Friday, January 15, 2016

Ruger ARX 380 Auto Ammunition Test and Review

Fluted solid bullets have really gained traction with the concealed carry community over the last year. This is particularly true with those who choose to carry a short barrel handgun chambered for the 380 Auto cartridge.  Finding a 380 Auto jacketed hollow point load that reliably expands through clothing barriers and penetrates to the desired 12 to 18 inches, when tested in ballistics gel, has been very difficult.  So much so that many opt to carry a light full metal jacketed load to maximize penetration and give up the advantage of a larger diameter expanding bullet.

Fluted solid bullets offer a compromise ammunition solution.  The solid non-expanding bullet offers the possibility of deep penetration, like a full metal jacketed bullet.  The fluted nose of the bullet is designed to channel disruptive hydraulic energy away from the bullet nose allowing it to disrupt more tissue area than an full metal jacketed bullet.  That's the theory behind bullets of this type.

Ruger ARX ammunition is a new entry into the fluted solid ammunition category.  Ruger ARX ammunition is available in 380 Auto, 9mm +P, and 45 Auto.  The ARX bullets are a molded blend of copper and polymer that I found to be incredibly strong.  Just for grins I decided to crush test one of the recovered test rounds.  Many might reach for a hammer.  I opted for the controlled crushing power of Vice Grips.  Using two hands to squeeze the Vice Grips closed, I finally got the nose to break off the bullet shank.  A regular copper jacketed bullet would have started to flatten with much less pressure than it took to break the ARX bullet.

Ruger ARX ammunition is produced by Polycase Ammunition under license.  Polycase produces their own Inceptor ARX line of ammunition using the same ARX bullets.    

Test Pistol:
I picked the CT380 as an ideal compromise test pistol.   A quarter inch

longer than the Ruger LCP and a quarter inch shorter than the Glock 42
Test Protocol:
Step 1)  Measure and record temperature and relative humidity.
Step 2)  Run a 5 shot velocity average over a ProChrono Digital Chronograph at a distance of 10 feet.
Step 3)  Run various terminal test shots, with and without simulated clothing barriers, into a block of Clear Ballistics Gel that has a similar density to 10% ordnance gelatin.  Shot distance is 10 feet.
Step 4)  Run a 600 fps calibration test bb shot into the Clear Ballistics gel block and record penetration depth to verify density.

Test Results:

Video Documentation of the Entire Test from Range to Bullet Recovery:

My Thoughts on This Load:
I would classify this load as very fast and very light.  Our 1245 feet per second average velocity is screaming fast for 380 Auto, but still came up quite a bit short of the 1315 feet per second printed on the box.  The light 56 grain bullets penetrated decently in all test scenarios, but 4 of our 5 test shots fell short of our target minimum 12 inches of penetration in ballistics testing gel.  What I found most interesting were the temporary stretch cavities observed in the ballistics gel during analysis of the high speed camera footage.

The two photos below show an ARX test shot and a similar test shot with a jacketed hollow point bullet.  While the ARX stretch cavity isn't as symmetrical as the jacked hollow point stretch cavity it does appear to be as large, or possible larger, than the jacketed hollow point stretch cavity.  What that means to me is a positive confirmation that the fluted bullet can cause temporary stretch and disruption of gel similar to that observed with a jacketed hollow point bullet.
ARX Test Shot

Jacketed Hollow Point Test Shot

Pick or Pan:
Fluted solid bullet design is still brand new when compared to jacketed hollow point bullets.  The current iteration of Ruger ARX 380 Auto ammunition has convinced me that the bullet technology is sound, but it will need some refinement before I would consider it for carry ammunition.  My main concern is lack of sufficient penetration across all test scenarios.

A manufacturer produced spec sheet on all calibers of Ruger ARX ammunition is available HERE. For those asking me about the felt recoil reduction versus heavier bullet weights, this is the best source for that information that I have found so far.

Disclaimer....This test should not be considered an endorsement or recommendation for the product(s) tested.  All tests represent actual performance in ballistics testing media.  Terminal performance in all other media will show different results.  It is up to each individual to make their own personal decision on which specific ammunition to use for their needs.  It's also critically important to test any ammo in YOUR SPECIFIC FIREARM before relying on it for any purpose.

Ammunition labeled as +P or +P+ should only be used in firearms that have been certified by the manufacturer as safe for the additional pressures generated by these ammunition types.


  1. Call me weird, but I look at energies like that, and compare them to what I can chrono out of my Walther PP in 32, and I don't understand the appeal of 380 over .32 to the point that nobody bothers chambering .32 in a 3.5 to 4" barrel. I routinely get a 60 grain hornady going at 1350 FPS. With the higher pressure it's quite easy to do.

    1. Bersa Thunder 32 with 3.5" barrel is one of my favorites, but I don't get it out to the range as often as I should. I'm not sure that any factory loads will do 1350 from the Bersa, so I'm assuming you are rolling your own. My best observed was just over 1200 fps with factory Corbon 60 grain loads.

    2. Energy by itself doesn't really mean anything.

  2. Would love to see how that .45 does, with those specs.

  3. Hi! Recently I got a box of this (in .380) and they have changed the design of the projectile quite a bit. Same weight, but the flutes molded in are much smaller, and the rated velocity is now only 1250 fps with a muzzle energy of 194 ft. lb.

    Have you seen this change and have any thoughts on it? I haven't seen anyone anywhere commenting on the change yet.


    John Griggs

    1. John, did you get Ruger ARX or Polycase ARX? I just got Ruger ARX on 3-25-17 and they are the same as the ones tested here. Mine have a stated velocity of 1315 FPS. So I'm curious if the other brand is different?

    2. Has anyone fire these from a Ruger LCP 2 and if so, how well did they do?

  4. Hey Peter, I have fired this ammo from my Ruger LCP 2 It manageable with low recoil. I shot it with both hands and with one hand and my grouping was good with very little effort. But only at 7 to 15yrds. After that it was a little hard trying to hit the target. But besides that it is great ammo. I fired it from both my LCP2 380 and my Bersa firestorm 380. Both guns did very well and I am satisfied with the performance.