Bullet (A Complete Overview)

A bullet is a kinetic projectile that is fired from a gun barrel as part of firearm ammunition. The phrase comes from Middle French and means “little ball.” It is a derivative of the word boulle (bullet). Bullets can be composed of many different materials, including copper, lead, steel, polymer, rubber, and even wax.

Bullets come in a variety of shapes and constructions (depending on the intended application) and can be used for hunting, target shooting, training, or combat. Bullets are frequently tapered to improve their aerodynamics. In both imperial and metric measurement systems, bullet sizes are defined by their weights and diameters (referred to as “calibers”).

Gunshot bullets can be used for target practice, as well as to damage or kill animals or people. Death can occur as a result of blood loss, organ injury, or even asphyxiation if blood reaches the lungs. Bullets aren’t the only projectiles fired by firearm-like devices.

Bullet designs must address two major issues. They must first make a seal with the bore of the cannon in the barrel. Gas from the propellant charge leaks past the bullet if a strong seal is not achieved, reducing efficiency and possibly accuracy.

The bullet must also engage the rifling without damaging or fouling the gun’s bore unduly, nor twisting the bullet, which would affect accuracy. The surface of bullets must be able to form this seal without causing excessive friction.

Due to heated gases behind them and contact with the bore, the surface of lead bullets shot at high speeds may melt. Copper-jacketed bullets have a higher melting point, specific heat capacity, and toughness, allowing for higher muzzle velocities.


The ball can be propelled in a variety of ways:

  • It can be done by using only gunpowder (i.e. as in flintlock weapons)
  • It can be done by using a percussion cap and gunpowder (i.e. as in percussion weapons)
  • It can also be done by using a cartridge (which contains a primer, gunpowder, and bullet in a single package)


While gunpowder was first used in Europe in 1247, it was first invented in China in the 9th century. The first cannon was built in 1327, and the first-hand cannon was built in 1364. Stone was used to making the first projectiles. After it was recognized that stone could not pierce stone walls, denser materials were used as missiles. Projectiles for hand cannons evolved similarly. In 1425, a metal bullet fired from a hand cannon pierced armor for the first time.

The shape and purpose of the bullet changed dramatically in the first half of the nineteenth century. A French infantry officer named Henri-Gustave Delvigne devised a breech with abrupt shoulders on which a spherical bullet was forced down until it caught the rifling grooves in 1826.

Slingers utilized square bullets in their slings, which date back practically to the dawn of civilization. Copper or lead were the most common materials used. The most famous application of square bullet designs was by James Puckle and Kyle Tunis, who patented them and used them in one version of the Puckle pistol for a short time. Due to their inconsistent and unpredictable flying patterns, they were quickly phased out of usage during the black powder era.

Types of bullets

Bullets are either jacketed or unjacketed. The unjacketed bullet can be made from all manner of material and most are lead. The lead will be alloyed with different quantities of antimony to give it hardness and tin to assist in the molding process.

Rifled Projectiles

  • Unjacketed Bullets

It is made from lead which has been hardened by the addition of a little number of other metals. Because of their soft nature, they are soft bullets. It is used in revolvers but not in automatic or semi-automatic weapons.

  • Jacketed Bullets

It consists of a metallic jacket with a lead core and aluminum tip. These jackets are provided to prevent bullets from getting misshaped jackets are manufactured from the guiding metal soft steel, cupronickel, or other tough metal surrounding the lead core.

  • Hollowpoint Bullets

They are generally semi-jacketed bullets. The nose of which has a cavity. This is designed to expand on impact with soft targets, thus increasing the wounding effect of the bullet.

  • Wire Patched Bullets

It consists of a tight envelope of metallic wire usually made of copper but its use was discontinued as the metal wire used to get detached during flight to affect proper ballistics.

  • Paper Patched Bullets

Paper was used as the jacket for lead bullets and such projectiles were are PPB. Its use is discontinued due to a piece of paper left in the barrel which gave trouble in subsequent shootings.

  • Boat-Tailed Bullet

These bullets provide stability in flight, the base of the bullet is narrowed down.

  • Streamlined Bullet

This was an improvement over the boat-tailed bullet. Both the tip and the base had fire pencil points stability to fight and cause deep damage.

  • Aluminium Tipped Bullet

The jacket of this bullet has an aluminum tip towards the nose end. This improves accuracy in flight.

  • Incendiary Bullet

It contains highly combustible material which is capable of starting a fire after an impact. These are extremely dangerous. The intent is to ignite fuel or munitions in the target area, thereby adding to the destructive power of the bullet itself.

  • Dum Dum Bullets

The front of the metal jacket is trimmed back to expose the lead core. It was so named as processing was done in the arsenal at dum-dum in India. It was developed in 1890 by the British military. These are fully jacketed bullets with their nose cut of them. It is designed to expand rapidly on impact causing a massive wound.

