“What are the pros and cons of hollow points?” “What are the pros and cons of FMJ’s (full metal jackets)?” “Are hollow points barbaric?” “Do hollow points make me look blood thirsty?” “What about Xtreme Penetrators”? These are questions that are asked by the common first time gun owner. Lets say you just purchased your gun, it fits well, its concealable, and you are fairly decent with shot placement. The gun store clerk shoves a box of “Hornady Critical Defense” ammo towards you and fiercely recommends it for personal defense. Could you visualize or articulate the difference between Hornady Critical Defense rounds and regular ol’ bullets (FMJ’s)?
Full Metal Jackets (FMJ’s)
A full metal jacket is usually consists of a SOFT metal core that is encased in a harder metal such as brass. FMJ’s are usually referred to as “ball” ammunition in the military. Full Metal Jackets do a decent job at damaging or penetrating HARD surfaces such as windshields, sheet rock, sheet metal, tin, stone, wood and ceramics. They also devastate soft targets such as flesh and ballistics gelatin.
One main drawback of FMJ’s is that they have a tendency to overpenetrate-they don’t stop until they’ve expended ALL of their kinetic energy. By the time FMJ’s have expended all of their kinetic energy they may have passed through an attacker’s body.
Common Calibers in Full metal jackets
If you are shooting an assailant with FMJ’s from a high velocity CONCUSSIVE caliber like a .357 SIG, .357 Magnum, .40 S&W, or a 10mm, you may be increasing the chances of overpenetration. This phenomenon occurs when the projectile FAILS to stop traveling because it has not expended all of its kinetic energy inside the target (this is also called a “through and through”, or an “exit wound”). These overpenetrators are free to fly around and tear up someones engine block on their car, punch through somebody’s vinyl siding, kill somebody’s dog, or even ricochet and kill an innocent bystander.
Jacketed Hollow Points (JHP’s)
A hollow point is basically a bullet that has been hollowed out. This hollowing out causes the bullet to expand when it hits a soft target such as ballistics gel, flesh, or water. This design allows hollow points to expend nearly ALL of their kinetic energy INSIDE of the soft target. Expansion causes the surface area of the bullet to increase substantially. This virtually eliminates the possibility of over penetration. Just visualize FMJ’s as spears. Spears pierce and cut straight through a target. Now imagine Hollow points being like sledge hammers. Sledge hammers crush,Smash, rip, and tear through things. The spear and the sledge hammer are both incredibly lethal, but they work in different ways.
Hollow points are ILLEGAL to be used by armies around the world according to the Hague Convention. But they are the ammunition of choice for Law Enforcement in America (hmmm).
Hollow Point Drawbacks
One performance drawback of the Hollow point design is the fact that it relies on liquid or semi liquid targets (like flesh, water, or ballistics gelatin) for expansion. If it strikes a hard surface such as a windshield, it may not punch through. Another performance drawback is that the hollow point expansion can be defeated if an attacker has on THICK clothing like a sweat shirt.Thick clothing will cause premature expansion and basically cause the hollow point to behave like a weak FMJ. “Hornady Critical Defense” solves this problem by filling the hollow point cavity with a rubber like polymer. This eraser-like material DELAYS expansion when/if the bullet strikes heavy clothing and allows the hollow point to behave like a hollow point should.
Count up the cost and weigh your options. Look at the pros and cons of both ammo types. Some gun owners alternate FMJ’s with JHP’s in the magazines to get the benefits of both. DO what works for you.