Extreme Polymer Research’s Polymer Handgun Cartridge Cases

A Spanish company called Extreme Polymer Research has developed a line of polymer cases for a number of handgun cartridges and plan to bring them to market next year.

.380 polymer case (middle)

Unlike polymer shotgun cases, these cases do not have a steel base, they are entirely polymer. I asked the company if they have had any problems with the polymer melting or malfunctions in high temperatures. They responded in saying that the polymer selected for the cases is also used to build automotive parts and has been tested in temperatures ranging from -40 to +150 degrees celsius without problems. They tried some transparent polymers, which would allow visual inspection of the power load (and be very cool!) but these did not function correctly under stress.

The primary benefits of these rounds is consistent quality and pricing that is not dependent on the rising cost of copper.

Extreme Polymer Research will only be producing cases for straight-walled low-pressure handgun rounds (.380, 9mm, .40 & .45) because of the problems inherent with polymer cases necked rifle rounds. A few companies have tried producing rifle ammunition with polymer cases but they have all failed.

The ammunition will go on sale next year in Europe and hopefully the USA. The retail price in the USA will be in the 6 to 8 cents/case range.



Steve Johnson

Founder and Dictator-In-Chief of TFB. A passionate gun owner, a shooting enthusiast and totally tacti-uncool. Favorite first date location: any gun range. Steve can be contacted here.


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  • Brian

    They’ve been using polymer engine components in Formula1 (and MotoGP and LeMans Prototypes, etc.) for years. Those easily hold up to the heat and pressures involved in racing.

  • jpcmt

    The low pressure .40 huh? I’ll wait a good year for the results before I try one of those. Otherwise, I doubt the price will be drastically lower “just because” manufacturers and marketers aren’t reasonable like that. If t he polymer case costs 6 cents vs. the 12 cents the brass costs..they’ll blame the price of the polymer cartridge being the same price siting “new equipment costs” and it’ll never go down.

  • David

    Reloadable or not?

  • 032125

    If you know anything about the Miniatures hobby (which is a surprisingly huge global industry) they have been raising the price of minis for years, blaming rising tin prices (tin for pewter that is).

    After years of consumer howling, a lot of companies have gone to plastic miniatures, but prices have gone up even faster. It turns out that petroleum isn’t cheap either; nor are they using cheap plastics.

    I suspect this will not bring prices down in the long run, but I salute them for trying.

  • Brian P.

    Huh…you know, this actually seems like a great idea. As long as they feed and extract well, I’m sure they’ll be a big hit. I doubt they’re reloadable, though.

  • Andrew Racek

    KABOOM

  • Raoul O’Shaughnessy

    We’ve been down this path before. Anyone remember the .38 Special ammo years ago that you could, theoretically, reload with a simple handtool because the bullet was ‘barbed’ to secure it in the case ? And the polymer cased .223 of just a few years ago as well? I dunno…this seems to work in relatively low-pressure and low-firepower weapons like shotguns but in other platforms? If this stuff could be made to work reliably, the militaries of the world would be all over it…and , so far, they arent.

  • Max

    Some company will make take this case and used a black coated HP bullet and call it “Tactical Ammo”. Be sure, it will happen. =)

  • AJ

    The FN PS90 uses a polymer trigger pack, including a polymer hammer, so I have faith in polymer components, ask Magpul how it’s paid off for them.

    Besides,Blazer has used aluminum cases for their pistol rounds, and aluminum is a soft metal but it worked fine.

    Remember that the typical pistol case is supported on all sides by the chamber walls, as well as the breech face on the rear.

    I’ll be giving these a try when they come to this side of the pond, though I’m betting now that due to novelty factor, they WILL NOT be cheaper than brass cased rounds.

  • noob

    Can you ask what’s the weight is like compared to brass?

    The LSAT program is investigating case telescoped plastic cased rounds claiming significant weight reductions.

    Lighter weight could become a big selling point in the bigger cartridges.

    Imagine being able to tote 20% more 7.62 NATO for the same weight!

    • noob, yes it will save weight, but remember that machine guns (and rifles) hold more and bigger cartridges, so there is a lot more weight to save.

  • noob

    Actually, scratch the 7.62 nato. Necked cartridges and all. How about .45 bushmaster? That’s a straight walled case, IIRC.

  • Gun snob

    Polymer .40 in a Glock 22 = time bomb

  • Moose

    Look up the Lightweight Small Arms Technologies program, Raoul, one fairly large world military is getting pretty close to fielding polymer-cased (telescoped) rifle ammunition.

