Home » Guides » What Are Black Tip Bullets & Can Civilians Buy Them? 

What Are Black Tip Bullets & Can Civilians Buy Them? 

Dakota Potts | Updated February 23, 2024 | Why You Should Trust Us | How We Earn Money
Cover photo of what are black tip bullets showing three different black tip bullets

If you’ve ever heard of black tip bullets, you might already know that they’re quite a powerful ammunition. But what are black tip bullets exactly? What makes them so good?

Find out everything you need to know about this bullet and whether it’s available for you to buy.

For more reading once you’re done see our guide to the best 300 blackout scopes.

Key Takeaways

  • Black tip bullets are armor-piercing rounds with a distinctive black marking on the tip.
  • Originally used in military applications, these bullets have gained popularity among civilian gun enthusiasts.
  • The legality of black tip bullets varies depending on jurisdiction and firearm regulations.

Black Tip Armor Piercing Bullets

Black tip bullets are essentially a type of ammunition. They’re known for their distinctive black-painted tips.

This black tip is a military designation that usually signifies that the ammunition is armor-piercing.

Now, what makes up this bullet is a hardened steel or tungsten core. This core is enclosed in softer material like lead or lead alloy. On the outside, a copper or brass jacket houses all these components.

Image of a black tip bullet

Black tip bullets maintain their shape better when hitting hard surfaces. In fact, they also conserve energy better than conventional bullets, which helps them penetrate armored or hardened targets.

However, laws about using and owning armor-piercing ammunition differ widely. In many places, they’re only for military and law enforcement use.

So, remember to check local laws. Make sure you know the regulations before acquiring or using this ammunition.

Different countries and manufacturers can have different color codes. The color of a bullet’s tip doesn’t always universally indicate the same type of ammunition. That’s why you should always refer to the manufacturer’s specifications.

“But most good movies have a gun in them.”

David Sedaris


  • Has a hard steel or tungsten core for piercing tough materials.
  • Higher velocity and penetration power than lead bullets.
  • Can easily penetrate targets like AR500 steel and concrete.
  • Prioritizes penetration over expansion, ideal for armored targets.


  • Steel core can quickly wear down firearm barrels.
  • Stricter regulations make these bullets harder to obtain and use.
  • May cause unintended damage due to over-penetration.

Who Uses This Type of Armor Piercing Rounds?

So, black tip bullets are mainly used by military forces. They’re designed to penetrate body armor or vehicle armor, making them an essential component of military ammunition.

Finger holding a black tip bullet with black tip bullet boxes in the background

Incendiary bullets, on the other hand, are designed to set targets on fire upon impact. They’re often used with armor-piercing rounds to enhance damage and its effectiveness. 

While military personnel commonly use armor-piercing ammunition, civilians may also opt for these rounds in certain scenarios. For instance, full metal jacket bullets and hollow points are popular choices for self-defense as they allow for greater penetration and stopping power.

Automatic weapons and rifles are the primary firearms used with armor-piercing rounds. These high-powered firearms provide the necessary force to effectively use the ammunition’s penetrating abilities. 

In fact, level III body armor is often needed to protect against these armor-piercing rounds, as it’s designed to withstand rifle fire and other high-velocity impacts.

Are Black Tip Bullets Illegal?

Although black tip bullets are known for their armor-piercing capabilities, their availability to the public is limited.

In the United States, most black tip bullets have been banned because of their potential danger in emergency and self-defense situations. The only black tip ammunition commonly available to the public is WWII surplus .30-06 rounds. 

This decision to ban the majority of black tip bullets stemmed from the 1985 Law Enforcement Officers Protection Act, which aimed to restrict access to armor-piercing ammunition and protect law enforcement officers from such rounds.

However, it’s important to note that different countries have varying regulations and color-coding systems for bullets.

Finger holding a black tip bullet with boxes and bullets in the background

In Russia, for example, the color-coding system can include armor-piercing, incendiary, and tracer bullets. Incendiary rounds often contain phosphorus or other flammable materials, while tracer rounds have a small pyrotechnic charge to illuminate their path.

