The Hollow Points vs FMJ debate never gets old. Even though the answers and solutions offered by experts are always repetitive. If you still haven’t got a knack of the differences and which one you should choose. You shall find an answer in this article.
For a quick overview though, FMJ bullets are a favorite of the military. Whereas Hollow Points are more loved by law enforcement and civilians.
With a lot of good reasons for these, let’s get a detailed overview and settle this debate once and for all.
FMJ vs Hollow Point
Strong and good piercing power
Larger wound channel
Better feeding & cheaper to procure
Amazing stopping power
Less barrel fouling & good ballistics
Almost no over-penetration
Prone to over-penetration
Tad pricier than FMJ
Creates small wound channel
Prone to feeding issues
Illegal for hunting applications
Causes more fouling / lead exposure
FMJ bullets are great for target practice and competitions. These are widely used by militaries all around the world.
HP bullets are perfect for hunting and home/self-defense applications due to their stopping power.
What is a Full Metal Jacket (FMJ)?
It is a kind of projectile used in small-arms ammunition. It is a shaped metal jacket (outer shell) that is filled with a soft metal (mostly lead) on the inside. The hard outer jacket is mostly made from cupronickel or gilding metal. Which helps with achieving higher muzzle velocity.
FMJ bullets were invented in 1882 by Swiss Colonel Eduard Rubin.
FMJ ammo is compulsorily used by most militaries all around the world (the United States is not one of them) due to the Hague Convention signed in 1899. Making soft bullets prohibited for combat. FMJ ammo is also labeled as ‘ball ammunition’ in military nomenclature.
What is a Hollow Point?
As the name already suggests, a hollow point bullet features a tip that is cut out and easily expands upon impact. The inside of the projectile is filled with soft metal (often lead). The hollow tip helps reduce the bullet’s weight and is a bit helpful with accuracy.
Hollow point bullets date back to the late 19th century and have been through a lot of development since then. There is a wide variety of hollow point bullets available today and they are most popular with handguns.
Relevant Characteristics Between FMJ and Hollow Point
Let’s take a look at some prominent characteristics of the FMJ and Hollow Point bullets.
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Similarities and Differences
Coming to the crux of this discussion, let’s now compare FMJ and hollow point bullets for some similarities and differences.
FMJ and Hollow Point Differences
Let's take a look at the (obvious and not so obvious) differences between these:
The most primary difference between FMJ and Hollow Point is their basic design. FMJ bullets are hard, non-expanding projectiles. HP (Hollow Point) bullets have a hollow tip that fragments upon impact.
This difference in design causes further diversification for relevant applications.
FMJ bullets have a higher penetrating power due to the hard outer casing. Hence FMJ’s can pass through a target without creating much damage on the inside. This causes them to be more prone to ricocheting and also hitting an unwanted object beyond the target.
Hollow points on the other hand expand and deform upon impact and hence are less likely to overpenetrate.
Difference in Ballistics
FMJ bullets have a pointed design that helps with attaining a higher ballistic coefficient, velocity, and aerodynamic advantage. On the other hand, HP bullets have a larger meplat that helps with improving accuracy and makes the bullet more predictable. Compared to FMJ’s that are more prone to bullet harmonics factors and wind deflection.
Given the hardness of these projectiles. It is quite obvious that FMJ bullets will offer a better feeding performance while being scooped from the magazine. Although HP’s aren’t very defamed for feeding efficiency. But FMJ’s certainly have a slight edge.
FMJ rounds are significantly cheaper compared to HP’. That’s because FMJ’s are a simpler design and very easy to roll out of the production line in large batches. The design of an HP bullet makes it more complex to machine.
FMJ and Hollow Point Similarities
There's really only one consistent similarity between these designs:
Both the FMJ and JHP (Jacketed Hollow Point) bullets use a filling of soft metal (which is almost always lead) inside the jacket. Since lead is a dense material, it allows for better kinetic energy even with a low mass.
Advantages of FMJ
FMJ bullets are widely used in combat roles and also for target shooting. These bullets have better ballistics compared to HP’s as a result of their aerodynamic shape. The jacketed projectile helps with attaining higher muzzle velocities. Which in turn offers better range and flatter trajectories.
Due to their design, FMJ bullets are more reliable and easy to store/handle. The hard bullet doesn’t deform upon mishandling and stays in shape regardless of what it goes through before getting fired.
FMJ bullets are renowned for their penetrating abilities. While that can be a possible con when you are using these bullets in urban combat or self-defense roles with innocent bystanders. This feature helps when one has to face hostiles hiding behind cover.
Another good advantage of FMJ ammo is that it shoots cleaner with little fouling--which means that the barrel has to deal with lesser grime in the long run.
FMJ ammo is also great in magazines because the hard tip offers perfect grip when the bolt tries to pull the round out of the mag.
Since the bullet is hard, problems like deformation or even fragmentation of the head are absolutely eliminated. Another good advantage is that FMJ ammo is cheap to procure. Plus, you can even find some mil-surp ammo on store shelves at flea market prices.
This makes it very economical to practice with FMJ ammo. More practice means you can hone your skills better. Without putting too much load on your pocket.
