We present results of FIB–TEM studies of 12 Stardust analog Al foil craters which were created by firing refractory Si and Ti carbide and nitride grains into Al foils at 6.05 km s$$_{-1}$$ with a light-gas gun to simulate capture of cometary grains by the Stardust mission. These foils were prepared primarily to understand the low presolar grain abundances (both SiC and silicates) measured by SIMS in Stardust Al foil samples. Our results demonstrate the intact survival of submicron SiC, TiC, TiN, and less-refractory Si$$_3$$N$$_4$$ grains. In small (<2 $$\mu$$m) craters that are formed by single grain impacts, the entire impacting crystalline grain is often preserved intact with minimal modification. While they also survive in crystalline form, grains at the bottom of larger craters (>5 $$\mu$$m) are typically fragmented and are somewhat flattened in the direction of impact due to partial melting and/or plastic deformation. The low presolar grain abundance estimates derived from SIMS measurements of large craters (mostly >50 $$\mu$$m) likely result from greater modification of these impactors (i.e., melting and isotopic dilution), due to higher peak temperatures/pressures in these crater impacts. The better survivability of grains in smaller craters suggests that more accurate presolar grain estimates may be achievable through measurement of such craters. It also suggests small craters can provide a complementary method of study of the Wild 2 fine fraction, especially for refractory CAI-like minerals.