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· Sincere as a $5 funeral
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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Most small pistol ammo sold these days is jacketed. Why is that?

(once again, note that I am intentionally ignoring rifles)

In two words, feed reliability. Even a hard lead alloy bullet will hang up on a little hook or ledge during feeding, bringing everything to a dramatic halt. Amusingly, hollow point jacketed rounds are similarly known to hang up in some guns. Make you wonder?

The cumulative tolerances in a GI 1911 can result in a gun that cannot feed unjacketed bullets, hence the jacketed hardball round, and hence the shot out barrels of all those M1917 revolvers.

Swaged and Soft Cast Bullets

People who used a gun to feed themselves and defend themselves into the mid twentieth century knew that a soft lead bullet performed very well for most things. Nearly pure lead bullets are tough, they don't fragment easily. They can easily be made to expand by adding a simple hole.

Swaged soft lead bullets are available for most popular handgun calibers today (nearly all 22 ammo is swaged and dead soft, by the way - note that it works quite well at 1200fps). Hornady, Remington, Speer, and Zero all make excellent swaged soft lead bullets.

Most swaged bullets are flat based, which reduces gas cutting and promotes obturation, and they are typically free of voids. These things all contribute significantly to precision shooting.

A heavy (230gr and up) swaged 45acp bullet hits something like a 5 foot length of half inch rebar thrown like a spear. Even someone wearing heavy clothing will be strongly impressed at 50 yards. Swage in a little hole at the front of the bullet and it will expand to the size of a silver dollar. Okay, a half dollar.

Swaged bullets cost about the same as hard cast.

Hard Cast

Hard cast bullets were invented to facilitate shipping and handling of bulk ammo. Swaged and soft cast bullets are easily damaged by mishandling. Some hard cast bullets can be thrown against the sidewalk and will only get a little flat spot.

Hard cast bullets are brittle. Hollow point hard cast bullets shatter on impact. Sometimes that's a good thing. Not very often.

Hard cast bullets usually have a bevelled base. The people who sell these bullets love to point out that this makes it easier for the reloader to seat the bullets, which is nonsense. What that bevel does do is make bullets cast in a high speed casting machine fall out of the molds easily, reducing production cost significantly. Bevel base bullets can, and often do, shoot very well. Just not as good as flat based bullets.

Hard cast bullets usually get made from Mystery Alloy. Anything that will melt goes in the pot. Why is that bad? Well, among a few other more subtle things, VOIDS. Random alloys will tend to produce bullets with internal voids. That impacts accuracy badly.

Most new reloaders load hard cast bullets to save money over jacketed. Most commercial reloads are also hard cast because they use the absolute cheapest bullets.

There are a few conscientious makers of hard cast bullets. Their products are identifiable by the very small bevels on the base of their bullets.

Jacketed Bullets

The number one reason for jacketed bullets was what again? Never mind that, let's look at the other reasons:

#2 - You can toss a handful into your pocket and they won't line the inside of your pocket with lead (which would ultimately poisoning you as you launder it into all your underwear).

#2 - You can toss a handful into your pocket and they won't start to look ugly and dented, making you feel like a maggot in the presence of your peers.

#2 - They usually have dead soft lead cores.

#2 - Ooh, hollow points. Yeah, well, I think we covered that. Funny that 90% of jacketed bullets sold are hollow point. Hmmm...

#3 - Jacketed bullets can be fired to higher velocities. But not in most popular pistol chamberings, sigh.

#4 - Jacketed bullets shoot better through most Polygonal rifled barrels. A really good polygonal barrel can shoot as well (maybe better) than a traditionally rifled barrel... Nothing at all wrong with polygonal rifling, except that you don't get a choice. But I guess that cuts both ways, so never mind.


Hmm, I really tried to demonstrate that Swaged soft-lead bullets were the best choice, but I don't feel I succeeded.

I think that hard cast bullets came out looking pretty bad, but there are sources of good hard cast bullets.

I guess I have to conclude that Bullets is Bullets!

By the way, jacketed bullets do produce fouling, so you want to clean your bore regularly even if you shoot jacketed. Copper fouling can increase pressure dramatically.
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