Frangible ammo & bullets: What is it, benefits, Lead-Free

Frangible ammo & bullets: What is it, benefits, Lead-Free

If frangible ammo & bullets is something that you have been considering, you should know that you might benefit from reading this article on the topic before proceeding with it. 

While our focus is much so some of the dangers associated with lead, as you can see from our articles on replacing plaster with drywall, exposure to lead paint while pregnant and illegal landlord actions that could unnecessarily put tenants in harm’s way due to lead paint exposure, it will probably come as no surprise that the ammunition that you are using when you are out and practicing your shooting can also be a major source of lead exposure that you should be considering. 

Frangible ammo is starting to pick up steam and is increasingly being used by the people that are keeping our neighborhoods safe – you know, the people in blue. However, it’s also important to note that there are certain downsides to it, why we will cover everything you will need to know about the topic whether you’re using a 9mm, a .223 or a 5.56

What are frangible bullets and what is it used for? 

Frangible bullets are designed to turn into dust when they come in contact with a hard target, and are generally considered appropriate mainly for training purposes. Upon contact, the bullet is crushed into many smaller pieces.

While there are various different materials that are used in the making of this bullet, the most common component is copper because of the properties that the metal possesses. With the creation of this type of ammo, you have certain benefits as it will turn into harmless fragments upon contact with hard surfaces, meaning the potential structural damage that they could be causing is thereby significantly lowered. 

Besides copper, tin is also an important component with these types of bullets, and so are the other materials that are used as binding agents to give the ammo the properties that it has. 

Benefits of frangible ammo

Frangible ammo has the benefit that it can be used in places where it would be very inconvenient, and dangerous, to use traditional bullets. Whether you’re using traditional bullets like the full metal jackets or the jacketed hollow points, these come with very significant risk to the user when you are training in narrow spaces. 

With narrow hallways, doorways and small rooms providing great risk of ricochet injuries, frangible ammo does not have this downside to it. For the people, like the police and military personnel who can simply not avoid training under such circumstances, this type of ammunition provides benefits that traditional ammo doesn’t. 

When you are shooting traditional bullets in such a tight space, there is an inherent and very big risk of people unintentionally getting injured, why these bullets can in fact save the life of someone who is engaged in necessary training.

However, that does not mean that these bullets are in fact only used for training purposes by law enforcement. While these types of bullets may be very valuable in training situations, they are in fact also used in the real world.

While these bullets may disintegrate as they hit hard surfaces, it does not mean that they are exempt from being able to do some significant damage to someone standing in their way. In fact, they may still be in situations that resemble the training conditions that they were originally designed for – hallways and other tight spaces. Frangible ammo has the benefit that it greatly reduces the chances of over penetration, while still providing the necessary protection that normal bullets would be providing. These bullets are still very valuable when it comes to their ability to deal with a soft target that poses a threat, but without the risk of ricocheting, they do provide a safer alternative to usual bullets. If you are up against a person who is standing in front of a steel wall, there’s no question as to which type of ammunition we would rather have in the chamber. 

There are various situations where you could easily imagine that the various equipment around would get severely damaged if real bullets were used, whereas these frangible alternatives provide an option to still have a security guard who has the means to deal with an intruder should the need arise. 

There are other places where it wouldn’t just be a safety concern if a bullet ricochets, but it could also be a situation where you could easily have someone do millions of dollars worth of damage if bullets were to start flying around – imagine the chaos it would cause if an oil tank started leaking, or hazardous material was leaked from the leaks that normal ammunition would be able to create. It could be devastating! 

Is frangible ammo good for self defense?

If you haven’t guessed it alright, frangible ammo is great when it comes to self-defense purposes at home due to the fact that it won’t ricochet like usual bullet will, while still being able to keep you and your family safe at home. There are also other advantages to this type of ammo that we will be talking about a little bit later.

Amusement parks – the place where the story began 

You would probably never have guessed it, but it was in fact an innovation that stems from a common problem that is seen at amusement parks. While it may not be the biggest firepower that these places possess, the way that the amusement situations are set up, there would unfortunately be a lot of situations that caused bullets to ricochet, and people would end up getting hurt in the process. As you may have guessed, the first type of this ammunition was a .22 short round made solely for the intention of avoiding ricochet injuries. The original round was made from compressed powder, and while the invention may have come a long way from its initial stages, there’s no denying that this invention is one that has changed the outcome both for people attending amusement parks and law enforcement officers. 

