Are Hollow Points Illegal?

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The reason we carry handguns is to protect ourselves and our families from people who would otherwise harm us or do the unthinkable. To have a proactive mindset is knowing the right ammo to choose. One that you are comfortable with to stop a perpetrator dead on their tracks. This leads us to a question we often hear. What kind of ammunition is legal? Better yet, are hollow points legal?

To begin, federal law defines ammunition as bullets, cartridge cases, primers, or propellant powder designed for use in any firearm.

There are many types of ammunition available in the market. The most popular and commonly used are the Hollow Point and Full metal jacket ammo for both self-defense & practical use. You must understand when one is preferred over the other. 

For a new ammunition buyer, this article will let you know more about the Hollow Point and FMJ ammo. The perception is that both kinds of ammo use hollow points for home defense firearms and an FMJ ammo for practice. 

Understanding Hollow Point Ammo

Hollow-point ammo is one that expands on impact and has a hollowed tip instead of a full-metal jacket. This ammunition is the best for most hunters and people who wish to hold a defensive line in self-defense because it rarely leaves an exit wound making it lethal every time you hit your target. 

When you hit a target with a hollow point bullet, the hollow part will make the bullet deform. The bullet will remain to look blasted and the lead will push through. As for the full metal jacket ammo, the opposite is true. Because of the covering of steel or copper, there will be less lead powder coating after you fire inside of the barrel.

Hollow point ammo is adored by shooters as they have many applications and are among the best defense ammo. Hunters also feel it is great hunting ammo because of its devastating lethality especially if you opt for the quality brands. In the world of ammo, hollow points reign supreme as they are popular for every firearm application


  • They leave a mess in flesh targets.
  • Have reduced penetration in concrete and steel.

What Are the Uses of Hollow Point Bullets 

Hollow-point bullets are at the top of ammo selection because they expand as they penetrate the flesh of their targets. What this means is the bullet stays inside the soft tissues. Hollow-point bullets expand and other types do not go down to the choice of materials. It leaves one wonder what takes place when you shoot a hollow-point bullet into a tissue. 

Most bullets have what we know as a “jacket,” which is an outer metal shell over a softer metal shell. However, the more common ammo is the jacketed bullet over the hollow bullets variety.

What is the Law Concerning Hollow-Point Bullets 

There are no restrictions over the ammo you should have in your self-defense weapon. Also, there are no prohibitions on sights as an enhancement. However, you should be wary of some concerns that the jury might be swayed to have a biased perception if you ever use your gun in self-defense and have to answer to the charges. 

The law remains the law, however, such cases are less likely to happen today more than it did previously. Nowadays, there are lots of presumptions that paint deadly force as necessary but only in certain situations. And this has resulted in immunity for the people that use force in self-defense legitimately.

In many examples, some prosecutors focus on hardware the defendants used. They make the court to see a bloodthirsty armed citizen when they want to challenge the self-defense plea. In some cases, there have been unlawful convictions of people who have fired to protect themselves, especially if the firearm was branded. The tactic is sometimes successful and firing your gun can land you in trouble with the law even when you had to. 

The law-enforcement agencies prefer to use hollow-point ammunition. A prosecutor will have a hard time making a case of painting an armed citizen as the villain. But I see no harm to carry ammo that is effective as my choice of self-defense ammo in my carry and a concealed weapon.

I compare the same with using laser sights. The technology is updated, yet widely available, despite being considered lethal by tactical experts. To make a legal point, the major concern is to ensure that all use of force to stop a threat is justified and you have control of your weapon. A laser sight is a device that brings control and will help a self-defense shooter facing charges as opposed to creating perception issues.

It is why I continuously recommended hollow-point ammo and laser sights to friends and family for their home and personal defense.

Why are Hollow Points the Best for Self Defense? 

As mentioned above, a hollow point is the best for self-defense because it can both penetrate and expand. Where other ammo will punch a hole through their targets and do little else, as they create what we call a clean-through wound. It is a wound where the bullet passes through something or someone leaving a hole. 

Soft tissues are all elastic and will close up fast around a wound. Consequently, bigger bullets will not leave a big hole. In cases like the .380, 9mm rounds and .38 Special will make holes that are slightly larger than that of a .22 LR ammo. Even acclaimed big bullets as the .45 ACP which never make big holes as the soft tissues start to close-up. The same applies to the wound cavity which tends to close up fast after penetration as well.  

