Handgun Anatomy

Sellier & Bellot handgun ammunition combines technological advancement with strict testing and quality control to build the best handgun ammunition made.  There’s really not much need to handload for performance since our handgun ammunition is carefully assembled using the best primers, powders and brass combined with the finest, most sought after bullet designs in the industry.  That’s why sport shooters, handgun hunters and law enforcement officers from around the world depend on the unmatched quality of Sellier & Bellot handgun ammunition.

Click a thumbnail below to view the Sellier & Bellot handgun anatomy slideshow.

A loaded centerfire handgun cartridge consists of a case (usually brass), a projectile (bullet), powder and a primer.

Handgun Cartridge Case: The handgun case has a head on one end that houses the primer and seals the back of the chamber. The flash hole is the hole connecting the primer pocket to the inside of the case. In cases designed for use in a semi-automatic handgun, this head can be either rimless or semi-rimmed to facilitate feeding through the clip. Besides sealing the back of the chamber, the head of the case is used to extract the case from the chamber. In cases designed for use in a revolver handgun, the head is generally rimmed, although some revolvers can use rimless or semi-rimmed cartridges. The body of the case can be one of three styles; straight (most common), tapered or bottlenecked (357 Sig, 7.62x25 Tokarev). The bottleneck cases will have a shoulder that steps down to a smaller diameter, while the tapered case will have a slight taper to achieve proper diameter. Straight wall cases are uniform diameter all the way up the body. The inside of the case will be of uniform thickness from the case mouth down to just past where the base of the bullet will seat. It will then become gradually thicker toward the bottom ending in a radius. The area of material between the bottom of the primer pocket and the bottom of this radius is called the web.

Projectile: This component of the loaded round of ammunition is usually called the bullet. It is usually referenced by diameter (such as .40”), the grain weight of the bullet (180 grains), and the bullet style (hollow point, full metal jacket, etc.). A bullet is generally made of lead alloy with or without a jacket made of a copper alloy (some are produced with other materials for various purposes including solid copper, frangible and lead free ammunition).
Powder: The general term for any chemical compound or mixture used in firearms that burns upon ignition. The gases produced by this rapid combustion propel the bullet down the bore. One major type is black powder, which is a mixture of charcoal, sulfur and potassium nitrate (saltpetre). It's used in older cartridges. Another major type is smokeless powder, which is principally used in modern ammunition. It's a granular nitrated chemical compound made with either a nitrocellulose base or a combination of nitrocellulose and nitroglycerin. Smokeless powder and black powder are the two basic forms of gunpowder.

Primer: The boxer primer is a round device that is placed in the center of the “head” area of the cartridge case. This little device has a cup, which holds the priming compound, and an anvil. The anvil rests lightly on the priming pellet, which is crushed between the dent made by the impact of the firing pin and the anvil to initiate ignition. The firing pin strikes the primer and ignites the sensitive priming mixture causing a flame to be generated. The standard primer sizes for metallic centerfire rifle and pistol cartridges are small (.175" diameter) and large (.210" diameter). The standard primer types are pistol, pistol magnum, rifle, and rifle magnum. The small rifle and small pistol use the same diameter and depth primer pocket. The large rifle pocket is slightly deeper than the large pistol pocket. Rifle primers use tougher cups than pistol primers because the firing pin blow of rifles is usually harder than the firing pin blow of pistols. Rifle primers also contain more priming compound than pistol primers, since rifle cartridges typically contain more powder than pistol cartridges. Magnum primers are "hotter" than standard primers.

When a firearm is fired, the firing pin indents the primer, which ignites the priming compound. This sends a flame through the flash hole of the brass, which ignites the powder. The quickly burning powder then creates large amounts of gas that expand the case to seal the chamber and pushes the bullet down the barrel. The now empty brass case is then removed by the action of the firearm or manually in the case of a revolver.

NOTE: Pistol bullets may perform differently in different pistols. What shoots well in your pistol may not be the best choice for another pistol of the same make and model. To maximize the full potential of your pistol, try various Sellier & Bellot pistol bullet styles and weights to determine which round performs best in your pistol.

SAFETY: Make sure that you double check that your ammunition is the appropriate caliber for the firearm by matching the caliber markings on your firearm with those on the ammunition head stamp.