Flutes vs. Hollow Points - Which One is Better?
Paid promotional consideration provided by Black Hills Ammo.
First off, let me clarify: this is not an article about shooting orchestral wind instruments. I’m not anti-orchestra. The flutes here are shapes, more accurately shapes on ballistic projectiles. That fun little tidbit out of the way, let’s get started.
For centuries, bullet makers have tried to improve their designs to achieve better accuracy and penetration. It helped when gun manufacturers started rifling barrels, which improved accuracy and range tremendously. Suddenly bullets were no longer knuckleballing through the air in the general direction of the target. Shots could be aimed more precisely. The next evolution was moving from lead balls to the teardrop shape we have today, shifting the center of gravity backward and improving aerodynamics. Even today’s so-called “ball” ammo is far removed from when bullets were actually round.
Today, ammo companies are tackling a new design improvement race: to make the best defensive round. So what exactly constitutes “best”? The two main defensive rounds on the market today are hollow point and fluted. Let’s look at both with two main considerations: accuracy and penetration. Keep in mind that all these factors apply only to the bullet/projectile, not the round as a whole. We are only looking at the part of the round that leaves the barrel and hits the target.
It is universally accepted that hollow points are some of the most accurate rounds on the market, mainly because their center of gravity is set toward the back of the bullet, allowing for better balance through the air. Additionally, the cavity (hollow point) in front helps reduce aerodynamic drag, as the shockwave created by the projectile slicing through the air is spread out differently from ball ammo, reducing the influence of the air on the round as it flies downrange.
Well-designed fluted rounds share some of the same performance because their center of gravity is set back, helping to stabilize the projectile in flight. The fluted sides – typically four flutes – spinning through the air create four pockets of pressure working like fins that help keep the round flying straight and true. Both hollow points and fluted rounds score high in the accuracy category.
An accurate round is no good if it can’t penetrate the target. Introduced in 1988 as a response to the tragic 1986 Miami Shootout where bullets underperformed, the FBI’s penetration protocol started as a basic guide for bullet performance. From there, the protocol evolved as ballistic technology advanced, and more realistic elements were added beyond bare gelatin to better understand how bullets interact with barriers such as heavy clothing, steel, wallboard, plywood, and automobile glass. While the protocol has many facets and factors, for a round to pass, it must consistently penetrate between 12 and 18 inches – no more, no less – in ballistic gel both on its own and after penetrating a barrier. Both hollow point and fluted projectiles must pass the same test and perform the same.
Typically, defensive rounds – both hollow point and fluted – come in two weights: 115 and 124 grains. Both can pass the FBI test. One manufacturer, Black Hills Ammo, created a 100-grain round that passes the protocol while being kinder to shooters. The HoneyBadger 100-grain fluted round consistently meets the penetration protocol but is softer on the hands to shoot, thanks to lower recoil. This is especially helpful if you end up defending yourself shooting one-handed because for whatever reason your support hand is out of the fight. Even shooting two-handed is easier with less felt recoil.
Both hollow point and fluted bullets have their place, and both make excellent defensive rounds. Try them both out and see which one works better for both you and your gun. Whichever you choose, buy enough rounds that you will have some to practice with, so you’re used to how you and your gun react. The last thing you want in a life or death gunfight is a surprise. ~ David
David is an avid gun guy and a contributing writer to several major gun publications. In addition to being an NRA Certified Pistol Instructor and RSO, David trains new shooters on basic handgun skills and CCW requirements and is a strong advocate for training as much as you possibly can. "Real life shootouts don't happen at a box range."