PCP Polymer Cased Ammo Warning / Review  Update

Today on March 25th, 2014 I set out to test some PCP polymer cased ammo in some commonly available military rifles. I drug out a PTR-91 and an FN FAL with the ammo.

I function tested each rifle with 40 rounds of Winchester 7.62×51 beforehand to make sure each gun was in working order. They worked through the brass cased stuff with no problem, but with the polymer cased ammo the following occurred:

With the PTR, the first round caused a catastrophic failure, destroying the magazine:



The PTR ripped the case in half:



I chalked this up to the fluted chamber of the PTR, and assumed that using it in the FAL would be no problem, but I still chose to duck behind the table when firing… and I am glad that I did:



Notice the magazine spring in the top left corner of the photo above.

The floor plate also punched through a range bag and into the wooden table:


This was caused by a traditional case rupture at the junction of the polymer and the steel base:


My arm was hit with debris and some shrap, but nothing to worry to much about.

The magazine was bowed out with such force that my 180 pound body was not enough to bend it back to shape:



Had my hand or arm below the floor plate or alongside the magazine, this could have been really bad. Luckily I was overly cautious and ducked below a table to test it.

The lot number of the ammunition that failed (printed on the inside flap) is X121300001. If you have this ammo, I would advise that you do not shoot it.

UPDATE 03/27/2014

After this incident I told our readers I would contact PCP Ammunition and let them know about this failure of the .308 ammo we received for review. I did speak with the company several times expressing our concern for the safety of those using this type of ammunition among other things. The company shares our concern and requested we return the unfired ammunition so that it can be tested. I was told we would be advised of the test results. Of course TFB will share those results with our readers when they become available. PCP Ammunition sent the following statement which we promised to post for our readers.
The failure of the PCP ammunition in the test FnFal was not addressed. In addition one other incident like that which Alex experienced was reported to the company by a consumer.

Phil White
Senior Writer/Review Manager

Thanks to The Firearm Blog for notifying consumers about the safety concerns in consideration of the failures that were experienced during this particular testing incident. PCP Ammunition is extremely remorseful for this occurrence and quite grateful that no one was seriously injured.

Mr. Alex Capps and several members of the PCP Ammunition team spoke at the Shot Show and PCP Ammunition advised Mr. Alex Capps, as The Firearms Blog representative, that extensive testing was not conducted on firearms with fluted chambers and therefore we advised against utilization of our polymer cased ammunition in firearms with fluted chambers. Unfortunately our polymer case .308 ammunition failed in the fluted chamber.

Conversely, extensive testing was conducted with hundreds of firearms with SAMMI specification .308 chambers with our polymer cased ammunition and a case failure of this type and magnitude was never created in our ballistics lab.

PCP Ammunition has been in research and development of polymer cased ammunition for nearly four years delivering product to US and foreign government agencies with resounding success. The success of our polymer cased ammunition with these customers can be directly attributed to the fact that the number of variables relative to the configuration and chamber arrangements of the firearm are controlled and limited. Conversely, the US commercial market exposes our product to hundreds of thousand firearm configurations and chamber dimension variations, introducing countless variables that are unable to be reproduced in laboratory testings.

In consideration of the above information please understand the intent of our commercial limited release was to expose our ammunition to US commercial market variables which PCP ammunition would never be afforded the opportunity to conduct alone. Being that we never experienced any unsafe conditions though out our four years of research, development, and testing the conclusion was made that safe conditions existed for consumers to use the product and provide feedback relative to performance compared to other factory ammunition.

If you are a PCP Ammunition customer and have not used the ammunition you purchased during our limited release please contact us. PCP Ammunition is happy to facilitate and return and refund for all customers.

Jay Duncan
Director, Sales & Marketing

Alex C.

Alex is a Senior Writer for The Firearm Blog and Director of TFBTV.


  • Camera man

    Stupid idea! I am lucky the flying follower and spring didn’t hit me in the face.

  • Steve (TFB Editor)

    I am very pleased Alex is unhurt. This kind of thing infuriates me. I feel responsible for the safety of my writers.

    • SausangeOnAstick

      Don’t be mad, Alex C. has done us all a great service with this review. Not to mention I love these kinds of TFB articles!

