Nick and Jeremy Shoot a Car With Frangible 9mm

Most frangible ammunition is made by compressing copper powder (either pure or with tin and/or polymer added) into the shape of a bullet on a machine basically identical to the kind used to manufacture medicine tablets. When a frangible round hits something hard — a steel plate, a rock, etc. — POOF! It transforms back into dust.

But just how easily does that happen? Does frangible ammo return to dust if it hits a car door? A window? A tire?

To find out, Nick and I hit the range with a box of Sinterfire 9mm and a GLOCK 19. And the results surprised both of us.

If you’re at work or just don’t like watching videos, here’s the spoiler:

The frangible 9mm zipped through one car door, through the door card, through the other door card, and sometimes exited the door on the far side of the car. The bullet shed copper the whole way — it entered the first door at 9mm and exited the second one at maybe 4mm…who knows — but it appears to have stayed quite deadly.

A frangible round zipped through the trunk and through the rear seat, with a couple small chunks remaining in tact enough to puncture into the front seat.

Another one made it through both sidewalls of a steel-belted radial tire and punched through the plastic wheel well liner.

One made it right through a cast aluminum valve cover. What it did inside there or how much solid projectile was left, if any, after breaking through, we don’t know.

The frangible 9mm didn’t like vehicle glass. Even shooting at the pre-fractured safety glass of the rear window, the bullet was reduced mostly to dust and possibly a few chunks, though the damage we saw from “copper chunks” could have been caused by flying glass, too. Laminated windshield glass, too, appeared to have mostly destroyed the projectile. At least, it certainly turned much of it into dust. Certainly more than the sheet metal did.

So there you have it. Once again, we find that a car is concealment, but not cover unless you’re behind a solid chunk of metal like the engine block, hubs/brakes, etc. Even from frangible pistol ammo.

Nick and I were surprised to see this kind of ammo pass completely through two car doors. We wouldn’t have guessed that a pane of automotive glass, whether window or windshield, is actually better at turning a frangible projectile back into dust than steel body panels.


  1. avatar Texheim says:

    Thank you for writing about the results for those of us that don’t want to watch a video. kudos!

    1. avatar Joe R. says:


      Thank you!

      Wonder how subs with frangible would work?

  2. avatar None says:

    Isn’t frangible ammo specifically manufactured to work as intended with hardened steel?

    1. avatar Geoff PR says:

      Not all frangible ammo is a compressed-powder matrix.

      Frangible just means it ‘fragments’ on impact.

      Glaser safety slugs are a bunch of BBs in a plastic case, for example.

      You need a hardened ‘penetrator’ of some type to punch through a hardened steel…

      1. avatar NukemJim says:

        Glaser ammo is not “frangible” although frequently mistakenly called so. Glaser ammo is “pre fragmented”.

        I am not surprised that the frangible ammo penetrated the car. The frangible ammo is designed to break up after hitting a certain hardness/thickness of metal.

        1. avatar Geoff PR says:

          “Glaser ammo is “pre fragmented”.”

          I stand corrected…

      2. avatar None says:

        I know, I’m saying I thought frangible ammo was made to only work with hardened steel, meaning fragment. Not penetrate.

  3. avatar PeterK says:

    Very interesting. Nice info dump.

  4. avatar little horn says:

    unlike in movies, its almost impossible to get kill shots THROUGH a windshield because of the angle, not so much the toughness of the material. in pistol caliber anyways.

    1. avatar Whocares says:

      Just takes more practice.
      (You react as you practice.)
      Of course being able to do live practice through windshields doesn’t come along often.

      Thnx to B’oT!!

    2. avatar Accur81 says:

      Not with Winchester Ranger RA40T. It does pretty well through automotive glass – even the front windshield.

  5. avatar JasonM says:

    So the moral of this story is: roll your window down before using a car door as cover, in case your enemy is using frangible ammo. 🙂

  6. avatar Ralph says:

    I just hope that the driver is okay.

    1. avatar The Gray Poseur says:

      Did you let the ex-wife out of her car prior to this test?

  7. avatar Logan says:

    Sounds like its the relative hardness of the material, rather than the strength that matters with frangible. Such as the soft steel body panels vs. hardened armor steel, or in this case the auto safety glass.

