PNG images: Bullets

A bullet is a projectile expelled from the barrel of a firearm. The term is from Middle French and originated as the diminutive of the word boulle (boullet) which means "small ball."  Bullets are made of a variety of materials. They are available singly as they would be used in muzzle loading and cap and ball firearms, as part of a paper cartridge, and much more commonly as a component of metallic cartridges.[4] Bullets are made in a large number of styles and constructions depending on how they will be used. Many bullets have specialised functions, such as hunting, target shooting, training, defence, and warfare.

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A bullet is not a cartridge. In paper and metallic cartridges a bullet is one component of the cartridge. Bullet sizes are expressed by their weight and diameter (referred to as "caliber") in both English [6] and Metric measurement systems. For example: .22 caliber 55 grain bullets or 5.56mm 55 grain bullets are the same caliber and weight bullet. The word "bullet" is often used colloquially to refer to a cartridge, which is a combination of the bullet, paper or metallic case/shell, powder, and primer. This use of 'bullet', when 'cartridge' is intended, leads to confusion when the components of a cartridge are discussed or intended.

The bullets used in many cartridges are fired at a muzzle velocity faster than the speed of sound  (about 343 m/s or 1126 ft/s in dry air at 20 °C or 68 °F). meaning they are supersonic and thus can travel a substantial distance and even hit a target before a nearby observer hears the "bang" of the shot. Bullet speed through air depends on a number of factors such as barometric pressure, humidity, air temperature, and wind speed. Subsonic cartridges fire bullets slower than the speed of sound and so there is no sonic "crack." This means that a subsonic cartridge such as .45 ACP can be effectively suppressed to be substantially quieter than a supersonic cartridge such as the .223 Remington.

Bullets do not normally contain explosives, but damage the intended target by impact and penetration.

The first use of gunpowder in Europe was recorded in 1247. It had been used in China for hundreds of years. The cannon appeared in 1327. Later in 1364, the hand cannon appeared. Early projectiles were made of stone. Stone was used in cannon and hand cannon. In cannon it was eventually found that stone would not penetrate stone fortifications which gave rise to the use of heavier metals for the round projectiles. Hand cannon projectiles developed in a similar fashion following the failure of stone from siege cannon. The first recorded instance of a metal ball from a hand cannon penetrating armour occurred in 1425. In this photograph of shot retrieved from the wreck of the Mary Rose which was sunk in 1545 and raised in 1982. The round shot are clearly of different sizes and some are stone while others are cast iron.


The development of the hand culverin and matchlock arquebus brought about the use of cast lead balls as projectiles. "Bullet" is derived from the French word boulette, which roughly means little ball. The original round musket ball was smaller than the bore of the barrel. It was loaded into the barrel wrapped in a loosely tightly fitted cotton patch  that held the bullet firmly in the barrel and against the powder. (Bullets not firmly on the powder risked exploding the barrel, with the condition known as a short start.) 

The loading of muskets was, therefore, easy with the old smooth-bore Brown Bess and similar military muskets. The original muzzle-loading rifle, on the other hand, with a more closely fitting ball to take the rifling grooves, was more difficult to load, particularly when the bore of the barrel was fouled from previous firings. For this reason, early rifles were not generally used for military purposes.

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