    • KIvaari

      A little bit of blood with no long term care beyond a Band-aid would be more colorful. I’d be really mad about the hole in the nice Midway shooters bag.

  • Chaz

    I’ve heard that the G3 was designed to use the mag well as a ‘crumple zone’ of sorts to absorb energy and protect the operator. Sucks to be in a situation like this though! It pays to be safe.

    • I sure agree with Steve on keeping the writers safe. We’ve been talking about this a good deal this afternoon and we’re also very concerned for any readers or anybody else who may have purchased this lot number or possibly any of it. We just don’t want to see anyone injured.

    • BryanS

      One of the reason I tell people not to rest their hands on the mag… its not a grip.

  • Dracon1201

    Wow. I am now completely against polymer ammo. They need a little more testing.

  • RomeoTangoBravo

    Thank goodness you’re alright.

  • ColonelColt

    I’m glad they still make quality tables. I’m curious, who exactly made that “FN” FAL? It looks very familiar. Like you said I could see the PTR’s chamber doing horrible things to polymer cased ammunition but I’m a bit surprised about the FAL. How long ago was it headspaced, and have you checked it after this incident? Stay safe.

    • They did a quick check but both guns will be checked well before being used. Alex is rather particular about his guns so I have no doubt both were in perfect order.

    • G3 bolt gap was at .014, well within acceptable range. Fired 2 mags before the polymer round. FAL is an entreprise gun that was fired 20 times in the 90s, put in a safe, and fired 40 times by me before the polymer round. Both ran the brass stuff flawlessly.

      • DiverEngrSL17K

        I noticed your Entreprise-built FAL has a metric Type III upper receiver, so it’s probably identical to mine ( Entreprise Type III upper receiver and Penguin pistol grip on an original IMBEL parts kit with carry handle and 3-slot polymer handguard ). A very well-made rifle — strong, reliable and accurate with no unnecessary frills — and also thoroughly solid if a little heavier than other offerings, courtesy of the all-steel Type III upper receiver and all-steel lower receiver.

        • Gun is a friend’s gun, which made this whole deal even worse.

          • DiverEngrSL17K

            I know how you feel. On the other hand, the FAL in question doesn’t seem to have sustained any damage outside of the blown-out magazine, which is easy and inexpensive to replace — a testimony to the rifle’s durability. Subsequent commentary on this subject appears to bear this out.

            The main thing to be thankful for is that no-one was seriously hurt. Hope your arm will be okay, though.

  • DaltonJ

    Is it cheap??? I’ll take a dozen boxes! Actually, I’m kidding, but this a large reason for trying to make ammo so inexpensive that it is no longer safe. I hear they are working on wooden casing next!

    • It costs twice as much as brass cased ammo.

  • Korry

    It says on their website not to use this stuff with fluted chambers

    • Which is why I mentioned that I thought the fluted chamber was to blame. At SHOT I asked why it is not ok to use in a fluted chamber, and they said because they had not tested it. I did that here. I want to hear what they have to say about the FAL though.

      • And tomorrow hopefully I’ll have some answers.

      • Suburban

        How about:

        “We don’t recommend shooting PCP ammunition in tilting-bolt semi-automatics.”

      • AZRon

        That was fun for a few different reasons:

        1. You weren’t hurt.
        2. I’ve never seen that shooting stance before. (obviously well-reasoned)
        3. You managed to get a rise from the “HK sucks” parrots.
        4. There is now one more thing on my “do not buy” list.
        5. It also brought out the “legal experts” that seem to think that if you recommend that they not drink cyanide, you’re liable for their death from drinking same.
        6. But still…that stance. I love it!

        Well done!

      • Nunyabusiness

        This would seem to be perfectly fine for use as a bolt action rifle only ammo. Perhaps they should market it that way until they can figure out how to reenforce it or make it tougher.

    • Stijn Vandamme

      Not really, it says they don’t recommend it for fluted chambers.

      That’s not the same as “do not use it in fluted chambers”.

      They should post a statement saying

      “we recommend AGAINST using our ammo in fluted chambers”

      • Jeff Allen

        The warning should say “Not recommended to be used at all in any gun”.

        • Kivaari

          That is the best advice. This is over-priced and under performing ammunition.

  • dan citizen

    that sound you just heard was the value of PCP ammo hitting the floor.

