Ruger ARX Ammunition — It’s Wicked Look Is Only Surpassed by Its Performance

Box of Ruger ARX ammunition with 5 bullets lined in front

Ruger is branching out into products other than firearms. First knives and now ammunition. The branded ammunition is produced for Ruger by Polycase. The load feature an advanced nonexpanding bullet offering an advantage in wound ballistics compared to full metal jacketed ammunition.

Box of Ruger ARX ammunition with 5 bullets lined in front
Ruger offers an interesting concept with its ammunition line that is well worth a day or two at the range.

The .380 ACP has been fertile ground for ammunition development. The ability to drive a jacketed hollow point bullet fast enough to offer both penetration and expansion may not rest with the .380 ACP. To achieve adequate penetration is possible and good expansion is possible. However, seldom are those qualities possible with the same .380 ACP loading. As a result, many authorities recommend full metal-jacketed bullets in this caliber to ensure adequate penetration and to offer reliable function.

Ruger’s ARX load uses a uniquely fluted bullet of copper and polymer composite. The bullet is a lightweight for the caliber in every offering, which means high velocity. This translates to high energy for the caliber. The light bullet also recoils less than a heavier bullet. Moreover, even though the bullet isn’t designed to expand, a light bullet isn’t going to penetrate excessively compared to a FMJ bullet. In order to test the Ruger ARX .380 ACP loads, I used my personal Beretta 84, a double-action first-shot high-capacity pistol and among the most accurate .380 ACP handguns ever manufactured. I also used the popular Ruger LCP as a test bed.

bullet pattern on handgun target
Minute of cranium accuracy is possible at 15 yards.

I entered into the test with an open mind. I do not accept energy dump or wave theory as a reliable ‘mechanism of collapse’ whatever that means. There is a lot of junk science in the press. Only actual damage means anything to me. Even if that damage is severe, it doesn’t mean much unless it covers a vulnerable area such as the arterial region or nervous system. Blood loss causes the body to shut down.

The ARX bullet is designed to displace tissue by fluid movement or hydraulic pressure. Hydraulic pressure is proven as this is what opens the nose on a hollow point bullet. Let’s get this out of the way- during the test period two hundred rounds of Ruger ARX 380 ACP ammunition functioned without a single failure to feed, chamber, and fire or eject. Even though the projectile weighs but 56 grains, I was surprised at the high velocity. The Beretta demonstrated 1320 fps and the Ruger LCP 1255 fps with the ARX load.

Typical 90-grain JHP loads in the caliber will exhibit 950 fps in the Beretta. The lightest conventional JHPs will break perhaps 1,000 fps so the ARX is a speedy loading. Fast, but with light recoil which is always a plus. The majority of the rounds were fired in the Beretta 84 as this is a much more interesting handgun. It isn’t a hideout by any means but it is more accurate than most service pistols and an interesting test bed for .380 ACP loads.

I fired a number of rounds from a solid benchrest firing position at 15 yards. On occasion, the Ruger ammunition cut a single ragged hole. Average groups for 5 shots were 1.1 inches. This is an accurate handgun. Accuracy potential and reliability are confirmed. The flutes do not affect the travel of the bullet in the air, as expected. An important point is that these are not frangible loads. They do not break up on impact with walls and such. They are solid polymer and copper, not sintered metal frangible loads. This is good as they are service grade useful.

Beretta .380 pistol and Ruger ARX ammunition
The Beretta .380 and Ruger ammunition were a good combination.

A true frangible is useful for practice only. [Editor’s note: this is a personal opinion of the author and left in the story as such.] As an example, on several occasions I have suffered a fracture of the frangible bullet in the feed ramp of the firearm. Not often, but more than a few times. The bullet once cracked and left the nose of the projectile in the chamber of a pistol as I unloaded the handgun. Frangibles are a great training resource but not for service use. The Ruger ARX load isn’t the same thing. The bullet is solid.

The accuracy reliability and light recoil of the loading was impressive. It was a great excuse to get the Beretta out and going. Next, I moved to ballistic testing. I do this the proven way by shooting wet newsprint or water. Neither is gelatin but then gelatin is a means of comparing bullets and not a close approximation of living tissue. Water is consistent and may be used to compare loads. On average, the ARX bullet penetrated 11 to 12 inches of water.

This is adequate for a personal defense loading. The bullet never deformed and was recovered in the third water jug on average. As for improved ballistics over hardball this wasn’t difficult to qualify. Full metal jacket factory .380 ACP loads generally will penetrate 24 inches of water. A JHP load may penetrate as little as 6 inches although the better loads—with less expansion—may approach 10 inches.