Though the .338 Lapua is not explicitly mentioned as a black tip bullet, it’s often used as a powerful long-range round for military and law enforcement purposes. Its capabilities to pierce armor and effectively take down targets at long distances may cause some jurisdictions to regulate its use like other armor-piercing rounds.

So, simply put, the legality of black tip bullets varies by location, with some countries allowing their purchase and ownership, while others strictly control or ban them due to safety concerns.

Fun Fact

According to the federal government, more than 38 million Americans hunt and fish annually. More Americans hunt and fish than play golf and tennis combined. Source: suncommunitynews.com

How to Identify Armor Piercing Bullets

Black Tip Ammunition

Black tip bullets feature a distinctive black tip, making them easily identifiable. Armor-piercing bullets typically have a hardened steel or tungsten core, which allows them to pierce through various types of armor effectively.

Other Types of Common Color Tipped Rounds

There are several other color-tipped rounds with specific purposes, including:

Green tip ammunition: These rounds offer enhanced penetration but are less powerful than the black tip armor-piercing bullets. They have a steel penetrator inside a lead core, surrounded by a copper jacket.

Green tip ammunition inside a box

Red tip bullets: These bullets are known for their tracer ammunition and provide a visible trail as they travel through the air. This makes it easier for shooters to track and adjust their aim during engagements.

Red tip bullets in a box and rocks in the background

Blue tip ammunition: These rounds contain incendiary materials in their tips, igniting and causing fires upon impact. They’re often used for anti-materiel applications or to take down unarmored vehicles.

Image of two blue tip bullets

Yellow tip bullets: Designed for enhanced energy transfer and controlled expansion, these rounds feature a bullet design that combines a copper jacket and a lead core with a hollow point. The result is improved weight retention and knockdown power for hunting or self-defense.

Image of a black tip bullet and a yellow tip bullet standing side by side

Some bullets may also have unique plastic tips or ballistic tips, aiming to improve aerodynamics and provide more consistent trajectories. However, it’s crucial to check with the manufacturer or an FFL dealer for specifics on any color-coded ammunition before using them.

History of Black Tip Ammo

Black tip bullets have been in use for quite some time. They became particularly popular during WWII when their penetrative capabilities were essential in combat. These bullets featured a hardened steel core, making them more effective against body armor and other obstacles.

Historically, black tip bullets were made of various materials, including bronze. WWII surplus ammunition includes these bronze rounds, which many collectors and enthusiasts seek.

Black tip bullets and boxes on a wooden table

The NATO organization has widely used black tips in various conflicts since its inception. One notable example is the M855 round, a 5.56 caliber bullet commonly employed by NATO forces. This ammunition gained significant attention for its enhanced armor-penetrating abilities.

To wrap it up, black tip ammo has been a crucial part of military engagements since WWII. Their armored penetrating capabilities, coupled with the practicality of color-coded tips, have solidified their position in the ammunition world.

“What people don’t understand is this is something that we only have in America. There is no other country in the world where the ordinary citizen can go out and enjoy hunting and fishing. There’s no other nation in the world where that happens. And it’s very much a part of our heritage.”

Norman Schwarzkopf

For similar reading see our post on what is 300 Blackout ammo.


What does black ammo mean?

Black ammo refers to bullets with black tips, which usually have specific designations or purposes in the military. The black color indicates a particular type of projectile, such as armor-piercing ammunition.

What is the black tip military ammo?

Black tip military ammo is a type of armor-piercing (AP) ammunition. It’s designed to penetrate various types of armor, like steel or ceramic plates, in order to effectively target and disable opponents that are wearing body armor.

Are black tip bullets armor-piercing?

Yes, black tip bullets are armor-piercing ammunition specifically designed to penetrate various types of armor. They are intended to be more effective against targets wearing body armor compared to regular bullets.

Can a civilian buy black tip ammo?

In general, black tip armor-piercing ammo is restricted for civilians to buy and use in many jurisdictions due to its increased penetration capabilities. However, regulations vary depending on specific local, state, or national laws, and the availability of such ammo may differ based on the region.

Leave a Comment