June 05, 2018
The philosopher Erasmus was considered by some to have been the last man who could have, and did, know everything that could be known. Of course, being born a few decades before Columbus sailed helped him there, as the pace of "new" was not what it later became. Today, just trying to keep up can become exhausting.
Consider NovX ammunition. A short while back I received a box of new cases except they weren't made of brass. The cases were from Shell Shock Technologies (SST), named NAS3, a hybrid mix of stainless steel and aluminum. I thought, Okay, this is new. Days later, a carton of loaded ammo arrived.Fast-forward several weeks and G&A's editor sent me a few boxes of NovX ammunition. It obviously featured the 65-grain Inceptor ARX and round-nose projectiles (RNP) made of a proprietary polymer-copper blend, and they were loaded in SST cases. How's a guy supposed to keep up?
Making the case. Let's discuss what the casings are all about because they are different than the norm. The case walls are composed of a nickel-alloy stainless steel for springiness and neck tension that's needed to hold a bullet long enough for efficient combustion. That, and they keep the bullet in place while the round is stripped from a magazine, shoved up the feed ramp and chambered.
The case rim and head is made of 7078 heat-treated aluminum, and the combo makes for a very lightweight casing. The stainless steel makes the case strong enough for loading, and the aluminum will securely hold the primer and withstand extraction.
How about longevity? I ran into an instance of short-lived brass more than a couple of decades ago. A brand of Chinese 9mm was brought into the country, and it was cheap — dirt cheap. I bought enough to fill my pickup truck bed and once fired, I started reloading the empties, mostly because I was set up to load in volume. I found that after three firings, the primers started falling out of the cases. My point is that won't happen if you choose to reload the empties saved after shooting NovX ammunition.
For reloading these cases are, well, mostly normal in that regard. They can be cleaned by all the usual methods: vibratory cleaners, tumblers, and ultrasonics. From looking at the ones I fired, the stainless steel and aluminum used actually hold less smut than the usual amount picked up by brass cases. You'll probably find that you need less time in the cleaning step.
You will, however, have to segregate your spent cases. The instructions from SST informs us that the cases do not need as much mouth belling as standard empties do. They are steel, after all. (Yes, I actually read the literature.) The NAS3 empties, or the cases from NovX ammunition, will require their own settings for your belling and crimp dies, but that's not a big deal. For me, it simply means a different, marked-as-such press head for my Dillon 550B, and sorted cases.
If you hate sorting cases, as many of you do, that's no problem with these. The SST designers were clever enough to select not just any old stainless alloy for the cases, but one that is magnetic. You filter NovX cases out of a bucket of brass empties just by pouring them over a magnet, by the cup full. Then simply pluck the steel-ringed ones off of the magnet.
So, how does this new "brass" come to be NovX ammunition? Scott Shultz of NovX took a look, and made an offer on worldwide use of the NAS3 casings. That's how the supply of their ammunition came to arrive at my shop before I'd even had a chance to try the pre-NovX cases. And, G&A was the first to have it. How first? The boxes that arrived were in vanilla-plain boxes of the sort ammo companies buy by the truckload. The prototype packaging I received had no printing on them. I've seen the NovX packaging artwork, and when the ammo does eventually arrive at your local gun shop or big-box store, you will be able to pick it out from the rest of the loads on the shelf. Me, I'm a sucker for learning about products that are "hot off the research and development bench," so G&A's editors didn't even have to nag me to take NovX ammo to the range for testing.
Sound of Change
Wow. Both the ARX and the RNP loads produced blistering speeds. Out of my Ruger American test pistol, the RNP produced 1,706 feet per second (fps), and the ARX resulted in an average velocity of 1,760 fps. Editor Eric Poole clocked an average of 1,722 during testing of the new Glock 17 Gen5 and 1,677 from the G19 Gen5.
Well, with the obligatory chronograph and accuracy testing work out of the way, I just had to see what they would do on the 100-yard range. The first thing we learned is that a bullet going over 1,700 fps makes its way to a 100-yard gong right now. I had no problems ringing the gong once I figured out where the bullets were hitting.
There was no apparent shift in the point of impact (POI), when changing between RNP to the ARX bullets, which was the intention of their design. Since there's no change in POI, use the RNP for practice and save the ARX load for the drive home.
Carrying NovX may take some getting used to. First, when loaded with the ARX or RNP, the NovX ammunition is noticeably lighter than typical brass-cased ammo with copper-jacketed bullets. Fifteen rounds of 65-grain 9mm NovX ARX weighs 3.52 ounces. Compare that to 15 rounds of nickel/ brass-cased, 124-grain copper-jacketed Winchester PDX1, which weighed 7.36 ounces. The NovX load weighs half as much as traditional self-defense ammunition!
Interestingly, NovX cases don't clink with the same tone as regular brass. Ever wonder why an old-time reloader jingles a handful of brass he/she just picked up? They're listening to the sound. By jiggling the brass, an experienced reloader can tell you if there is a cracked case, or a different-caliber case, in that mix. NovX cases sound different, and I'm going to have to recalibrate my ears so I can figure out what I just picked up. But I know what I'm holding.
I'm holding the future. In my opinion, the future of firearms ammunition isn't plastic, and it is something other than copper, which costs ferociously compared to steel.
Erasmus died in 1536, long before the world turned hectic and knowledge became too much for one man to know. The Chinese 9mm ammo? I set it aside, and took it to various pistol classes, where I could let it stay. (They were going to shovel it up and sell it to smelters anyway.)
In contrast, I won't be leaving NovX empties lay; Those will always be picked up and reloaded. The future is calling, and I can still hear well enough to pay attention.
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