Frangible Bullets

Centerfire handgun ammunition, and to a lesser degree rifle ammunition, loaded with frangible bullets are now produced by all major ammunition manufacturers. The bullets are constructed of various materials depending on the manufacturer: copper powder compressed under high pressure; copper with a polymer binding agent; powdered tungsten, copper and a nylon matrix; twisted strands of zinc and powdered iron encased in an electroplated jacket. Kaplan et al. tested frangible ammunition composed of copper particulate material in calibers .38 Special, 9-mm Parabellum and .223 by firing them into the heads of pigs.19 The wounds caused by the handgun bullets were comparable in severity to those caused by regular bullets. The frangible handgun bullets, when recovered, while demonstrating class characteristics, did not possess individual markings necessary for bullet-to-gun comparison. The .223 frangible bullets fragmented in the heads. The x-ray picture produced was similar to the "lead snowstorm" seen with hunting bullets but differed in that there was no evidence of any bullet jacketing and the fragments had a granular border.

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