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.