PolyCase ARX ammo.

PolyCase ARX ammo.

You might get a hint about what exactly PolyCase Ammunition is all about from its name, specifically the “poly” part. It refers to the company’s new method of manufacturing projectiles. Not only does their technique shatter constraints of traditional manufacturing technology, it opens up entirely new possibilities.

I recently toured the PolyCase Ammunition factory outside of the beautiful city of Savannah, Georgia, to see how they make bullets. To appreciate the level of innovation, it helps first to understand how traditional bullets are made. To grossly oversimplify, common copper-jacketed bullets are made by pounding a piece of copper into a tubular shape. Next, lead is smashed into the interior of the copper tube. More pounding and crushing shapes the whole thing into a final product. This is a very oversimplified explanation of what is a time-tested technique, and it works just fine for producing simple cylindrical-shaped bullets.

At PolyCase, they’ve figured out how to mold bullets into virtually any shape imaginable. Rather than pounding bullets into the desired shape, they use a process much like that used to make everything from ice cube trays to Mr. Potato Head body parts: injection molding. The process uses moderate heat and pressure to squeeze the material into hollow molds to create a part in virtually any size or shape. It’s generally applicable to products made from polymers and plastics, because a malleable raw material is required.

Where the PolyCase folks got clever was figuring out how to apply the benefits of this manufacturing process to bullet construction. Clearly, you can’t make effective bullets from plastic; they would be too light and weak to meet performance requirements. PolyCase created a material of mostly powdered copper, mixed with a small percentage of polymer. This raw material is known as resin and comes in a form similar to irregularly shaped BBs or finely ground gravel. The resin is a permanent mix in which the polymer binds the copper together. When heated to about 400 degrees, the resin becomes soft enough to be shaped using injection-molding machines.

There’s also a very important ballistic advantage, which we’ll get to in a bit. First, let’s look at the manufacturing process in a bit more detail.

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