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Why Do They Call It Ball Ammo? (Definition and Uses)

Interested in getting ammunition for your firearm? If you are not too versed in ammunition, you may be unsure of which kind to get that meets your gun’s desired function. Ball ammo is the most common type used in a variety of guns with a variety of different functions. 

Ball ammunition is standard lead bullets that are specifically made for penetration. They are completely covered in metal, are solid, and do not expand upon impact. They are typically used for target practice and training rather than self-defense.

Keep reading to understand more about ball ammunition, what it is used for, the pros and cons, and how it compares to different types of ammo. This will give you an idea of whether it is a good fit for you.

9mm Ammo and Firearm

What is Ball Ammo, and What is It Used For?

Ball ammo, also known today as full metal jacket (FMJ) ammunition, stands for anything that is a non-hollow point jacketed round or what the military uses as standard ammo. It derives its name from the beginning of firearms, where muskets using large metal balls were used before the advent of conical ammunition.

Ball ammo is highly armor-piercing and is great in situations where that is needed. The downside to this, however, is in the implications of that through-and-through effect. If you fire into an assailant in your home, the round could go straight through him, through the walls behind him, and, feasibly, through an unintended target. This is why it is primarily used for the firing range.

Unlike other armor-piercing rounds, FMJ ammunition is completely legal in all firearms, including rifle rounds. 

  • There have been attempts to ban certain FMJ rounds from civilian use by citing that they are, in fact, armor-piercing and, therefore, a hazard to police officers.
  • These claims were shot down in dramatic fashion by the US Senate and Congress.

To summarize, ball ammo is great for practicing but bad in practice. You should purchase it only if you are looking to have some fun on your land or training your aim on the range. This is true even in spite of the fact that there are many kinds of ammunition of every kind, including FMJ. Stick with the hollow points for a home.  

Related Storing Ammo in Ziplock Bags | Should You Do It?

Ball Ammo Vs. Hollow Point


Hollow point ammo is the counterpart of ball ammo. Whereas ball ammo is surrounded by a metal jacket, usually copper, hollow points have a hole at the tip of the bullet that goes to the bullet’s core.  This causes hollow point rounds to expand upon impact with their target, creating a larger wound cavity and stronger force once it enters the body.

This has another effect as well:  

  • The energy expended in the expansion of a hollow point round does more damage, but it also greatly diminishes the bullet’s penetrating power
  • This makes it excellent for home defense, as it will not go through your intended target and will quite likely be lethal

There are not many scenarios where armored targets will be present in a self-defense scenario, so hollow points are the ideal ammunition for a personal firearm.  Their stopping power far exceeds that of FMJ as well, with the force of the expansion being so great that it can kill your target even besides the actual bullet wound.  

All in all, FMJ is great for military use, where they deal with armored targets or targets behind hard cover regularly, but in the civilian sector, its special qualities do more harm than good.  Hollow points are the standard ammunition for personal defense, and that is a standard that makes a lot of sense.  To clarify further, we will discuss:

Ball Ammo Advantages

9mm Ammo and Firearm

There are two main advantages to using ball ammo over hollow point:

  1. Ball ammo has a higher velocity and is typically a bit more accurate since it doesn’t leak the same lead residue that a follow point does
  2. Because there is less residue, cleaning a firearm is easier and you won’t have to do it as often.

Ball Ammo Vs. Green Tip

Rifle ammo is a lot different from pistol ammo, so it is worth taking an extra close look at it.  The most common ball ammo for a 5.56 mm bullet is the M193, which is a regular FMJ 5.56 round.  It has enhanced armor-piercing properties due to its size and the fact that it is fired out of a rifle, but it is not an armor-piercing round by itself. 

That is where green-tip rounds enter. 

  • These are called M855 rounds, and they are also full metal jackets but with a steel core
  • This means that they do not easily break apart when coming into contact with even heavy armor but punch straight through it
  • This makes them fantastic against armor but extremely poor versus softer targets

The M193 was used by the military during Vietnam but was discontinued during the Cold War in favor of the M855s. The M193 round is more unpredictable than its newer counterpart, sometimes fragmenting upon contact with soft targets. This can lead to much more serious injuries than the M855 can incur, making it better for hunting and self-defense.

The M855 green tips do not do as much damage to soft targets, but they also travel through the air with much more stability due to the heavier weight of the round. This makes them much better at distance than the M193, whose lighter load and unstable movement were cause for significant bullet drop and inaccuracy due to the wind.

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Final Shot

Ball ammo is a versatile round that can be found almost anywhere. It is used in guns of all types except shotguns and is excellent for training and learning gun handling. For pistols, it is best to stick with hollow points or some other soft-tipped bullet when it comes to home defense and hunting.  This way, the power of ball ammo will not hurt anything you do not intend it to.

In the case of rifles, it is the opposite. 5.56 ball ammo is preferable for both hunting and home defense to its green-tipped other and will outperform its rival handsomely in both categories except at longer ranges. The importance of knowing your ammunition is hard to overstate when it comes to handling firearms, and there are few better examples of this than ball ammo.

Thanks for reading!

For more, check out How Much Does Ammo Cost? | Detailed Price Analysis.