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.

If you have surplus ammo, Cash for Arms offers a straightforward option for selling it, aligning your ammo supply with your current needs.


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About the Author

GH 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 26 in a Lenwood Holsters Specter IWB or his Sig Sauer SP2022 in a Dara Holsters Appendix IWB holster.

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