Difference Between Ball and FMJ?

Ah, I see - one of those UK/US differences in terminology which can cause such confusion.

As Vince says, in the UK “ball” is a purely military term and therefore excludes hollow-points or anything else not FMJ.

That does explain something which puzzled me. When I took over co-editorship of Jane’s Ammunition Handbook I found and corrected many instances in the Small Arms section in which hollow-points were described as “ball”. My predecessor was American :-)

I would agree with some of what Vince Green says, but surely in UK military parlance bullets are named purely for their basic function, so we have Ball, which is a “plain vanilla” projectile, of a material with no special penetrative or other properties. Other rounds are distinguished as Armour Piercing, Tracer, APT, Incendiary, etc when they have particular functional properties that distinguish them from ball rounds.

I would disagree with Vince to the extent that the term Ball traditionally includes all such rounds, from the round-nose, paper-patched, lead Snider bullet to the 5.56 NATO bullet. For example Peter Labbett in his book “.303 Inch” describes the Mk.II dum-dum as “Cartridge SA Ball .303 inch Cordite Mark II, special”, and he shows on p.26 a photo of a label from a packet of hollow-point Mk IV, which reads “Cartridges S.A. Ball .303 inch Cordite, 27/7/98, Mark IV R↑L”. This nomenclature also extends to larger calibre ammunition, so for the Hispano aircraft cannon we had “Cartridge SA Ball 20mm Hispano Gun Mark 1.z.”

And surely the term FMJ means just what it says, “Full Metal Jacket”, ie any cartridge, round nose or spitzer, that is covered to the tip by a distinct metal jacket over a different core, be this lead, steel, tracer compound, incendiary material etc. And so by definition lead bullets, soft-point, hollow point, and dum-dum bullets with slits, are not FMJ. while Tracer, AP etc can be.

And just to cater for the nit-pickers, a question: Should the 8mm Lebel bullet of solid bronze with no separate jacket be classified as FMJ? :) :)


Without any research whatsoever, I have concluded that the answer to your query regarding the solid bronze 8MM Lebel projectile is: FM

No scientific journals of any sort were harmed in the process of coming to that conclusion.

You’re welcome. Anytime.


Rick –

Look in all the books you want and I don’t think you will find a more appropriate answer to the question!


Just wait. There’ll be another opinion posted in short order. Look what happened to the original post! :-)


JJE - I don’t think I defined Ball as meaning the same as FMJ I just concluded that the terms merged by common usage. In the case of Dum Dum ammunition that was the standard ammunition made by the factory so I can see how that can be referred to as ball ie single bullet, nothing out of the ordinary. Its semantics really, I just wanted to define FMJ as an American expression that has crossed the Atlantic and entered the civilian ammunition vernacular because it abbreviates nicely for catalogs etc. In time it will be assimilated into military use as well. The term BALL is an anachronism.

I can’t help myself Rick - in the current sporting world such bullets are called homogeneous or, simply, solids.

Have you been following the thread on IDing makers of unheadstamped centerfire cartridges. You and I could have a field day on that one but it’s probably best that we not touch it since it involves the Forum Administrators and they can hurt us in ways that other members cannot.



Yes. Read it thru. Same thoughts but too serious a subject. And after seeing you use that there homogeneous word, well, I’m back to my pile of old Readers Digests, looking it up. May be a while before I post again. It’s a big stack, dontcha know.

On the BALL vs FMJ thing, for whatever reason, it reminded me of a “joke” my Dad would always regaled us with after a cocktail or two. It goes thusly:
BALLS! cried the Queen, if I had two, I’D be King!!!

Never got old.

Oo Oo Oo. I just caught something in your last comment there MR. Ray. We weren’t talkin’ “sporting world”, now were we.
Whew, I was gettin’ real tired looking through those “Word for the Day” lists.

Now you’re just being nit-pickerous.