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March 02, 2007

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Gun Geezer Makes Muscatel* Mist

Some weeks ago I got a box of bullets from Barnes labeled Varmint Grenades. With visions of woodchucks using their long yellow teeth to pull pins on frags and hurl them at unsuspecting hunters, I opened the box to find 100 36-grain hollow-point bullets. But they are not ordinary hollow-points. VGs were developed by Barnes for the government, and are not only very light, but super-frangible. The front third of the bullet is hollow, and the rear two-thirds is filled by a brittle copper-tin alloy instead of lead.

There are two advantages to frangibility in varmint bullets. First, they unglue critters in a highly entertaining manner; second, they will not ricochet. At the Barnes booth at the SHOT Show, I learned that VGs are so frangible that they’ll explode upon hitting a grape, and that the company even has a high-speed film of this happening (below).

When you get conventional bullets moving as fast as these do (4,035 fps out of my .22/250), strange things sometimes happen. I’ve seen lead-core 50-grain .220 Swift bullets penetrate iron plate that a .30/06 couldn’t get through. So I decided to shoot a grape or two and see what happened.

First, I zeroed my .22/250 to hit dead-on at 25 yards. Then I set up a paper roll with an attractive purple grape perched on its top. A foot behind the grape was a paper target. I reasoned that if the bullet simply punched through the grape without expanding, I would see a neat hole in the paper (below).


This did not happen. I shot two grapes with identical results. Both grapes simply vanished. There was a very faint purple stain where they had rested on the paper, and behind them in the target, were two massive rents. The first shot punched a hole about a third the size of a man’s hand; the second hole was second was half the size of a palm.

What I think happened was this: the bullet and the grape exploded, and the water from the grape was driven with terrific force right through the target. There were pieces of grape skin about the size of so many grains of sand in the paper; nothing any bigger survived.

I can hardly wait to arrange a meeting between a VG and saucy Mr. Woodchuck or perky Mr. Prairie dog.

*I don’t know if the grape was a muscatel or a concord, or what, but I needed something that began with “m.” I would also like to be able to say that no grapes were harmed in the research for this blog, but that of course is nonsense.


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That is really cool!!! Dave, that is better than tracer ammo. I can't wait to see you post a video online of the decimation of a prairie pup.

I think I am going to try and get some for the triple deuce.


I was contacted by a rep from Barnes(I work for Cabela's) and he told me that once the pin is pulled on one of these grenades the remaining sod poodles in the colony all just give up and spontaneously explode! I highly recomend a video camera recording at high speed to prove the 1 round, 72,685 killed shot!

Dave in St Pete

Don't want to sound stupid here but what the heck.

Will a bullet that handgrenades on contact penetrate enough to make Mr 'Chuck or Mr P. Dog do the same? (don't get a chance to shoot them here in FL.)


Oh yeah. They'll be devastating.

JC Blauvelt

Hmmmm....." Developed by Barnes for the government". I wonder who or what the government is using them on? I am sure it is not fruit. Velosity out of the 5.56 NATO round will be over 3500 fps. A very slow twist barrel would be needed for accuracy.


The Coast Guard was looking into a similar Ammunition a few years back. Imagine a FMJ rattling around an engine room.......

Dave. I am wondering if you shoot low would the impact on the ground cause the bullet to break apart and still do the job?
apart and still do the job?


Somebody _please_ shoot a grapefruit! They're more sod puppy sized. I can see my focus shifting from clays any second now.

Dave from Iowa

Petzal you are clueless. Instead of musing about 36 grain grenades, why don't you factor in bore life at hyper-velocities? Better still, why don't ypu man up and answer the Zumbo questions? Oh, right, you are too elite to deal with that. Cripes, are you an incompetent blissninny.


Ralph the Rifleman

That's darn explosive stuff for sure! I could see it having military application in taking out "soft" targets like communication connections, or selective targets to minimise civilian casualties?
Maybe use a marshmellow next time Dave..I hate see a grape KIA without the benefit of smashing it to make some wine!

