the rogue turtle the rogue turtle
Our Mission
We provide information on survivalism, camping, food storage, cooking and grilling, and self reliance.

Our goal is to ensure you are prepared for natural and man-made disasters, before, during and after they occur.
Home Research Sign Up Links About the Rogue Turtle Contact Store

Sign up for newsletter updates!

The Armory: Ammunition
© 2006


Common handgun cartridges. Left to right: 3 in 12 ga. magnum shotgun shell (for comparison), size "AA" battery (for comparison), .454 Casull, .45 Winchester Magnum, .44 Remington Magnum, .357 Magnum, .38 Special, .45 ACP, .38 Super, 9 mm Luger, .32 ACP, .22 LR
These bullets (also referred to as "shells" or "rounds") are just a few of the many types, shapes and sizes of bullets on the market today. Every manufacturer tells you that their bullet is better than the other one, and many shooters will have their own opinions. But you know what opinions are...don't you? We all have one.

The good bullet is the one that works. An "opinion" may be based on either a good days luck, or a bad days luck, with no scientific data to back it up. Manufacturers can have "bad days" too and send out faulty batches of bullets by the truckload. Old Soviet-bloc countries were infamous for this problem, particularly for civilian use.

It should be apparent that the little .22 caliber bullet on the right in the photo, will have much less "stopping power" than the much larger .454 Casull round to the right of the "AA" battery. In fact, the .454 round will usually stop most anything on two - or four - feet.

From left to right: .50 BMG, 300 Win Mag, .308 Winchester, 7.62 Soviet, 5.56 NATO, .22LR
Long gun (rifle) ammunition can range from the little .22 Long Rifle bullet shown on the right side of the photo on the left, all the way up to the .50 caliber shell on the far left side. With every step up in the size and diameter of these bullets, range and "stopping power" increases.

Generally, the four rounds in between the .22 and the .50 are either used for military weapons, or hunting larger game.

Really long range sniping (shooting for accuracy at extremely long ranges) is done using especially loaded shells for the larger caliber shells shown on the left. I personally own a .308 rifle and find I have no trouble shooting a 2" grouping at over 100 yards. Thankfully, with my eyesight, I have a good scope. Without the scope at those ranges, all I would do is give my target a good scare.


Hint for Economy: If you really get into shooting for sport, reloading your own bullets is a very economical way to do a lot of shooting at cheaper prices. Gun shops (or Ebay) will sell you reloading equipment for your brand of bullets, and sell reloading (projectile) points, as well as gunpowder and primers. IF you select to do this, then make sure you collect your spent shell casings for later cleaning and re-use as reloaded ammunition. If you watch CSI you know that there are other reasons to collect spent brass also.

I don't reload my own ammo, but I am considering it for range use. I will usually blow up about $100 to $200.00 worth of factory ammo every time I go out and shoot. If I reloaded my own, I would cut this bill by a minimum of 50 to 60 percent, or more. RANGE (of BULLETS)

Range is a reference, either in feet, yards or miles (or meters and kilometers) to the distance a given bullet can travel. A small .22 caliber bullet has very little gunpowder behind it so it will have a much shorter range than the huge .454 bullet. Increasing its range, the bullet size and weight of the small .22 caliber round has much less wind resistance than the larger .454 round, and could (potentially) fly much farther. However, the larger gunpowder load of the .454 is used to overcome this wind resistance and still has much more range than a .22 bullet.

Military snipers and big game hunters use special spotting scopes that will accurately give you the range from your position to the selected target. Knowing the capability of the weapon and ammunition you are using, you can tell at a glance whether or not your target is "within range" of accurate shooting for your gun. If you are close to or exceeding your range limits, you must either wait for the target to wander closer to you - or move yourself closer to the target. Generally speaking, the closer you are to the target the higher the percentage of accuracy will be to hit your selected target.

The .50 caliber bullets used by some military snipers have an accuracy range over 2000 yards. That's 20 football fields laid end to end.


