Frangible Ammunition: A Composite Story

By Paul Evancoe

Surprisingly, recreational shooting is one of the safest hobbies in which one can participate. This is attributed to the shooting community’s common observance of basic firearms’ handling and range safety rules designed to prevent people from being accidently shot. However, even with the strict observance of firearms and range safety, there are other safety threats that can’t be completely eliminated, like exposure to airborne lead particulate and ricochets. Using frangible ammunition largely mitigates such problems, but in doing so it may, by design, possess some of its own.

Frangible rounds (bullets) are also known as Advanced Energy Transfer rounds (or AETs). The only difference between regular ammunition and frangible (AET) ammunition is the bullet. Frangible ammunition is produced in a wide variety of calibers and available (although it’s somewhat hard to find in stores) for both pistols and rifles. The only rifle rounds produced are in 5.56mm NATO and 7.62mm NATO, and its operational performance in actual combat is dubious.

There are only two frangible rounds that have been approved for U.S. military training purposes (not combat use) and they are 9mm and 5.56 NATO. That said, frangible pistol ammunition is produced in a wider range of calibers than its rifle counterpart calibers, because frangible rifle rounds, as a result of their high velocity, provide inconsistent performance. This includes issues like fragmenting early, bullet fracturing and subsequently jamming in the rifle, or other physical characteristics - more on this in a moment.

Frangible ammunition provides the best way to eliminate bullet over-penetration and thus, reduce liability for use by law enforcement and home protection. Frangible ammunition has been used in handguns and sub-machine guns by SWAT, hostage rescue teams and nuclear reactor and weapon storage facilities security forces, throughout the U.S. since its invention in 1974.

Both the law enforcement and civilian markets use frangible ammo for training, especially when shooting steel targets in close-quarter training. Copper jacketed lead bullets commonly ricochet off steel targets, presenting everyone close by with a potentially lethal safety hazard. In comparison, frangible bullets can be used...

This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V21N5 (June 2017)
and was posted online on April 21, 2017


04-21-2017 5:50 AM

Operation Pinball (Continued)

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04-21-2017 5:48 AM

Operation Pinball

The first military use of frangible ammunition was during WWII in Operation Pinball. Two chemists at Duke University, Paul Gross and Marcus Hobbs, accepted the challenge of developing a frangible Cal..30 bullet with ballistic characteristics similar enough to Ball, M2 that it could be used in live fire training for bomber gunners. The result was the Cartridge, Caliber .30, Frangible, Ball, M22, with a bullet comprised of a Bakelite/lead matrix. The targets were

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