Why Are Most Handgun Bullets Round Instead Of Pointy?

In case you didn't know, weapons include a fair amount of science. Every gun on the market results from many hours of design and engineering. We spent many hours testing and improving their rifles. This testing and refining resulted in the final completed items we all know and love.

You can probably imagine what follows next: the same happens with ammo development. Grain weights, powder loads, materials utilized, and even the form of the projectile are all products of rigorous testing and development in modern ammunition.

However, is it that easy? Both yes and no. Several aspects go into creating a round, and those other factors often govern the form of the round.

Why Are Most Handgun Bullets Round Instead Of Pointy?


We've already highlighted the necessity of grain for various reasons in earlier postings, so there's no need to go over it again. However, the round's weight is a crucial component of its overall ballistic profile. Every bullet type was designed to achieve specific aims, whether defensive or otherwise, and grain is critical to those goals.

The long and short of it is that the barrel of a handgun is shorter, and therefore the weight of the cartridge plays a more significant role in how it travels. A round with a pointy tip is generally longer and hence contains more material. More material implies more weight, necessitating more velocity to get it where it has to go.

True, a heavier round has benefits in some situations. However, each caliber must do all possible to enhance performance. Stretching a 9mm to a pointed tip would reduce the total area impacting the desired target.

That means it will transfer less energy into the target when it hits. The 5.56/.223 cartridge is a good illustration of this; it's a tiny round fashioned to a point, and as a consequence, it punches through the items it impacts. It extends the energy beyond the target.

Barrel Length:

Pistol barrels are shorter than rifle barrels. Yes, it is evident, but the reason this is essential in round form is muzzle velocity. Simply put, pistols cannot generate the same muzzle velocity as rifles. Hence the more aerodynamic design of rifle ammunition is unnecessary.

Furthermore, a higher twist rate is necessary to accomplish the stability pointed rounds require for the velocity at which they are moving to retain their accuracy. It isn't essential since pistol barrels are shorter.

Before you ask, this does not include items like AR pistols. AR pistols are rifle platforms that have been converted into handguns. In addition, no reputable manufacturer of AR pistols offers models with barrels that don't rotate the round over its whole length at least once. Hence all of them include the minimum 1:7 twist rate required for stability. 

Why Are Most Handgun Bullets Round Instead Of Pointy?

Size And Weight:

We've previously discussed the weight of the cartridge when it's shot. Still, the total weight it contributes to the gun is also crucial. Pistols don't have slings; they're carried on your body and, in many circumstances, hidden in some manner.

Furthermore, handguns support the weight only by the pistol grip rather than a forend or stock, as with a rifle. If you want to shoot correctly, you don't want the gun to be loaded down with heavier bullets.

Bullet size and shape are essential factors in how simple or difficult it is to handle and operate a gun and are a significant element in ballistic performance. Making the rounds tapered to a point would undoubtedly make them heavier. Even if they didn't (because of their thinner construction), they'd be long and take up more room in your hand and body.

Furthermore, if the bullets are extended more, the pistol's grip will be more significant to accommodate them. It alters everything about how you handle the rifle, and these longer rounds are unlikely to be as popular as rounds manufactured the way they are now. Not to mention the potential modifications in firing accuracy and speed.

Magazine Feeding:

If you haven't noticed, the size of handguns is becoming a bit of a theme on this site. It is also valid for how the rifle feeds the ammunition into the chamber. Pistols, even full-sized ones, are more compact. Thus every inch of space must be used.

The gun has less to worry about while loading the cartridge into the chamber since the bullets are more spherical. Because of its rounded shape, the feed ramp may be shallower and broader, saving valuable floor space

To be clear, this isn't a verdict on the effectiveness of pointed bullets or how they feed. It is only an effort to explain why certain decisions were taken. Deliberate choices had to be taken while building a gun and the bullets it would fire.

Therefore inevitable trade-offs were made. Do spherical bullets outperform pointed bullets in terms of feeding? That relies on many aspects and would deserve its essay, but realize that standard cartridges were created with a certain logic.

Why Are Most Handgun Bullets Round Instead Of Pointy?

Modern Designs:

We'd be negligent if we didn't mention that there are certainly pointed handgun rounds — yeah, we're looking at you, FN. Five and seven. Companies are attempting to push the limits and improve on classic designs of handguns and ammunition. It's up to you, the end user, to evaluate if they're making progress.

So, why are most handgun bullets spherical rather than pointed? They do not need pointing. The smaller design of pistols, and hence the cartridge they shoot, is a significant reason why the round isn't tapered to a point. When it comes to tapered rounds, one might argue that they are worthless in a handgun.

Because technologies develop and improve over time, none of this is fixed in stone. Change is a positive thing in most circumstances, and many individuals are actively working on new designs for rifles and bullets. Will the handgun bullets continue to be in the same shape? That's not entirely clear, but you do see why they're still around for the time being.