    • SausageOnAstick

      Hah! Yeah and IIRC they were charging 50¢/round for this junk… Or was it $1/rd? Either way, it was way overpriced for something that should only cost as much as a Laotian hooker

      • Andrew

        MORE than $1/rd ($2/rd, actually). You know, for all their R&D costs on this “exciting new product.”

  • 101nomad

    May consider clamping firearm and pulling trigger with a trip wire from way away with any future testing. Glad no harm done, but a mangled hand would be bad enough.

    • Kivaari

      The factory should have done the testing.

  • Kivaari

    This company certainly has not done adequate testing. It seems they are leaving themselves wide open for a suit, when some one is injured. Selling their ammo at $40 per box, so people could test it and report back, just isn’t the way it is done. There is no way I would use this ammo in an expensive semi-auto rifle. I suspect they never fired any through a H&K, FN, or Springfield Armory M1A. This ammo has built in defects, just waiting for a lawyer, to find a client.

    • bbmg

      Isn’t this basically what they had said in their press release? “Do our testing for us”?

      • Kivaari

        A .22Lr would not be a good choice. The rim where the priming compound would need to be thick (.22Lr pressures being in the mid-20,000) and creating a weak point where the firing pin impacts. It has been done on low pressure .38 Spl. It failed there as well.

    • Phil Hsueh

      And to think that I actually considered getting some of this ammo and testing it for them, good thing I didn’t end up going through with it. The fact that they hadn’t tested it with an M1A yet and the price made decide to not go through with it and after reading this article I’m glad that I didn’t sign up to be on of their beta testers.

  • Raoul O’Shaugnessy

    The further away you get from brass cartridge cases, the more stuff like this seems to happen.

  • Lance

    Reason I never trusted plastic ammo now more then ever they tried this years ago with plastic 5.56mm ammo same problems. Just stay with brass ammo saves you more money in the end run in manner of new rifles and medical care.

  • El Duderino

    New ammo made from the same stuff that’s in blasting caps! In stores now!

    Seriously, glad you’re ok. Although…c’mon…HK roller lockers are barely tolerable with commercial brass ammo, they love steel b/c it’s hard to rip that rim. Plastic ammo, no likee.

  • Meewok

    Man, I’d definitely wear gloves for this sort of test!

  • Nick Z.

    Glad you were smart enough to take cover and you were unhurt. Leave the polymer ammo for the shotguns…

  • me ohmy

    it’s expensive and NOT ready for prime time.. pass

  • Matrix_3692

    I wonder, would it be safer if it was used on bolt action rifles? maybe with some kind of reinforced bolt?

    • I would think it could cause an even more dramatic result.

      • Matrix_3692

        By the way,is it ok if I translate some of TFB’s article and share then on other forums?

  • Y-man

    Hey Alex! So so so glad you are unhurt. Wow. You must have gotten some tingling in your hand… Good that you ducked below the table… Any damage to the rifles themselves?

  • Stijn Vandamme

    Very interesting.. and they post on their FAQ
    “does PCP work in flute chambers”
    to which they answer , “we don’t recommend using it in fluted chambers”

    Which technically , isn’t a straight answer.. One might assume “they don’t recommend it, but they also do not recommend against it, so it’s borderline”.

  • Giolli Joker

    I’m glad nobody was hurt… although it’s still painful to look at those poor magazines…
    Regardless the fluted chamber, am I wrong or the roller delayed blowback always tends to be “aggressive” on the casing?
    Could it be that the different coefficient of friction between polymer and chamber caused an early opening of the bolt?
    Anyway: I might have lost a detail, were these test rounds or are the PCP already on the market?
    In the latter case I’d smell lawsuit from less “careful” shooters coming soon to bite them…

    • Anonymoose

      These have been on the market for a while now, iirc.

    • dp

      “Could it be that the different coefficient of friction between polymer and chamber caused an early opening of the bolt?”
      Not necessarily so, brass it pretty slick. The mechanism is not really positive-lock per definition, it is of transition type and it tends to commence with opening lot sooner (albeit more gradually) than more conventional gas-operated one.

