Ammo 101


55 grain

It seems to me like a lot of the men roaming the earth seem to possess an innate understanding about the various types of ammo to use for this and that, but a lot of my female friends and any gun novice tend to be more focused on handling everyday know, like how to convert a quart into cups, which jeans make us look fat, pursuit of career and education, and how to whip up a mean dish of something or another.   So, forgive me, my more ammo-savvy readers, for taking time to give a little tutelage to our readers on the various merits of ammo—an Ammo 101 course.   But if you've ever giggled at a person who refers to a truffle dish as a salad bowl; or perhaps you’ve seen that blank look when it comes time to change a diaper; or wondered how anyone in their right mind could put the toilet paper “under” instead of “over”; you'll know what I’m talking about. Some of us may be walking dictionaries and encyclopedias of everyday information, but when it comes to understanding rounds of ammo, well, we usually fall short.  So I’m going to educate you in aspects that may not only save you some embarrassment in the future, but may very well save your life by you making educated decisions.  For those of you who this article applies to, don't worry. It's a VERY simple overview of ammo.

Ammo 101- It’s not a “bullet” it’s a “round” or a “cartridge”

First of all ladies, let’s be sure that you never commit the gaff of calling any part of the ammo something that it’s not.  For example, the “bullet” isn’t usually what you think it is.  Usually what you see lying on the ground after someone else has been shooting is called a casing, although many “newbies” call it a bullet. The casing is the part of the round that has housed the primer and the bullet tip.  It’s been expelled from the gun when it was shot.  If you really want to be knowledgeable, you may want to test yourself as you go to the shooting range and be sure that you an identify the types of rounds used simply by looking at the leftover casings i.e. Shotgun round, 9 mm, 357 magnum, .22, etc.   A lot of folks refer to these casings lying around as “brass.”  In fact, you may see signs at the practice facilities which instruct you to “clean up your brass. “ It’s the casings that are being referred to in such instances. Bottom line the case/casing is what holds all of the components of the ammunition round in place.


The bullet is actually the pointed top or tip that you typically think of when you picture a round.  A shotgun round does not have an actual “bullet” housed inside.  It has either buckshot, a lot of little round pieces or a “slug” which is shaped like a bullet.


Ammo 101- Powder is not the same as primer

Looking at a cartridge from top to bottom your first layer is the bullet. That’s what leaved the gun towards your target when you pull the trigger. (assuming all goes well. J) The next layer is your powder charge. This is the part that actually is quickly ignited by the primer being hit.  The very bottom of your cartridge, usually the round shape at the base is your primer.  Primers can be ignited by striking the outside of that round shape or right on the inside of the round base, depending on whether or not it’s rim-fire or center-fire ammo. What happens when you fire a gun is that the firing pin inside the gun hits the rim or center fire. This causes an ignition of the powder inside the casing, which causes the bullet to propel forward towards your target and the casing to expel out the ejection port. This is how the casings end up landing all around, and sometimes even down your shirt.  Since the casings have housed the fiery dance between the primer and the powder, they are inevitably hot--thus, the reason why you don’t want them to land down the front of your shirt and nestling. *wink*  Don’t worry ladies. I’ve even seen some men do the “hot casing line dance.” It does happen and for the most part you don’t have any control over it with the exception of what kind of clothing, hat, and eye protection you wear to inhibit the rogue piece of hot brass.


Ammo 101- Self-defense rounds

The best type of self-defense rounds are much more expensive than what I would use to practice with. The ideal self-defense rounds are known as hollow-point bullet. The reason why they are ideal for self-defense is because of their stopping power.  Perhaps you’ve heard the expression of the “bullet went clean through.”  If a bullet does not expand once it hits mass, then it can indeed go clean through and thus not have the efficacy of stopping the threat that you need in a self-defense scenario.  However, a hollow-point  bullet head will actually expand outwards, like a well-rounded claw, once it hits mass.  This is ideal for a couple of reasons. Some describe this as mushrooming as well.  1) When you’re using it for self-defense and it does hit your target, it will actually expand and do sizeable damage within the body cavity as it passes through. Most times a hollow-point bullet will not actually exit the cavity, or if it does, there will definitely be a significantly larger exit wound than the entrance wound. 2) If you were to miss your target, say, while you’re defending your home, the bullet will expand as it hits the wall, and thus stop traveling sooner. This means you’re less likely to shoot through your walls or doors and harm bystanders or neighboring property.  Now, in terms of hollow-point ammo, many shooters swear by the use of Hydra-Shok™ ammo.  The reason being that it has been found to reliably mushroom upon impact, whereas some of the hollow points mushroom simply by hitting clothing fiber.  The good news is that a hollow-point round will also give even a 9 mm more stopping power. And as such I still recommend it as a self-defensive round. (Just FYI, Hydra-Shok bullets will expand at any velocity much over 800 feet per second, and perhaps even less. Ordinary hollow-points generally require 1,000 feet per second of velocity to reliably expand.)


