“They’re so dirty!”
“You can’t shoot those through a SIG P365!” (Yes you can.)
“Totally worthless for anything but shooting steel.”
There are so many myths and rumors out there about frangible ammunition it can be hard to keep track. That said, there’s a common thread among the things people say about frangibles on social media and in gun groups and it’s laced with lack of knowledge and experience. They believe frangibles cannot and should not be used for hunting or self-defense, that they’re only good for CQB work on steel, and that they might even – gasp – break apart in a gun’s barrel and cause massive destruction of some kind. It isn’t true, though. Not only can frangibles be used for hunting and self-defense, they should be. Keep reading to find out the hows and whys of the modern frangible bullet.
Interesting thing about bullets: they pre-dated firearms by centuries. In fact, two millennia back bullets were being used in battles (they were “sling bullets” cast from materials like clay and stone). Around the second century A.D., the Romans took sling bullets a step further by making whistling bullets. In order to make what were quite literally noise-making bullets, the Romans cast 1-ounce lead balls and drilled holes into their centers. That gave them bullets that whistled as they traveled, for a nice intimidating factor, and also projectiles that traveled at speeds up to 100 meters per second. Yes, that was fast considering they were not being fired from guns. The Romans were my kind of fighters, too; to make their whistling bullets even cooler they etched words on them like dexai which roughly translates to “take this” or “catch.” Now that we are well into the 21st-century, bullets have come a long way but I sort of wish they still had words inscribed on them.
Frangibles are often treated like some sort of new-fangled invention when, in reality, they’ve been around since the mid-20th century. If you dig back into past copies of the Shooter’s Bible – specifically the 1967 edition – you’ll find listings for Remington’s Spatter-Less and Winchester’s SpatterProof frangibles. Back then the ammo was used in shooting galleries, something we don’t have anymore. But just as shooting galleries have vanished, technology has advanced. The frangibles of the shooting galleries were far different from the frangibles of today.
Here’s the historical bottom line. Decades ago early frangibles were made using iron powder. That meant the bullets both penetrated more deeply than they really should and also that they were magnetic. Today frangibles are made using copper with a binding agent that is typically tin but does depend on the whims of the manufacturer. There is truly no comparison. These are not your grandpa’s frangibles. They aren’t even your dad’s frangibles.
On the surface, frangibles serve a simple purpose: reducing or entirely eliminating the risk of ricochets and backsplash. Back in the days of shooting galleries, the idea was to use them for injury-free trigger time but now most people see them as belonging to close-range steel work. If you’re only using frangibles for shoot houses and close-quarters work, you’re missing the point.
Hunting with Frangibles
Yes, you can hunt with frangibles. I’ve dropped everything from 255-pounds hogs to antelope to deer using frangible ammunition. Just as with any ammo, it’s all about shot-placement; a single well-placed shot with frangibles is more than enough to drop an animal. In fact, I would argue frangibles get it done more efficiently than a lot of ammo. Heart shots I’ve taken with frangibles don’t just slice straight through like a hollow point, they’ve utterly obliterated the heart. Yes, that might be considered a downside if you like cooking heart – which I do, when possible – but it’s a huge plus because it drops the animal in their tracks. The deer haven’t bolted into the treeline and hogs haven’t simply squealed and kept on trucking. There’s also no over-penetration. Most animals I’ve shot with frangibles have no exit wound. I see that as a big upside.
Self-Defense with Frangibles
Not only do a surprising number of gun owners believe you cannot hunt with frangibles but they shout from the gun range rooftops that you cannot and should not use frangibles for self-defense. You can, though. One reason I enjoy handgun hunting so much is that it gives me an idea of how particular ammunition will or will not perform for self-defense. Is an animal’s anatomy identical to a human’s? Of course not, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t give you a fantastic baseline to work with. Hogs are my favorite thing for ammo testing and now that I’m into hundreds of hogs shot with frangibles from multiple manufactures in a broad variety of calibers, I’m sold. Yes, I use frangibles for self-defense.