Advantages: A Lead-Free Ammunition Alternative

Fun fact: The most popular company that produces these bullets that are available to civilians is called Sinterfire, which has vastly been responsible for the increased risk of unintended injury to civilians. 

While it is hard to quantify the amount of lives that these bullets may have saved, there is no denying that they provide a range of advantages, with increased safety being the most notable advantage, no matter if it comes to law enforcement or civilians. While ricocheting bullets is a major concern, so is over penetration, why you may also want to get this type of bullet if you are thinking about what you want to be using for home defense. 

The next advantage that this type of bullet has over other options is the one that originally brought us to actually write this article, and that is the fact that this ammunition isn’t made with lead. As we’re in the business of selling lead paint test kits from companies like 3M, it should come to you as no surprise that we do find it to be really quite a substantial advantage that these bullets are made from a significantly safer material, even when they aren’t being used for active shooting purposes. 

While we are usually very active when it comes to things like recommending the best paint strippers and giving pros recommendations on how to use XRF analyzers, there is no denying that there is a great source of lead exposure that many people may not be thinking about quite as much as they really should be, and that is when they go shooting. 

While great measures were taken back in 1977 when it comes to banning the use of lead paint in residential paint, it was never mandated that something had to be done about the exposure that stems from the fact that some lead dust will be released into the air when a bullet is fired, and while it may seem like a negligible thing, it has the potential to really add up over the course of time for someone who is either in law enforcement, or simply someone who really loves shooting guns. 

Even if you may not be all too concerned about your own safety and the exposure to lead that stems from using traditional bullets, there may be others in your family whose health may really benefit from you consciously using this lead-free ammunition next time you go to the shooting range. Even if they disintegrate as they hit the intended object, you aren’t exposing yourself to the health implications that stem from long term exposure to the hazardous metal, lead, when it is inhaled and enters your system where it is stored. Additionally, the dust that stems from shooting a guns won’t settle in your clothes, at which point you may be bringing it into your home and exposing your kids to it; kids whom are significantly more at risk when it comes to this harmful metal than adults are, where it can lead to long-term health consequences that are very severe. In fact, significant lead exposure can lead to a range of things including developmental delay in kids, why you may just want to replace those traditional bullets you have lying around at home. 

Besides being good when it comes to safety and when it comes to avoiding unnecessary lead exposure at the gun range, it also provides you the ability to use steel targets instead, which some people may have a preference for. 


While there are a number of advantages to frangible ammo, there are also a couple of disadvantages that it would be unfair not to mention. While frangible bullets are lethal and can provide you with the protection against any intruder that you may want, there are also people who believe that the deep penetration that is provided by usual bullets is preferred. There are many people that may think that these bullets are great when it comes to training purposes, but when it comes to being placed in front of a potential threat, they want something that they know will provide the deep penetration from conventional ones.

As a site whose purpose it is to mainly inform people of the various dangers associated with lead exposure, there is no doubt that we are big fans of the frangible options, if that is something that fits the purpose you are trying to achieve, and there is still no denying that all the same necessary safety precautions need to be taken when these bullets are used rather than conventional ones given their undeniable power. 

These bullets will also have a couple of other disadvantages that we need to cover, as these bullets are in fact more messy than conventional ones. Being made to disintegrate when they hit hard surfaces, it should come as no surprise that they also create a significant amount of metal dust when they are being fired, and this metal dust cannot simply be left – it will need to be cleaned up after each session. If you end up choosing this type of ammo, it is a feature that you will have to learn to live with, as it is a commonly reported issue with the ammo. 

Although they are definite winners when it comes to training purposes for law enforcement, there are some owners that may not appreciate the fact the the softer material that they are made of can create other issues like potentially fouling in the barrel at a higher rate than what is going to be the case for conventional bullets made of harder materials. 

Is frangible ammo bad for the barrel?

If you are doing high-volume training, there is a concern that the barrel will be affected by this softer material and the metal dust that arises from shooting off this ammo, increasing the need for more cleaning, although it is also possible that the barrel is ruined faster than it would be with usual ammo, why some people may simply not like this option because of the additional hassle that it provides.

