The Future of Bullets
The most iconic, and probably the most important (as long as there is sufficient powder and a working primer) component of ammunition is the bullet. The projectile, the part the leaves the barrel. So where will bullet technology be in a decade or two?
Those of us who like to stay informed about movement in the gun and ammo industry have been privileged to see many innovative types of ammo released in the last few years. Most of these rounds either have a new case, such as those made from plastics, or a new type of projectile, like PolyCase's ARX, Lehigh's Xtreme Penetrator, G2's RIP, Gorilla's Subsonic Silverback and EBR's Reaper. If the trends from the last five or so years continue we will likely see future bullet innovations in two areas: shape and material.
This is what people first notice about a piece of ammunition and for good reason. For decades there were basically two types of bullets: hollow points and full metal jackets. Recently, however, this is the aspect of bullet technology that has seen the most radical changes. Fracturing hollow points like the RIP, a number of different "penetrators" like Lehigh's, PolyCase's and Velocity Tactics', and frangible hollow points like Allegiance's PowerStrike are all innovative bullet designs that give shooter's a different terminal effect.
Bullet shape is likely where we will continue see the most innovations in the years to come. Future designs may head in the direction of "sci-fi" with the resurgence of ideas like airfoil bullets or they may see more caliber specific innovations. Caliber specific projectiles aren't necessarily made today but there are clearly some bullets that are tailored for certain calibers. Penetrators are a great example of this. A bullet like the Xtreme Penetrator makes a .380 penetrate past 16 inches. A great feat for a pocket gun but not quite as valuable for larger calibers, like the .45 ACP, that doesn't suffer from under penetration.
Since most of today's bullets have at least a copper jacket, it is often hard to tell if what lies behind the golden shell is different from standard projectiles. For example, solid copper bullets like Lehigh Defense's .300 Blackout Controlled Chaos look very similar to other .300 Blackout FMJs/hollow points. There are others however, such as Liberty's Civil Defense and Ruger's ARX that are easily identified as made from non-traditional materials. As manufacturing technologies like 3D printing continue to become cheaper bullets will continue to be made from non-traditional, non-lead, materials. Bullet materials of the future will likely build on the advantages non-traditional materials afford ammunition today: reduced recoil and increase specific terminal effects.
The only certain way to know what the future of bullets will hold is to wait. Since that is neither fun nor innovative, we can at least see what path today's bullet technologies have set us on.
For more on what the future of ammo could hold, see our article on what the success of PolyCase's ARX means for the ammo industry.