the projectile/bullet forward and down the barrel, and continues to push the length of the barrel until the projectile leaves the muzzle. There are many types of powder, which allows for different burn rates, different pressures, bullets speeds and accuracy. Using a wrong powder, or just too much or two little could cause serious damage or injury. Getting the powder charge right is vital for safety and also accuracy.
In general a cartridge with a bigger case makes for a more powerful bullet. But not always.
A very big case with one type of powder could be very powerful but with a different type of powder, it could be a pussy car and great for beginners or laser powered target shooting.
Factory Vs Reloading
Factory made ammunition is all made to an international standard be it SAAMI or NATO, but all must adhere to a minimum standard and requirement. Also the ammunition must work in all guns chambered in that calibre, not guns specific. As a result, there is always room to improve over a factory made product that may work better in one gun than the next.
Reloaded ammunition can work out maybe 25% cheaper than factory bought rounds, but the reloading equipment required could cost several Hundred. So reloading is not normally for cheaper ammo, but normally for improved or preferred abilities.
Reloading for Accuracy
Every gun is different. It is a man made machine that has variables over the next identical one. This means every gun may like a different recipe of bullet. Whether it’s a factory loaded and bought or be it hand made via reloading. Reloading certainly offers areas where things can be improved, and not just in power. One of the biggest improvements that can be found is customising the bullet made to suit the gun. The depth that the bullet is seated into the case and vice versa how far the bullet sits towards the rifling in the barrel. As a general rule, the further the bullet can be seated out of the case and forward into the throat/towards the start of the barrel, the more accurate it could. This is called distance off the lands.
This is where factory ammo can not be maximised out of the box, the measurement off the lands can vary on all guns. So Reloading is the only way to perfect it.
Reloading is a massive learning cycle, you can not learn it over night, it could takes years of testing and perfecting to nail the perfect load. Or you could just find a mix that works and roll with it. Some people love the reloading side of shooting, others just do it for slightly cheaper ammunition.
If you are still confused about the type of ammunition you might need for your guns, why not go visit www.gatactical.com.au/ammunition/. Everything you need to about ammunition is listed at Gold Coast’s finest tactical gear shop’s website.