Sunday, March 20, 2016

Magic Bullet - The ARX

There are few pookas worth chasing (excluding Harvey the invisible rabbit) as much as the magic bullet.  The magic bullet has quite a few qualifiers, all or any of which make the chase worthwhile.

A magic bullet should (minimal list):
  • Feed in all guns under any conditions,
  • Know when to penetrate deeply and when to stop short,
  • Hold its shape and punch through sheet metal, wood and layers of cloth and leather but expand at least 4 times its diameter in flesh,
  • Fragment into dust when it hits a hard surface and not ricochet but retain its mass in tissue,
  • It should be legal in all states, especially in the Republic of New Jersey where each hollow point round carries its own draconic penalty,
  • It should be remarkable accurate and reproducible at varying distances independent of caliber.

That’s a tough list.

Top view of the ruger ARX bullet
Looking down on ARX bullet, it does suggest a three-bladed propeller. 

PolyCase and Ruger are entering the chase.  The bullet, called ARX by PolyCase Ammunition, “uses fluid dynamics instead of expansion to achieve superior terminal performance.” 

The secret, if it is a secret, is mathematically there isn’t any difference between an object moving through material or material moving around an object.  This is the principle used in testing a car or soapbox racer in a wind tunnel.

The almost propeller-like cross section of the bullet deflects media upward away from the bullet creating, in theory, turbulence.  In gelatin the turbulence creates separation.  In tissue this turbulence is equated to tissue damage.  Tissue damage is equated to stopping power.

These assumptions may not be true.  Tissue has grain and directionality giving it different physical properties in different directions.  The physical properties of gelatin are equal in all directions.  The damage caused in tissue may be quite different than what we witness in gelatin.

It is a truism from both the jello junkies and the morgue ghoulies a significant penetration of a bullet into the body is required to stop lethal aggression.

holding Ruger ARX polycase cartridge
Ruger ARX PolyCase round in 9mm

The two groups differ in how much penetration is required.  Both sides realize that a round that leaves the body carries off energy which would be better spent on destroying tissue.  

Getting that bullet to stop just under the skin on the opposite side of a 350 pound stoned biker and a 110 pound meth head is the problem and some compromise must be found.  That’s why there are so many varieties of ammunition available.
380 penetration image   

.380 in gelatin
I was unable to find a good image of a 9mm in gelatin so I'm making due with .380acp

Let’s look at this bullet.

I crudely ashed a portion of one bullet and found it was chiefly metal particles.  A smaller un-ashed sample was place in a Scanning Electron Microscope with an Energy Dispersion Spectrometer (it’s just a way of finding out what elements are present, nothing to be scared of here folks, just keep on reading) and I found out what the metals are.

You might guess copper (Cu) and you would be right.  There’s a second metal present, tungsten (W).  Tungsten is very dense so small particles are relatively heavy.  I don’t know anyone who makes a tungsten-copper alloy, but using two different metals is smart.  By varying the ratio of the metals you could get different weight bullets.

Elemental spectrum of  bullet

Backscatter electron image: the whiter the spots the heavier the element

the location of copper in Backscatter Image

the location of tungsten in Backscatter Image

The bottom of the bullet shows a small tit from a sprue gate.  That’s the point where the polymer is forced into the mold.  Most of the advertising photos don’t show this, but even located on the axis of rotation, this imperfection will add a tiny amount of inaccuracy to the bullet.  I don’t think it would matter to anyone other than the top marksmen.

Sprue gate mark from mold injection in bottom of bullet

I didn’t run solvent tests or do any organic analysis to determine what the polymer is present.  Safe to say it doesn’t melt, based on my ashing.

I picked up a box of 9mm and here’s that stats;
  • 9mm Luger +p,
  • 80gr bullet,
  • Muzzle velocity: 1445ft/sec,
  • Energy: 371 ft lbs.

Does it feed?  I test fired in two guns, a Glock 17 and my Kahr P9.  Both fed fine from a closed slide and a slide stop reload.  I test fired at a phone book 1.5 inches thick and the round just kept going.  I wasn’t surprised it wasn’t stopped, but I had a fantasy I would find the round in the ground behind it.  Trying to find a brown bullet on brown mud is an exercise for someone with more patience than me.

Where does this leave this contender for the title of Magic Bullet?

