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What Is Blue Tip Ammo?

Ammo/Ammo Guides
blue tip ammo

Like most gun owners, you probably have a go-to brand and bullet type that you use for the majority of your shooting needs. However, it never hurts to explore some other options when it comes to firearms or ammo. Where do colored tips, like blue tip ammo fit into that selection?

Breaking away from the cartridge that you’ve relied upon for years can be difficult. But sometimes it’s fun to try something new, or different. That’s why we’re taking a look at a popular blue tip ammo projectile. Also known as the 5.7X28mm round. 

As the name suggests, blue tip ammo has a distinct blue polymer tip that is, you guessed it, blue. The polymer offers several purported benefits. Including expanded bullet flight, improved ballistics, and smoother feeding, but more on that below. 

Polymer VS Traditional Hollow Points

a photo of the ruger 57 pistol with ammo

Pistols chambered in 5.7X28mm have seen a rise in popularity in recent years. 

Blue tips are part of a military color-coding system, used to differentiate various types of ammo. There is no standard color-coding system in the commercial ammunition world. Hypothetically, ammo manufacturers could slap some blue polymer on just about any style and type of bullet. 

However, we use the distinctive “blue tip” you’ve seen while browsing the web or in the ammo section of your favorite sporting goods store is most often with hollow point pistol ammunition. The exact design, dimensions, and grain weight will vary from manufacturer to manufacturer. Blue tip handgun rounds are typically hollow points manufacturers fill in with an engineered piece of polymer.

Hollowpoint ammunition is by far the most praised type of “defense” ammo on the market. Most shooters, including yours truly, use a high-quality brand of hollow-point cartridge in their EDC pistol. If hollow point ammo is so great, why did manufacturers modify them by adding a blue polymer tip?

There are several reasons. First, engineers designed blue tip ammo to have a more level flight trajectory. Its flight path is more stable when compared to traditional hollow points. To be fair, most hollow point cartridges are used in close-quarters scenarios. So the improvements to the ballistics that are gained by adding polymer tips are negligible. 

In addition, the polymer may have a positive impact on the projectile’s expansion. The plastic tip expands, causing it to mushroom more rapidly upon striking a soft target. Lastly, blue tip ammo can alleviate feeding issues that can sometimes occur when using jacketed hollow point cartridges.

Polymer Tipped Ammo Calibers

a photo of FNH USA 5.7X28mm blue tip ammo

There’s no standard color-coding system in the civilian ammunition world. Blue tip ammo generally identifies polymer tip expanding bullets.

The blue tip variants of hollow-point ammunition described above are primarily offered in pistol calibers. However, this style of bullet is still relatively new compared to the hollow point itself. As a result, it is hard to come by in anything other than mainstream pistol calibers such as 9mm, .40, .45 ACP, and 10mm. 

In addition to the calibers listed above, polymer tipped ammo is also available in 5.7x28mm. This caliber is used in well-known weapons platforms such as the FN P90, FN 57, and the H&K MP7. According to FN, 5.7X28mm blue tip ammo is intended to be a high-performance practice cartridge. 

On a side note, some ammo manufacturers equip select rifle cartridges with blue tips. Shooters typically fire these polymer-tipped cartridges while hunting. 

Blue Tip Ammo

a macro photo of blue tip ammo

From plinking at the gun range, to hunting, or self-defense, polymer blue tip ammo has a wide variety of uses.

When deciding what to use blue tip ammo for, I always suggest following manufacturer recommendations. For instance, Federal’s Syntech Defense line is designed specifically for self-defense purposes. Information about an ammunition’s intended use can be found on the manufacturer’s website, the Widener’s website, or the box itself. 

Ammo Tip Colors Explained

As mentioned earlier, the U.S. military has a formal color-coding system for differentiating various types of ammunition. Blue tipped military ammunition are incendiary rounds. Manufacturers designed these rounds all the way back in WW2. Experts built the rounds to shoot down aircraft by igniting their fuel tanks. 

These rounds are generally painted, or dipped in blue paint. Making them different in appearance from colored polymer-tip ammo more common with the civilian market. In addition to blue tips, the U.S. military uses the following colors to identify specific cartridges:

Green Tips

Green tipped AR rounds are frequently referred to as “armor-piercing” cartridges. However, green tipped 5.56 (or any other caliber for that matter) are not armor-piercing rounds. Meaning that they are available to the general public. As a result, you will run across these cartridges most frequently.

When the U.S. military adopted the M-16 as its standard rifle, they utilized the M193 5.56 cartridge. However, the characteristics of the M193 caused it to underperform. Specifically in densely forested regions, such as the jungles of the Vietnam war. This led the government to seek out a new round.

Ultimately, they selected the SS109, which they promptly renamed the M855. They elected to paint the tips of the M855s green so that they could be easily differentiated from the M193. Even though the military eventually phased out the M193, they maintained the tradition of painting the tips of M855s green.

Black Tips

Black-tipped military rounds are true armor-piercing projectiles. As such, they are illegal for civilians to purchase but not to make on their own. These rounds are designed to penetrate hard targets such as engine compartments, engine blocks, vehicle doors, etc. 

Red/Orange Tips

Lastly, the military uses orange or red tips to identify tracer rounds. Modern tracer rounds produce an easy-to-see light. These rounds make it easy for soldiers to determine approximately where their shots are impacting. This allows them to adjust on the fly when firing rapidly. 

While tracer rounds are legal to own, getting your hands on them is not easy. It will require you to obtain an explosives license from the ATF. Sounds like a whole lot of hassle just to obtain some ammunition that glows, doesn’t it?

Should I Buy Blue Tip Ammo?

a photo of a man shooting a ruger 57 pistol at a gun range

5.7X28mm blue tip ammo is a high velocity, low-recoil cartridge that’s fun to shoot at the gun range.

Like any other cartridge, blue tip ammo has its uses. Polymer-tipped ammo can serve as a good alternative to standard jacketed hollow points. If you are considering making the switch, I recommend picking up a couple of boxes from a reputable manufacturer. Nosler, FNH USA, or Federal all make great options for hitting the range. Mix things up and bring some of your favorite defense rounds as well. It’s a fun way to see how they stack up in a head-to-head shoot-out.

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