Bullets type ammunition p jsp jhp swc

The Differences Between JHP, SWC, FMJ, +P And Others: What Do These Ammo Types Mean?


There are a lot of different types of bullets out there.  In a self-defense situation, some bullets can give an advantage.  With each ‘pro‘, there’s usually a ‘con‘.  And in the bullet family tree, every round is related by at least a first or second cousin.  In this article, we’ll go over a few of the different types of ammunition available.  We can’t cover everyone, but we will try to cover the most common varieties.

Full Metal Jacket (FMJ)

full metal jacket 9mm

Full metal jacket (FMJ or FMC) refers to the copper or steel alloy coating on the bullet to reduce lead residue left in the barrel after firing.

PROS:  Less mess than an unjacketed bullet.

CONS:  Greater penetration – less expansion in soft tissue.

Jacketed Hollow Point (JHP)


Hollow point rounds have a hollowed out center.  When a hollow point strikes its target, the hollow causes the bullet to deform.  It looks a mushroomed gob of lead pushing through.  The results are devastating.  Because the bullet expands inside the soft target, it pushes out a larger surface area of tissue.  The jacketed version just has a thin covering of copper or steel.  This means less lead powder coating the inside of the barrel.

PROS:  Big messy holes in soft targets.

CONS:  Decreased penetration in steel and concrete.

Related: Non-jacketed hollow points (HP)

Overpressurized Ammunition (+P)

This is ammunition made with a higher pressure than the standard rounds of its caliber.  The end product is faster muzzle velocity and greater penetration.  Some handguns deal with the added stress of overpressurized ammunition quite well.  Others may malfunction.

PROS:  Higher muzzle velocity.

CONS:  Greater stress on the barrel.


Related:  JHP+P+ – Overpressurized Jacketed Hollow Point is a combination of a jacketed hollow point’s increased damage to soft tissue with the increased velocity and penetration of a +P round.

Soft Point Bullet (SP or JSP)


This is a bullet with an exposed lead up.  It can also sometimes be called a “partially jacketed bullet”.  Unlike a full metal jacket that completely encases the bullet in a coating of metal alloy, the soft point leaves a portion exposed.  This causes it to expand upon impact – creating a greater surface area.  It also fouls up the barrel of a firearm less than non-jacketed bullet.  JSPs are considered a good middle ground between a hollow point (HP) and a semi-wadcutter (SWC, below).

PROS: Slower expansion than HP

CONS: Greater muzzle velocity than HP

Semi-Wadcutter (SWC)


This type of bullet has a blunted tip.  It’s typically favored in .38 snub-nose style revolvers.  Where a rounded tip would slide through a target, the flat tip (“meplat”) punches a big hole.

PROS:  Punches big holes in targets.

CONS:  Slow bullet velocity.

Related:  Wadcutter (WC) – Wadcutters have wider, flatter meplats than SWC.

In the middle of these broad categories are a number of really good styles of ammunition.  One of which is Hydra Shok.  It’s a proprietary type of ammunition made by Federal Cartridge.  It’s a partially jacketed hollow point with a center post in the middle.  To exposed soft tissue, it’s characterized by a deep wound channel.  Hydra Shoks are more of a hybrid animal.

What type of bullet works best for your self-defense?  A lot of shooters use JHP+P to get some extra penetration out of their hollow points.  Some prefer the slow muzzle velocity but big punch of an SWC.  For practice at the range, stick with FMJ.

What’s in your magazine?

Categories: Beginners Guide, General
About James England | View all posts by James England

James England is a Marine Corps veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom and has served as a defense contractor in Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. His daily concealed carry…

James England is a Marine Corps veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom and has served as a defense contractor in Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. His daily concealed carry handgun is a Glock 36 in a Lenwood Holsters Specter IWB or his CZ-75D PCR in an Alien Gear MOD holster.

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  • TJ McNamara

    I like the Hydra-Shok. I carry it in my .45 alternating with Hornady critical defense.

    • Meschelle

      TJ, do you have a Judge? That’s my CCW, but I’ve never used either bullet for carry. The Hornadys are great at night/home, combined with the .45 Long Colts, but I’d like to try the Hydra-Shoks, too. What can you tell me?

      • TJ McNamara

        No, I am running them through a 1911. I have shot a Judge before, and think they would be a nice addition to the 45LC. That .45 LC surely got my attention when I pulled the trigger on it. :) The Hyrda-Shoks have that little pin in the middle of the HP round, and it’s function was to grab a hold of heavy material (denim, etc.) and stick while rotating, expanding, and driving through the target.


        i have used Hydra-Shoks for a long time and if you want a round that will stop an attacked DEAD in thier tracks, thet are a very good choice. I currently use in my Sig P239

  • Clive

    I’ve been carrying Hydra-Shoks for years.

    • michael

      We are not allowed to carry Hydra-Shok any more, our Dept. stopped us because of
      letter written by a “Highly Educated Moron”, a Doctor, about effects of
      “those” bullets, but not others….but we must carry hollowpoints off duty, just not
      “those” !!
      sounds like something Congress would vote for…..
      you know “Those Highly Educated Morons” …..

