A cartridge or a round is a type of pre-assembled firearm ammunition packaging a projectile (bullet, shot, or slug), a propellant substance (usually either smokeless powder or black powder) and an ignition device (primer) within a metallic, paper, or plastic case that is precisely made to fit within the barrel chamber of a breechloading gun, for the practical purpose of convenient transportation and handling during shooting. Although in popular usage the term "bullet" is often informally used to refer to a complete cartridge, it is correctly used only to refer to the projectile.
Cartridges can be categorized by the type of their primers – a small charge of an impact- or electric-sensitive chemical mixture that is located: at the center of the case head (centerfire); inside the rim (rimfire); inside the walls on the fold of the case base that is shaped like a cup (cupfire, now obsolete); in a sideways projection that is shaped like a pin (pinfire, now obsolete); or a lip (lipfire, now obsolete); or in a small nipple-like bulge at the case base (teat-fire, now obsolete). Only the centerfire and rimfire survived mainstream usage today.
Military and commercial producers continue to pursue the goal of caseless ammunition. Some artillery ammunition uses the same cartridge concept as found in small arms. In other cases, the artillery shell is separate from the propellant charge.
A cartridge without a projectile is called a blank; one that is completely inert (contains no active primer and no propellant) is called a dummy; one that failed to ignite and shoot off the projectile is called a dud; and one that ignited but failed to sufficiently push the projectile out of the barrel is called a squib.
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