Frangible Bullets Explained

The term “frangible” simply means something is going to break into tiny fragments. In the bullet world, what you’re going to get is a bullet that doesn’t deform or expand like a hollow point but instead basically shatters or disintegrates on impact with the target. This target is basically anything harder than the bullet itself which is usually composed of composite materials that are pressed together with an adhesive material or formed under high pressure into a “solid” bullet shape. Frangible bullets are  sometimes known as Advanced Energy Transfer rounds or AET’s and by far the most recognizable name is the Glaser Safety Slug.

Defense Use

Frangible Ammo ImpactThe main draw for the frangible bullet is similar to what shooters like about hollow points. There’s always a high demand for a bullet that is made in such a fashion that it won’t cause high collateral damage or accidental injuries due to over-penetration. However, a frangible bullet can still go through a person and a wall because the bullet will not always break apart and release all of its energy inside of its intended target.  The solution to the normal frangible is actually perfected in the Glaser Safety Slug and other brands like the Mag Safe SWAT that use a different style tip. Instead of metal, these use a polymer tip so it’s much more likely to fragment and dispel the contents when striking a person or even an animal and almost always if it hits a wall.

Training Use

Frangible ammo has been used as a training ammo for SWAT and hostage rescue teams since the 1970s because it provides one of the best ways to eliminate that over-penetration issue. When lives are on the line it’s extremely important to avoid collateral damage and even a slight error can land you in a lot of legal trouble. It’s fairly common for bystanders and even criminals to sue law enforcement personnel or others authorized to carry a gun if a shot hits them on accident. This type of round aims to lower this particular type of risk.

The civilian market has also found a use for frangible ammo in the training environment.  When using steel targets in close quarter training, the results with jacketed and lead bullets were usually very unpleasant.  Copper jackets turn into mini throwing stars capable of some pretty nasty cuts.  Enter frangible bullets.  These bullets can be used at extremely close range on steel targets with virtually no chance of ricochet, you can see proof of this here.

You can find frangible ammo in quite a few varieties and it’s available for pistols and rifles both. You’ll be much more likely to find the pistol ammo because rifles fire at such high velocity, the frangible rifle round doesn’t always perform as expected and can fragment early, jam in the rifle or cause other issues. Generally, you’re going to want this in a pistol caliber for home defense or concealed carry. 

While  some frangible is solid and fragments as the composite that makes up the bullet shatters, some like the Glaser is actually filled with #12 shot in the Blue line and #6 shot in the Silver line giving you a more uniform impact and potential wound creation. Since this type of ammunition is made differently with each manufacturer, it can pay off to check different brands and ammo lines to see what specific type of frangible ammo will meet your needs the best.