FMJ bullets are mostly used by shooters on the range for practice, or during competitions. Their ballistics make them great for sniping and military snipers are required to use FMJ rounds by international law (not a compulsion for the US Military though).
However, FMJ bullets are great at piercing armor and some cover objects. FMJ bullets are not the best choice for hunting because the bullet is more likely to pass through the critter creating an exit wound and without causing significant tissue damage.
The “if the military uses it, I’ll also use it” approach doesn’t work with FMJ bullets in civilian life. Since FMJ’s were designed exclusively for the purpose of combat. With wounding a soldier as the primary task.
Advantages of Hollow Points
Hollow point bullets have been around for decades more than the FMJ. A hollow point bullet is a deadly tool that has one and only purpose - ‘to kill’.
The design of an HP bullet makes it mushroom upon impact. Since the head deforms into a flat and rough surface, the bullet doesn’t move too deep inside flesh and creates a large wound channel around the area of impact.
That’s because the energy that was being carried by the bullet is immediately transferred into the target as the bullet gets stuck and can’t move. Hence it creates kind of a small explosion resulting in a large wound.
This large wound cavity makes the Hollow Point bullet perfect for hunting and self-defense. While an FMJ bullet is more likely to pass through a charging hostile and relies upon the blood to drain out for incapacitation (if you don’t hit any vital organ). An HP bullet will transfer enough punch to stop a charging hostile in lesser rounds.
Since HP bullets have little penetration, these are perfect for urban home defense scenarios. Where you don’t want the bullet to pass through the hostile, then through a wood board wall, and then hit someone sitting in the next room or house.
Hunting with HP bullets ensures that your game will be put down instantly without much misery and pain. Even if it tries to run away, the large wound cavity won’t make it hop far away before dropping dead.
Additionally, since FMJ bullets are illegal to hunt with. HP’s are the most suitable and your only option. HP bullets come in a variety of options to choose from. Each with its own inherent characteristics.
Hollow points are the first choice of most people who use handguns for CCW or EDC or even most LEO officers for that matter. The major reason for this consortium is the stopping power of HP rounds and the damage they cause.
While hunting and self-defense are the two most prominent uses of HP bullets. It doesn’t mean they cannot be used for other applications.
One reason why you don’t see HP ammo being shot too commonly on a range is their higher price compared to FMJ’s.
What About Total Metal Jacket Ammo (TMJ vs FMJ)?
Total and Full are technically the same in terms of meaning. But, a TMJ bullet is slightly different than an FMJ bullet. In fact, it is a slightly modified version of the FMJ bullet.
If you look at the structure of an FMJ bullet, you’ll find that the jacket is open at the base that exposes the soft core to the black powder. Whereas in a Total Metal Jacket (TMJ) the base is covered with a thin metal sheet. Hence sealing the core completely.
TMJ and FMJ bullets are practically the same as you’ll find no big difference in performance, ballistics, or any other factor. Plus, since the core is almost always lead. There’s no point in talking about rusting or corrosion of the core. Which in fact can be a consideration for steel cores.
What a TMJ bullet actually does is protect you from inhaling lead that evaporates from the exposed core of an FMJ due to the high temperatures of the burning gunpowder. While one still has to get exposed to hundreds of thousands of rounds on an indoor range to get serious health issues. So that’s not a very big concern.
However, many indoor ranges require their users to shoot TMJ bullets for the same reason.
One very important thing to keep in mind is that TMJ rounds should not be used with ported barrels. Since the jacket in TMJ bullets is pretty thin and can cause a chip off, creating a potential safety hazard for the shooter.
Some people argue that TMJ bullets are slightly more accurate and effective compared to FMJ. Especially during matches. But that still has to be proven with detailed analytics.
Apart from being friendly towards the health of shooters, TMJ bullets are also environmentally friendly. As bullets that stray away into the wilderness will not expose the lead inside and contaminate any possible water bodies.
Due to their design and manufacturing costs, TMJ bullets are costlier compared to FMJ. So you’ll have to spend a bit more when purchasing in bulk.
FMJ’s were designed to injure, HP’s were designed to decimate. That’s the crux of the entire discussion. FMJ is a widely used military round and international law requires militaries to use FMJ rounds since they are more likely to injure due to overpenetration when not hitting any vital organs. TMJ bullets are just an advanced version of FMJ to prevent health hazards.
Hollow Point bullets are designed to expand upon impact, thus creating a larger wound channel and not penetrating the target to create an exit wound. Due to their good stopping power and less penetration, HP bullets are widely used for self-defense and hunting.
People Also Ask
Enlighten yourself with some useful knowledge about FMJ and hollow point bullets with this short FAQ section.
Can You Turn A FMJ Into A Hollow Point?
While technically this can be done using a drill press. It is absolutely not recommended and the chances of success are very low. There’s no guarantee that the jacket will expand the way you expect. Pus you risk damaging the barrel or compromising your own safety.
Why Do Ranges Not Allow FMJ?
FMJ bullets are over-penetrating hence the backstop has to face more damage. Plus, FMJ bullets are also prone to ricochet. Hence causing serious safety concerns.
Do Police Use FMJ Or Hollow Point?
Police officers rely upon Hollow Point bullets due to their good stopping power and also concerning the safety of bystanders. Since HP bullets do not often penetrate.