Caliber is a measurement of both inside and outside diameter. A designation like .22, .25, .308, .32, .357, .38, .380, .40, .44, .45, or .50 is an expression of the approximate outside diameter, in inches, of the projectile (bullet) part of the cartridge and the inside diameter of the barrel it was designed to fit. The designation typically has some word(s) or abbreviation associated with it. These measurements are for the diameter of the PROJECTILE, NOT THE SHELL CASING. In rifles, the shell casing is usually a larger diameter than the projectile.

For example, ".22 short" refers to a .22 caliber cartridge with a short case and a light powder load. Other options of such .22 caliber "rimfire" cartridges include ".22 long, .22 long rifle (LR), and .22WMR ("magnum"). A .22 (caliber) rifle chambered for .22LR is commonly (but not always) able to shoot the short, rifle and long-rifle cartridges.

The case of the ".22 magnum" is both longer than the others and has a diameter somewhat greater than the actual projectile diameter, so the magnum cartridges will not fit in a gun chambered for .22LR--and these cartridges produce considerably greater energy and projectile speeds.

The words "magnum" and "super" in caliber designations always mean more projectile energy than for cartridges without the word. The ".357 magnum" is a caliber for a cartridge that is closely the same as the ".38 special" except for the fact that its case is longer and contains more gun powder, and therefore produces greater projectile energy than the .38 special. The .38 special is the caliber for the revolver that was long the standard issue weapon for police and for civilian self protection. It and the .357 magnum are still much used in this manner.


There will be a few times when you are at gun shows that you can find special military ammunition for sale. This is usually surplus ammo that has somehow found its way to a flea market. Specialized ammunition, as seen by the color coding on the projectile points, shows the purpose for each color. Tracer ammunition burns red coming out of the barrel and will burn all the way to the target. Its drawback is it is also a straight line pointing right back at you.


Literally translated, the word "flechette" means "little arrow" in French. As far as shotgun ammunition is concerned, a flechette load is designed to extend range and increase penetration characteristics when compared to conventional ball shot loads.

A flechette load consists of several small, nail-like projectiles, each pointed at one end and weighted on the other by fins swaged into the rear of the projectile. The flechettes are held together by a plastic sabot until the load exits the shotgun's muzzle. The heavier mass at the rear serves to right the projectiles point-forward in flight. Because of these aerodynamic properties, range is extended a good deal and the pattern is relatively dense at longer ranges.
Because flechettes are usually constructed of hard steel with a pointed tip, deformation is less likely to occur on contact with body armor. However, light flechettes (20 per standard shell) have very little individual mass, which compromises their penetration potential. Heavier individual flechettes (6 per magnum shell) don't suffer from the same shortcomings. (See WARNING below)

Dragon's breath usually refers to a shotgun round made of a zirconium based flame creating substance. When fired, a gout of flame erupts from the barrel of the gun (up to 300 ft), causing damage similar to that of a short ranged flamethrower. The shell is expensive when compared to other shells. The tactical capabilities of a dragon's breath round is fairly limited. It can be used as a terror weapon, due to the fear it creates in large crowds. By the same token, it can be used to clear corridors and remove hair. It cannot be used in a semi-automatic shotgun, as it is a very low power round and will not produce enough recoil energy to cycle the next shot, causing the weapon to jam. Dragon's breath rounds are banned in many locations due to their inherent danger.

Dragon's Breath: Yes, these really do exist, and yes, you can order them for $16.98 each. White phosphorous that ignites upon being shot. Creates a 100-yard flamethrower that burns for about three seconds. Contrary to popular belief, this does not damage a smooth-bore shotgun. (RT is not so sure about that - DON'T BUY THESE!)

A Bolo Shell usually refers to a shotgun. The round is made of two or more slugs molded onto steel wire. When fired, the slugs separate, pulling the wire as a kind of flying blade. Bolo Shell rounds are banned in many locations due to their inherent danger. (RT does NOT RECOMMEND you use these shells!)