Peter C

We should be grateful to Barnes for providing a Final Solution to the grape problem. Grapes have long been known to be nasty, aggressive creatures, hence Steinbeck's "Grapes of Wrath."

Dave in St Pete

"....Steinbeck's "Grapes of Wrath."

**GROAN** :)


I don't thik it was the water from the grape that exploded holes in the paper, Dave. It looks more like the bullet, after "frangiling" or whatever you want to call it, continues travelling forward, and at a huge increase in overall size due to the thousands of tiny pieces it breaks into, and that entire "shot pattern" is what punched thru the paper. You can see that happenning in the video - keep your eye closely on the bullet after it hits the grape - it becomes almost like a cloud of shot, and continues forward.

Barnes probably developed this ammunition for the govt as the Frangible ammo that has been around for years. It breaks up easily on contact and so there is no ricocheting, and less chance of penetrating walls. Also useful in airplanes by air marshals, for obvious reasons. If you ever see people training with these, they are able to stand 5 or 6 feet away from steel targets and not worry about bullets bouncing back and hurting them or others around.

Now, having said that, don't try that at home and then ccome crying to me when you shoot your gonads off.


Why do you let some of these ignorant comments post

Enough be hammered around on Zumbo, let it lay, other important issues we need to discuss. If these clowns jump on Barnes as they did Zumbo, they will be out of business. To me any improvement in ammo is interesting and us so-called hunters need all the help we can use. Many only shoot when they go hunting and never try out different ammo. What a waste. We never get to smart to learn new stuff.Dave, tell these Jack-Asses where to go and continue to write about what-ever you so choose. Best I recall this is your colume, right? If they don;t like what you write, then tell them to bugg off and read someone else's article.


The other use that the goverment might be putting it to is exactly what barnes is saying. They do have to control pests on bases and this sounds like a safer solution than FMJ bouncing around. Sounds like it is doing exactly what it was designed to do. personally i wouldn't have the funds to buy up 10,000 bullets to take this on a prarie dog shoot, also no one has said how it flies at long range and being that light wouldn't work out for them long shots.


I don't understand what is so good about this bullet. what purpose does it serve? Can you hunt anything besides gophers and grapes with it? Turn the light on for me.



Great for vermin. How about something simmilar for home defense?



Many people hunt prairie dogs, this is a niche market that has grown over the past ten years.


The results by this bullet are spectacular, but then I wonder what useful purpose this bullet would have in the field. A 36-grain 22-cal bullet certainly isn’t for long range shooting. I can’t imagine what effects a slight breath of wind is even at 150-yards. I would likely have to see what the ballistic coefficients are with these bullets in various calibers.



They only come in the 36gr .22 variety. The B.C. is .149 and S.D. is .102.


To "Dave form Iowa"..........
Hey man, don't be pickin' on our hero.....we kinda like him.


.Sorry....that's "Dave FROM Iowa".......


Gilbert Grape now lives in hiding...

Jack Bohm

Pretty slick idea- any idea if they'll make 'em in .270? It sounds like it would make a pretty useful CQB load.

Roger E. Reeves,  Sr.

Any of you guys had or have a European American Armory in a 45 Colt in 7.5" bbl?Think it's called a Bounty Hunter. If so, is the quality good or just SO SO. I kinda want a 45, looked at many, but price on Bounty Hunter is more in my price range. Also, any of you tried a 30-06 with 85 gr bullets for P/D/Coyote hunting at long range? Or, is a 223or 25-06 better all around for Varmit hunting? Any info will be appreciated. Sure glad all have gotten back to guns and ammo, something we all have in common.Another gun I'm looking at for a carry gun, is a Kel-tec Dble action in 380. Do you think its a safe pocket gun, as it has no safety lever at all. Was told by Ke-tec rep. that the trigger set the firing pin, and untill you pulled the trigger it was safe as any Auto made, any body have this gun to carry? if so whats you feeling about the safety issue?I;m just another GUN NUT, don;t want all the guns mfged, just one of each. Thanks Roger

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