Bob Campbell firing the Beretta .380 pistol
Firing off hand recoil was light with the Beretta .380 and Ruger ARX ammunition.

The qualifier is the effect on the water jugs. There was considerable energy transfer evident as the jugs burst and water rained out. FMJ loads are less dynamic. I believe the Ruger loads offer a counterpoint for those recommending only deep penetrating FMJ loads in the .380 ACP caliber. The ammunition is reliable, clean burning, and accurate. Shot placement will mean the most, but these loads are a meaningful improvement over hardball ammunition. They are also legal in those few jurisdictions in which JHP bullets are prohibited.

About the Author:

Bob Campbell

Bob Campbell’s primary qualification is a lifelong love of firearms, writing, and scholarship. He holds a degree in Criminal Justice but is an autodidact in matters important to his readers. Campbell considers unarmed skills the first line of defense and the handgun the last resort. (He gets it honest- his uncle Jerry Campbell is in the Boxer’s Hall of Fame.)

Campbell has authored well over 6,000 articles columns and reviews and fourteen books for major publishers including Gun Digest, Skyhorse and Paladin Press. Campbell served as a peace officer and security professional and has made hundreds of arrests and been injured on the job more than once.

He has written curriculum on the university level, served as a lead missionary, and is desperately in love with Joyce. He is training his grandchildren not to be snowflakes. At an age when many are thinking of retirement, Bob is working a 60-hour week and awaits being taken up in a whirlwind many years in the future.

Published in
Black Belt Magazine
Combat Handguns
Rifle Magazine
Gun Digest
Gun World
Tactical World
SWAT Magazine
American Gunsmith
Gun Tests Magazine
Women and Guns
The Journal Voice of American Law Enforcement
Police Magazine
Law Enforcement Technology
The Firearms Instructor
Tactical World
Concealed Carry Magazine
Concealed Carry Handguns

Books published

Holsters for Combat and Concealed Carry
The 1911 Automatic Pistol
The Handgun in Personal Defense
The Illustrated Guide to Handgun Skills
The Hunter and the Hunted
The Gun Digest Book of Personal Defense
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911 second edition
Dealing with the Great Ammunition Shortage
Commando Gunsmithing
The Ultimate Book of Gunfighting
Preppers Guide to Rifles
Preppers Guide to Shotguns
The Accurate Handgun
The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (27)

  1. Have any of you had a chance to see the extensive tests done on .380 and 9mm ammo by ShootingTheBull on youtube? Here is a link that may inform those who insist the only .380 is a FMJ. These were done with Taurus TCP 738 as a representative of the pocket gun class.
    Ammo Quest .380 Final Wrapup: finding the BEST ammo for a .380ACP pistol

    The winner? Pecission One ammo. But really, any ammo with a Hornady XTP bullet in front performed well in gelatin and through denim.

    He did the same for 9 mm with a 3+” barrel.

    Worth a look.

  2. My question about any light for caliber, greatly higher muzzle velocity load, is what does it do to point of impact. Most pistols are sighted for standard velocity loads. For pistols without adjustable sights, as most smaller “carry” pistols, and many full sized service pistols have, this can be a problem. This might be less a problem with the small “pocket” pistols that are only useful at closer ranges, but for service pistols that might be called on for 15 yard, and sometimes much longer range shots, this could be a real problem.

  3. Rats, I thought I invented that wet newsprint bullet test method.
    My way is to soak two Ft. Worth Yellow pages in a 5 gal. bucket overnight and dump the remaining water out. Then set the books up on end, back off about 10 ft. and let fly.
    I’ve tested many a factory hollow point, semi-wadcutter, and .410 loads this way, and it’s a good way to judge just how much your loads are expanding at bad breath range.

  4. Check out YOUTUBE; MILITARY ARMS CHANNEL review on UNDERWOOD AMMO, LEHIGH DEFENSE AMMO. This bullet type was invented by them years ago. It’s a CNC machined solid copper bullet. Not epoxied copper bits and pieces. M.A.C. videos test on gel blocks AND pig cadavers show awesome results

    1. Interesting design, but hardly the first solid copper bullet. Granted, no funky flutes but the solid copper bullet in any real production came out of France some 30+ years ago and under the name Arcane. Naturally, no significant numbers of this ammo came into the US because of ATF and the “sporting” guidelines as it was designed to destroy bullet-proof vests and body armor. Solid copper and pointy as hell.