  • extremepolymer

    We have not tried to reload any fired case.The aspect, after fired is quite good and we think it could be possible but we don’t trust in the result.
    Someone could think that I’m trying to defend the business but it’s not true at all.

    Consider with a cold mind what are we doing. We are sure the case resist the pressure and temperature of shooting but it’s near to impossible to be sure it will resist twice or more. At the end, it’s only plastic!

    Related to prices I’m sure it will be more adjusted than 6 to 8 $cent/u but also think the margin is around cents/case. Greater is the distribution chain, higher will be the final price. We will try to distribute it directly or by only one reseller

    Other doubts or inquiries are welcome.

  • Eric

    @Raoul

    The people have the same complaints about steel: Gradual degrading of extractors, stuck casings, barrel and chamber fouling–yet people still buy tons of Tula, Wolf, and Silver Bear every day online, in-store, and at gun shows.

    Just because it isn’t reliable enough for the military doesn’t mean it isn’t reliable for the average shooter’s range expenditure.

    The military has inordinate amounts of money to spend on munitions compared to the civilian, non-law enforcement market–so anything that even attempts to lower costs to us plebeian civilians makes me happy.

  • Unistat

    Don’t worry, I’m sure some uninformed politician will ban the import and manufacture of this ammo.

    “Plastic ammo! That can get through metal detectors!”

    I will have to give up my dreams of ever firing this stuff through my Glock 7.

  • From what I understand, the biggest problem with polymer cased ammunition for the military has been heat transfer. When brass (or other metal) cased ammunition is fired, it absorbs a significant amount of heat, which is removed from the weapon when the case is ejected. With polymer cased ammunition, that heat remains in the metal of the weapon, leading to faster overheating.

    This is also the main reason caseless ammunition has never taken off – there were significant problems early on with heat build-up leading to premature ignition of the rounds as they fed into the weapon.

    While this shouldn’t be a problem in civilian use, or even in law enforcement use (if LEO’s are firing so much and so fast that they have to worry about heat buildup, then there’s something seriously wrong with how they’re doing their jobs), I don’t see this technology ever really taking hold in the military for more than sidearms.

  • Can’t wait for the first news story: “Plastic Ammo Made To Pass Through Metal Detectors!”.

  • Julio

    Not 100% polymer (metal case head) but IIRC these guys were showing off some polymer cases at this year’s SHOT Show media day (http://www.pcpammo.com/). Any news on them since then?

  • David

    Well if it’s not reloadable, is it recyclable?

  • dogon13

    Will it work in an open bolt sub-machine gun? Or other guns that in the past would not function with aluminum cased ammo without rupturing?

  • Komrad

    Imagine if the polymer they used could be used in 3d printers. Printed ammo.
    But I don’t think that would work because this polymer has a high melting point which probably wouldn’t work well with 3D printers.

  • ducky

    AJ:
    “Remember that the typical pistol case is supported on all sides by the chamber walls, as well as the breech face on the rear.”
    http://38super.net/Pages/supported.html
    http://www.gunforums.com/forums/fbbuploads/1261093505-unsup-compare.jpg
    http://media.photobucket.com/image/pistol%20feed%20ramp%2040%20S%252526W%20pic/Coloradoglocker/ChamberSupport-1.jpg
    http://www.ipsc-ww.de/images/kb1.jpg
    Not all chambers fully support the case (and not only Glock’s don’t).
    And most common pistol breech faces are not supported on all sides (6 o’clock) and also sometimes have pretty large openings for the fixed ejector.
    And the ones who are supported on all sides (WWII P.38’s e.g.) would have to push the extractor over the plastic rim…
    How tight are the bullets in the case? Could they get loose under recoil or due to mechanical stress cartridges are exposed in self-loading guns?
    Curious nevertheless but would have to test it…

  • Lance

    NO! We had issues with 5.56mm polymer cases and I still wouldn’t attempt even pistol ammo to screw my gun up like this.

  • mexican

    That’s how technology can be used for evil instead of good

  • ParatrooperJJ

    Now throw in a plastic bullet….

  • Hrachya Hayrapetyan

    GREAT !!! I think this will have future…just let’s think who could imagine in say … first half of 20th century that pistols can have polymer frames ?!
    I think it must be so cheap so one won’t need to reload fired cases ??!!
    If these guys make them reliable enough, then this cartridges can gain pretty big part of the ammo market !

  • K!P

    i thought that one of the main concerns of caseless ammo what the lack of brass heat sinks being ejected, thus causing the weapon to overheat more quickly. Does the polymer casings have similair problems when fireing full auto?

