Lady shooting handgun at an indoor range

Ammo Basics - Handgun

Anatomy of a Pistol Cartridge

Rimless and Rimmed Cartridges; Cutaway Cartridge: 1.Bullet 2.Case 3.Powder 4.Primer

CASE DESIGN: There are two basic pistol cartridge designs. Cartridges used in revolvers or single-shot pistols are generally rimmed, which means the case head has a rim that extends beyond the case wall. Common revolver calibers are 38 Special, 357 Magnum and 44 Magnum. Semi-automatic handguns generally utilize a rimless cartridge, which features a head that does not extend beyond the diameter of the case walls. An extractor groove is cut into the base to enable the firearm’s extractor to grip the cartridge. Common semi-automatic calibers include 9mm Luger, 40 S&W and 45 Auto.

BULLET DESIGN: Different bullets are designed for different uses. You should match the bullet style to your application.

lady shooting a handgun at an outdoor range

TARGET BULLETS: Ammunition loaded with full metal jacket (FMJ) bullets is often referred to as ball ammunition. It’s designed to feed reliably in semi-automatic handguns, but the bullets do not expand when they hit targets. Syntech® ammunition uses a polymer jacket to completely encapsulate the lead core, for cleaner, cooler shooting with less splash back on hard targets. Wadcutters and semi-wadcutters are designed to cut clean holes in paper targets. Lower velocity rounds also can utilize plain lead round nose bullets that have no jacket.

HUNTING BULLETS: Most hunting handgun bullets are designed to expand and deliver maximum energy to the animal to ensure clean kills. Jacketed hollow points and soft points are popular hunting bullets in magnum calibers.

man aiming hunting pistol
man shooting at a target at in indoor range

PERSONAL DEFENSE®: It is important to carry a quality bullet that is designed to neutralize a threat as quickly as possible. While a simple jacketed hollow point in common defensive calibers can be effective, bullets like HST, Hydra-Shok Deep and Punch deliver much more consistent, reliable results.

Why FMJ Bullets Belong Only At The Range


  • Accurate and affordable
  • Perfect for training, plinking and competition
  • Available in most calibers and grain weights


  • Expand
  • Stop within the target, penetrating additional barriers such as walls and posing a serious threat to bystanders

A hard copper jacket and lack of a hollow point prevents expansion of FMJ bullets through soft tissue; fired bullets look virtually unchanged after being recovered.

FMJ pistol cartridge, unfired and fired


  • Specifically designed for self-defense
  • Expand to a diameter larger than original bullet
  • Specially designed ammunition like Federal Premium® HST and Hydra-Shok Deep, are ideal choices and are calibrated to penetrate deep enough to stop the threat with less risk to others nearby

The hollow nose of expanding bullets allows soft tissue into the cavity and creates the forces necessary to open the bullet, increasing wound channel diameter and reducing the risk of over-penetration.

self defense pistol cartridge, bare gel and heavy clothing

Bullet Styles

Federal Handgun Styles: HST, Hydra-Shok Deep, Punch, Hydra-Shok, Syntech Range, Syntech Action Pistol, Syntech PCC, Syntech Training Match, Syntech Defense, Solid Core, Trophy Bonded Bear Claw, Swift A-Frame, Barnes Expander, Ballisticlean RHT, TMJ, Lead Round Nose, Full Metal Jacket, Train + Protect VHP, Jacketed Soft Point, Lead Semi Wadcutter, Semi-Wadcutter Hollow Point