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target shooting ammo

Competitive shooters fire thousands of rounds to hone their targeting skills. No matter the competition, practice is vital in a sport where precise aim is the only means to winning. In recent months ammunition has skyrocketed due to inflation, supply chain woes, and rising material costs. 

so What Is A Dedicated Shooter To Do?


No shooter wants to use their best ammo on the range; dedicated shooters either reload for themselves or purchase practice ammunition from reputable dealers. Online ammunition dealers offer various quality manufacturers, giving shooters plenty of options to save money. 

One way to know if the ammo you are buying is sub-par is concentricity, meaning everything is lined up with consistency. The bullet should be precisely seated to the brass casing and not canted to one side. Ammo that is not concentric will not shoot with accuracy. 

A bullet that is not aligned correctly is called a run-out, and the degree of alignment can be measured down to the thousandth of an inch. One way to know if the ammo is out of alignment is to roll the bullet on a flat hard surface and keep an eye on the tip. If the tip wobbles noticeably, the ammo is out of alignment. Make this check at your retail store, and then look for the best deals at a reputable online dealer. 

Full Metal Jacket (FMJ)

Most shooting ranges and targets are designed for FMJ ammunition or full metal jackets. FMJ construction means the bullet penetrates further than regularly constructed ammo. FMJ ammo is easier to manufacture, making the price ideal for a shooter who fires thousands of rounds to hone their skill.

The core of an FMJ bullet is soft, usually lead, and coated with a harder alloy. The coating is either cupronickel, an alloy of copper, nickel, or another strengthening agent. Brass jackets are made from gilding metal, a form of brass with a high copper and zinc content. 

Jacketed Hollow Point (JHP)

Most ammunition for defensive situations is JHP or jacketed hollow point. The bullet’s tip has a hollowed-out cup and is preferred in self-defense and hunting scenarios. When the round bullet hits a target, the hollowed-out tip lets the bullet deform much like a mushroom causing extreme damage. JHP ammo slows once it is out of the muzzle. 

NATO and militaries around the globe use only FMJ rounds due to an international treaty signed years ago forbidding the use of expanding ammo. The US military employs hollow points in the Sig M17 pistol because they never ratified the treaty. Hollow points are used for controlled penetration of a target, where over-penetration could cause considerable damage.

Total Metal Jacket

TMJ ammo does not expose any lead when firing, making them environmentally friendly. TMJ ammunition is stronger on hard surfaces and does not expand on impact, making this ammo extremely dangerous. Total metal jacket rounds can take a lot of punishment and are very durable in the field.

TMJ rounds have thinner casings than other ammunition and also have excellent uniformity from round to round. This consistency makes the TMJ ammo more accurate than most other ammo, which is a valuable trait for long-range hunters and especially competitive shooters. TMJ ammunition is cleaner in your gun due to the lack of exposed lead. 

Total metal jacket ammo is costly and why most shooters opt for a cheaper round when practicing.  

What to consider when choosing practice ammo

Full metal jacket rounds hold their trajectory and have extreme penetration on soft tissue. The primary reason experienced shooters do not use FMJ rounds other than price, they do not expand when hitting the target. The downside to this direct penetration is unintended impacts downrange from the target.  

FMJ is a small-arms bullet with a softcore and brass jacket. Manufacturers save money on the practice ammo by using softer lead and brass that is not competition grade.

Jacketed hollow points are offered in various shapes, loads, and manufacturers. Comparing hollow points to full metal jacket rounds is the damage they cause and the accuracy. JHP ammo is better suited to an automatic firearm because of the feed.

The nose of a jacketed hollow point is coated in a more rigid metal, which helps prevent lead issues in the gun’s bore. As a result of the slick metal deposits, FMJ ammo attains higher muzzle velocities.

Another consideration when buying ammo is the casings; should you buy brass or steel? Brass is considered the better choice because of the seal it creates in the chamber. The sealing action gives the shooter less blowback into the receiver and chamber. Meaning that there is not as much gas and unburned powder passing back into your gun every time a round is fired. 

Steel casings are less malleable than brass and will not create as tight a seal. Carbon build-up in the muzzle and receiver gives the firearm more opportunities for malfunction and is less reliable in the long run.   

Every major ammo manufacturer produces practice ammo. For example, consider the following:

  • Browning 40 S&W FMJ Practice Ammunition. 165-grain weight, with 100 per box, five per case. The Browning practice ammo has traditional brass for reloading and is tested for accuracy and velocity. 
  • Federal American Eagle FMJ, 9mm 115 gr. The Federal is ideal for plinking and practice due to its low cost and full metal jacket construction. The 9mm centerfire is widely available and inexpensive.
  • CCI Blazer Brass 9mm Luger FMJ, 147 gr. 50 per box. CCI offers reloadable brass and clean-burning propellants for its ZFMJ ammo. The 147 gr. Gives the new shooter better performance characteristics. 

Novice shooters tend to think FMJ ammo should be used all the time; this is a mistake! FMJ ammo does not expand on impact, meaning the round nose or ball goes straight through the target. Another factor to consider is recoil. If you plan to shoot a lot at the range, choose a small-bore rim-fire cartridge to avoid wearing out your hands. Avoid magnum loads until you need to make a statement. 

target shooting

Self-Defense vs Target Ammo

The primary benefit of target ammo is that it can be manufactured cheaper, allowing shooters to purchase larger quantities. The more ammunition a shooter can purchase, the more training a shooter can have at the range. One of the significant debates: should a shooter use target ammo in real-life situations.

