Sunday, January 29, 2012

Plastic Cased Ammunition from PCP Ammo

Plastic Cased Ammunition from PCP Ammo:

By Paul Helinski

Sometimes when you try a new product you are left with more questions than answers, and that is what it was like at SHOT Show Media Day at the Range 2012 when we bumped into PCP Ammunition, the plastic cased ammo people. It seemed to shoot good, but plastic ammo is too good to be true, right?

Set up with a .300 Winchester Magnum and a suppressed .308 Winchester, PCP Ammo didn’t seem to have a lot of stock with them to shoot, and they wouldn’t let us keep a fired case, but the stuff seemed to work, and it worked well. Some of the questions people had were:

How does it work full-auto?
Will the rounds cook off?
Do they stick after the gun heats up?
These are the questions you would probably ask if you were there, and the answers were pretty simple. No, they don’t cook off unless a brass case would normally cook off under the same chamber temperature. They run perfect full auto, and no, they don’t stick in most situations in the testing done so far by PCP ammo, part of this being, according to a company rep her on the blog comments, that the rounds will cook off in a machinegun before the melt temp of the plastic.

We didn’t, however, get to actually see any of this testing. What we saw were a few hundred rounds of what were most likely hand-made shells, that worked well in the rifles we shot. The rest remains to be determined down the road. We have included the company video here, embedded, that shows the rounds being fired in machineguns and rapid fire, with no failures, but we can’t attest to the legitimacy of the footage.

The thinking behind plastic cased ammo is that it reduces weight by 30-50%, thereby allowing the warfighter to carry more ammo for the same weight. According to the guys at PCP, and I have to say, they were true gun guys, not a bunch of slick marketing types, they finally hit a formula that stands up to the pressure and heat of full-auto fire in a battle situation, while retaining and even improving performance and accuracy for the cartridge and for the rifle. It all seemed legitimate, and it seemed like plastic cased ammo could indeed be one of those new things that everyone would be talking about all year.

How would plastic cased ammo improve performance and accuracy? Well, this is the thinking, though I have no idea how you would ever prove the theory, even if you could prove the results. Plastic obturates at a much lower pressure than brass. That much is of course true. Obturating, if you are unfamiliar with this term, is what it is called when metal is squished to a certain shape. The shape in the case of a fired round of ammo is the chamber of the rifle. The first thing that happens when you fire a cartridge is the brass of the case expands to the dimensions of the chamber, which are always slightly bigger than the SAAMI specifications of the cartridge. This is why you have to resize fired cases if you want them to fit any rifle again, and no two chambers are exactly the same, even if you cut them with the same cutter on the same computer controlled CNC machine.

The plastic case, by obturating quickly, requires less of the cartridge to be used up on obturation before sending the bullet down the barrel. That leaves more energy to get the bullet going, making it travel faster. And because plastic obturates so easily, it does so more uniformly than brass, which makes it “let go” of the bullet on obturation more evenly, which delivers a more stable bullet, thereby increasing accuracy.

… or so the thinking goes.

Ben Becker, our resident US Army Sniper, got to shoot the suppressed .308 on Media Day, and we were only shooting at steel plates, but he did find it easy to hit consistently, and he did feel like the gun was “right there” as it should be. The short run production of PCP Ammo right now is using Sierra MatchKing bullets, and they hope to have some hunting ammo out soon as well using Sierra GameKing and Berger Match VLD Hunting bullets. When asked if the cases were reloadable, the answer was, “officially we have to say no,” so take that for what it is worth. There did appear to be a brass base to PCP cases, and that would probably have to be resized even if the plastic had enough memory to return to form.

We had hoped to track down PCP Ammo on the SHOT Show floor, but didn’t see them in the directory and didn’t bump into the booth at the show. It could be that they weren’t able to get a booth this year as there is a waiting list for exhibitors and a lot of companies didn’t make the cut to get in. Media Day was all we were able to get to see of them, and there are definitely more questions than answers. This is one of those “we’ll believe it when we see it” things in the gun world that we may see in the market and we may not see. Hopefully PCP Ammo will stay in touch and get us some testing product when they are ready for prime time.

Until then, it’s a good story anyway, and we wish them the best.

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