Ammo 101- It’s grain, not grains.


Grain is the actual weight measurement of a bullet—not the cartridge.  If you want to sound like a newbie, call it “grains”—plural. If you want to know what you’re talking about, refer to it as grain—singular.  The more a cartridge weighs the more grain it has. Standard weight for .45 ACP ball ammunition (full metal jacket - FMJ) is 230 grain. Standard for 9mm is around 115 grain. Generally the heavier bullet moves slower than a lighter bullet. There is quite the battle raging among shooters as to which is better for defense. Some say to use a big, heavy, slow bullet for target penetration and some say to use a lighter bullet at higher velocity for expansion. Personally, I’m in favor of a heavy bullet with a good hollow point.  After all, a heavy bullet still moves “at the speed of a bullet,” right?


Ammo 101- +P or +P+ ammo

“Plus P” or “Plus P Plus” designations simply mean that a cartridge is loaded with a higher pressure than standard ammunition.  Essentially what this does is give your round more firing power and a greater impact on your target.  It’s one of the variations of ammo that I recommend for women to use who are more comfortable with shooting a 9mm for self-defense. Be sure that your gun is designed for such ammo use though. You can see whether or not your ammo is +P or +P+ on the cartridge box, or sometimes it’s stamped on the base of the cartridge. +P or +P+ cartridges are usually center-fire cartridges.

As a parting thought, it seems to be pretty clear to me that these massive ammo purchases at the hands of DHS or other government entities may be in an effort to circumvent our laws and requirements necessary for implementing special taxes or regulations that would bar ammunition. Instead, I believe they are attempting to manipulate the supply and demand of all types of ammunition--not just rifle rounds. By manipulating the supply they are essentially manipulating the cost of ammo. I've been pleading with my readers for years to stock up on ammunition before they didn't have the luxury to do so. While some would tell me a year ago "ammo is too expensive to stock up on", I say "expensive is a matter of perception. The cost of ammo today IS expensive as much of it has at least doubled in price, and in some instances more than quadrupled.  Even if someone has won the lottery in many instances it's not a matter of just paying for more it than you could have 6 months ago, it's a matter of even FINDING the ammo needed. We're not talking about oddball kinds of ammo here. We're talking about standard rifle rounds.  Something to think about. Something else to think about is even IF you're not a fan of having a firearm in your home, stocking up on ammo is still a smarter investment than the other so-called precious metals, in a very literal sense of the word "investment."  While the price of gold and silver is most definitely being manipulated as are the ammo prices, at least ammo is useful regardless of the size of a person's bank account or the value of the U.S. Dollar. The same virtues cannot be assigned to gold and silver. Just a little "Food for Thought".




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Thanks for the tips.
I see you posted it on facebook as well.
I will study it. :)

Thank you for giving us the information we need! Wish I'd known this before I went to buy ammo. I wanted to buy some "bullets" for my sister. (she said she wanted them for Christmas) I didn't have a clue as to what kind I should buy. She has a 22 Winchester pistol. (probably used the wrong word again). The guy at the counter said "LG?" Uh..."I don't know what that means." (& I walked away a little red in the face) Had to call my sister and ask her how to tell what kind of mean ammo, her gun took. She told me that all guns tell what kind of ammo you need. She told me to look along the barrel of the gun & it'll tell you what sz to buy, along with the serial number & the model of the gun. She told me "22LR". She was here a week ago & showed me her little gun. I guess I was surprised when it said 22LR. After all, it's just a small gun that comes with a clip. Guess LR doesn't stand for "Long Rifle." now you know why I enjoyed this ammo 101 lesson. In the case of buying or owning a gun "Ignorance is NOT bliss!" Thank you so much for the terminology. At least the men standing behind the counter will no longer look at me with a smirk on their faces, looking at me like I'd grown a third eye! I learned a lot!

.22 lr does stand for long rifle!

You just need to scroll through more of the options, Carrie. They don't always fit on the first page but as I shared earlier, "firearm" is the word you want to use for your search. I just tried it and the right article came up in the first set of options. I'd cut and paste it, but this is a self-sufficiency site after all. *grin*

WOW! Those have got to be some of the hardest circumstances in which we're required to forgive others. It's taken me years just to forgive some former employees for being idiots, and while I lost my business ultimately because of it, they didn't take anyone's life! Wow.

