Nuanced Distinctions Among 9mm Full Metal Jacket Ammo

We all know that 9mm full metal jacket is affordable, consistent, accurate, and reliable, and it’s what you want to shoot when training or practicing other high-volume disciplines.

But not all 9mm Luger full metal jacket is created equal, and in fact, not all “FMJ” is even really (or technically) FMJ in the first place.

Let’s look at two slightly different types of bullets, one of which may also have a full metal jacket, and the other of which is slightly different.

Wadcutter FMJ

First, let’s look at wadcutter bullets. The vast majority of 9mm FMJ rounds are what are called round nose bullets. Sometimes, and in military applications, this is called “ball” ammo – a reference to the round nose. (Note, sometimes you will see “RN” in ammo, such as in the case of “LRN,” or “lead, round nose.”)

There is another popular type of 9mm full metal jacket ammo that is commonly used by competitors for the purposes of precise scoring, and it is known as wadcutter ammo.

Wadcutter ammo does not have a round nose. It has a flat nose, which is why it is sometimes referred to as “FN” ammo, signifying the same.

The flat nose of wadcutter ammo is designed to punch clean holes in paper targets, not the ragged, diffuse holes of round nose ammo. As a result, it’s easier to score hits with wadcutter ammo because of the clean, round holes in the target.

With that said, wadcutter ammo is often still fully enclosed in a metal jacket, and is technically still FMJ – just a different, unique subset of that category.

It is fairly accurate, especially at close ranges, and generally as reliable as conventional FMJ ammo, although perhaps not to the same exact degree because of the flat nose.


Now let’s talk about two slightly different types of ammo. One is full metal jacket, or FMJ, that we have seen; the other is total metal jacket, or TMJ.

With a full metal jacket round, the soft lead core has a harder metal jacket, usually a copper jacket, swaged around it, leaving the base exposed.

With a total metal jacket, the jacket is much thinner, and typically applied by electroplating, and not by mechanical means. As a result, TMJ ammo has a plated and thereby enclosed base.

This reduces lead exposure, making TMJ perfect for minimizing lead fouling in the bore. The total metal jacket that encloses the base also helps prevent lead from getting vaporized into the air, making them better for reducing lead exposure when shooting at indoor ranges.

TMJ is therefore attractive to shooters who practice at indoor ranges, although it is usually a little more expensive than FMJ ammo.

At the same time, it should also be noted that the jacket of a TMJ bullet is usually fairly thin and can shear off when shooting through a ported barrel, or a barrel with a muzzle device. As a result, it may be preferable to shoot FMJ ammo in these situations.

Other than that, the performance characteristics of TMJ effectively mirror, if not match, FMJ. They are both consistent, reliable, and accurate.

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