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#1
Old 06-29-2013, 02:18 AM
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why do most rifle bullets have a pointed nose, but most pistol bullets have a round nose?

Hello everyone,

I've been shooting guns since I was a kid, but it just dawned on me I have no idea (scratch that, I have a few guesses) why most rifle bullets are pointed while must handgun rounds are round nosed. I do realize that not all rifle rounds are pointed, .22 and .30 carbine are the first to come to mind. The .30 carbine makes sense since it is based on a pistol round. But why aren't handguns using pointed rounds? Maybe some are,, but offhand I can't think of any.

I'm guessing that the more powerful rifle rounds are pointed to enhance FPS (FEET PEER SECOND) of the bullet, while pistol rounds aren't powerful enough to take advantage of the more aerodynamic shape. I would also think that a pointed round would give much better penetration, especially when impacting a harder target.

What's the deal?
#2
Old 06-29-2013, 09:30 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by obbn View Post
Hello everyone,

I've been shooting guns since I was a kid, but it just dawned on me I have no idea (scratch that, I have a few guesses) why most rifle bullets are pointed while must handgun rounds are round nosed. I do realize that not all rifle rounds are pointed, .22 and .30 carbine are the first to come to mind. The .30 carbine makes sense since it is based on a pistol round. But why aren't handguns using pointed rounds? Maybe some are,, but offhand I can't think of any.
The FN Five-Seven uses pointed bullets. Caused something of a moral panic when it was announced thanks to its 20-round capacity and "OMG cop killer bullets."

Quote:
I'm guessing that the more powerful rifle rounds are pointed to enhance FPS (FEET PEER SECOND) of the bullet, while pistol rounds aren't powerful enough to take advantage of the more aerodynamic shape.
a spitzer (pointed/ogive) bullet has less drag at supersonic velocities, which most centerfire rifle cartridges are. When you're shooting at ranges of hundreds of yards, that's an important factor.

pistol cartridges don't have the same velocity, nor are they intended for use at ranges as far as a rifle. Plus, the fact that the overall length of the round can be limited by the space inside the grip (semi-auto pistol) means a round or blunt-nosed bullet can be perfectly acceptable.

Quote:
I would also think that a pointed round would give much better penetration, especially when impacting a harder target.
penetration has much more to do with velocity and mass/sectional density than shape. Plus, for non-military uses e.g. hunting most people use expanding bullets of some sort; so long as the cavity opens up the original shape of the bullet has less effect on terminal ballistics.

Quote:
What's the deal?
if you find a deal on ammo, let me know.

Last edited by jz78817; 06-29-2013 at 09:31 AM.
#3
Old 06-29-2013, 10:05 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jz78817 View Post
a spitzer (pointed/ogive) bullet has less drag at supersonic velocities, which most centerfire rifle cartridges are. When you're shooting at ranges of hundreds of yards, that's an important factor.
The above is the short answer. Except for very small calibers (i.e. 22s) rifle bullets are almost always designed to travel at supersonic speeds. At these high speeds anything other than a very streamlined, pointed bullet will begin to tumble thru the air greatly reducing its accuracy. This also accounts for the 'crack' sound that they make (it's a sonic boom). Pistol ammunition is subsonic.

BTW, this is why when you see an assassin in a movie using a silencer on a high-powered rifle it's complete bullshit.
#4
Old 06-29-2013, 10:20 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hail Ants View Post
The above is the short answer. Except for very small calibers (i.e. 22s) rifle bullets are almost always designed to travel at supersonic speeds. At these high speeds anything other than a very streamlined, pointed bullet will begin to tumble thru the air greatly reducing its accuracy. This also accounts for the 'crack' sound that they make (it's a sonic boom). Pistol ammunition is subsonic.
not all.
#5
Old 06-29-2013, 11:03 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hail Ants View Post
... when you see an assassin in a movie using a silencer on a high-powered rifle it's complete bullshit.
Basically correct. But it's possible to load a round for such a rifle that would yield subsonic muzzle velocity, and thus be relatively easy to silence. This would clearly come at the cost of a lower effective range.
#6
Old 06-29-2013, 11:16 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hail Ants View Post
The above is the short answer. Except for very small calibers (i.e. 22s) rifle bullets are almost always designed to travel at supersonic speeds. At these high speeds anything other than a very streamlined, pointed bullet will begin to tumble thru the air greatly reducing its accuracy. This also accounts for the 'crack' sound that they make (it's a sonic boom). Pistol ammunition is subsonic.