    1. avatar Geoff PR says:

      That’s what I was thinking. The glass shatters, but is hard. Steel is a relatively softer substance…

      1. avatar Snatchums says:

        Right, I think it’s because the steel has much more “give” before the material finally yields.

        Kinda curious how they perform at being fired into water at various angles.

  8. avatar Curtis in IL says:

    I appreciate a good research project as much as the next guy, but…

    Is there any chance the local hood rats or your garden variety jihadi is going to load up with that stuff?

    I’m not sure why anyone would use frangible ammo. It’s more expensive than ball ammo and doesn’t seem to perform as well.

    1. avatar Eric in Oregon says:

      I believe the purpose was to determine whether it’s safer to use as defense ammo indoors.

    2. avatar Kahlil says:

      I could think of a reason, magic disappearing bullet maybe? Still passes through car door and can cause damage to an occupant. I would assume these rounds don’t take on barrel grooves and if done from a revolver there are no spend casings laying on the ground.

    3. avatar BLoving says:

      I would argue that frangibles were never intended as a defensive load in any realistic scenario.
      They function as intended in a very few specific scenarios: shooting hardened steel targets at close range (automotive steel isn’t hardened like that) and at concrete backstops. In other words- indoor practice and some close range competitive shooting. Beyond that, choose a different bullet.

      1. avatar tiger says:

        You would be very wrong. The classic case is that of a Air Marshall. You want to kill the threat. Not Aunt Bee in seat 5 c. Over penetrate a target means, wrongfull death lawsuits & Criminal charges.

        1. avatar Nick says:

          Not if you’re a cop. That’s what qualified immunity is for.

        2. avatar BLoving says:

          I think we’re talking about different bullets, Tiger.
          A frangible is a hard projectile that shatters upon impact with a surface harder than itself; they do not break apart when hitting something squishy (ie: people) and will penetrate like a FMJ. Exactly the opposite of what an Air Marshall would want.

      2. avatar TommyJay says:

        I’ve seen slow mo ballistic gel video on frangible 9mm, and it fragmented 5 to 8 inches in, then the two or three fragments fragmented again after another several inches. The fragmenting occurs with a considerable temporary expansion cavity, almost like a tiny explosion.

        The guy testing it thought it was intended for defensive purposes, and the results suggest the same.

    4. avatar tiger says:

      And when Curtis your fmj kills the kid in the car seat, rather than the bad guy? You might have time to rethink that idea?

      1. avatar Curtis in IL says:

        I carry a magazine full of one of the leading, independently tested hollow point rounds for self-defense. They expand on impact to dump all of their energy into the threat, causing significant trauma in the process, and to minimize overpenetration.

        1. avatar tiger says:

          And the stray rounds? Not everyone is a hit. If a round can go through a car door, it will go through a house wall of sidding, foam & drywall. Happened in a police shooting just on the news.

  9. avatar TexTed says:

    There’a world of difference between frangible ammo, and copper-jacketed frangible ammo. Try something like RWS Copper Matrix and I bet you’ll get results more like you were expecting.

    1. avatar Jeremy S. says:

      This is not copper jacketed. It’s full-on frangible made 100% from copper + tin powder.

  10. avatar CAPCAP says:

    The box said Home Defense. Wonder what it would do in gelatin, bare and with denim?

    1. avatar Seth says:

      I would think that there would be no fragmenting in either case, same for drywall.

  11. avatar Wyvern says:

    Isn’t the point of frangible ammo simply to prevent ricochets when the bullets hit very hard objects? It doesn’t seem that surprising that they still go through things that bullets would normally go through instead of ricocheting.

  12. avatar Anonymous says:

    I could have used that tire you shot.

    I’m glad Nick is a “man.”

    I was hoping you could have shot up the portapotty in the background.

    1. avatar Jeremy S. says:

      The tire was already flat. Though only on the bottom.

  13. avatar The Rookie says:

    Hey! That was MY car!!!

    1. avatar Ralph says:

      And now it’s fully air conditioned.

  14. avatar James69 says:

    I wonder what the polycase ARX ammo would do?

  15. avatar ChrisR says:

    I’ve been loading & shooting frangibles for 458 socom. On AR500 targets, they just go poof, barely scuffing the paint. Softer steel takes dents. A large aluminum heatsink slowed it enough to safely catch a slightly deformed frangible.

    In my case, they’re cheaper than any other commercially available 458 bullets for reloading, and I like the lead free aspect.

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