I didn’t fire enough rounds to determine if the round would leave residue in the barrel causing a blockage.  Not being able to recover the bullet meant I could not determine if the polymer was deformed.  Shooting through a phone book has no translation to stopping power. 

Of more interest to me is did the bullet pick up the tool marks present in the lands and grooves?  If the bullet can’t be matched to the barrel that fired it, an important piece of criminal evidence would be irretrievably lost.  I would suspect the government would ban such rounds, and in any case, I also suspect New Jersey would ban it, assuming they haven’t already banned composite bullets.

Another problem, from my perspective, is we really don’t know what the stopping power is.  What if it’s worse than FMJ?  What if it really does fail to penetrate deep enough in living, breathing hard-to-stop-people?  Or it could be like a .22LR, where people die two days later in the hospital and not DRT*.  I also don’t know if it will drop people like a phaser set on heavy stun.

There are similarly designed all copper rounds on the market.  But we still have the problem every magic bullet, in fact every self-defense bullet, must answer.  Does it provide stopping power equal to or greater than the same load and caliber with a FMJ round?

By now many of you know my philosophy.  Don’t be the poster child for stupid.  Let someone else determine its usefulness on the battlefield of self-defense and resulting legal entanglements.  If it proves to be a world beater, it will be around.  If not, then it’s a just a cool round to have in your bullet collection.

*Dead Right There

Friday, March 11, 2016

Land of the Lost

Every SHOT Show introduces answers to problems.  Some are new or different answers to old problems.  Some are answers to non-existent problems.  Some are just problems.  And SHOT 2016 was no exception.

It’s always a possibility that what everyone thinks is wrong is in reality the correct answer.  There was one ancient Greek philosopher who had it right: the earth turns around the sun.  Everyone else had it wrong.  We have no idea who this man was.  The only reference we have to him is a line in a better known work that ridicules him.  I may be wrong.  In five years I could be the laughing stock of the gun community.

I’ll take my chances.

Double Shots
Franklin Armory has introduced its binary trigger for rifles.  It fires one round when you pull the trigger and a second when you release it.  The selector switch is labeled “Safe”, “Fire” (that’s one round down the pipe) and “Binary” (fires twice). They claim it is NFA approved, but remember NFA approval doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. 

Personally, I think they should make 250 of these things and stop production, break the tools and dies and instantly make it an expensive and collectable gun.

There will be a gap in time between the first and second round, during which the muzzle is climbing from recoil.  Someone’s finger will slip off the trigger and a round will leave the range or enter someone’s living space or hit a person standing near the intended target.  All bad outcomes.

When you fire in self-defense no matter if it is once, twice, three or more times, part of your legal justification against using the charge of excessive force is you intended each of those trigger pulls because it was required to end the deadly and lethal attack you could not avoid by any other means. (Hey, I’m just an internet blogger and if you take this as legal advice, you’re nuts!  Still, I think this line of reason is valid.) 

But if releasing the trigger causes an extra shot to be automatically fired, the option of control is taken away from you.  The second or fourth shot may not have been needed.  You may have neutralized the threat after round  one or round three and no longer need to shoot another time.  Courts may find that excessive.

This gun needs a baulk switch.  One you could throw while holding the trigger back that would freeze the hammer in place until you could deactivate the mechanism.  Assuming the finger didn’t bounce off the trigger after the initial pull.

You know what?  This is bad shit waiting to happen.  Let it happen to someone else.

Pull Trigger To See Light
Trigger Point Technology has got an answer to a problem that has bothered people for years.  Unfortunately it is the wrong answer.

They replace your trigger on your rifle or hand gun with Glock-like safety trigger.  Only instead of unlocking the firing pin as you depress the trigger, this turns on a flashlight or laser to illuminate your target.  Turning your light or laser on requires you to partially depress trigger.  If the light/laser isn’t needed, release the trigger.  Wash, rinse and repeat – over and over.  At some point you’ll start and complete the trigger pull when you didn’t intent to.  Opps!

Hear a noise down stairs?  Position yourself at a pinch point and point your gun in the direction of the noise coming toward you and squeeze the trigger just enough, not more than enough, to illuminate X.  X could be a bad guy, your spouse, your child or a house quest who was coming back after getting a snack or sneaking outside for a smoke.

