Why You Should Check Your Ammunition

Entering into and being in the world of firearms, there are so many things to keep track of when it comes to guns. In certain jurisdictions, knowing the laws alone could be a full-time job. Ammunition is one area that can quickly spiral out of control in terms of types, styles, makes, models, grains, oh my!

The specific ammunition the firearm you are using takes is a vital thing to know. Improper ammunition can lead to firearm malfunction, firearm damage, and even serious injury to anyone in the area. Certain rounds can easily fit in the wrong firearm, and hey, they may even fire without any severe complications. But just because a cartridge, round, or shell fits into the gun you are using, that does not mean it is correct.

The first thing to do is identify the caliber of the firearm you are using. The manufacture should stamp the information on the gun, generally on the frame and or barrel. This is an excellent time to consult the manual of your firearm. Within the manual, any specifics about ammunition recommended to be used and or strictly prohibited would be outlined. Whether or not your gun can use +P or +P+ ammunition should be noted in the manual. Those of you reading along that are not familiar with +P or +P+ ammo are just terms to note the cartridges are loaded to have a higher-than-normal pressure.

Any particular ammunition you are using should have all the information about it printed right on the box. The box will give you the caliber or gauge as well as details such as projectile weight. Should the projectiles have anything special about them, that information would be on the box…things like if the bullets are jacketed, semi-jacketed, hollow point, etc.

The caliber or gauge will be stamped on an area known as the headstamp on conventional centerfire rounds. The headstamp is located on the bottom of the casing or shell where the primer would be situated. There is not much information on the headstamp besides the caliber or gauge and possibly the manufacturer’s name or initials.

I witnessed a person loading the wrong ammunition or not intended ammo into a firearm on more than one occasion. While employed as a range safety officer, I had a customer putting 9mm rounds into a .40 caliber pistol. It would fire and then not cycle properly. Another range safety officer called me over to lend a hand, and when we checked the firearm and ammunition that he was using, we learned he was using the wrong cartridges. In another instance, a friend thought he was loading .38 special rounds into a .357 magnum revolver and was surprised by the recoil after firing the magnum rounds, he put into the gun. I had another instance where a friend loaded up .380 caliber rounds into a 9mm sub-compact semiautomatic magazine. He thought because of the pistol’s size; it was a .380. These cases illustrate the importance of paying attention to what ammunition you are loading into your firearm, particularly when going to the range with several different calibers. Luckily no damage occurred to the guns, and more importantly, no one was injured by these oversights.

At the end of the day, what you feed into your firearm matters. What is supposed to versus what is not supposed to be shot through your gun is easy enough to figure out. Now, what works for you and your firearm is a whole other matter. After figuring out precisely what you can shoot through your gun, experiment with different brands, loads, cartridges, etc., to find what performs the best!

Stay safe out there and think before you do!

John Petrolino is a US Merchant Marine Officer, writer, author of “Decoding Firearms: An Easy to Read Guide on General Gun Safety & Use” and USCCA certified instructor, NRA certified pistol, rifle, and shotgun instructor living under and working to change New Jersey’s draconian and unconstitutional gun laws. You can find him on the web at www.johnpetrolino.com on Twitter at @johnpetrolino, and on Instagram @jpetrolinoiii