Frangible: Could It Be The Perfect Defensive Ammo?
Eve Flanigan 04.15.19
Most times, discussions of defensive ammunition boil down to two options: FMJ or JHP. But what if there’s a third choice? Frangible ammunition has been around for a long time as a training accessory for use in shoot houses. But the arena of ammunition development has accelerated fast in the last decade, and “frange” was not left behind.
While the interest of the market has been lackluster, I believe frangible represents a superior choice for many civilians. Let’s take a closer look.
What is frangible ammunition?
In short, a frangible bullet is made from pressed powder. Don’t let the baby-soft implications of its composition fool you; its effectiveness on target is very real.
While manufacturers mostly keep the ratios of their well-researched, powdered ingredients secret, in general frangible ammunition can be composed of any metal. Copper, tin, and tungsten are common ingredients.
Frange looks and shoots like regular ammunition, but the bullet’s composition makes for distinctive differences. Simply put, it disintegrates when striking anything harder than the bullet itself. While this of course makes for optimal, realistic training in a concrete shoot house, today’s frangible offers much more.
Uses of modern frangible ammo
Modern frangible ammo is available for, and effective on, small and some large game animals, feral hogs, and of course varmints of the two-legged variety. It’s also a good option for shooting steel targets, especially for those who for whatever reason may need to get inside the normal minimum distances of 100 yards for rifle or 12 yards for pistol. Frangible can be fired at bad-breath distance from steel targets, expanding options for training.
As a hunting or defensive choice, specialized frangible bullets are as dialed-in as traditional rounds in terms of purpose-specific penetration. It’s been proven effective on elk and feral hogs. In this writer’s opinion, where it really shines, and is yet overlooked, is its application as defensive ammo. While frangible will, like most any other centerfire bullet, sail right through drywall, boards, and single layers of concrete block, it will not bounce off poured concrete or other structural surfaces like steel, granite, and marble.
Ricochet is to be expected in urban environments. Missed shots are exceedingly common in criminal encounters. Ricochets can cause injury or death to bystanders or even the person firing justified shots. Frangible ammunition exerts powerful control over the ricochet variable by eliminating it.
It’s probable that one aspect of frangible’s performance, its inability to effectively punch through automotive steel and engage targets on the other side, has relegated it as a training tool only for military and police use. Since the tools adopted by these bodies have a big influence on civilian consumer use, there simply is no traditional pipeline to grow popularity of frange in the civilian sector (including use by security guards). I think it’s a mistake not to embrace this ammunition anyway. The lowered risk of damage to lives and property alone is worth it, but it’s also worth considering on the basis of its performance on intended targets.
Frangible is a high-performance round for security and defensive use
The peace of mind knowing that much risk is simply eliminated by the use of frangible is something anyone who carries a gun for defensive use can appreciate. But for all its vulnerability when striking rock-solid objects, frange is in a class of its own for effectiveness on target.
Watching a gel block testing demonstration of frangible by Allegiance Ammunition at a gun writer’s conference, I was taken aback at the difference in the response of gel to the company’s 9mm round as compared to another brand’s hot, +P load of the same caliber—we’ll call them Brand X. The Brand X bullet was impressive, indeed. It achieved a full 16 inches penetration, with a petal of its jacketed hollow point poking out of the end of the block. Expansion was impressive as well—in excess of the industry standard of 1.5 times its original size.
If Brand X’s round was impressive, the demo by Allegiance was stunning. The gel block, five yards downrange from the muzzle, seemed to come alive. It writhed and went airborne, finally landing with a PLOP on the floor next to the makeshift table it had been on. A visual inspection of the block showed what, on a living target, would’ve been a devastating wound. Hundreds of fragments spread in a spray pattern from a point a few inches past the entry channel. Each fragment had cut its own channel. The wound represented something that looked more like a combination of bird-and buckshot rather than a bullet. The impact had also been obviously more forceful. That demo represented a near-religious turning point in my beliefs about good defensive ammunition.
Becoming a consumer of frangible
For hunting purposes, I am reserved regarding frangible where the potential for meat contamination is concerned. These specialty rounds are effective at putting game down, but the circumference of fragmentation is quite large. Perhaps a reader experienced with using frange afield can comment on their experience here.
Frangible has become my ammo of choice for defensive use; while I do carry other types at times, the top two rounds in my bedside and carry gun are always hollow point frange. A perfect storm of circumstances—my injured wrists, a large rattlesnake, a poured-concete patio, and a glass door all joined in one very unwanted encounter one night. Frangible put a fast, humane end to this pernicious threat to my dogs and me, without so much as a scratch to the glass that the snake was snuggled in next to.
Expect to spend about the same for frangible HP as for high-grade hollow point defensive or hunting ammo, maybe more. My friends at Lucky Gunner offer numerous selections in common pistol and rifle calibers, as well as a 12 gauge slug. Or buy direct and have questions answered from the folks at Allegiance Ammunition, who hunt with frangible products.