Skip to main content

Hunting Bullets 101

Know before you buy! Let's break down the different types of bullets you'll probably come across at the ammo counter.

Hunting Bullets 101

The ammo shortage has forced people to purchase what's available rather than what they're familiar with.

Slowly but surely, we are starting to see an increase in the quantity of ammo readily available at our local sporting goods stores. But we aren’t out of the deep water just yet. The ammo shortage has forced hunters to purchase what is available, instead of being able to take their favorite load afield. This unfortunate reality necessitates a simple understanding of the various bullet types and their capabilities. This was made crystal clear last fall when a deer hunter showed up to camp shooting an FMJ bullet. The unfortunate ending to this story is that this error was not figured out until after he shot a deer. As would be expected, the bullet penciled straight through and the buck was not recovered.

What follows is a simple breakdown of the different types of bullets you might encounter at the ammo counter and the applications and limitations of each.

Full Metal Jacket


Full metal jacket (FMJ) bullets are a cheap option for plinking at the range but rarely, if ever, should be used for hunting purposes. FMJ projectiles are not designed to expand and so subsequently punch straight through the intended target. You could get away with shooting squirrels and other small vermin, but leave the FMJs home for anything bigger than a coon.

Cup & Core


A cup-and-core bullet is an encompassing family of projectiles with a wide range of applications. The basics of this versatile bullet include a copper jacket encasing a core of lead. Since its introduction in the late 1800s, bullet manufacturers have tinkered with the thickness of the jacket and shape of the bullet to produce cup-and-core bullets that perform in a variety of hunting scenarios. These include everything from fragmenting, ballistic-type varmint bullets, such as Hornady’s V-Max, to elk- and moose-capable meat missiles, such as the Nosler Partition and the Remington Core-Lokt.



Bonded bullets, often referred to as controlled-expansion bullets, were designed to deliver the terminal performance of the traditional cup-and-core design while delivering the deep-penetrating ability that they often lacked. Bonded bullets appear similar in design but differentiate themselves by bonding the lead core to the copper jacket. The result is a slower, controlled bullet expansion and subsequent deeper penetration. Popular bonded bullets include the Federal Terminal Ascent, the Nosler AccuBond, and the Swift A-Frame. With the appropriate cartridge and bullet size, these projectiles are built to take on everything from dainty antelope on up to the giant Yukon moose.



The idea behind a solid copper or monolithic bullet was to create a projectile purposely built to break bone and punch through dense muscle while still creating a sizeable wound channel. Since their introduction, monolithic projectiles have gained a lot of popularity for delivering devastating terminal performance on the biggest mammals around the world. Besides their proven terminal-performance track record, a solid copper bullet also offers hunters a non-toxic bullet alternative. Some of the best monolithic projectiles include the new Hornady CX, the Barnes TSX, the Winchester Extreme Point, and the Nosler E-Tip.

Current Magazine Cover

Don't Miss

The Essentials Gear Box.

Our editors have hand-picked these essential pieces of gear to make you a more successful hunter when you hit the game trails this season.

Learn More

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

Recent Videos

Kevin Steele treks to the cedar breaks and coulees of north-central Nebraska for a shot at a big prairie whitetail.

Cedar Break Bucks

David Draper is with Dory Schoby talking about the benefits of using red dots for hunting and taking a look at the Aimpoint Micro H2.

Aimpoint Red Dots for Hunting

David Draper is with Nathan Robinson of Winchester talking about the 6.8 Western Cartridge. It offers impressive long-range accuracy, low recoil and staggering knockdown power when you need it for both long-range shooting and hunting.

Winchester 6.8 Western

Joe Ferronato is joined by Luke Thorkildsen from Weather by to check out the Backcountry 2.0, which builds on the classic steel Mark V action — with some key updates.

Weatherby Mark V Backcountry 2.0

Nosler has some exciting new products. Mason Payer of Nosler shows our own Joe Ferronato new suppressors, 21 Chassis Rifle and Trophy Grade Ammunition.

New from Nosler!

Shawn Skipper of Leupold explains their Custom Dial System to Petersen's Hunting's Joe Ferronato.

Leupold CDS

Kevin Steele gets a chance to test this impressive rifle at Roundtable 2022.

CZ 600 Range

Petersen's Hunting's Dale Evans is with CJ Johnson of Bushnell checking out their new Elite 4X.

Bushnell Elite 4500 4X Scope

Tim Herald shares tips on how to best use a ground blind.

Trijicon Tip: Ground Blinds

Petersen's Hunting Magazine Covers Print and Tablet Versions

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save.

Digital Now Included!


Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services


Buy Digital Single Issues

Magazine App Logo

Don't miss an issue.
Buy single digital issue for your phone or tablet.

Buy Single Digital Issue on the Petersen's Hunting App

Other Magazines

Special Interest Magazines

See All Special Interest Magazines

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Get the top Petersen's Hunting stories delivered right to your inbox.

Phone Icon

Get Digital Access.

All Petersen's Hunting subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now

Enjoying What You're Reading?

Get a Full Year
of Guns & Ammo
& Digital Access.

Offer only for new subscribers.

Subscribe Now