When the bullet only pokes a hole, it must be just at the spot to do devastating damage. If the entry wound is smaller then you need more accuracy. But the same is not true when you are using hollow-point ammo. It is simple, hollow-point ammo will expand when it hits the soft tissue, and this will create a larger wound inside the target. There will be increased chances that you will achieve incapacitating damage.

Additionally, the expansion will tremendously slow down the bullet inside the target and therefore fewer chances that the ammo will blast through when it hits the target. 

Therefore, when hunting and you need to put an animal or deer down, then you want a bullet that will expand the moment it penetrates its target. It is the sole reason why hollow-point ammo and other projectiles that expand as well are the best for hunting and self-defense. It is also why the selection of ammunition is critical. 

A reliable round is one that can be expected to stop a threat and one that does not expand is hardly reliable. In hunting, hollow-point ammo is considered a mercy killing as the best practice is to prevent the animal from suffering. It also makes the hunter avoid tracking prey through the woods.  

The Difference Between Hollow Point and Full Metal Jacket Ammo:

There are many differences between FMJ & Hollow Point. As both types of bullets have their ardent supporters. We are going to differentiate both for range practice, self-defense, target shooting, quick feeding, hunting, and more ammo usages.

Full Metal Jacket Ammo Design and Performance

It is a bullet that consists of a softcore. Usually, it has a lead-covered in a shell of harder metal. FMJ cartridge is made of a soft lead core that is encapsulated by a hard metal shell such as gilding-metal or cupronickel. Consequently, the FMJ bullets maintain a trajectory better than other ammo.

FMJ are strong and have a higher penetration capacity as they have less expansion when they hit the soft tissue. The only pro for not expanding upon impact is that they make the FMJ bullets the best for target shooting. 

Difference between the Two in Usage

Self Defense:

FMJ ammo is not the best for use in self-defense especially in situations where there is a risk that the bullet will strike an unintended target. As a small-arms projectile, the FMJ is also among the favorites for use in concealed carry guns. 

When to Wound or Kill?

Sometimes the question of whether you should wound or kill a human attacker lingers in many people’s minds.  When fighting in close combat, you must take the necessary steps to stop a threat, before it harms you and in such, then killing and not wounding is better.  It is among the top reasons that most police use hollow point ammunition and not full-metal jacket bullets.  

In most police shootouts, the distance is normally close at about 20 feet or less.  It means there is no room for making mistakes when you have to neutralize an attacker. Hollow-point ammo is therefore the best choice for faster control of the situation.

Shooting at an attacker using a full-metal jacket bullet will wound them, but it may take time before the threat is completely neutralized.  There is a possibility that the attacker will still cause harm after being shot. FMJ can be forgiving even if you shoot a threat multiple times.

Still, in a situation where there are many shooters, using a full-metal jacket bullet weakens their ability to attack.  The logic is that wounding some shooters causes disarray and confusion which may force other attackers to stop fighting and shift focus on treating and saving the wounded.  It is a tactical approach to reduce the number of shooters while buying time to find a way to suppress the attack and gain a tactical position. 


The chances that hollow-point ammunition will produce an exit wound are low, therefore, less likely to injure bystanders. The Full metal jacket bullets have higher penetration and are more likely to go through the target, posing a threat to others nearby.

Shooting Practice

FMJ ammo is among the best for range practice and shooting. The reason is that the bullets are stronger than the hollow-point ammo. 


The hollow point is the best for hunting deer at long range as it will expand. It will send the bullet deeper into the target’s body. The result is that it kills instantly or incapacitates. On the other hand, the FMJ performs better ballistically, and you will not lose speed or accuracy when you fire your weapon.

Quick Feeding 

FMJ feeds quickly and efficiently when compared to a hollow-point cartridge. 


There are many advantages when using one choice of ammo over another. Hollow-point ammo is devastating at close range yet safer than FMJ as they hardly leave exit wounds even on soft tissue. Regardless of the ammo, you prefer to use in your firearm, always select ammo from the best brands to get reliable and consistent results

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