The age of brass and lead is coming to an end. Yes, polymer ammunition really is poised to take over. Yeah sure, you heard people say that like fifteen years ago, but this time it’s different. Plastic ammo started with companies like PCA Spectrum manufacturing polymer cases instead of brass. Not only is there a potential cost savings with polymer, there is also a critical reduction in weight.
Here’s what the U.S. army has to say about the topic:
One of the Army’s top priorities is to lighten Soldier combat loads. Reducing the weight of equipment carried by the warfighter, often referred to as “Soldier load,” increases agility and endurance. In post-combat surveys, Soldier load ranks among the top concerns of combat veterans. Emerging light ammunition designs offer substantial reduction in combat load given the necessary R&D to develop the technology for military use. For example, replacing the current brass cases with lighter-weight materials would reduce the Soldier’s ammunition load by 20 to 30 percent.
Since 2013, the Project Manager for Maneuver Ammunition Systems (PM MAS) has worked with small companies in developing the 7.62 mm Lightweight Small Caliber Ammunition. Efforts to reduce the weight of 7.62 mm ammunition are underway through a DOD Ordnance Technology Consortium (DOTC) initiative, a vehicle whereby small businesses partner with DOD to develop cutting-edge solutions. Through DOTC, PM MAS and the U.S. Army Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center are working with multiple small companies to develop lightweight polymer cartridge cases for 7.62 mm machine gun ammunition.
The reason the first polymer trailblazers failed is that there was no cost savings and weight reduction was minimal. Mass production must take place for the per unit cost to achieve substantial savings.
I remember when I picked up my first box of Spectrum Poly rounds a few years ago and I was impressed with the fact that they, uhhm, actually worked. Other than that, I couldn’t see any real advantage.
Things are changing rapidly in the polymer market. Not only will the ammo of the future have a plastic case, it may also have a injection molded bullet. If you haven’t heard of the new ARX bullet check out the video below:
These rounds can be easily molded into any shape imaginable and one wonders what the future hold for fluid dynamics. Again, injection molding opens the door to greater performance and potential cost savings. Once the Army catches on, economies of scale could kick in and poly ammo will crush traditional ammo on price and possibly performance too. The end is near!