You can follow trial and legal proceedings of NY Officer Peter Liang who, when surprised by two people stepping into a stairway, ricocheted a round off the wall and killed Akia Gurley.  The officer had to put his finger on the trigger sometime before the shot when off.  The startle reflex caused Liang’s finger to convulse (against a 12 pound NY trigger!) and discharged the gun.  (Let’s see if Frank on Blue Bloods can clear this one up…)

Now image you need to pull the trigger, just a little but not too much, to turn on the light to identify who or what is in front of you.  God, this is such a bad idea, I don’t have enough words to tell you how bad an idea this is.  If you think french kissing a rabid dog is a bad idea, this is still much worse.

Gun lights?  Great idea, but you still need a separate light to move about and identify people and objects without pointing your gun at them.

Officer Liang may survive the legal challenges, but he’ll always have to live with the knowledge that a half second of surprise made him ruin his live and the lives of more people that we can know.  Keep your finger off the trigger until you have decided to shoot.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Tactical Vikings

Vikings are hot right now.  No matter if they are Space Vikings or historic Vikings there’s an interest.  So what is the tactical scoop?

Vikings were a warrior culture who believed only two possible outcomes existed for any endeavor: Success, with it’s fame and prestige, or death.  They were widely feared through out coastal Europe.

TV version of Vikings
Television's version of vikings
A large part of this fear was from the total disregard of the unwritten rules of conventional warfare.  One of their favorite tactics was to wait in ambush and use a wedge shaped attack, which allowed their strongest fighters to break through enemy lines and expose the internal enemy ranks to hand-to-hand combat.  This, coupled with their complete disregard of restricting combat on holy days or on sacred land, as well as their unwillingness to schedule the battles in advance gave them the reputation of being the spawn of the devil.  Clearly, an agricultural feudal society unwilling to adapt to non-convention warfare would be the most likely loser in any conflict.  That might be the best tactical lesson to learn.

Each Viking was expected to field their own weapons.  Typical load-out would include a wooden shield, a spear or javelin, battle-axe and/or sword.  Even peasant farmers carried the ubiquitous knife, as would the warriors.  Archeologists report very little armor is found in graves except for the wealthy. Some evidence is reported for chain mail, but transportation by sea does not lend itself to warriors in heavy mail and plate armor.  Most fighters wore quilted cloth and some leather.

TV version of viking women
I doubt vikings transported horses on long boats or had blond babe warrior princesses.  

It appears only Hagar the Horrible wore horns on his helmet.  Most didn’t wear a helmet.

Few of us are concerned about battle on sacred land or having to negotiate when and where we’ll be mugged, so is there a tactical aspect to this?

Let’s visit the Havamal.  It’s gnomic Viking poetry, which takes ideas valued by their society and puts them to verse to make it easier to remember.  If you think you’re going to learn the Viking secret sword technique that you can use with your ASP baton, stop reading.  That’s not here and frankly, I suspect the secret to Viking combat has been known for centuries before the Vikings: hit something the opponent needs, hit him harder and more often, do not stop until he is incapacitated.

I’m working from an English translation of the Havamal, so I don’t have any qualms about condensing or elaborating the message.


1        With every doorway where one enters, you should spy and pry first because you don’t know if an enemy is inside or where they are. 
5        At home you can be in condition white, but when you travel or go places, stay sober and in condition yellow.
6        Enter a building cautiously and silently.  Keep watch over your exits.
7        Be aware of the stranger who is silent, watchful and listens to everything.
11    There is no worse provision/companion (to carry/take with you) than too much drink.
27    When you don’t know what is going on, keep your mouth shut.
38    Never start on your trip/walk without your weapons, as you never know when a spear will be needed.

Turns out it’s the same advice any trainer will tell you:

Know where the exits are and try to know something about the room/building you are about to enter.  

Keep an eye on people you don’t know; pay attention anyone who seems to be tracking everything.  

Don’t draw attention to yourself.

When you’re safe, at home surrounded by people who love you, it’s okay to be in condition white, but any other time, start off in condition yellow.

Getting intoxicated is never a tactical advantage.

When you’re unsure of what’s unfolding around you, stay quite and watchful. 

If you carry, always carry.  Always have a tool.

Good advice from the 10th century.