What Is Ball Ammo? And How Does It Differ From Other Ammo? The Full Guide!

One thing gun owners love to do is use various “insider” expressions and rules, such as “Know your target and what’s behind it.” Terms used by shooting enthusiasts are also numerous. They include “Kentucky Windage,” which simply means adjusting your aim at a target to correct for the wind or for your target’s motion. Gun owners also describe their ammunition using terms that are accurate and frequently sound impressive. I’ve found that the term “ball ammo” fills the “accurate-and-also-impressive-sounding” bill nicely, but what is ball ammo?

Short Answer – What Is Ball Ammo

So what is ball ammo? Well, it’s a lead bullet that’s completely covered in metal such as copper. Ball ammo’s full metal jacket also keeps it from expanding upon impact when it hits a target. This non-expansion is the point of fully jacketing the lead bullet that makes up ball ammo.

Fully Metal-Jacketed

Fortunately for all gun owners, ball ammunition is one of the most common bullets on the market. It’s also known as “full metal jacket” or “FMJ” ammo. Yes, Stanley Kubrick, in his classic 1987 Vietnam War movie “Full Metal Jacket,” was referring to the ball ammo used in the US infantry rifles shown in the film.

Why it’s Jacketed

Because ball ammo is fully metal-jacketed, it makes an excellent target shooting round. Be careful with ball ammunition, though, because it doesn’t expand upon impact as a hollow-point bullet would. This projectile tends to go cleanly and neatly through a target and often through any object behind it. For various reasons, the US military has used ball ammo in its infantry rifles for decades, including because it penetrates so cleanly.

Cartridges vs. Bullets

It’s important to note here that ball ammo is only a metal-jacketed BULLET and that it comes in a CARTRIDGE. Cartridges are the complete “rounds” or “loads” you place into your rifle or pistol. These cartridges are composed of a case (the “brass”), primer, powder, and a bullet. The bullet makes the ball ammo or hollow-point ammo, or other types of ammo. New or inexperienced gun owners also sometimes incorrectly refer to their ammunition cartridges as “bullets.” The ball or other ammo you’re using is the bullet, not the complete cartridge.

Ball Ammo Pros

Like every other type of ammunition, ball ammo comes with various pros and cons. Here’s a shortlist of some pros:

  • Ball ammo is very common and thus relatively inexpensive.
  • Ball ammo is also excellent for target shooting.
  • There’s less lead residue in your gun’s barrel with ball ammo. Lead is a hazardous substance, and the less of it in your gun and on your hands, the better.
  • You won’t have to clean your gun as frequently if you go with ball ammo rather than some other ammo like a hollow point.
  • Ball ammo generally increases your shot’s velocity and its potential accuracy.

Ball Ammo Cons

While ball ammo does come with many upsides, there are some cons to it. Here are a few:

  • Ball ammo may not be the best choice for home defense purposes.
  • Because ball ammo is fully jacketed, it could go through several walls in your home or maybe even exit it and strike something outside it, especially if it’s rifle ammunition.
  • In self-defense situations, it’s vital that you stop the threat as soon as possible and with the minimum number of shots. Here’s why this matters:

1. This type of bullet doesn’t expand upon impact as a hollow-point bullet will.

2. Ball ammo might not have the “knockdown” or stopping ability a hollow point bullet frequently possesses.

However, remember that any type of ammo’s effectiveness depends on many factors in addition to whether its bullet is a full metal jacket or hollow point, or some other kind.

When to Use

By now, it’s clear that ball ammo is good for some situations but not for others. Personally, I stock up on different types of ammunition for various purposes, such as target shooting, self-defense on the street, and home protection. Still, ball ammo is exceptionally versatile. Having at least a box or two on hand for each of your guns is usually advisable.

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