WARNING: Incendiary, Armor Piercing, Exploding, Flechette, Flame-thrower, Dragon's Breath and Bolo Shells are illegal to sell, own, or use in many states. In Florida, mere possession is a 3rd Degree Felony, and using one in a crime is a 2nd Degree Felony. The benefits (?) of these shells are outweighed by the prison sentence.

Left Photo: Notice on the far right how the .50-caliber bullet towers over a .30-06 standard hunting round (middle) and a .223 caliber round (far left) used in the AR-15 semi-automatic assault rifle (the civilian version of the M-16).

The actual specified maximum diameter of an unfired .50 BMG bullet is ~.506 inches; while this appears to be over the .50 inch (12.7 mm) maximum allowed under the U.S. National Firearms Act, the barrel of a .50 BMG rifle is only .50 inches across the rifling lands, and slightly larger in the grooves. The oversized bullet is swaged to size upon firing, forming a tight seal and engaging the rifling. While subject to current political controversy due to the great power of the cartridge (it is the most powerful commonly available cartridge not considered a destructive device under the National Firearms Act) it is popular among long range shooters for its accuracy and external ballistics, and it is one of the few cartridges that delivers accuracy (if match grade ammunition is used) at ranges over 1000 yards (.9 km). It is one of the reasons that .50 was chosen as the upper limit- as this cartridge and weapons that fire it were specifically included.


Big game means any animal that is over about 50 pounds in weight. That weight may be slightly less if you plan on hunting something really "Mean" like badgers, wild cats or hogs. It means a gun that can safely kill an animal from a safe (long) distance without exposing yourself to any danger. It usually is associated with an optical scope that mounts on the weapon making it much more accurate at long ranges. It means "one shot, one kill", in sniper terms. These are usually called "long guns" since they are mostly rifles using heavy-weight, powerful bullets. In terms of training, all scoped weapons have to be "sighted in", that is, taking the gun to a range and shooting targets until the rifle scope exactly matches the point of impact of the bullet on the target. I'll cover this step in another issue. It also means lots and lots of practice. You cannot just pick up a "long gun" and go shoot accurately. It can't be done.


Your weapon of choice depends on what you will use it for. Below is a chart showing most of the various caliber ammunition available today, and what they are typically used for. For all caliber weapons over .22/.25, all these rounds can be used offensively and defensively against human targets at medium to long ranges. The .22 and .25 are only good for humans when you are up close and personal. The bullets shown try to approximate the appearance of a standard round, and give some reference as to what the bullet looks like. Prices range widely depending on the caliber of the bullet, but generally the larger the bullet the higher the price. The very large rounds come in smaller packs than the small caliber rounds. The .22 rounds may be packaged in a box of 500 for less than $10.00. A pack of .308 rounds may be $10.00 for a box of 6 rounds. It costs money to practice with heavy bullets.




.22 short and long-rifle

Target shooting,  small game (pistol/rifle)


Small to medium game (rifle only)


Small to medium sized game (rifle only)


Medium to large game (rifle only)


Small to medium game (rifle only)

.25 Automatic

Target shooting, personal defense, semi automatic only


Medium to large game (rifle only)


Medium to large game (rifle only)


Medium to large game (rifle only)


Medium to large game (rifle only)

30 Caliber/30-06

Military, hunting medium/large game (rifle)

.308   (7.62 x 51)

Military, hunting large game (rifle only)


Medium to large game (rifle only)

.32 Auto

Personal defense (semi automatic pistol only)

.357 Magnum

Personal defense (pistol)

.38 Special

Personal defense (revolver or semi automatic pistol)

5.56 mm

Medium to large game (rifle only)

7 mm

Medium to large game (rifle only)

7.62 x 39

Medium to large game (rifle only)


Personal defense (semi-auto pistol only)


Personal defense (pistol and some rifles)


Personal defense (pistol)

.44 Magnum

Personal defense (pistol)

.45 Colt

Semi automatic pistol only


Semi automatic pistol or revolver only


Semi automatic pistol or revolver only (others available for rifle)

This chart is by no means a complete listing of ammunition available, but represents a sampling of ammunition available.