      • Giolli Joker

        Well, the system was designed for metal casings, although actually IIRC the gas of the combustion itself acts as a “lubricant”, thanks to the fluted chamber, helping the casing not to stick to the chamber, so yes, probably brass and polymer, even if Teflon, would react the same way no matter the difference in coefficient of friction.
        Moreover… the ammo failed miserably even in the FAL…
        I just hope that the reason of the failures will be properly assessed and analyzed in depth, it’s surely in PCP’s interest and it would be an interesting read for us.

  • Geoff a well known Skeptic

    Why did you expect the ammo to fail? Why didn’t you wear a glove for protection? Geoff Who is a suspicious fellow at the best of times.

    • Mystick

      Those guns like to destroy casings normally… same with the G3.

  • Geoff a well known Skeptic

    Next article: “Building a Mythbusters (TM) Test Tank and Remote Trigger!” Geoff Who is skeptical.

  • Eric S

    Maybe they should have started with a .22lr polymer, then at least it’d be cheaper than brass and less prone to failure.

    • Giolli Joker

      I guess that the wall thickness required to keep the polymer cased 22LR safe and reliable would not allow enough room for the powder.
      However it’s quite clear that safety and reliability have not been obtained anyway.

      • ThomasD

        There is probably enough volume for ‘standard pressure’ loads.

        I suspect the greater problem would be the rimfire issue. Having gone to the trouble of making a suitable brass rim and attachment zone for the polymer you are not exactly saving a whole lot of expense by not making the rest of the case from the same brass.

    • Have to agree with this approach. Polymer 22LR would be a good first step.

      Work with the lower pressure rounds first before offering the big boys.

  • Blake

    In Soviet Texas, plastic ammo shoots YOU!

  • Andrew

    And that’s what happens when you load ammo with tannerite instead of smokeless powder.

  • wetcorps

    Don’t do PCP man!

    More seriously, glad you’re alive and mostly unhurt. You could have used gloves, too 🙂

    • gunslinger

      you would think they’d come up with a better name…

  • ⊕RussR⊕

    you should test the 50BMG ammo next ;p

  • dp

    Courageous way how to test ammo Alex! This by the way is worthwhile practical contribution to plastic cased ammo discussions carried some time ago on TFB. To me, plastic cased ammo with 50ksi peak pressure is still and remain to be a risky proposition; unless proved to contrary. In the meantime, I trust to brass/steel.

  • SafeArmsReview

    This pisses me off! Companies that are negligent – so glad no one was injured.

    Stay safe

  • allannon

    Glad you’re mostly OK, Alex.

    I have hopes for polymer ammo, but at the same time I don’t think the ability yet exists to make durable, inexpensive ammo from nonmetallic materials.

    • dp

      Me too, but perhaps for lower pressure levels.

  • Mark

    Did any rounds fire correctly?

  • Fintan

    This seems a perfect time to bring up an important point – please be aware that NATO specifications for 7.62×51 and SAAMI specifications for .308 are NOT equivalent. Ammunition, headspace, or chamber specifications are slightly different.

    For example – NATO specifications for acceptable ranges of chamber pressure are lower than SAAMI specifications. NATO headspace specifications include a GO, Field, and No-Go, whereas SAAMI has a Go and No-Go, with the NATO Field range reaching the SAAMI No-Go range. NATO specification chambers are slightly longer around the case shoulder. NATO specifications also require a thicker casing than SAAMI specs do.

    Putting that together – NATO chambers are a little longer in some areas, and NATO headspace is looser than is allowable for .308. Further, .308 can be a good deal hotter than what is allowable for NATO specifications, while at the same time having thinner cases. By definition, firing .308 in a 7.62×51 chamber is going to be begging for case failures.

    • Sadler

      You’re never supposed to fire a .308 Win in a roller delayed gun that’s chambered for 7.62 NATO. You will get case separations. However, the PTR91 is chambered in .308 Win.

    • C.J. Shull

      Thanks for sharing with us what you’ve read about. Now why is that applicable here?

  • Gino Montague

    Thank you for the testing and review but damn brother, set up a vice and pull cord next time…..be careful.

    • Kivaari

      Except the presumption is a factory would not ship ammunition with so little research behind it. One should expect it is safe. Other manufacturers do have recalls, but they didn’t start out shipping ammo of poor quality for the public to test.