However, the evidence on whether or not frangible ammo is bad for the barrel is very scattered and inconclusive, and various users online will be telling you different things. In addition to that, there are various websites online that point out that frangible ammo is rather expensive, why the overall cost of shooting will depend a lot more on the amount of bullets that you are going through.

In terms of protecting the barrel, you will likely be better off being sure that you are using minimally abrasive methods to do the cleaning – after all, if you are using steel bristle bore brushes to do the cleaning against the barrel, what may be in fact damaging the barrel is not the frangible ammo but rather that you are using steel brushes to scrub and clean the barrel instead of something slightly less abrasive. The more enthusiastic you are when you are cleaning out the barrel, especially with very abrasive methods, the more worn out it will become.

Another important factor that you may want to consider and compare between the two different ways of shooting – with traditional ammo vs this lighter stuff is to actually consider the overall cost that will be associated with your hobby. 

One of the examples that we found online was in a community where there were a bunch of people that were comparing the various costs associated with different shooting options, and the initial poster was concerned as to whether 2,000 rounds of frangible ammo would in fact wear out the barrel or not. 

While the gas flame is essentially what will wear out the barrel, there is the concern that given that this type of ammo is lighter than the usual kind, the power that is produced to be able to create the necessary velocity to ensure disintegration of the bullets, has to be higher – in other words, the gas flames that are needed in order to make the entire mechanism happen are more, and over time, this additional gas and heat that is associated with this lighter type of ammo will have an impact on the accuracy of the barrel. The increased flame cutting that arises from this is substantially more than with usual bullets, but where it starts becoming more relevant is what the associated cost of this hobby is. 

Frangible ammo costs quite a bit, as many of the rounds will cost $2-3 per round, meaning that when you are shooting 2,000 rounds, that equates to $4,000-6,000 simply in ammunition. While these bullets may have a higher wear on the barrel than traditional ones do, it’s more so important to make sure that you are comparing apples to apples. The relevant question does not become whether or not you are in fact saving money by using a type of ammunition that is more or less abrasive on the barrel because of the increased fire cutting, but how the difference in the price of ammo compares to the cost that you will incur when you are changing out the barrel. As barrels will cost you somewhere between $60 and $210 for most of the barrels for handguns, it becomes obvious that the question is not whether or not there’s more wear on the barrel. 

From the analysis above, it is obvious that this type of ammunition is not going to be chosen on the basis of the effect that it has on the barrel, but rather the other advantages that it has over the alternatives – would you rather be safe when you are doing practicing where ricocheting is a valid concern, as well as protect yourself from excessive lead exposure that could cause chronic side effects over the long term, or are you more concerned about the cost associated with this type of hobby – the choice is yours to make. 

Is it best for training? 

If you are a person who likes to know that the ammo you have will have the level of penetration that you are expecting with traditional bullets, frangible ones may simply be ones that you want to use when it comes to training purposes. However, if you are forced to undergo training in places where you are likely to be hitting hard surfaces and where the risk of ricocheting bullets is a serious concern, you at least have a valid option to make sure that you are staying safe in the process. It definitely can provide you with the necessary training to increase your proficiency, while allowing you to practice at those close ranges that would otherwise be problematic to do with normal ammo.

Target damage provided by these bullets

While the intention of these bullets, especially  given their name, is that they disintegrate when they hit their target, this isn’t necessarily the case with all of them and will depend on the surface that they are hitting as well as the way in which they were manufactured. While bullets may be vaporized upon contact, there are many situations where the mechanism of bullet disintegration may mean that it is in fact only part of the bullet that is disintegrated. It is also important to know that these bullets are at risk of disintegrating if not handled properly during the loading and firing mechanisms, why high-velocity loads often have a feature that non-high velocity loads don’t – non-frangible jackets. While you will want the bullet to actually disintegrate when it hits what it should be hitting, you don’t want it to be doing so prior, why this non.frangible jacket is used in certain situations. While there is a chance that the jacket ricochets, the chances of this jacket doing any damage while doing so is significantly lower than if the frangible core was preserved and was to ricochet as well. 

Will frangible ammo kill a human being?

Yes, if you are hit by frangible ammo, it will kill you the same way that traditional ammo would. This type of bullet will still do a great amount of damage to soft tissue, whereas it will shatter when it hits a hard surface. For that matter, unless you are wearing armor, this type of ammunition can cause some severe damage to you as a human being. 

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