Understanding Bullets Set



Bullets are not simply one size fits all. They come in all different shapes, sizes and weights depending upon the gun they are to be used in as well as the type of game being shot.


  • Bullet shape
  • Bullet materials


Bullets come in many different shapes and sizes. The bullet itself is the projectile located at the front end of the cartridge. They are traditionally made of lead and lead alloys. They may also be covered by a jacket of a harder metal. When the nose of the bullet is covered it is called a full metal jacket, hard point or ball ammunition. If the lead is exposed at the tip of the bullet it is called a jacketed soft point. The most common metals used as jacket material are copper, gilding metal or steel.

Bullets are measured in units called grains. Many balances are capable of measuring in units of grains. If not, the bullet's mass can always be converted. One gram is equivalent to 15.43 grains. For example, a bullet that weighs 3.89 grams would be approximately 60 grains.

Bullets vary in design depending upon their intended purpose. Bullets for hunting often have a soft or hollow point. This type of bullet is designed to expand on impact using the majority of the energy on the target. Conversely, target bullets often have reduced expansion making them inappropriate for hunting most game. In general, the heavier the bullet the more power it carries. Figure 1 displays different types of common rifle bullets.

Ballistic fingerprinting consists of a set of forensic techniques that uses marks that firearms leave on bullets to match a bullet to a specific gun it was fired from. When a gun is fired, the bullet passes through a barrel that contains raised and lowered spirals. These spirals etch small grooves known as striations into the bullet. These striations allow a bullet to be traced back to a particular gun.

Teacher Tips

  • The bullet set may be used for several lessons in the classroom, such as:
    • A gateway to forensic labs, such as AP7750 Flinn Forensic Files—Ballistics.
    • Practicing converting units of measure, such as grains to grams.
    • Identifying different types of bullets based on shape and material.

Correlation to Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)

Science & Engineering Practices

Using mathematics and computational thinking
Obtaining, evaluation, and communicating information
Developing and using models

Disciplinary Core Ideas

MS-PS1.A: Structure and Properties of Matter
HS-PS1.A: Structure and Properties of Matter

Crosscutting Concepts

Structure and function
Cause and effect

Performance Expectations

MS-PS1-3. Gather and make sense of information to describe that synthetic materials come from natural resources and impact society.
HS-PS2-6. Communicate scientific and technical information about why the molecular-level structure is important in the functioning of designed materials.


Canadian Firearms Safety Course. http://www.gov.pe.ca/photos/original/CFSCmanualVer2.pdf (accessed July 2018).

Next Generation Science Standards and NGSS are registered trademarks of Achieve. Neither Achieve nor the lead states and partners that developed the Next Generation Science Standards were involved in the production of this product, and do not endorse it.