My suggestion would be to look up any of the other articles on here that have to do with "firearms" You can also go to and see the articles I've written for women shooters over there. (I haven't posted anything new there in a while because I've been so busy with Preparedness Pro--and I've just about said on there all I had to say on the matter. *grin*)

When I search firearm, ammo, or guns in the search bar at the top of the page that says "search this site" I only get articles on solar cooking, preparedness, etc.
Am I doing something wrong? Thank you!

Sorry Kellene, brain cramp. I meant to say I shoot right handed. (not enough coffee yet!)

Ah, the "fiery dance". I had forgotten. My first time shooting the M-16, left-handed, hot bass...ouch!

I grew up with a dad who knew guns and taught me how to handle them. I have a .327 magnum revolver for my concealed carry. I am a good shot at targets and plinking varmints with a .22 rifle out of my garden. My concern is that no one taught me to shoot with both eyes open. When I use the sights I close my left eye because I shoot left handed. I don't know how helpful written instructions will be without hands-on practice, but any help you can give now or in future articles will be greatly appreciated.

Haha, glad you said something about over weight folks, lets ban forks the make you fat, and can be used as a deadly weapon.

Seriously though when I came face to face with the young man who had just hours earlier killed my cousin my heart broke, because I thought here are two young men who's lives are over, not just my cousins. HA! Turns out the justice system is NOT good AT ALL with dealing with these killers. Scott Jean Phelps was released after serving just three months behind bars, and later killed AGAIN. I did however have the chance to look the prosecuter in the face and say" so, folks deserve a second chance huh, Michael is gone, he does not get another chance, and this thing has also KILLED his mother". Thats on them though, and today, I still cling to MY GUNS, and my GOD.

Amen sister, and might I add that the younge man who took my cousins life was given lieniency, he went on to kill a father of five, and I still want no revenge, his rewards are waiting for him if he does not repent and accept JESUS CRIST as his LORD and SAVIOR.

Does that mean that a woman should just lay down and allow her attacker to rape and beat her? Does that mean that she wasn't worth having a guardian angel if her attacker is successful? If you are of the belief that violent attacks are "God's will" and thus there's no need to fight against them, does that mean that you believe that God only allows the righteous to exercise their agency whereas the bad people he CAUSES to hurt others? That would also mean that God is the author of evil acts. If you dismiss all of this by saying "If I die it must be God's will" then how do you explain the litany of warnings in the scriptures that God gives us through His prophets to "prepare" over and over again? If we don't have to do anything besides relying on guardian angels, then what in the world do we need to prepare for? I hope that this comes across properly in print like this, but I am of the firm belief that people who don't take precautions to protect themselves are JUST as dangerous as those evil men who would harm others because you never know if YOU were the one that could have made a difference in saving others by properly and righteously fighting back. I really want to change your mind on this not only for your own benefit but for the benefit of those you love AND for my own benefit. The amount of "gun violence" doesn't absolve ANY of us from defending ourselves and those for whom we're responsible. There's too many fat people too, but that doesn't mean you should stop eating!

Karen, the method I teach my female students specifically does NOT rely on the laser or sights to make a precise, quick shot. So don't worry about that laser. You won't need it. Besides, a laser is really only good at intimidating your target and I don't believe in pulling out my firearm unless I tend to perforate my target. Once you use the laser in the dark you've given away your position. You'll need to make sure that you sight in your rifle and you'll need to learn proper shooting foundation of your body. I specifically wrote an article on that for women here. I think all you need to do is put in "firearm" in the search bar and you'll see an article come up that's specifically written for women on the topic.

Thanks, Mark. My husband and I have our business and exclusively make our living this way.

Yes, rest in peace indeed, Michael, and may the Lord help us all truly forgive those who directly harm us because of their evil intents as well as those who also harm us by being cowards.

Geni, If there were no guns evil people would still do harm to you. If you study the Bible folks killed each other, and they did'nt even have firearms then. My cousin was murdered by a COWARD with a sawed off shotgun, when I got the call I ask my mother in law to take care of the baby, and I rush over to my parents house, where he had been living. I did not even think to grab my weapon and take revenge, but I also never thought to get rid of it eather.You see if my cousin had been armed that day, and the perp knew my cousin was armed, he most likely would have thought twice before he shot my cousin. We all own firearms, but not one of us thought to take revenge, we let the law of the land do its job. Rest in peace Michael.

