Pick Your Poison

What's The Best Handgun Bullet Type

These are a selection of representative bullet shapes. Those on the left work well collectively in semi autos while those on the right are all good choices for revolvers.

I like bullets. I’m speaking of actual bullets and not loaded ammunition, which the idiots in the news media continually and mistakenly call “bullets.” Bullets can be hollowpoint (HP), jacketed soft point (JSP), full-metal jacketed (FMJ), wadcutter (WC), semi-wadcutter (SWC), roundnose (RN), roundnose/flatpoint (RN/ FP) and many other types. My favorite
bullet style is the RN/FP.

My preference is for lead alloy bullets, which I have been casting for myself since 1966. The exact temper of the alloy depends on the bullet’s purpose. For example, in .38 Spl. my alloy is 1-20. This means one part tin to 20 parts lead, with a Brinell Hardness Number (BHN) of about 12. But for semi autos I use Linotype alloy because it’s very hard with a BHN of
about 22. That extra hardness is needed because semi-auto pistol bullets are rather violently slammed from magazines
up feed ramps and into chambers. Hard bullets are “slick,” so this helps the function in autoloaders.

The most accurate bullet I’ve ever tried, as in machine rest testing of pistols and revolvers, is the full WC. It is not uncommon for WC’s to cut a ragged hole at 25 yards from a good handgun. Here I’m speaking of both home cast WC’s and swaged lead WC’s as offered by the major bullet manufacturers. Going a step further, the swaged lead hollow-base WC’s (WC-HB) are usually more accurate than flat-base WC’s.

Duke’s favorite bullet style for all handgun shooting is the roundnose/flatpoint.

When It Really Matters

Hollowpoint bullets, either JHP’s or home cast HP’s, can be very wicked on live tissue. Of course, jacketed ones have very soft cores to enhance their expansion properties. Home-cast ones can be about any alloy mixture, but hard-cast HP’s tend to fragment on impact instead of mushrooming and very soft ones tend to lead foul revolver barrels badly. This is where the gas check enters our bullet picture. Plain-base cast bullets of 1-20 alloy work well for me at revolver velocities up to about 900 fps. Using a gas check design ups their good performance to about 1,200 fps.

Next to HP bullets, the most effective on tissue are lead alloy SWC’s. Again these can be swaged or home cast. In my experience my home-cast SWC’s are just as accurate as full WC’s. For decades SWC’s have generally been considered the best all-around revolver bullet.

In earlier, less affluent years I cast all my handgun bullets, from .32 Auto all the way up to .45 Colt. The only caliber I’ve had trouble achieving acceptable results with has been 9mm Parabellum. This is not the same as saying I’ve never had decent results, it’s just not a cut-and-dried thing. Some 9mm handguns have handled them adequately, some have handled them to a mediocre level, and others have just tumbled them out the barrel.

Recently, I got two surprises in regards to 9mm bullets. A batch of bullets from Missouri Bullet Company arrived. Surprise one was they were RED! This was because they were “coated” bullets. Giving a detailed description of coated bullets is too lengthy to delve into here, but suffice it to say the coating keeps lead alloy from touching the barrel and also serves as a lubricant. I tried both 124-gr. RN’s and 147- gr. tapered flatpoints (TFP) in a World War II German P-38 and they shot into two 21/2″ groups at 25 yards. This pistol doesn’t do any better with jacketed bullets.

What’s My Pick?

In the first paragraph I said the RN/ FP was my favorite bullet style. Why? Because it functions just as well from lever-action rifles and carbines and semi-auto pistols as it does from revolvers. And with a wide-flatnose, it rivals SWC’s as game bullets. My shelves, cabinets and reloading benches are always stuffed full of the types of bullets mentioned here to the tune of tens of thousands. Like I said in the beginning: I like bullets.

American Handgunner March/April 2018

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