'open point' vs hollow point bullets

The late Jack O’Connor in many of his writings mentions a fondness for the 7mm Mauser cartridge with ‘the old Western 139 grain open point bullet load’ now I know Western was taken over by Winchester. but ‘open point?’ I can find listings for hollow point bullets, and a search on the internet for open point brings up hollow point bullets. So…open point bulets; are they the same as hollow point? Or are they something else all together?

Firstly, Western was not taken over by Winchester. The Western Cartridge Company, (read Franklin Olin) acquired the Winchester Repeating Arms Company in 1931. Western’s Open Point Expanding bullet was loaded into many of the cartridges of the day. The bullet had a unique knurled cannelure up toward the point…

Here is a .30-40 Krag box from about 1932…


Okay sorry…potato/poTAHtoe…I thought Winchester bought out Western…other way around okay.

But I am still confused about open point vs hollow point bullets…I can’t visualize the differnece…

The open point is a form of hollow point…see the cartridge art on the box, wherein the point of the bullet is partially sectioned, showing the interior configuration…


but it is cannuelured right below the tip?

Two views of a sectioned .30 Army cartridge with the Open Point Expanding bullet…Headstamp is/was WESTERN .30 U.S.A.


In olden days, open point and hollow point were used interchageably. A formed or drilled cavity in the bullet’s nose meant to initiate and enhance expansion in game animals. Two different names for the same thing, influenced by the marketing departments of ammunition manufacturers.

Today, hollow point still means the same thing. Open Tip is a new term that’s been adopted by the U.S. Military to describe match bullets that have a small hollow point or tip that is the by-product of the bullet making process. The adoption of this nomenclature was the result of a JAG ruling in 1990 when the new 7.62MM NATO M852 MATCH was adopted to replace the older M118. The M118 was loaded with the FMJ 173 grain bullet whereas the M852 used the 168 grain Sierra International which had a hollow point. The JAG ruling was meant to allow the use of the M852 in combat. Many field commanders refused to let their snipers use the ammunition in spite of the JAG ruling. It would have been their snipers who were shot or hanged, not an attorney behind a desk in Washington.

The controversy still rages on to some extent. The entire issue is sort of mute since wars today are fought against terrorists and/or unorganized rebels whereas the Geneva and Hague Conventions were intended for civilized nations fighting each other. Most law enforcement departments use hollow point ammunition so I suppose shooting civilians with hollow points is OK.

Most shooters still call the Sierra bullets hollow points. Sierra advertising calls them hollow points. So, take your pick. They are hollow points and they are open tips, depending on your politics and point of view. The use of the term Open Point has more or less gone out of style.



The international expert on the legal aspects of military bullets is Hays Parks, who retired a year or two ago but is still writing. He has had articles posted in Small Arms Defense Journal recently concerning the difference (from the legal viewpoint) between hollow-point and OTM (Open Tip Match) bullets in which the jacket wraps around the base of the bullet for greater consistency, meaning that there has to be a small hole at the tip (but this is not designed to expand). He has also written about the MK318 and MK319 SOST bullets adopted by SOCOM and the USMC, which have an open tip for a different reason: the base is solid copper alloy, the nose has a lead insert, which has to be inserted from the tip.

Thanks guys…all that info was very helpful…

The legal point of view may be that “open tip” bullets have to be used because making FMJ bullets of comparable accuracy is considered too difficult.
But in discussion forums, as I understand them, the (perceived) improved lethality is the primary reason mentioned for using these bullet types, because FMJs are generally considered lacking lethality.
Whatever the lawyers say, the intention by the troops in using them is obviously unchanged from the time of the so-called Dum Dum bullets. I therefore doubt that the legal point of view has any real world relevance.

The current U.S. sniper/tactical/competition cartridge is the M118LR (Long Range). It is loaded with a Sierra bullet the military calls the 175 grain OTM (Open Tip Match). Sierra Bullets still calls it the 175 grain HPBT (Hollow Point Boat Tail).

I don’t know any snipers so can’t say what their point of view is concerning the use of HP bullets in combat. I’d guess that they have no qualms about using them since their fate, if captured, would probably be the same regardless.


Having mis-spent most of my formative years experimenting with anything to do with ammunition. I have drilled more than a few holes in the pointed end of rifle bullets.

In the poorer times much milsurp ammunition was ‘civilianised’ by drilling, making it a so called hunting round. Basically I set out to do the same

The conclusion I arrived at after playing around with these drilled bullets was that, simply stated, it doesn’t work. The explaination, as I figured it was surface area. The forces at the moment of impact acting on the outside surface area of the bullet nose was exactly the same as the forces acting on the surfaces inside the hole. In other words, there is no greater force trying to open it up.

However, because the surface area of the outside was greater than the surface area inside the hole by maybe 5X or more, all the impact did was to close up the hole rather than open it up. Bullets I recovered from water butts and sand were always closed up tight.

Most of the testing was done with pistol bullets but we did try rifle bullets as well. It does weaken the tip of the bullet to the extent that it could be marginally more effective but it could also affect accuracy so there it a trade off.

In a military context there is no issue with using match ammunition but in reality, as Ray says, when did a sniper ever get brought in alive? It just doesn’t happen

The couple of gray cells I still have functioning (and there’s doubts about them) seem to remember something in the Hague Convention about “bullets designed to cause greater injury” (IOW designed to expand or tumble).
The “converted” (drilled or filed flat to expose the lead) military and soft / HP hunting bullets have expansion as a major part of their design / intent.
The “match” bullets may expand, but expansion is not part of the design criteria, and therein lays the legal / technical difference.
Note that even Sierra recommends against using their match HPBT’s for hunting as they are not designed to expand.

There are documented cases of German soldiers in WWI pulling S-bullets and re-inserting them point first in the case. So the bullets were fired base first to “improve” effectiveness against the enemy.
Was this legal, because the S-bullet was not “designed” to be used that way?

Americans have the comfortable position that extremists in Afghanistan do not bother to use Dum Dum bullets against them. I doubt that a Taliban Open Tip Match would meet with the same “oh, these are perfectly legal” attitude.

IIRC the Germans in WW-1, and (again IIRC) the reversed bullet was used to penetrate the opposing snipers protective steel plating IE: as a AP round.
I also seem to remember that some of the British officers sent for / used their personal “big bore” game rifles to punch through the German snipers protective plating.
It wasn’t until after the introduction of the tank that true AP ammo was developed

Germany introduced its 7.9 m/m SmK cartridge no later than 1914; Kent shows headstamps and a printed label with the date of 1914. This predates the introduction of the tank by a couple of years. Jack