BTW, this is why when you see an assassin in a movie using a silencer on a high-powered rifle it's complete bullshit.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Xema View Post
Basically correct. But it's possible to load a round for such a rifle that would yield subsonic muzzle velocity, and thus be relatively easy to silence. This would clearly come at the cost of a lower effective range.
A suppressor will greatly reduce the muzzle blast and can alter the sound so it's not do gunshot-like. The ballistic crack is produced by the bullet and will not give away the shooter's position downrange.
#7
Old 06-29-2013, 11:33 AM
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Note that it is ill-advised to used spitzer bullets in some rifles. Rifles with tubular magazines, for example. (Of course you can load and fire the rounds singly.)
#8
Old 06-29-2013, 11:48 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Johnny L.A. View Post
Note that it is ill-advised to used spitzer bullets in some rifles. Rifles with tubular magazines, for example. (Of course you can load and fire the rounds singly.)
LEVERevolution by Hornady

#9
Old 06-29-2013, 11:52 AM
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I can't help but pronounce that as 'Horn Daddy'.
#10
Old 06-29-2013, 01:57 PM
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Oddly enough, big-game cartridges intended for large thick-skinned African game usually feature blunt rounded bullets rather than spitzers:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Munit01.jpg

ETA: my w.a.g.: they want as heavy a bullet as they can get within the limits of the cartridge length.

Last edited by Lumpy; 06-29-2013 at 01:58 PM.
#11
Old 06-29-2013, 02:55 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lumpy View Post
Oddly enough, big-game cartridges intended for large thick-skinned African game usually feature blunt rounded bullets rather than spitzers:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Munit01.jpg

ETA: my w.a.g.: they want as heavy a bullet as they can get within the limits of the cartridge length.
more or less. Those rounds kick so hard they make a 12-gauge 3" slug feel like a 10/22 in comparison
#12
Old 06-29-2013, 05:26 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hail Ants View Post
Pistol ammunition is subsonic.
Some, but not all. 9mm is decidedly supersonic. .357 and 5.7x28 as well. Most .45 is subsonic, but not all.
There are subsonic versions of everything, but they're specialty rounds typically, and therefore less common and more expensive.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Hail Ants View Post
BTW, this is why when you see an assassin in a movie using a silencer on a high-powered rifle it's complete bullshit.
Suppressor use for snipers, police, and regular-issue soldiers are becoming more and more common. The main tactical use is to reduce recoil, eliminate muzzle flash and hide the source of the shot. Even supersonic rounds cracking around you will be impossible to trace back to the source because of sound reflecting off of trees, walls, - whatever is around you. The shot will seem to come from anywhere but the sniper. This is a Good Thing.

A .308 (or 7.62mm) is hella loud. Drop in a subsonic round - still over 1,000fps - and a nice AAC Cyclone and you've got a click and a ding... Jump to 1:20 to skip the filler.


The more you know...
#13
Old 06-29-2013, 05:54 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Xema View Post
Basically correct. But it's possible to load a round for such a rifle that would yield subsonic muzzle velocity, and thus be relatively easy to silence. This would clearly come at the cost of a lower effective range.
would the bullet even be stable in flight if it was that far below its intended mv?
#14
Old 06-29-2013, 07:53 PM
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Some subsonic rounds benefit from a faster spin, so a differently rifled barrel may be in order.

I use these subsonic .22 rounds. Since the bullet is extremely heavy (for a .22) it has to be spun faster to stabilize. I have a rifle and a pistol with the appropriate barrels, so that the tumbling bullet doesn't take out my suppressor baffles.

