November 15, 2021
By James Tarr
Fiocchi’s Blue Guardian Reduced Ricochet hollowpoint ammo is heading to your gun store shelves. This new offering is designed to be safe for indoor shooting in more ways than one. The projectiles are lead-free, as are the primers, and depending on where you shoot, this can meet range requirements in place at some indoor facilities.
These Reduced Ricochet bullets are a powdered mix of copper and tin that is then heat-treated in a proprietary process, similar to what is seen with frangible/training ammunition. However these bullets have a hollowpoint design and are meant to perform well in defensive use, whereas dedicated frangible ammunition is solely intended for target shooting.
Currently, Blue Guardian Reduced Ricochet ammunition is offered in the four most common pistol calibers. You have your choice of a 75-grain .380, 100-grain 9mm, 125-grain .40 S&W and 155-grain .45 ACP. Like solid copper bullets, these lead-free bullets are lighter than comparatively sized traditional jacketed lead-core bullets. The 100-grain 9mm Reduced Ricochet bullet is about the same size as a traditional 124-grain lead core bullet.
Fiocchi sent me a sample of their 9mm Blue Guardian Reduced Ricochet ammuntion. My plan was not just to chronograph it but also gel test it and devise some way to measure its advertised reduction in ricochets upon impacting hard surfaces.
This 100-grain load is advertised at 1,280 fps. For testing I used a SIG P320 Compact, which sports a 3.9-inch barrel. Out of the SIG this ammo did 1,239 fps, and felt recoil was a little soft compared to standard 9mm ammo.
For gel testing I used Clear Ballistics blocks, which are more convenient than FBI spec gelatin but are actually made of polymer. Extensive testing has shown the Clear Ballistics blocks are not quite as dense as true FBI blocks, so you’ll generally see a bit deeper bullet penetration and slightly less expansion than you would with FBI blocks.
Ballistic block test results were fascinating, and I did them twice—once with bare blocks, once with blocks covered by the FBI’s “heavy clothing” barrier. “Fascinating” means I got interesting and unexpected results, but don’t think that’s a bad thing, because it wasn’t. I fired half a dozen rounds into the blocks, just to see if the results of my first round were typical, and they were. In fact, the gel test results were boringly consistent.
During bare block testing, almost immediately upon impact with the block the front hollowpoint section of the bullet fragmented, with the base continuing straight on. The fragments veered off from the base and penetrated between four and eight inches, with about a six-inch wide spread, while the bases penetrated between 16.5 and 17.5 inches. Recovered weight of the bases averaged 60 grains. The fragments big enough for me to recover from the block weighed between one and six grains.
The hollowpoint didn’t expand but rather fractured, and the fragments all had sharp edges. Some of the fragments were decidedly pointed. The bullet bases were stubby little cylinders. Basically, the bullets provided immediate, almost explosive fragmentation with deep penetration, which is exactly what you want in a defensive handgun round.
When shooting a block covered with the FBI “heavy clothing” barrier—denim over sweatshirt over T-shirt over undershirt—the results were nearly identical to the bare block tests. The bullet started fragmenting between one and two inches into the block instead of immediately, but that was the only substantive difference.
In order to test the reduced-ricochet aspect of the ammo, first I stood cardboard IDPA targets up to either side of a full-size Pepper Popper steel target and shot the steel from straight on. I didn’t just put one target to either side but stacked three to test penetration.
Upon impact the entire Reduced Ricochet bullet, including the base, turned granular, everything from powder on up to tiny fragments. A few of the larger fragments penetrated the first cardboard target and went into the second, but none of the fragments penetrated into the third cardboard target.
I then replaced the targets with one of the ballistics blocks and repeated the test. The “dust” didn’t do more than discolor the surface of the block. What few larger fragments there were—tiny bits perhaps half the diameter of a pencil lead—penetrated from one-half to three-quarters inch. Remember, this is at a distance of six inches from the impact site.
For comparison, I then repeated this test using a traditional jacketed lead bullet, in this case the Hornady Critical Duty 135-grain +P load. For this I went with five targets per side in order to catch what I expected.
The test of jacketed lead ammo produced dozens of large fragments flying off the steel that penetrated all five cardboard targets I had and kept on going. When I set up the ballistic block next to the steel, the traditional jacketed lead bullet sent more than 10 fragments two inches into the block.
Curious to see if a more oblique angle would produce different results, I moved to the side and shot the Fiocchi ammo into the steel at a 60-degree angle instead of 90 degrees. This is probably the greatest angle you’d ever be shooting at steel, which should always be shot straight-on if possible.
When fired at an angle into the steel I got some larger fragments, but these were still much smaller than from a jacketed lead bullet. And while most of the bullet ended up as dust on the surface of the block, those four or so tiny fragments—the heaviest less than half a grain in weight—did penetrate the block almost an inch. However, due to their size and weight they would lose speed quickly, and I doubt that they would even penetrate the skin of someone standing six or more feet away.
What It Means
Testing showed me this ammo performs similarly to frangible ammo on steel. The bullet turns to dust or fine grains, a clear difference when compared to a standard bullet. When shot through barriers not quite as hard as steel, like drywall or plywood, bullets like this don’t turn into powder, but they immediately break apart into small fragments.
Gel testing showed me this ammo will perform as well or better than traditional hollowpoints when you don’t have to shoot through an intermediate barrier to reach the bad guy, but that was no surprise. I learned some years ago that our Special Forces troops were using frangible rifle ammo against bad guys in certain circumstances—on board ships, for instance. In these cases the internal terminal effects were often similar to what happens when you hit a prairie dog with a .22-250 and a thin-jacketed varmint bullet.
When you’re talking ricochets in defensive ammunition the immediate assumption is that they’re bad. However, stuff does sometimes happen, and documented hit percentages in defensive shooting situations, whether law enforcement or private citizen, are rarely above 30 percent.
So a better name for this ammo might be “reduced penetration.” A traditional pistol bullet will go through drywall, plywood, 2x4s—basically, just about everything a house or apartment is made of—without even slowing down. These bullets will not, while still performing admirably on bad guys.
Blue Guardian Reduced Ricochet ammunition comes in 20-round boxes, and depending on caliber the suggested retail prices run between $18 for 9mm and $24 for .45 ACP.