  • D

    Barnes TAC XPD solid copper +p hollow points and a Walther PPS

    • theprevaler

      I’m considering purchasing a PPS for my CCW. Does that platform handle the +p well in terms of recoil, frame abuse and feeding?

      • James England

        As someone who’s owned a Walther PPS, they *can* handle +p but I can tell they weren’t exactly engineered to handle them. The barrel bears the brunt of that. Needless to say, if it’s worth it for you — the PPS will deliver.

  • maz2331

    I prefer a 10mm Auto loaded with 180 grain JHPs at 1300 FPS.

  • MavusiKenpachi

    I use big ole .70 cal lead slugs. Because I can.

  • James Bonanno

    FMJ for all my target practice. Federal guard dog for self defense.

  • TheGlockDoctor

    Federal HST 9mm 124 he standard pressure.

    Also when shooting JHP’s increased velocity results in increased expansion not penetration. The higher velocity causes more hydro static shock causing the bullet to expand larger and penetrate less.

    • TheGlockDoctor


  • glasswolf

    Neglected to mention the EFMJ or Expanding Full Metal Jacketed round. It’s an alternative to the JHP or HP round, that has the appearance of an FMJ round, but expands like a JHP without the fear of glogging the HP opening which can occur with HP ammo, preventing expansion if it fills with drywall, denim, etc..

  • tarnishedcopper

    I disagree with using FMJ bullets for target practice. Target practice should be with full wadcutters (if your auto pistol can feed them-they work great in revolvers) or Semi-wadcutters, as they cut a beautiful hole that looks as if a paper punch was used. That is what is used in serious competitive match shooting as well. I would carry nothing but the very best jacketed hollowpoints for self defense. It is what cops have used for years.

    • koolaidguzzler

      WCs cause too much barrel and cylinder leading. Match shooters use WCs because their clean holes on paper are easier to score when groups are close between shooter to shooter.

  • ValleyCounty

    My carry round is the “Black Talon”. I want the stopping power when I neutralize the threat ….

  • Raymond A. Sirois Sr.

    I have about 20 rounds of original Hydra-Shok ammo, manufactured in Watkins Glen, NY , from before the company was sold to Federal. These are .357 magnum unjacketed 158 grain rounds. They just look mean…

  • Allen Thompkins

    Hornady Critical Defense FTX 115gr. in my Springfield XDs9.

    • CombatVette

      I carry Hornady in my Glock 27.

  • Jay Hanig

    I like SWC for the range as they punch out clean holes. Doesn’t feed well in my automatics.

    FMJ rounds tear the paper with ragged holes. OTOH, they feed great in everything and less scrubbing required later.

  • Stan Robertson

    CorBon 9mm 115 grain DPX. Show me a better round.

  • Mary Bowman Carricaburu

    I carry Glaser safety (blue) in my 38. Do any of you folks know how good they are or are not?

    • koolaidguzzler

      Glaser is a failed experiment from 20+ years ago. It has retarded penetration, thus insufficient wound channel. Handgun bullets stop by the wound channel they cause. Less wound channel usually means less stopping ability.

      • Mary Bowman Carricaburu

        Thanks so much. I will put something else in.

    • Kickinmg

      Glaser They were developed as a safety slug. It’s a lead cup filled with small lead shot and will Not ricochet. I’m not sure of ballistics exactly, but they do a good bit of damage at close range, up to about 75 feet. Not much good past that. It’s a shotshell. I carry either Hornaday critical defense or critical duty. Most often .40 Some .380 for carry.

      • Mary Bowman Carricaburu

        Thanks for the information. I appreciate it.

  • koolaidguzzler

    Individual cartridge choice for self defense matters far far less than shooter skill under stress, because shooter skill is the primary determinant of bullet placement, and bullet placement matters far far more than a bullet’s terminal ballistics. Most people worry about the wrong things in their hardware when they should worry about developing their own skills for a future gunfight.

  • What ever you plan to use, train and set your scopes and sites with and practice with. The weight differences and bullet trajectories vary so much between types it will make your aim different and not consistent. You want consistent placement in your situations.

  • Alex C

    I carry Winchester PDX 1 defender 124 grain +P hollow points in all my firearms. I have a Springfield XD MOD 2 4″ BBL and a smaller SCCY cpx 2 as a backup. The defenders cycle amazingly in both. Tried out hornady critical defense but just didn’t like it. Maybe I’m just a rare type of shooter haha. I also use Magtech 124 grain 9mm to train with so there’s not much difference in feel or bullet deviation than if I used a standard 115 for training. I’ve heard debates that bullet grain is both noticeable and not noticeable depending on who I’ve talked to. But in my opinion I just wanna train in something as close to feel as my defensive ammunition god forbid I have to use it so I don’t get different shot placement. Anyone have any input on that?

  • Smith

    Winchester PDXI Defender, in 40 S&W. I carry the 165 gr. load.

  • David M Lister Bryant

    This is what I have loaded in mine. Winchester Super-X Ammunition 9mm Luger 147 Grain Silvertip Hollow Point. As said its really not the ammo used its more of where you put the bullet.

  • david

    hollows all day