      • Gino Montague

        Agreed however, he already started the test by ducking behind or below the table. I have shared this info with our range officers too. They were unaware of this ammo issue. I appreciate the post for sure, the shooter next to you could ruin your day with something like that letting loose.

  • ColaBox

    Wow iv never seen an idea make it so far just to die so quickly, its kinda disturbing. Owell no harm done, well except to the magazine…poor thing.

    • Jhuff

      In the words of FPSRussia, “magazine just had very bad day”

  • bbmg

    I commented thus here: http://www.thefirearmblog.com/blog/2013/12/04/pcp-308-polymer-cased-ammunition-finally-production/

    “We are extremely interested in the feedback of our first group of
    civilian consumers. Although we have tested the ammunition in numerous
    weapon platforms, we have by no means tested them all. Please use only
    in firearms that are in good condition and free of defects.”

    Sounds like they are charging folks to do their R&D for them!

    • kev

      probably because all their other testers are in hospital 😛

  • 1911a145acp

    Polymer cased rifle ammo and 2- stroke aircraft engines…. 2 things you just….don’t….. do.

  • kev

    I believe the next stage in firearms will be the introduction of electronics and in ammunition technology. the LSAT program with telescoped polymer ammo looks promising as does the polymer cased 50bmg the US military are testing. However they are military projects and while private companies (trackingpoint) make great advances and are not held back with polymer ammo I think I will wait for the military to perfect it first. I am shocked a company would release an overpriced product that endangers the shooter more testing is needed!!!! for now stick to metal

    • Kivaari

      It’s amazing they would charge money of your average customer to do the filed research for them. I think they are trying to recover expended money, before the factory door gets closed and locked. It’s Ralph Nader type project, “Unsafe in Any Gun”.

  • RickH

    Because I’m really lazy and don’t feel like searching: How does this stuff perform in a standard bolt action? Should I assume it would be fine?

  • Formynder

    Thanks Alex, I’m glad I saw this. I have 40 rds of my own that I plan to test on Friday at the NRA range. I’m not sure I still want to.

    • It’s your call but use a chord to get some distance. If you do decide to let us know how it goes. Be careful!

    • Laserbait

      If you do use use PCP Ammo, please do it in a Ruger No.1. It’s probably the only gun that’ll tolerate it.

    • Formynder

      So I fired 20 rounds through my RRA LAR-8 today and got a pretty decent grouping and had no problems with the ammo at all. This was the same lot that Alex used, X121300001.

  • Chris S

    Crazy dangerous, glad no one got hurt.

  • Mancave Heywood

    Then how the hell could they even remotely sell that as being a safe and viable alternative to brass or steel? I think the only viable use for those would be dangerous distraction rounds to get tossed into a fire pit or something. Though if they decide to arm the NAZI’S in this country with those, I’m all for that!

  • Some Rabbit

    I always assumed that polymer case ammo was intended for bolt actions only. It costs more than brass case and it’s advertised as being precision ammo for target, hunting and sniper use. Definitely not cheapo ammo for blasting away at the range as some would expect.

  • I spoke with the company today and we should have a comment /directive on handling this ammo problem. As soon as I receive it I’ll post the response.

  • DiverEngrSL17K

    Alex, first and foremost ( and most importantly of all ), I’m very glad that you and your support team are alright. You did the right things throughout, i.e., using the shooting table for cover and having your cameraman stand off when testing an unknown factor. Frankly, the only so-called improvements I can think of under the same circumstances would be to fire the rifles by remote control means ( even something as simple as a line tied to the triggers ) after having first securely strapped them down to the table and with sand bags for both support and buffering.

    On another note, the manufacturers of that ammunition will need to seriously re-evaluate their PCP design. They are just lucky that no-one was badly injured this time around.

  • Doopington

    Alex, are you dead? Say something! Talk about H&K! Don’t go towards the light! That’s just a muzzle flash!

  • Bob Smiton

    Damn! I don’t think I would have even tried this. AC/DC has a song for you!

  • dan citizen

    Seriously, No gloves? I can understand not owning a test sled but foregoing basic safety gear in this circumstance seems reckless.

    • Laserbait

      Gloves? While shooting? Is that on PCP’s list of safety gear needed for their ammo? I’ve never worn gloves for shooting. But then again, I don’t shoot PCP ammo. 😀

  • Bob

    I’d rather not trust Plastic guns or Ammo !