Two modern designs are available for expansion and higher incapacitation index on the target, are as follows:

  • Hollowpoint Bullet
  • Soft Point Bullet
  • Wad Cutter Bullets

It is a flat-nosed bullet with a sharp shoulder. Generally, used by the target shooter and designed to produce a clear cut punched out the hole in the target.

  • Metal Patched Bullet

It has a cup over the base and extends forward over that portion of the bullet which bears against the rifling. This was done to protect the bare from the effects of heat generated as a result of propellant combustion. A bullet on which the core is bare is technically called the full metal patched bullet.

  • Armor-Piercing Bullet

It is a nonlead bullet and made from tungsten chromium steel core pointed at one end and enclosed in a mild steel jacket. It has a jacketed design where the core material is very hard and also has high-density metal. The interesting space between core and jacket is filled with a special filler alloy. The bullet when it strikes an armor creates enough heat to soften the target material sufficient to permit penetration.

  • Electroplated Bullets

It is a lead bullet were electroplated with hard metal like copper or its alloy with the object of preventing its deformity.

  • Split Nose Bullet

The jacket of this bullet is cross-cut at the nose end to enable the bullets to have four sharp and pointed leaves set at right angles. It causes greater laceration.

  • Saboted Bullet

A bullet surrounded by a lightweight sheath, generally of plastic, is discarded as soon as the missile leaves the barrel. By using a smaller, much lighter bullet in a larger barrel, exceedingly high velocities can be obtained. Whilst most caliber have been manufactured, only the larger rifle calibers have ever become popular, and these are generally referred to by the trade name Accelerator.

  • Nyclad Bullets

A variation on the jacketed bullet theme is to coat plain lead bullets with a thick layer of black nylon. This ammunition, called Nyclad. It prevents the lead fouling in the bore of the weapon, reduced lead contamination in ranges, and is said to reduce friction with the bore, thus enhancing velocity.

  • Luballoy

This is a type of Ammunition with a wash of copper over the lead, known as Luballoy or Golden Bullets, which is also available. This coating is intended to reduce the deposition of lead on the inside surface of the barrel. Lead deposition in the weapon’s bore effectively reduces the internal diameter, giving rise to an increase in the internal pressures and a loss of accuracy due to a drop in the efficiency of the rifling.

  • Tandem Bullets

A bullet gets lodged somewhere in the barrel due to faulty propellant and gets ejected out on firing a second cartridge in the same gun. There is the likelihood that both bullets may enter together through the same hole by making only one entrance wound but at the greater range, these may be two entrance wounds as a result of one firing.

Shotgun Projectiles / Slug

It is also known as shoots/ pellets/slugs. Pellets, except very large sizes, are made by dropping molten lead from the top of a high tower into the water and hence also termed as drop shots. The lead used in the shot is hardened by the addition of antimony. Molding makes the very large size shots, commonly termed as buckshot.

Shotgun projectiles consist of small lead balls or pellets. These pellets are of different sizes, denoted by numbers and the larger pellets by letters. A complete list of it is given below:

NumberNo. of Pellets / 28.35g

Types of Shots

  • Spherical Ball

A typical twelve bore spherical has a diameter of approximately 0.729 inches. It is an as solid lead ball.

  • Lethal Ball

Spherical in shape having two circular raised lines on the surface. When this projectile strikes the target with some force. It was likely to get fragmented into eight pieces.

  • Rifled Slug

They are generally plain lead but impart spin, therefore stability to the projectile.

  • Rotex Ball

It is elongated in shape and has a hollow center with spiral fins. Their fins provide spin to the projectile that is why it has better stability and accuracy.

  • Nitro Conical Ball

It is an elongated shape of spiral grooves along with its length. The length of the projectile is approximately 1.25 inches and the weight is 4.71 grams also termed as Brereke.

  • Destructor

These projectiles have sixteen lead shots covered in a lead covering joint together when hit the target breaks up and the projectile cause extensive damage to the target.

Identification of Bullets

Bullets fired through rifled firearms receive both the class as well as accidental characteristics of the barrel from which they are fired. The bullet will show not only the primary markings left by the lands and grooves of the gun barrel but will also reveal the fine striations in all the marks. These are the imprint of small irregularities in the barrel and are never duplicated by different weapons. To determine whether or not a particular gun has fired the questioned bullet, a detailed comparison is made of markings on the questioned bullet with corresponding markings on the test bullets fired through the suspected gun. A bullet comparison microscope is used for this determination. The suspect bullet and the test-fired bullet are illuminated obliquely to create shadows that reveal the ridges and furrows engraved by the gun. The test bullets are obtained by firing the suspected weapon into a water tank or a bullet recovery box filled with cotton or cotton waste, to obtain bullet-bearing marks characteristics of the barrel.

When bullets seized at the crime scene are greatly deformed, or when only fragments of it are recovered, comparative chemical analysis of the question and the known bullets by spectrographic analysis may yield useful information.

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