In earlier blog posts I’ve written about defensive ammunition and how to choose caliber, brand and type for the most effective chance of stopping a bad guy intent on doing you or others harm. My premise was and is that not only does the ammo have to penetrate and expand, but it has to have enough energy when it hits the target to knock an aggressor on his/her butt. People can function with holes in them, especially if hopped up on drugs and/or adrenalin, but hitting them hard enough to put them on the ground will give you a chance to get away or to subdue them as the circumstances may require. For this purpose, I recommended hollow point bullets that arrive on a target with somewhere close to or above 400 ft./lbs. of energy and I listed the top 5 brands I could find for each caliber with that goal in mind.
But there’s a new kid in town. Polycase Ammunition, an injection molding company that has been building precision parts from a variety of materials for over 90 years, has introduced a defensive ammunition like nothing else before. Look at the pictures here. They call this fluted lightweight bullet ARX and it’s so promising Ruger has gotten on board and is selling it under their brand. I’ve got a lot of confidence in Ruger and more than enough Rugers in my gun safe to pay attention to something they’re on board with. The manufacturing process involves mixing a copper powder with polymer and pushing it through an injection mold. It’s a very efficient process because they can just scrape up the excess from the mold and put it back in the mix.
These bullets are lightweight, so they leave the muzzle going very fast. It doesn’t take as much powder to send them downrange very fast, so recoil is less, considerably less, as I’ve discovered while shooting ARX ammunition in a variety of 9mm, .40 S&W and .45 ACP handguns. Arthritis has continued to work its evil on my hands and shoulders, so lower recoil is important to me. But, lower recoil isn’t enough. For me to depend on a particular ammunition for my defensive carry guns it has to work reliably 100% of the time in the gun and it has to knock bad guys on their ass.
There’s not a lot of real world experience with this ammo yet, like there is with Speer Gold Dot, Remington Saber or Federal Hydra-Shok, but guys have been hunting pigs with it and they are all reporting that one well-placed shot drops the pig in its tracks and leaves a big exit wound. The usual bevy of ammo testers with ballistic gelatin are telling us and showing us that the ARX bullets create a dispersal pattern upon impact that results in a significant permanent wound cavity. In other words, this ammunition has the ability to stop aggressors right up there with the other good ammunition choices I’ve been showing you. In fact, at least one tester believes this may be the ammo that will make a .380 a serious defensive caliber.
Here’s a chart from the Polycase website that shows you how that works when it hits a living, breathing target. My first thought when I saw this chart and the results of some of the ballistic gelatin tests was of watching the wake from the propeller on an outboard motor. The wake churns the water up at angles and an increasing width as it leaves the propeller. This is how the energy disperses upon impact from these ARX bullets that are going very fast when the hit the target.
So my next concern is whether or not it works in my guns. I bought a few boxes of 9mm, .40 S&W and .45 ACP and headed to the range with some of my favorite carry guns. I loaded up a few magazines, some of them with just the ARX ammo and some with the ARX mixed in with some other defensive rounds I’ve been using. The first few guns I tried, there were no problems at all with feeding or ejecting and I was quite pleased with where my holes were in the target. They were pretty much right where I was aiming and with pretty tight groups.
Then came a hiccup. My Remington R1 wouldn’t feed the first round. That was with the Colt 8 round magazines I normally used. I tried it with the Remington magazine and it still wouldn’t feed. The head of the ARX bullet was catching on the back side of the slide release, takedown pin. Interesting.
The next issue I had was a third round failure to feed with my FNX-40. I cleared it, then got another jam. I left that shooting session a little disappointed. But a week later I brought those two guns to the range to try again and experienced no problems whatsoever. None. One thing I have noticed is that when a round is fired that’s not an ARX round, I immediately know it because of the increased recoil.
The bottom line is I’ve got my daily carry gun loaded with Polycase (or Ruger, depending on what’s available when I’m buying) ARX ammunition. I switch out my carry gun from time-to-time, but I’m using ARX with each of them. I do have a spare magazine loaded with one of my other trusted carry rounds, just in case, but I’m really gaining confidence that this ARX ammo is the solution to my recoil sensitivity and desire to have an effective defensive round in my carry gun at all times.
My confidence level is high enough that we’re now stocking it in our store. I’m anxious to hear from others about their experience with this ammunition. I do plan to continue putting rounds downrange in a variety of guns to determine the overall feeding reliability. I’m hoping something about the way I loaded the Remington R1 the first time was a fluke.
UPDATE MAY 2016
The difference in recoil in using these lighter weight bullets is significant. So significant that I can comfortably shoot it in .45 and .40 handguns with no discomfort, either while shooting or later. I’ve shot a lot of them. The problem I mentioned in the Remington R1 went away and never returned. Since that one incident I’ve not had one single issue with any gun in feeding the ARX ammo. It’s as accurate as anything else I’m shooting and it’s not really that expensive, especially for defensive ammo. I’ve continued to read reviews and tests and though we don’t have any real world experience with human beings, a whole lot of hogs have succumbed to ARXs, enough to give me enough confidence to make it my primary carry rounds.