Ammunition Basics: Part 2 – What Is The Correct Ammunition For Your Gun?

09 Jun


The White haired ShooterTHE WHITE HAIRED SHOOTER

Ammunition “Basics”   Part 2

This article is the 2nd in a series of articles on the complex topic of modern cartridge ammunition.

Every firearm has a specific type, caliber and range of pressure/tolerance of ammunition the gun can safely fire.

batteriesThis is somewhat similar to putting batteries into an appliance or instrument. You have to match the correct shape, configuration and power capacity, and we’re used to doing this regularly.

However, as emphasized in Part 1 of this series, the similarity to an everyday occurence, like a battery ends quickly. A mismatched battery will fail to function.


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMismatched ammunition may have serious and possible lethal consequences, with the potential to damage or destroy your gun.

If that sounds serious, it is.

The good news is once you learn how to find out what works for your gun, it becomes as easy as shopping for any other item. And as a bonus, when you learn the process of how to match ammunition to a gun, you can find the right ammunition for any handgun.

While there seems to be an almost infinite variety to types, calibers, and ranges of pressure/tolerances in ammunition, the process to match it to specific guns is straightforward.

The Process

The order of the following can be varied, but each step must be followed for safe shooting, and not just for the novice shooter.  This is a practice you should observe whenever you load a gun. For the novice, Step One should be done each time you prepare to shoot a gun new to you.

rugerlcrmanualStep One:  before you shoot the gun for the first time

The owners manual provides an excellent starting place.  However, the manual will only apply if your gun is “Factory New” or if it is in Used condition, it has all original parts.

For the purposes of this article “Factory New” means you are the first person to fire the gun since it’s building and testing at the factory.

The manual provides detailed user instructions including ammunition specifications for your pistol.  If you have misplaced or for some reason don’t have the original manual for your factory new gun, there are many resources on the internet. It’s easy to search using Bing, Google, Yahoo or other search engines, by typing:

Gun maker + Model + manual

Some manuals are free to download, some will require you to register on their site, and some will need to be purchased.

Special note:  If you have a used gun that has been modified or customized, the manual instructions for ammunition may not be applicable. If possible, talk with the person who did the customization, or better yet, take it to a gunsmith.  When you find out what was changed, and particularly if it relates to a change in ammunition to be used, mark the changes in the users manual for future reference.

RugerLCR PistolStep Two:

Your gun is marked with the ammunition it is meant to fire.  The caliber of the ammunition your gun can shoot will be stamped on the barrel or slide. In the rare case your gun is not marked, I would strongly suggest taking it to a gunsmith and make sure what ammunition it is designed to shoot.

 Step Three:

38PBoxCCIThe box is marked. For factory manufactured loads (new in box), the label/box is clearly marked with the type and caliber, and should indicate if it is a higher pressure load (commonly marked as +P or +P+  ). Match this to the stamping on your gun’s barrel or slide.

Special caution needs to be used if using reloaded cartridges. Just because the box and the head stamp match is no assurance the rounds in that box are up to acceptable or safe standards.

Even if you know the person reloading meticulously follows requirements for each step of the process, and for each cartridge, and has labeled the boxes appropriately to the specifications they have tailored those rounds, I would still wait until you have gained experience before using reloaded ammunition.

This is primarily a safety precaution, but also it is good to learn how your gun shoots with uniform NEW rounds manufactured to tight tolerances before you widen the variables in your shooting.  I have shot reloaded “hot” rounds that change the way I need to grip, sight, and follow through after recoil in order to successfully be on target.

38specPHeadstampStep Four:

Finally, the rounds themselves have a stamp on the head case.  Use a magnifier if you need to, but be sure this stamp matches your gun.  Don’t ever rely on the box having the correct rounds in it. While shooting or loading magazines, it’s common for some people to replace unused cartridges into the box. Don’t take unnecessary chances. Know what you are going to shoot.

Some exceptions:

There are always some exceptions to the rules, and matching ammunition safe to shoot in your gun is no different.

In the next article, Part 3 of the series, we’ll go into more detail as we discuss “Caliber” and Types.




Happy and Safe shooting  –  Peggy


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2 responses to “Ammunition Basics: Part 2 – What Is The Correct Ammunition For Your Gun?

  1. oneweaponanytool

    June 14, 2014 at 11:23 pm

    Don’t forget to inspect your ammo, even factory new ammo can be deformed, dented, have missing or backwards primers or unseated bullets. If ammo looks funny, don’t risk shooting it!

    Great series, looking forward to more!

    • whitehairedshooter

      June 15, 2014 at 1:37 am

      Great comment, appreciate it! Common sense and taking time to attend to details. Very good advice. Thanks.


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