  • Adam Beauvais

    I’m glad the writer is unhurt. Considering the rim is attached to the
    polymer casing via a press fit with some ribbing, this type of event
    seems logical. Pressure expands in both directions, half goes toward the
    bullet, half toward the rim.


    Does anyone know what type of polymer they use for this ammo? Is it PE, PP, ABS?
    Or how they join the plastic and the metal? Is it joined at room temp or is heating/cooling used?

    • Kivaari

      The prototypes is saw were of an unknown white plastic, as in the photographs.
      I don’t know the plastic used. It was injection molded as the factory I visited specialized in doing injection molding.

  • guest

    Give it time.

  • Raoul O’Shaugnessy

    Nice letter from PCP there in the updated post..but…he horse is outta the barn – I’m not sticking that stuff in any gun I own and want to keep in one piece. This kB aside, I’ve still not seen any polymer cased ammo that can do what brass (or steel..sometimes) cased ammo can do. I’ll put up with the expense and weight of brass cases rather than trade it off for ‘convenience’ and ‘economy’..although economy is a bit misleading if you have to buy a new gun with every box of ammo.

  • Counselor

    As mentioned below, polymer cased ammo is not new. Ten or 15 years ago, Natec of Plattsburgh NY made the PCA Spectrum cartridge. I have a few boxes of .223 left from that time. Brass head about 3/8 inch long and polymer to the case mouth. Bullet likely held into neck with a little adhesive. I fired half a box in an AR and they worked normally.
    I picked up 40 or 50 PCA cases at the range once and decided to reload them. They are boxer primed. I have not progressed with the reloading yet. Case capacity is so much different from brass, it is hard to pick a starting load. Research on the internet showed some years ago one writer had tested the cartridges. There is a statement on the back of the cartridge box not to fire the ammunition in a rifle with a fluted chamber. He tried one in an HK93 and it took him several hours to dig the plastic out of the chamber flutes.

  • Kivaari

    I saw prototype 7.62mm and .50 BMG cases at Kellogg Plastics in Kellogg (Idaho). Although we didn’t discuss many details I did tell the operator that unless the plastic formula was changed, it would fail. At the time the shoulder and neck was all plastic. His client was interested in doing a DOD project. I don’t think this will fly until its made of unobtainium plastic.

  • Hunter57dor

    eh, chalk it up to it being sensitive to semi auto rifles, and market it only to bolt action consumers.

    the bottom half of a .308 brass case is so thick for a reason, semi auto rifles don’t immediately drop their pressure before opening the action.

    To be clear, in my opinion, a polymer cased ammo will NEVER work in a semi-auto platform unless the bottom half is a metal of some kind, be that steel, aluminium, or brass.

  • tarnishedcopper

    Hope the firearm was not damaged beyond the magazine!

  • KIvaari

    It is nice to see a response from the manufacturer. Especially in such a timely fashion. I still can’t get past the idea of charging the customers so much money to do field testing on a product that is not ready for general sales. The best gun to use this ammo in, is someone else’s.

  • Matthew Rakowski

    I used to shoot poly .223_ worked fine then

  • The Survival Wire

    Weird,Weird, Weird! I shot a bunch of their .338 Lapua at Media Day at the Range at SHOT Show in a Barrett Rifle. It was beautiful and I was hitting milk jugs at 1,000 yards. So strange.

  • the ammo addict

    This basic idea had problems back when it was being manufactured by a now defunct company called NATEC. I had a few boxes of NATEC red plastic cased .223 and didn’t have any trouble with it in my AR-15A2, but one of the people I was shooting with had some NATEC tan plastic cased .223 that seperated and jammed his gun on BOTH of the first two of those cartridges he fired in his M-forgery. This stuff is best left to cartridge collectors, but I do wonder how it would function in something like an H&R Handi Rifle.

  • Sickshooter0

    Directly from their web site “This ammunition is interchangeable with conventional brass ammunition requiring no changes to the weapons or logistics that other designs have required.” So, average Joe six-shot who just wants to kill some paper sees this stuff for $0.50/round versus Federal at $0.75/round and says I’ll give it a shot! A tragity waiting to happen…