Which came first, the firearm or the bullet? Historically speaking, the advent of firearms came centuries after bullets had already been in use. Our ancestors used sling bullets cast from clay, stone and lead in battle — sans firearms. And in the 2nd century A.D., the Romans went a step further with “whistling bullets” — one-ounce lead balls with 5-millimeter holes through their middles. As their name implies, the resulting bullets whistled intimidatingly and traveled at a rate of 100 meters per second. Words like dexai, which translates to “take this” or “catch,” were etched into the noisy projectiles. Although we don’t carve catchy words into our hollow-points today, our technology has advanced by leaps and bounds, bringing us all the way up to frangible bullets.

What Is Frangible Ammo?

Frangible ammunition are rounds designed to disintegrate when they hit their targets. The goal was to minimize the penetration of other objects. Frangible bullets were first created for mid-20th-century shooting galleries. Can you imagine going to the fair today and shooting real firearms as part of a game? I unfortunately cannot — not even a little bit.

Of course, these rounds had uses beyond galleries. Around the same time, .30-caliber frangible bullets were used in machine guns for target practice. The military saw them as a way to make combat simulation safer — and they were right.

But wait, you’re thinking: Tales abound of these bullets damaging the breech faces of guns, fragmenting in barrels and offering wholly disappointing accuracy. Light strikes, failures to feed, unpredictable groups the size of dinner plates — the list goes on. Brave any social media gun group or forum and you’ll find the word “frangibles” invoked in the same tone as when referring to users of the teacup grip or guys carrying unholstered pistols in the waistband of sweatpants.

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By Kat Ainsworth