What Is The Difference Between Hollow Points and Regular Bullets

Comparing Hollow Points to Regular Bullets

What Are Hollow Point Bullets?

The average person barely understands that there are different types of bullets. Many people do not realize that there can be more differences than merely caliber size, and that even bullets of the same caliber can greatly differ. Hollow points are an example of a special type of bullet. Hollow points are characterized by the presence of a cavity in the center of the round. They still load the same, they still fire the same, and they are still affordable rounds (while still more expensive than regular bullets).

What Are Full Metal Jacket Bullets?

Full Metal Jacket (FMJ) refers to the regular bullet type. They are typically soft lead that have been encased in harder metal. FMJ bullets are able to retain their composure and shape even after passing through soft tissue. They are very easy and cheap to manufacture, and tend to be the most cost-effective round. One huge benefit to using FMJ rounds, are that they have a higher likelihood of being lethal after passing through a barrier of any kind (tree, wall, wood, etc). They are also the most reliable type of bullet, working in nearly any gun.

Hollow Point Bullets vs Regular Bullets

There are some key differences between hollow point bullets and full metal jacket bullets (FMJ, regular bullets). Regular bullets are designed to enter and exit a target. Hollow points do not typically have that effect. In terms of actual construction, hollow point rounds use more copper jacket material, and require many more production steps. Additionally, they use much less lead. They take more time to produce and are made in smaller quantities. They also come from the labor of far more research and development than other rounds (alongside lots of testing).1

When it comes to stopping power, hollow points take the cake! They are constructed to expand upon impact and they very rarely exit the target. The intended design of the hollow point was to create a stabilization effect, however, it ended up incurring maximum damage in the target. The bullet design itself is often aided by polymer inserts to create a consistency and reliability in the expansion of the bullet through various soft material. The jackets are also usually bonded to the core (this creates an adhesion that supersedes separation). They are also designed to split (expand) evenly.

FMJ rounds are considered less-lethal, as they have the potential (however, limited) to pass right through the target. Hollow points are able to put down even the biggest of targets as they inflict expansion damage. Hollow points are so great at inflicting damage that a NATO treaty is in effect that dictates international military operations may only use non-expanding rounds.

Ammo cartridge picture, specifically a .45 ACP with Copper FMJ Bullet.
Winchester White Box .45 ACP 230 Grain FMJ

Final Words On Hollow Point Bullets

Hollow points naturally do more damage than regular bullets, which is why they are most typically chosen as defense rounds. They are also so much more expensive than FMJ rounds that they are typically never fired for practice. In the end, there are different practicality points for using either bullet type: 

A hollow round has increased, and collapsible, surface area on the tip. This creates an even spread of energy, and thus an even spread of damage. These rounds are often used to inflict large damage zones in soft tissue. That is why Hollow Points are typically used for home defense.

An FMJ round has higher penetrability and will often go in and out of a target. Sometimes it is useful for bullets to be more durable in flight (big game hunting, for example), but it can also create extra liability in terms of unexpected damage.


1U.S. Patent. Hollow Point Bullet. Retrieved from: https://patents.google.com/patent/US1101743

About the Author:

Mark Doberman, The Proprietary Gun Smith

The Proprietary Gun Smith is a marksman, expert gun handler, ammunition specialist, survival guru, and lifetime gun enthusiast. He owns (or has owned) nearly every legal firearm and ballistic available, has fired nearly every gun, and regularly consults professionally in the firearm world. He has studied firearms and similar tactical lifestyle for more than 40 years. In addition to writing for ArmoryBay.com, TheProprietaryGunSmith has guest written for more than a dozen other sites and/or magazines in the industry.

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