I have new 380 I just got at the suggestion of my hubby. It has a laser beam on it. We thought that might be a good thing but its only visible indoors . Didn't think of that so no good outside unless you are really close to target. I am a newbie and we went to shoot it and found the trigger has quite a long pull back before it actually fires. Has a fairly good kick also for me. Makes it hard to anticipate the firing. I found it hard to aim and hit anything. Any suggestions for a good first gun for a newbie.

I prefer to rely on my guardian angel for protection. There is tooooo much gun violence!

I always love it when it starts out with the compliment followed by a "but."
You are focusing on the powder and I am clearly talking about the BULLET weight.
When you specify the weight of a bullet, it is grains, but you don't say "it is a 150 grains bullet." You say "It's a 150 GRAIN bullet."
A rock may weigh 10 pounds but you wouldn't say "it's a 10-poundS rock." Rather "It's a 10 pound rock". There is a distinctive difference. One way has the potential to lead to embarassment, the other is the proper way to refer to it.

Good article but it is grains not grain. A grain is 1/7000 of a pound. The plural is grains as the powder weighs ten grains. Although refering to a cartridge as having a 115 grain bullet, ou the bullet weighs 115 grains are both correct.

I would be happy to help anyone with education as what to get etc .been a firearms trainer and reloader etc for fifty years

That was very helpful, thank you. I have been around weapons all my life, and living in the country now I ahve acquired a few weapons. I am usually around alot of ranchers, farmers, and one police officer at lunch, and there is ALWAYS gun talk. I usually just keep my mouth shut if the subject of ammo comes up, but now I think I will "show" off a bit if it does. :-) My husband is very knowledgable, but who thinks to ask the type of questions that you covered? Heck I did not know alot of what you covered, and I just wanted to say THANK YOU, and be Blessed!

Unfortunately, the site you mentioned isn't a site that lists female instructors all over, it's only promoting the specific instructors for that particular company and attempting to establish chapters elsewhere in U.S.. So they're not quite there. On one hand I was thinking it would be a great service to women all over the U.S. who were instructors, but on the other hand, there are so many sickos out there, I'm not sure that some of the instructors would want their name listed like that.

Left-eye dominant throws a lot of instructors off, actually. The fact of the matter is, it's incorrect to teach a shooter to squint and focus with only one eye. Skilled marksmen know that BOTH eyes open is your best approach to shooting.

Private and semi-private lessons are available at Women of that I created as a means to provide a particular focus on the self-defense component of preparedness. Women of Caliber primarily teaches a proprietary skill-set which eliminates the need for front sight, rear sight, or eye dominance issues in which a shooter can QUICK DRAW her firearm, hit a target the size of a quarter at the standard self-defense distance. This eliminates many of the typical fears women have regarding safety issues, competence, and ability in the midst of an emotionally climatic time. We've had law enforcement, former military, and "never shot a gun in my life" types of students come in from all over the U.S.--even from different countries because, yes, it's THAT good of a training experience.

Thank you, for someone who grew up around hunting guns, I truly never thougth in the terms you relayed to the "Newbies". I consider myself a beginner for the simply fact I never went beyond what my dad taught me. I am trying my best to change that, along with the other women in our family. We need instructions by professionals to learn the proper way of fire arms, not from husbands or boyfriends. Gun classes are a big must. Keep up the great work.

Thank you, Thank you!!! I have never dealt with guns so I really do not know one from the other. My husband was a great Annapolis Marine served in Viet Nam brought all his men home..whoo hoo! But he passed away 12/2011, I have his guns and I am trying to buy ammo for them but I went for the first time yesterday to purchase some just by the gun type. Then a friend's husband said you brought all the wrong stuff and they are not powerful enough. Needless to say what I wanted to do to him!!!!! I need lots...LOTS of education of guns and ammo, I don't know what to purchase. I was going to email you when you request articles but knew you received tons. God was listening to what we need help in, thanks for all your help.

Donna, don't be silly. You KNOW you can e-mail me directly and I can help you. I'll be honest..I kind of resent the intimidation factor that our brothers are so adept at projecting when we're looking to learn anything in the gun world. I swear they just can't help themselves. :-)
I'm soooo soooo sorry to hear of your loss. Truly very, very sorry.

Visit a local gun store or shooting range and ask if they can refer you to an instructor. Also, there is a site called [edited for spam] they are getting together a list of female weapons instructors/trainers.

I took a shotgun class (private lessons, actually) because I'm left eye dominant. My hubby had taught me to handle all of our other weapons, but he couldn't figure out how to overcome the left eye dominant issue. Now I can shoot skeet with the best of them.

