Shooter's Glossary: Ammo Jacket Types

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Shooter's Glossary: Ammo Jacket Types

An Ammo Jacket (or Bullet Jacket), refers to the outer covering or shell of a bullet, typically made of a harder metal.

A bullet’s jacket is a critical component, as it usually determines what you use the bullet for. For example, a soft point round has a partial jacket, leaving the lead exposed at the tip. 

Ammo Jacket Types

Here's a detailed look at the bullet jacket and its significance:

Basic Definition
A bullet jacket is a sheath of metal, most commonly copper or a copper alloy, that encases the lead core of a bullet, either partially or fully.

Purpose and Function

Reduced Barrel Fouling
The primary reason for using a jacket is to reduce fouling inside the barrel. Soft lead can deposit residue inside the barrel when the bullet is fired, affecting accuracy over time. The jacket minimizes this.

Controlled Expansion
Jackets, especially in hollow point bullets, can control the rate and consistency of bullet expansion upon impact. This can be crucial for self-defense and hunting applications where bullet performance in the target is vital.

Increased Penetration
A jacket can enhance the structural integrity of a bullet, allowing it to penetrate deeper or through barriers.

Prevent Lead Exposure
By encasing the lead core, jackets can also reduce the shooter's exposure to lead, especially in indoor shooting ranges.

Types of Bullet Jackets

Full Metal Jacket (FMJ)
The most common type of jacket, FMJ bullets have the lead core entirely encased in the jacketing material, except for the base. FMJ ammunition is widely used for target shooting and military applications.

Jacketed Hollow Point (JHP)
These bullets have an exposed lead hollow point surrounded by the jacket. This design promotes controlled expansion upon impact.

Jacketed Soft Point (JSP)
These bullets have a softer lead tip exposed with the remainder of the lead core enveloped by the jacket. This design offers a middle ground between FMJ and JHP, combining some expansion with deeper penetration.

Ballistic Tip
These bullets typically have a plastic tip over a lead core, but the core itself is still fully jacketed.


The jacket is typically applied through a swaging process. In this method, a lead core is pressed into a copper cup, which forms the jacket. The bullet is then shaped into the desired profile.


While jackets offer numerous advantages, they also introduce complexities in bullet design and performance. The thickness, composition, and construction of a jacket can significantly impact how a bullet behaves upon impact, which can be optimized for different applications.

In summary, in the realm of shooting sports, the bullet jacket plays a pivotal role in determining ammunition performance.

By influencing factors like barrel fouling, penetration, expansion, and shooter safety, the jacket is an integral part of modern bullet design.

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