  5. Have you seen the YouTube video of this polycase ammo in ballistics gel? It blows my mind! Doesn’t mean I’m ready to bet my life on it yet…

    1. just saw that video based on your recommendation. I understand fully your apprehension in trusting your life with such a new product. Return the favor and check out the originator of that bullet type; Lehigh Defense. Theirs is pure copper bullet CNC machined from a single block. Please see; MILITARYARMSCHANNEL YOUTUBE VIDEO. Underwood Ammo, Lehigh Defense, XTREME PENETRATOR< XTREME DEFENDER. They have been at it way longer, so you can "trust" them by their experience.

  6. Lehigh Defense has been making this same bullet out of pure CNC machined copper for a bunch of years now. One of their bullet designes is called the Extreme Penetrator. This bullet design is also used by Underwood Ammunition. This bullet works great in 380 as seen on the review on YOUTUBE by Military Arms Channel. They call it the “BEST” (I’m paraphrasing) In 9MM it over penetrates as on YOUTUBE by Ntrout outdoors 19. Lehigh Defense refined their Extreme Penetrator Bullet design with the Extreme Defender Bullet also used by Underwood Ammunition. The 9MM review by The Military Arms Channel on YOUTUBE calls this Ammo the “best” ( I’m paraphrasing). Both Underwood And Lehigh Defense make many other calibers too, not just 380 and 9mm for Both Bullets The XP and XD

  7. I have a 380 BG that even has BD sights on it. I like the little gun but have found little use for it. It is still too big to carry in my wrangler jeans and if I have to carry IWB I can carry up to a Commander size or anything between. It is strictly a purse gun for a very tough woman or a good carry in the Kangaroo holster under a T shirt. Same goes for the LCP.

  8. Lehigh Defense has been making this same bullet out of pure CNC machined copper for a bunch of years now. One of their bullet designes is called the Extreme Penetrator. This bullet design is also used by Underwood Ammunition. This bullet works great in 380 as seen on the review on YOUTUBE by Military Arms Channel. They call it the “BEST” (I’m paraphrasing) In 9MM it over penetrates as on YOUTUBE by Ntrout outdoors 19. Lehigh Defense refined their Extreme Penetrator Bullet design with the Extreme Defender Bullet also used by Underwood Ammunition. The 9MM review by The Military Arms Channel on YOUTUBE calls this Ammo the “best” ( I’m paraphrasing).

  9. “…The light bullet also recoils less than a heavier bullet…” True only if they leave the muzzle with the same velocity. If you use the same charge, the lighter bullet will exit the muzzle with a much greater velocity than the heavier bullet. Force = Mass * Acceleration, so if the charge is the same, the kick should be comparable to that of the heavier bullet.

  10. This article is stunning in its lack of factual data. Water jugs are in no way a reasonable test medium.

    Lets see what they do with ballistics gel and denim so that we can actually compare the real performance of this round vs a large amount of compiled information on any number of other defensive rounds of many calibers.

    1. They have been tested with FBI gel and perform better than any other ammo other than leighigh defence extreme penetrator. They are like upgrading the gun to a 9mm. I have shot both w.
      Check MAC’s video on YouTube

    2. And what is a reasonable test medium?

      Gelatin is just jello used for comparing various loads.

      There is no bone , no ligature, in gelatin.

      For most of us, water works just fine for testing ammo and so does wet newsprint. Water certainly tells a story on penetration and if the load doesn’t penetrate two water jugs it isnt viable for personal defense.

  11. I carry this ammunition in a Bersa Thunder .380 Combat, Bersa .380 FireStorm, a S&W Bodyguard and a Taurus PT 738. The caliber for each is, of course, .380. This ammunition is suitable for any of these firearms and performs well above expectations. I would suggest you do not knock the ammuntion or this caliber until you have at least tried them. You WILL BE surprised in a positive manner.

  12. I thought Polycase was developing plastic cased ammo as well as the new bullet (as their name would suggest), but no mention of it here. As I recall, they were using a metallic head bonded to a plastic case for weight and cost savings. Did Ruger opt out of the plastic cased ammo or did Polycase give up on that idea?

  13. Mr. Campbell’s writing is great as usual, but this article indicates, informationally, what I have felt with a few other articles: as Mr.Paul Harvey used to say, I’m waiting for ‘the rest of the story’.

    He clearly indicated TWO Test Beds, the Beretta and the Ruger LCP, YET, Mr. Campbell only really bothered to tell us about the results from the Beretta.

    Newsflash: I’d wager there are considerably many more folks walking around with Ruger LCP’s strapped, than are carrying the Beretta 84, which seems to be a pet piece of Mr. Campbell’s.

