They consist of a fairly normal hollow-point bullet with the frontal cavity filled in by hard plastic, which is molded into a streamlined shape mimicking the shape of a spitzer bullet. Upon impact, the plastic drives into the hollow point, or fragments into small pieces and the bullet performs like a regular hollow-point, expanding ("mushrooming") to a larger diameter or fragmenting. The end result is a bullet with the streamlined characteristics of the spitzer bullet and the increased terminal mushrooming of Jacketed Hollow-Points (JHPs). These bullets possess the aerodynamics for longer, more accurate flights, and the in-target performance to ensure high lethality.
Traditionally, these bullets are intended for use in rifles and single-shot handguns, as pistols are not normally used at the great distances where the streamlined ballistic tip is advantageous. However, a few companies produce pistol ammunition with plastic-tipped hollow points where the plastic is molded into a more rounded tip. These designs are not created to increase the streamlining of the bullet but rather to improve ammunition feeding in semi-automatic pistols that are prone to jams with regular hollow point ammunition. Examples of such pistol ammunition include Cor-Bon/Glaser's "Glaser Pow'RBall" line and Extreme Shock's "NyTrilium Air Freedom" ammunition (the "NyTrilium Air Freedom" cartridge also mimics the performance of Glaser Safety Slug cartridges, as it uses hollow bullets full of powdered metal designed to fragment rapidly on hitting a target).
"Ballistic Tip" is a registered trademark of Nosler, but numerous other companies produce similar projectiles, including Hornady and Sierra. Nosler has always used a color code to indicate caliber on the polymer bullet tips, to make them easily distinguishable from each other: .224 orange,.257-blue, 6mm-purple, 6.5mm-tan, .270-yellow, 7mm-red, .30-green, .338 maroon and 8mm-dark blue. Hornady almost universally uses red plastic tips. Exceptions to this include the Hornady-produced .224" projectiles with blue plastic tips for use in civilian loads of FNH's proprietary 5.7x28mm cartridge and the "Z-Max" or "Zombie Max" variation of their V-Max ammunition, using green plastic rather than red (and having no other changes from the V-Max other than packaging). Sierra uses green, Barnes uses blue for their "TTSX" bullets, and Swift uses black tips for their "Scirocco" plastic-tipped bullets.
- Ballistic cap the same principle as applied to anti-armor shells
- Zwoll, Wayne Van (2001). The hunter's guide to ballistics: practical advice on how to choose guns and loads, and use them effectively. Globe Pequot. p. 73. ISBN 978-1-58574-375-9.