In a self-defense situation, you are responsible for every shot fired. The instance of misses in self-defense shootings is high (it’s even higher in law enforcement). If that stray bullet misses its intended target, what do you think happens to it? It’s going to keep on going until it hits something capable of halting its movement. That could mean an innocent bystander gets hit or that a ricochet turns either injurious or deadly. Remember, frangibles powder upon impact with an object harder than themselves. Using frangibles does not remove your responsibility to train and to be responsible for every single shot fired but it does give you an edge for safety.
If you’re thinking you’ll only use frangibles when law enforcement does, guess what? Law enforcement does. There are LEOs and alphabet agents all over the world – both in the United States and outside it – using SinterFire and Inceptor frangibles.
And if you think frangibles cannot possibly be an effective bullet against an attacker, tell me how they perform so beautifully on such a wide variety of predators and game animals. It isn’t magic, it’s science, and they can and will halt a human threat just as well as they drop animals with one shot.
All frangible ammunition is not created equal. There are two manufacturers to consider trying if you’re in the market for frangibles: SinterFire and Inceptor. That does not mean there aren’t other good quality manufacturers out there – DRT Ammunition is another good one – but simply that some do have an edge for various reasons. There have been some random companies popping up here and there claiming to produce the latest-and-greatest frangibles but I have yet to be impressed with their ammo. Cue deluge of “but muh XYZ ammo” comments.
SinterFire supplies approximately 90 percent of the gun industry’s frangible projectiles. Remington and Fiocchi are two of the many, many major manufacturers using their bullets. When it comes to reliable cycling and precision, SinterFire won me over long ago and continues to win me over every time I use it. It’s well-made ammunition designed and produced by a team that knows what they’re doing and constantly strives to improve. The SinterFire team is also compromised of serious shooters who know their stuff which is an excellent bonus but really something that should probably be a requirement when it comes to designing ammo. Their ammo is non-toxic, green, and clean. It benefits from increased accuracy due in part to the lack of jackets, plating, or surface treatments to the bullets. SinterFire ammunition’s other benefits include reduced chamber pressure, decreased bore wear, and less fouling.
Inceptor is a frangible line that’s become better-known in recent years. It started its life as Polycase and was founded by former U.S. Army Airborne Ranger Paul Lemke back in 2012. Inceptor uses a precision injection-molding process for superior performance. Lemke states their goal is to produce innovative frangibles, unlike anything the industry has seen. They’re certainly readily-identifiable thanks to their being manufactured using a proprietary copper-polymer compound (Inceptor uses polymer as its binding agent, not tin). You might recognize their bullets by their chocolate-brown coloring and the twisted flute design of their noses. Their 10mm frangibles flat-out rock for precision and have been used by yours truly to drop dozens of feral hogs here in my home state of Texas.
Find out what works best for your needs in your guns. Just as with hollow points not all guns like all frangibles. That does not mean you should discount frangibles offhand, though. It’s good ammo and you’re missing out if you’re refusing to familiarize yourself with it.
Most of the guys who speak up against frangibles have little to no experience with it. A lot of the negative talk is the result of the old mindset that frangibles cannot possibly work for anything but steel plates. Times have changed and it’s time you changed with them. And no, running a single box of ammo through your gun does not make you a frangible expert.
Years have passed since I first became interested in learning everything possible about frangibles – years and tens of thousands of rounds of ammunition – and I’ve learned quite a bit. I’ve also done extensive testing on ballistics gel, through chronographs, and on hunts. Then there are the countless models of guns of all platforms I’ve run frangibles through. The learning process takes time and effort. Do not dismiss or minimize something just because you do not understand it or because you were told something once by someone who may or may not know what on ammunition earth they are talking about. Take it upon yourself to do your own learning. It makes you a better shooter, a more well-rounded gun owner, and a far better conversationalist on related topics. (Shout-out to Keith Porco of SinterFire for his unending patience and willingness to answer what were likely repetitive questions over the years.)
Give frangibles a try, and then try them again. You’ll be glad you did. And if you’d like to argue about their efficacy, leave a comment below. Bring it on.