    Hey, aesthetically, the Beretta wins hands down, sweet looking sidearm, however, looks don’t cut it in a situation where the sidearm is needed, which is why I kept waiting to read what Mr. Campbell had to say about the Jug and Wet Telephone Book results from the Ruger LCP (and for that matter, from the Beretta as well, concerning the Wet Telephone Book).

    I received neither, and quite frankly, I’m hacked about it.

    Mr. Campbell, you write so very well; articulate, precise, but you have a very frustrating habit of setting us up with promised information, upon which you do NOT deliver!

    I understand that writing articles demand brevity: word count limits are always the bane of the writer (I was an Examiner author for almost two years, so I understand this conundrum all too well.), however, the remedy is to do a ‘two parter’, or to NOT set up the reader with a promise to deliver information which never gets delivered!

    I would argue that most of your readers of this type of article, specifically those carrying the .380 ACP, between the two pistols you offer as Test Beds, carry the Ruger LCP over the Beretta.

    Do you not think it incumbent upon yourself, to deliver the results of the sidearm which most of your readers, in all likelihood, carry as an EDC piece?

    I don’t own a .380 ACP, but I’d be tempted to carry one, considering this new ammo offering. I would have liked to see some information on pricing as well, as I have earlier indicated, financial real world aspects must be factored into what I may own, and how often I may shoot it.

    Thank you for your time.

    1. Sir,

      Thanks for reading and for comments.

      I did mention water/wet newsprint results of 11-12 inches penetration, which is accurate.

      I mentioned velocity in the Ruger, but no point in mentioning
      accuracy. A handgun with small sights this size at best might group 5 shot into 4-6 inches at 10 yards, hardly anything better or worse than the other small .380s.

      The Beretta shows the true accuracy potential of the load.

      If you do not carry a .380 I hope you carry something larger. This is a good load and perhaps best choice in the .380 based on some criteria but it is still a .minor caliber and cannot change that. .

  14. Very interesting article. Do you intend to test other calibers besides the .380?
    I do not and probably never will “bet my life” on a ,380 ACP but I am interested in several other calibers and tests like you have documented here. I like the .45 ACP +p and the 10mm and while I do not find their recoil to be objectionable, I certainly have no objection to an effective round that produces less recoil.
    I still shoot several .22 pistols for fun and recreation but do not carry any .22 for self defense. Similarly, I will not carry the .25 ACP, the .32 or even the .38 (although that one is closer to a possibility for defensive carry). Therefore, I am not greatly interested in tests of a .380. I do not own one and will never own one.
    However, as I said, a .45 ACP+p or 10mm with reduced recoil that performs with excellent accuracy and the same or marginally better performance than my Gold Dot or Hornady Critical Defense would definitely get a look from me.

  15. One of the old complaints about the .380 was it lacked the power to be useful in a defense situation. Is this round improvement enough to carry my old Firearms International Model D .380 in place of my Kimber Ultra Carry II .45?

    1. Keep the Kimber.

      This load makes the best of the .380, that is all.

      Keep the .45 and do not take a chance with your life for a few ounces of comfort.

  16. I have been fooling with this ammo both from Ruger and the actual manufacturer Polycase since last fall and I can tell you this makes all the difference in the world for those who opt to use a 380 for EDC. My wife carries a 380 as her EDC basically because “it’s a girl thing” she has to look perfect and much bigger interrupts the outcome of the look. If she can she uses her Glock 19 but seriously what can a well dressed woman do to hide such a beast 🙂 She is extremely proficient as a shooter and uses Hornady Critical line as her ammo of choice until this load came out. Now she has transitioned after many thousands of rounds from hollow point Critical’s to the Ruger new composite ammo. She loves it and based on EVERY data point it is truly what 380 has needed for a long time. This stuff as Bob pointed out does NOT shatter upon impact it is truly a bullet not some ground up “stuff” that makes it way to dirt when exposed to anything solid. The other thing about it is it tends to maintain direction in flight/impact. As most know that high performance 380 ammo tends to rotate head for tail during flight this bullet tends to like to travel as designed with the flat rear to the rear. Kudos to Polycase and to the Sturm Ruger family for taking a chance with this ammo to make the next generation ammo. In 9mm I am guessing this will be the prefect accessory to it new American pistol series. Great article Sir Bob!
    Dr D

    1. Thanks for reading.

      In the .380 ACP caliber this is a good choice. And as you have pointed out, shooting straight means a lot.

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