Some of the most common questions we field from Lucky Gunner customers have to do with different bullet types. A few days ago some of our customer service guys were telling me that there seems to be a lot of confusion about boat tail rifle bullets in particular. I put together a quick video to explain the basic concept behind boat tail bullets and some of the more common variations like boat tail soft point and boat tail hollow points.

Manufacturer Labels

One important point that didn’t make it into the video is that sometimes, boat tail bullets won’t actually be marked as boat tail on the box. It could be labeled as a normal FMJ and it just happens to have a boat tail shape. Usually, if the load is somehow being marketed as more accurate than the average everyday plinking ammo, the manufacturer will go out of their way to point out the boat tail specification on the box, like PMC does with these .223 rounds. Otherwise, they may omit this detail.

Hornady SST bullet
This Hornady SST ballistic tip bullet has a boat tail shape, but this detail is not mentioned on the package for Hornady loads that utilize the bullet.

Another case of leaving out any mention of the boat tail specification is with special proprietary bullets like ballistic tips. Ballistic tips are essentially hollow point bullets that have had the cavity at the front of the bullet plugged with a polymer tip. This allows the bullet to maintain a ballistically sound shape for maximum accuracy, but also ensures reliable expansion on impact.

Each manufacturer will assign their ballistic tip load a unique trademarked name, and even if the bullet has a boat tail shape, this detail may not be mentioned on the actual product packaging. The Federal Premium “V-Shok” loads using Nosler ballistic tips are a great example of this.

Whether for hunting or for long distance target shooting, boat tail bullet loads are often intended for niche markets within the shooting community. Manufacturers tend to count on customers within these niches to already have a baseline knowledge of the different types of bullets appropriate for their given field, which can leave less experienced shooters in the dark when it comes to selecting the right load for the job. Fortunately, most manufacturers provide plenty of details about their ammo products on their official company websites, and if that fails, Lucky Gunner’s customer service team is always happy to field any questions you might have.


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  • Derek Rhoades

    I think of it like this: The back end of the bullet is indented a slight amount much like a semi trailer that the wings on the back of it. It creates the same result. It makes the bullet more aerodynamic which leads to the better performance mentioned in the article. Where as in the semi it is helping to increase gas milage.

  • Karl Proctor

    also, the BT is easier to reload in rifle cases. a small point, but i like it.

  • Gregory Brown

    High speed photography of the pressure wave of air in front of a hypersonic bullet in flight does not wrap around the whole bullet. Thus the boat tail design has no significant effect until the bullet becomes subsonic at long range when the air tends to cling to the bullet shape. Only then is the boat tail bullet more accurate.

    • LG Chris

      That’s interesting… I hadn’t heard that before. Do you have any links to those photos?

    • Gregory Brown

      LG Chris I will see if I can find them or similar ones. The photos I saw were many years ago. There is always much discussion about this.

  • James Poythress

    The tapered tail probably has more to with reducing the instability caused by the aerodynamic burbling normally found trailing a squared, butt-end bullet. In essence it smooths the airflow disturbed by the pointy end.

  • tophat1234

    So Boat tails are the better buy if both prices are equal?