In certain circumstances, using target ammo is acceptable but not recommended. These circumstances can be anything, including if you are out of ammo, local restrictions, or as a last resort. Target ammunition is cheap for a reason!

It is essential to know if your concealed carry weapon will cycle the cheaper target ammo and the more expensive hard case bullet. One of the last things a shooter wants is firing a bullet that doesn’t work correctly. This issue is not as significant as it used to be because technology has improved all ammo and firearms. However, it is a good idea to cycle through a few rounds from each new box you purchase. 

Modern-day pistols and revolvers can easily feed FMJ and JHP ammo; however, certain older designs may have trouble cycling a jacketed hollow point.

Small Bore Ammunition

Practice shooting at your local gun range is more than just ensuring your handgun is working correctly. Competitive shooters, law enforcement, and others who require a firearm need to practice their aim on the target constantly. 

Reloading can cut down on expenses, but it is time-consuming. Use small-bore rim-fire cartridges to practice. 

Rimfire ammunition is inherently less reliable than centerfire; for this reason, use affordable rim-fire ammo for target practice only. It should be remembered that rim-fire, lite grain ammo is cheaper and suitable for targeting in short-distance scenarios. 

To see which works best for your situation, it is advisable to practice with several different boxes of 22 LR, mixing in grain, velocity, lead nose, hollow point, etc.

The following are extremely affordable options of 22 LR built by major ammunition builders. The following ammunition does not last long at its advertised prices, so find a reputable online retailer to alert you when more product is in stock.

  • Federal Range and Target Ammunition, 22LR copper 40 grain, copper-plated round nose. 50 rounds per box and 100 boxes per case. 1200 FPS.
  • Winchester Wildcat Ammunition, 22LR 40 grain, lead round nose, 1255 FPS. 50 rounds per box, 100 boxes per case. 
  • CCI Standard Velocity Ammo, 22 LR, lead round nose, 40 grain. 1070 FPS, 50 rounds per box.
  • Fiocchi 22LR, sub-sonic hollow-point, 38 grain. 1050 FPS. 50 rounds per box. 
  • Remington Golden Bullet Ammo, 22LR, 36 grain. Plated hollow point, 1280 FPS. 50 rounds per box.

Laser Ammo

High-technology companies are filling a void that has been left untapped. Training by laser was once considered toys and nothing more than fantasy; Times Have Changed! Pulling the trigger on your weapon and the direct impact of a firing pin emits an eye-safe laser pulse. The impact point is rendered by a red dot on specially crafted targets. 

Revolvers, pistols, AR, and shotguns are suitable for using laser tech. Set up the system anywhere, in your backyard or basement. The military was the first to take advantage of these technologies, and they are now becoming available to civilian shooters.  

Depending on the technology, the shooter receives an eye-safe metal jacketed case. The device can be used in various weapons and is specifically for dry-firing. There are plenty of detractors against these systems, with the main complaint saying they lack real-world experience. 

Accuracy with a firearm takes a lot of practice, and in most circumstances sitting at a firing range and experiencing recoil is not necessarily conducive to accuracy. Weapons instructors reiterate accuracy with a firearm is controlled by many factors. Body position and how the weapon is held are two essential ingredients to an accurate shot.

While shooting, the body should provide a stable platform appropriately aligned toward the target. Every part of the body should aid in this alignment. Muscle memory in shooting sports is learned over time with a weapon in hand pointed at a target, firing round after round. Proper shooting position with a gun in hand should be an automatic process.

  • Sure-Strike Laser Ammo features everything a shooter will need to develop their skills with a laser brand. Sure-Strike features NRA-led instructors and divisions specifically for law enforcement and the military.
  • iTarget lets a shooter use their actual weapon and a smartphone to practice dry-firing anywhere there is at least 20 feet. iTarget offers a full range of laser cartridges, targets, and plenty of instruction.

So Which Are The Best Ammo Brands For Target Practice?

There have been many mergers and acquisitions in the Guns and Ammunition market in recent years. Supply chain issues have crippled supply lines making companies ripe for takeover. When products are scarce in the marketplace, buyers flock to the lowest prices, even though this may be a mistake. It is always best to stay with one or two premium ammunition brands and understand their ballistics for better shooting performance.

  • Federal Premium is the world’s largest ammo maker. The company has been a quality builder since the 1920s, with a broad range of products to fit every shooter’s needs.
  • CCI is an affordable quality brand built in Idaho since 1950. The company’s products serve all shooting disciplines with a wide range of grain weights.
  • Hornady is a quality round best known for its hunting cartridges. The company’s mentality is “Ten Bullets Through One Hole” The company offers everything from practice rounds to heavy grained rifle cartridges. 
  • Winchester makes this list owing to its 125 years of building quality ammo. Their range of offerings is enormous, from practice to competition rounds. 
  • Fiocchi is a quality builder that offers well-designed and highly reliable ammunition. Their product is a bit more expensive but has good feed reliability and balance.

Final Word

Choosing the right ammo is the same as choosing the perfect handgun. Quality beats out every. Ammunition builders have their specialties, and it is up to the shooter to find out what they are. Match the perfect ammo to your firearm for optimum performance.

Stay with one or two manufacturers so you know the individual characteristics of each round and builder.