Thanks for the 101 course on ammo. I've learned a lot from my hubby, but sometimes, it takes the same information in a different presentation to get to the "AHA" moment. That's what happened when I read your Ammo 101! We stocked up on ammo and weapons long before the panic started. Do we have "enough"? NO - but we have an adequate supply. Years ago, a friend told me that if you had 1,000 rounds, you were considered having an "arsenal". If that's the case, we've got a few arsenals in our safe!

Thank you Kellene! I know nothing about firearms and neither does my husband. He is not a gun fan but I felt we needed something for home defense.We bought a 20 gauge shotgun that is still in the box (I know you are going to say, "not much good in the box", ha). I would also like to get some kind of handgun. My grown son is willing to learn with me, but we don't know where to go or what to do for instruction.
I've been reading as much as I can and watching videos. I have been praying to God for guidance in leading us to someone who can teach us.
It was almost like a miracle that you decided to publish these articles.
Please keep the information coming! I'm sure there are many of us who don't know anything in this area and need your help.
You are a true blessing!

Everytime I'm in a bathroom that doesn't have it OVER I flip it too. :-)

What? You like your toilet paper OVER? That bugs me no end! I've been known to flip the roll over in the middle of the night so it is UNDER!

(thot a little levity might be helpful here)


"Under" toilet paper is only for people with CATS who like to unwind the roll!


Ok, fine. It's a personal choice. You want it "over"...I HAVE to have it "under".

Hey now don't go bashing putting the toilet paper under instead of over it discourages toddlers and pets from unraveling the roll :)
Thanks for the post, I knew most of it but it was a good read anyhow! I think I'm going to save it so I can use it to teach my 10 yo daughter who just got her first rifle!

I'd like to know why anyone is buying off on that kind of a manipulation then. If DHS isn't "the fed" then I don't know who is?!

I'll be doing much more on the firearms, coming up. But I felt like I should start at the very beginning. :-)

Glock casings typically go out from the right at the rear. That's how they're designed to eject. so if it's coming out to your face (or going down the shirt in the front) then it that would indicate a problem in one of two or both areas, would indicate an ejector problem-- the most obvious of fixes would be cleaning the firearm. The other cause for this would be your grip and stance needing a better foundation. Ladies have this problem more than men do and it's typically because of a limp=wristed grip or they don't have their shoulders and head settled down behind the firearm properly.

The Beretta has a completely different ejector which is why you're not getting the same. The ejector on an AR15, for example, is designed so that the casings go out and forward on most models.
Personally I'm not a big fan of the Springfield Arms as it will have a smaller front sight and more recoil as well which is not ideal. You'll also be disappointed when doing rapid fire with the Springfield as opposed to the Glock. Lastly, I also don't care for the uncomfortable checker inprint on the grip of the Springfield.

My Glock 17 seems to have a problem with BTF/Brass to the Face. My Beretta never did that, so I get a bit frustrated with my Glock for that reason. Any idea what causes it to happen more often? I am considering switching to a Springfield Arms XDm for that reason, and easier to conceal;)

Thanks Kellene for writing this article. My son and were discussing this info yesterday. He gave me some of the basic information but I know there is much more. (My DH knows a lot about guns but cannot talk in newbe terms.) He also found a great video comparing a 9mm, 380 and 45. These are the guns we have. I would love to see more on guns for beginners and other self defense especially for women.

ps: I read everything you post! :-)

Kellene, Many thanks for the useful and timely information.

I'm looking for the recent article where you listed the site you like to buy ammo from. I went to it awhile go and can't remember the name. It listed all kinds of ammo. Can you give me the link again. Thanks for all the info. I just finished a class on Peronal Protection Outside the Home. I had no idea I had so much to learn. I highly recommend people take a class like it before they get their CCW. Shooting a gun has much responsibility and should only be a last resort in a life or death situation. There is way more to it than just carrying a pistol on your person.

Try the advertised site on this page--Fighting Sheep Their number is right there. They've got ammo AND the hard to find magazines at pre-panic pricing.

Thanks. That was it. The Fed is not allowed to buy jacketed hollow point ammo for the military, so they averted this issue by getting homeland security to buy it for them. They purchased 1.5 million last year and just put in an order for 21 billion. What does that tell you.

Kellene, I'm an NRA instructor since the 80's. I thoroughly enjoyed your AMMO 101. I enjoy the easy-going manner in which you instruct. Also, I believe that guys (yes, I'm a guy) too ofter feel compelled to act like Steven Seagal when instructing. Many gals feel more comfortable without the sea of testosterone and prefer "just the facts" instead. 'Tho some may disagree, learning about firearms actually can be fun as well and informative. Keep up the good work.


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