Last year this box was about 12 bucks...
#15
Old 06-29-2013, 07:56 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jz78817 View Post
if you find a deal on ammo, let me know.
If you can find ANY ammo, please let me know!
#16
Old 06-30-2013, 08:14 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ducati View Post
A .308 (or 7.62mm) is hella loud. Drop in a subsonic round - still over 1,000fps - and a nice AAC Cyclone and you've got a click and a ding... Jump to 1:20 to skip the filler.


The more you know...
Wow! That clip is awesome!
#17
Old 07-01-2013, 08:45 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by obbn View Post
. I do realize that not all rifle rounds are pointed, .22 and .30 carbine are the first to come to mind. The .30 carbine makes sense since it is based on a pistol round. But why aren't handguns using pointed rounds? Maybe some are,, but offhand I can't think of any.
I was under the impression 30 cal was round because of its use in tube fed lever action rifles; and you don't want pointy bullets pushed right up against the percussion cap of the adjacent round lest some physical shock set that round off in the tube.

What I was told by a gun enthusiast, though I'm not completely convinced of its veracity.
#18
Old 07-01-2013, 09:28 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lumpy View Post
Oddly enough, big-game cartridges intended for large thick-skinned African game usually feature blunt rounded bullets rather than spitzers:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Munit01.jpg

ETA: my w.a.g.: they want as heavy a bullet as they can get within the limits of the cartridge length.
Bear in mind that these rifles are not known for their long-range accuracy.
#19
Old 07-01-2013, 09:33 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lumpy View Post
Oddly enough, big-game cartridges intended for large thick-skinned African game usually feature blunt rounded bullets rather than spitzers:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Munit01.jpg

ETA: my w.a.g.: they want as heavy a bullet as they can get within the limits of the cartridge length.
Either that, or they're historical relics of the time when ALL rifle bullets were round-nosed, including ones that we still see like the .30-06, .303 Enfield, 8mm Mauser, etc...

There was a stretch (1900-ish) when those rifles were the state of the art, and their ammunition was round-nosed, until the "spitzer" bullet was developed, and their ammunition took on the now familiar pointy profile.

I suspect that the big-game rounds like the .400 Nitro Express or .375 H&H Magnum date from that same era, and I'm guessing that they retained their round nosed profile for the reason that Lumpy mentions, plus a healthy dose of "If it works, don't fix it." combined with the fact that nobody's taking long-ranged sniper-type shots with those big game rounds.
#20
Old 07-01-2013, 04:05 PM
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In general, bullets longer than 2 calibers are pointed, and shorter bullets are not. Most differences have already been mentioned, but I'll add these 2:
- Rounded bullet will be shorter (for the same weight). This can help ammo for semi-automatic pistols, where the magazine needs to fit into the grip.
- Short rounded bullet will be more stable in tissue and cause more consistent damage.
#21
Old 08-14-2013, 12:57 PM
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Update: I recently discovered that there's a niche for rifle rounds that are subsonic (for use with suppressors) but combine good penetration with maximum stopping power. These specialty rounds feature heavy blunt nosed bullets. Two examples are the .458 SOCOM and the .50 Beowulf.
#22
Old 08-14-2013, 02:17 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lumpy View Post
Update: I recently discovered that there's a niche for rifle rounds that are subsonic (for use with suppressors) but combine good penetration with maximum stopping power. These specialty rounds feature heavy blunt nosed bullets. Two examples are the .458 SOCOM and the .50 Beowulf.
Neither one of those are even close to subsonic.
#23
Old 08-14-2013, 02:30 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lumpy View Post
Update: I recently discovered that there's a niche for rifle rounds that are subsonic (for use with suppressors) but combine good penetration with maximum stopping power. These specialty rounds feature heavy blunt nosed bullets. Two examples are the .458 SOCOM and the .50 Beowulf.
Quote:
Originally Posted by runner pat View Post
Neither one of those are even close to subsonic.
You're right about the .50 Beowulf. The .458 SOCOM does support a subsonic variant though. And in any case, the bullets in question are intended to be as heavy as possible within the cartridge length limitation, hence the blunt nose.
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