One of the many things we learned from the Kyle Rittenhouse trial is that there’s a ton of misinformation about hollow-point ammo. So much misinformation, in fact, that the judge had to interrupt the prosecutor who asked Rittenhouse if hollow-point ammunition is designed to “explode” inside the animal if you were hunting. Explode? No, it neither explodes nor is it designed to explode. 

The anti-gun crowd has been spreading misinformation about hollow-point ammunition for decades. Is it on purpose? Perhaps, but it also may just be a simple lack of education for many people. Heck, even a lot of gun owners are confused about what hollow points are and what they are not. So, let’s dig into how this common self-defense ammunition works and the common myths around it. 

How Do Hollow Points Work?

Expanded hollow-point bullets
Hollow-point bullets expand, helping them to expel their energy inside the target instead of passing through it. (Photo: Josh Wayner/

Hollow points look very different than a standard target round with a full metal jacket. Specifically, the tips of this type of ammunition are hollow and usually have some sort of indentation or cuts into the metal jacket. This design allows them to expand on impact – not explode – whereas a standard hard-nose round tends to penetrate the target and continue on its path. 

When a hollow point hits a target, the nose expands and creates more surface area to the bullet itself. This helps stop the forward motion of the bullet inside the target instead of going straight through and hitting something else. The way the bullet expands varies by manufacturer and design, but all effectively work on the same principle. 

Are Hollow Points Dangerous?

Handgun ammo restricted
Contrary to the myths, hollow-point ammo can actually be much safer than bullets with a full metal jacket. (Photo: Paul Peterson/

Generally, a hollow point is used as a self-defense round both by the general public and law enforcement. They are specifically designed for controlled penetration to reduce the chance of collateral damage and improve the amount of energy transferred from the bullet into the intended target. 

This is especially important in public settings like large crowds, home defense, and a myriad of other scenarios when you wouldn’t want a bullet to overpenetrate the intended target. It could continue down its path through walls, doors, or even the body of an attacker and impact an innocent bystander. At the same time, all that energy that was meant to stop an attacker is now lost as it continues to drive the bullet forward. 

You’ve probably seen it on television over and over again. The investigator gets to the body, sees the entry wound, rolls the body over, and says, “It’s a through and through.” A standard full metal jacket round doesn’t stop until something significant stops it. Hollow points are designed to maximize energy transferred to the target and minimize the risks to anything else.

Are Hollow Points Bad for Hunting?

FN 5.7 Tipped Ammo
Hollow-point and tipped ammo, like that above, allow for rapid bullet expansion and can be effective hunting rounds in the right caliber. (Photo: Chris Eger/

Designed to expand on impact, it is a myth that these rounds aren’t suitable for hunting because they would “explode” and destroy any chance of usable meat from the target animal. In fact, they can be a more humane, creating nearly instantaneous kill, and decrease the likelihood of having to track a mortally wounded animal as it bleeds out slowly. 

Are Hollow Points Less Accurate?

Winchester hollow point ammo
Hollow-point ammo is plenty accurate, and the bullets are often lighter and maintain their integrity until contacting the target. (Photo: Jeff Wood/

It’s a myth that hollow-point rounds aren’t as accurate as a standard target bullet because of the difference in aerodynamics. In fact, some competitive shooters prefer them over target rounds because of their velocity and increased accuracy, generally at shorter distances. 

Are Hollow Points Illegal?

No, hollow points bullets are not illegal in the United States.

Hollow Point bullets with FMJ
Bullets with full metal jackets, on the far ends, tend to overpenetrate. (Photo: Paul Peterson/
Hollow point and full metal jacket ammo
While not illegal, there are some states that still do regulate hollow-point ammunition. (Photo: Jacki Billings/

Why Are Hollow Points Called Cop Killers?

Bullets on the ground
Far from being "cop killers," hollow points do not lend themselves to penetrating body armor and are designed to minimize risks and maximize bullet perfomance in self-defense scenarios. (Photo: Jacki Billings/

Hollow points also get a bad reputation because of accusations that they are “cop killers” by the anti-gun crowd. Actually, right now, most police in the U.S. are carrying some form of hollow-point or other self-defense-specific rounds in their guns every single day. Why, because they help them stop dangerous threats and minimize risks to innocent people.

Hollow points have basically gotten a bad rap since the 1930s when they were first introduced. Modern misinformation about these rounds is basically the product of anti-gun arguments, Hollywood fantasy, and general ignorance. They’ve come a long way since the 1930s, but correct information regarding their purpose has not.  They are not “cop killers,” they are simply the best choice for a self-defense, home defense, and sometimes even hunting rounds. 


So, why the constant bad press? The anti-gun narrative will stoop to any level to put a bad spin on a story, especially if it’s a story about a good guy with a gun. Calling them “cop killers” or “armor piercing” makes for a better headline than just calling them what they are: effective, efficient, and accurate self-defense bullets. 

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