Innovative people in the shooting industry are always coming up with something new to explore. New guns, new cartridges, new bullets. One of the more interesting new developments is the polymer composite bullet offered by Polycase Inceptor and Ruger ammunition.
Polymer is making its way into all aspects of the shooting sport, from polymer frames to polymer coatings on bullets. Now polymer is a major component of the bullet itself. Polycase bullets are made from a mixture of powdered copper and polymer and are produced via injection molding.
The bullets come in two flavors, solid or fluted. The solid bullets are either a round nose RNP (Round Nose Precision) or flat nose TNP (Truncated Nose Precision) configuration. The unique ARX (Advanced Rotational Extreme) bullet has three flutes in the nose that redirect hydraulic forces laterally.
As of this writing, Polycase bullets are available in .380 Auto, 9mm Luger, .38 Spl, .357 Magnum, .40 S&W, .45 Auto and .45 Colt ammunition for handguns. Loads for .458 SOCOM are made by SBR Ammunition, and .50 Beowulf is made by Alexander Arms. Polycase loads both the round nose and ARX bullets for its handgun calibers, and the ARX is used for the rifle rounds. Ruger only loads the ARX bullets.
The solids have the same profile as conventional bullets with a round or flat nose and are suitable for practice and training. The ARX bullet’s uniquely shaped fluted nose is designed to harness hydraulic force in a fluid medium to transfer kinetic energy to the target, and it is ideal for self-defense.
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The ARX bullets do not expand. They rely on the flutes, combined with the bullet’s rotation, to produce hydrostatic shock to create a large temporary wound cavity during penetration. This differs from conventional hollowpoint bullets that rely on expansion. The manufacturer claims that ARX bullets create “temporary (wound) cavities that match or exceed any bullet in the same caliber.” The ARX bullets have significant penetration in gelatin but generally stop by 16 inches, thereby reducing the chance of over-penetration.
The polymer bullets weigh roughly 70 percent of that of conventional lead bullets. This means they can be driven to higher velocities, which aids in producing the hydrostatic effects. Additional benefits of the polymer bullets include less recoil, less bullet drop and reduced ricochet from steel targets.
The unconventional nature of these bullets raises questions about how well they shoot. They are, after all, very different from anything we usually put down our bore. Do they shoot straight? Accuracy was tested with 9mm, .40 S&W and .45 Auto ammunition fired from guns mounted in a Ransom Rest.
The 9mm ammunition was Inceptor 84-grain RNP and Ruger +P 80-grain ARX. The .40 S&W ammunition was Inceptor 114-grain TNP and 107-grain ARX. The .45 Auto ammunition was Inceptor 130-grain RNP and Ruger 118-grain ARX.
I’ve seen different bullet weights for some of these calibers. For example, I’ve found three different advertised weights for the .40 S&W ARX bullets. Polycase shows an 88-grain bullet on their website, while my Polycase ammunition has a 107-grain bullet. Cheaper Than Dirt lists both 97- and 107-grain bullets in Polycase Inceptor ammo. The Ruger website shows a 97-grain bullet, but the Cheaper Than Dirt website shows Ruger ammunition with a 107-grain bullet.
One bullet of each type was pulled and weighed. Most were close to the advertised weight. The oddball was the .40 S&W TNP bullet that was 11 grains light.
Accuracy was tested at 25 yards. Ten shots were fired into a single group. Velocity was recorded with a Shooting Chrony chronograph at about 10 feet. The test guns were a Glock G19, a Para Ordnance .40 Smith & Wesson pistol with a 5-inch Ed Brown barrel and a Caspian 1911 .45 Automatic pistol with a 5-inch Kart barrel.
Accuracy of 10-shot groups ranged from around 2 inches to a little over 4 inches. My experience with these guns is that these are typical group sizes that I see with factory ammunition. Some ammo shoots worse than what I found with these copper/polymer bullets, and some shoots better. That’s good news. Just because they’re different it doesn’t mean that they don’t behave like our customary fare.
The ARX rounds produced smaller groups than the RNP/TNP bullets in all three guns. I wouldn’t exactly call the ARX round match-grade ammunition, but it is more than sufficient for self-defense purposes. It does show that injection-molded bullets can shoot as accurately as traditional jacketed or lead bullets.
I noticed a distinct smell when these rounds were fired. It was a stronger smell than what I’ve experienced with polymer-coated lead bullets, which have their own distinct odor. This is not really a downside to these bullets, just something to keep in mind when you fire them for the first time.
The price of the ARX ammunition is in the same range as most hollowpoint ammunition, and is less than some brands, so you won’t have to sell the farm to give it a try. And I noticed that one retailer has 50-round boxes of 9mm RNP ammunition for just $12.98. That’s the same price as regular jacketed ammunition.
The fluted ARX bullet is similar to the star-nosed Lehigh Defense Xtreme Penetrator and Xtreme Defense bullets. All of these bullet designs offer something different than conventional expanding hollowpoint bullets. They produce large wound channels through hydraulic force without expansion. This means they won’t fail to perform as designed from being plugged up like a hollowpoint can.
If you want to try something different, this new copper/polymer ammunition should be high on your list.
Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in the December 2016 issue of Gun Digest the Magazine.