Hooray! More firearm fun today! In case you missed part 1, go read here. We’ve also got part 3 and part 4 when you’re done with this one. Today we’ll be covering the basics of ammunition, so we’ll discuss three types of ammunition (pictured left to right): Handgun, Rifle, and Shotgun. Handgun and Rifle ammunition are built very similarly. They have a brass case that holds a charge of powder in it, a primer at the bottom, and a bullet at the top. The full bullet/powder/case/primer setup is called a cartridge or sometimes a round (as in “a round of ammunition”). They’re also frequently called bullets, although technically the bullet is only one part of the full cartridge. The primer is the part that sparks and burns the powder when it is hit by the firing pin on the gun. If the primer is in the center of the bottom of the case, it is a CENTERFIRE cartridge. The following picture is of a Centerfire Rifle cartridge. See the round section in the middle–like the center of a bullseye? That’s the primer. When this rifle fires this round of ammunition, the firing pin will strike the center circle and it will ignite the powder inside the case. The powder burns, creating expanding gas which pushes the bullet out the top of the case and down the barrel of the gun. (This all happens very quickly–faster than you can say Bang!) Mostly larger cartridges are centerfire. The smallest cartridges are what’s called RIMFIRE. .17′s and .22′s are in this group. They do not have their primer in the center, but have it in a ring around the base of the cartridge (on the rim of the base=rimfire). The following picture is of the bottom of a .22 rimfire cartridge. In order to fire this round, the gun’s firing pin will hit the edge of the base to ignite the powder. The next picture is complements of gunczar.com and shows various rifle cartridges (from left to right: 17 HM2, .17 HMR, .22LR, .22 WMR, .17/23 SMc, 5mm/35 SMc, .22 Hornet, .223 Remington, .223 WSSM, .243 Winchester, .243 Winchester Improved (Ackley), .25-06 Remington, .270 Winchester, .308, .30-06, .45-70, .50-90 Sharps): A handgun is a gun that can be held and fired with one hand (not that that is the best or most accurate way to hold or fire them, but just that they can be). It generally does not have a stock and the barrel is shorter than a rifle or shotgun. Other words that refer to handguns are pistol and revolver (although a revolver is only one type of handgun).
Any questions yet?
Finally, we’ll cover Shotgun Ammunition, also called shotgun shells. Shotgun bores and shells are measured in gauge, where the number refers to how many lead balls that diameter would be needed to make a pound. So a 12 ga. is larger than a 20 ga. since if you had a pile of 12 balls that weighed a pound and a pile of 20 balls that also weighed a pound the balls in the 12 ball pile would be larger than those in the 20 ball pile. Make sense yet? Smaller gauge number, larger diameter.
Shotgun shells are built similar to the handgun/rifle cartridges except for a few differences. They have a primer and case, but a shotgun case is plastic. The powder is the same, but the shotgun shell has a “wad”–another piece of plastic to separate the powder from the shot. The shot is a bunch of little balls usually of steel or lead and can be purchased in various sizes. Some shotgun shells are loaded with a bullet called a slug instead of shot. Then the plastic is folded over and sealed at the top to hold it all in.
Now here’s your new assignment. Find out what ammuntion you have at your house. See what you can identify . . . :)