  • extremepolymer

    Unfortunately we have not tested this case firing full auto. In Spain the weapon laws are very, very, very restrictive. We have no acess to that kind of weapons 🙁

    We tried to contact to PCP. We don’t consider their concurrence because they are focused in rifle calibers and our technology is totally diferent but afterall no answer.

    And yes, I confirm this kind of ammunition (polymer case) can pass through Metal Detectors and XRay scanners easily .. but the problem is what are you doing with this after a security control?

  • Brian P.

    I think some of you guys are worrying too much about the possibility of overheating. They’re not making rifle ammo with polymer cases, just a few different handgun calibers. Also, if some politician(s) decide to try and speak out against this because “it can get through metal detectors” *coughASININEBULLSHITcough*…then I say let them. It’ll expose them for their own stupidity.

  • JimS

    .50 BMG MK 323 MOD 0 is in final testing for actual usage in the army….50 BMG, polymer cased!

    Army goal was less weight though, not less cost. I best the LW .50 cases are more expensive, but saving 40% weight on 100’s of rounds of very heavy ammo would earn it’s higher price easily.

    There have been many failed brass alternative attempts, but it will happen eventually. Keep an open mind.

  • JimS
  • Proph

    great… another way to use petroleum.

  • Splodge

    Actually, seeing as polymer is an insulator, you may find that the waste heat doesn’t transfer to the chamber in the first place.

    I would really have to test it to be sure, but…

  • Sid

    How close are the US Marines to fielding the M41A1 with standard 10mm caseless, explosive tip, light armor piercing rounds?

  • Sandwichy

    @Unistat
    There is no way you have a Glock 7. That thing costs more than you make in a year!!! (Is that how it goes?)

  • Alex

    I noticed that .357 (.38 Special) is not listed, even though it is a constant-diameter casing. Why aren’t they going to make that one?

  • John Doe

    If they could manage this for rifle rounds, the savings would really add up for machine guns. The 249 is ‘light’ but weighs more than you’d like.

  • Alex Vostox

    Stupid guess. The polymer case, are they recyclable? If not I believe tomorrow there will be a ‘rather-be-naked’ PETA (girl hopefully) protester in front of the factory.

    One question:- What is actually so-called ‘environmental-friendly/green ammunition’ exactly? I heard the concept is recyclable ammunition, but I just don’t understand it.

  • Brian P.

    @Alex: Maybe the polymer cases can’t handle the pressure of .357 Magnum or .38 Special loads? I don’t know. Maybe it can handle it and they just haven’t gotten around to making/testing them yet.

  • 18D

    Just a follow up to what Jim S said. Crane has been using and testing the MK 323 MOD 0 for quite some time now. Go over and check out a picture at kitup. It’s a .50 BMG M33 type cartridge with a clear polymer case. The polymer case works and has been working with this cartridge in belt-fed machine guns! So we know it works, now we just have to see if someone can give it to us commercialy.

  • Ben

    .40 S&W runs roughly the same pressures (slightly lower) as 30-30 Win. I wonder if one could make 30-30 cases this way, or if the fact that the cartridge is necked is a problem, low pressures or not.

  • supton

    Sandwichy, I thought it was what “you made in a month”.

    Hmm, how about molding 5 or 6 rounds into the same of, oh, a revolver cylinder? Fast reload for revolver, never deal with moonclips again. Not that I’d pay extra for that, just saying it could be done. [Probably cost way too much to develop.]

  • Reverend Clint

    they should join forces with Magpul

  • Tomas G Brewer

    Hello,

    I don’t know if this helps anything but a company called Polytech Ammunition has been producing .38 caliber polymer cased ammunition for some time. Just throwing that bit of information into the ring. I don’t think they are any relation to Polytech/Norinco. They are based out of Louisiana.

  • extremepolymer

    I don’t say anything new when I affirm that none case can hold the firing pressure directly. It just expands to the chamber which is who really holds.
    We have started the development with rimless ammo but it doesn’t mid it could be made with .38Spl or .357Mag.

    Unfortunately we can’t make bottlenecked cases due to the moulding process. We avoid to use two-parts designs because the joining of plastic-metal or welding of plastic-plastic works well in other applications and it’s widely udsed but we considered it’s a poor solution to make a case.

    In fact, there are some defects in all plastic parts that are normally accepted in industry but are fatal with this part.

  • Alex

    Can someone translate what he said about .38-Sp and .357-Mag? I don’t quite get what he’s trying to say.

  • Henry Bowman

    Heat’s one thing, but what about the extractor ripping a chunk out of the rim? Lord knows it even happens with brass.

  • 18D

    @Extremepolymer- That’s not really true. The MK 323 MOD 0 is a .50 BMG with a clear polymer case and a brass case head fused to it. The cartridge has been used for awhile now in belt-fed machine guns with no problems at all. I’m not sure where everyone’s speculation is coming from. It can be done, it has been done and is being used by the military right now.

  • extremepolymer

    “Can someone translate what he said about .38-Sp and .357-Mag? I don’t quite get what he’s trying to say.”

    I’m sorry, I will try to say in other way..

    We have started with rimless cases because it’s interesting for us and our gun development. But we think it’s also possible to make rimmed cases, such as .38Spl or .357 o others, while those cases were straight.

    Exception to this: Those cases were the primer is inside the rim, such as .22.

    • Brian P.

      Ah, so do you guys plan on making polymer cases for .357 Magnum and .38 Special too, then? If so, that would be awesome. If you could do that for other revolver cartridges too, it’d be really nice. I’d like a couple guns in .45 Colt and .44 Magnum eventually, and but the price of the ammunition is a bit off-putting, especially for .45 Colt.

  • Alex

    Ahh, now it makes sense. Thanks.

    I’d love to see if rimmed polymer cases are possible – especially for revolvers, since there is no fast-moving extractor (that might tear a sliver out of the rim) to deal with.

    Did you consider Polycarbonate for the transparent casings? It’s extremely durable, and its melting point is nearly 300ºC.

  • Ken

    Quit talking about this polymer cartridge cased ammo passing undetected through metal detectors.

    It still has a bullet on the front end and a primer on the back end.

    And–BATF, FEMA, the US Justice Deparment, and the TSA will require some tiny, shiny metallic particles to be sprinkled throughout the powder charge so that it gets properly detected. They may even require uranium sprinkles so that the radioactivity can be picked up on their meters.

    • Ken, you could load a plastic bullet in it (these bullets do exist for training purposes). I doubt a metal detector (or the person monitoring the xray baggage/body scanner) would notice a plastic round with plastic bullet, with a tiny charge of power and a tiny primer. That said … I don’t know what you would do with it, you still need a gun to fire it.

  • extremepolymer

    A case made of two or more parts maybe works right but we think is not the best solution, specially in small calibers.

    Yesterday I was token some pictures of fired cases to show the exchanging color and noticed the marks of the extractor are very hard to see.

    We tried to make also transparent cases but it doesn’t work. We know very well the polycarbonate and we discart it for two reasons. First because we have to fill a very narrow wall. The neck, where you insert the bullet, the wall thickness is lower than 0,3 mm (just have a look to any brass case!).

    The second reason is about mechanical properties. Polycarbonate resists very well impacts but it’s not possible to make a long term efforts, it breaks the part. Specially, when you insert the bullet, the insertion pressure breaks the 0,3 mm wall. We made some cases with other materials, easier to process than PC, and that was the result.

  • Keith

    Have you tried it in a straight walled rifle case such as the .45/70?

    • Brian P.

      Ooo…that’d be nice, if they could make some .45-70 with polymer cases. It’d sure help with the price of the ammo. That stuff is expensive!

  • Komrad

    I just realized a potential safety issue with polymer ammo. I have two snap-caps that cape with my CZ-75B. They have plastic bodies and are colored black. They are obviously not real ammunition when you look at them in the open, but they could very easily be confused with black polymer cased ammo when doing a chamber check. Obviously you should do a more comprehensive safety check than just opening the chamber far enough to see the color of the case before dry-firing, but not everyone does that.
    The issue could easily be averted by using more colorful snap caps or some of those anodized aluminum bodied ones. I’m just too cheap to buy those when the two free ones work fine.

  • BillCa

    The big volume markets are the 9mm, 40 S&W and .45 ACP. That said, the company could also sell a boatload of ammo in big bore calibers which tend to be very expensive, such as .41/.44 Magnum and .45 Colt. The magnums top out at 36,000 psi which should be workable for pistol cases.

    Another advantage I can see is colorization of similar sized cartridges. Say, green for .44 Special, orange for .44 Magnum and black for .45 Colt. Other combinations would be .380/9mm and 9mm Tok; .38 Special vs. .357 mag.

  • 30 Carbine!

  • Himalaya Polytech

    i thought that one of the main concerns of case less ammo what the lack of brass heat sinks being ejected, thus causing the weapon to overheat more quickly. http://www.hplpolymers.com/