All About Polymer-Coated Bullets

All About Polymer-Coated Bullets
Various examples of polymer-coated bullets. photo from SSUSA.orgweb photo

When Federal Premium Ammunition debuted its new Syntech ammunition last year, the polymer-coated range bullets promising less friction in the bore, and consequently less heat and wear on the gun seemed strange and modern, but did you know polymer-coated lead bullets actually have a history of about two decades, especially outside of the U.S.?

This article from Shooting Sports USA details how compounds like nylon and molybdenum disulfide (moly) have been used for years to coat lead bullets instead of using waxy lubricants, or even jacked rifle bullets, though the application procedure is different.

Lead bullets perform best with some kind of lubricant, so the soft metal isn’t dragged and left behind in the rifling and the bore.

Polymers are catching on as the popular coating for lead bullets, while other countries have been using this process for 20 years or so.

The story says the most common coating is Hi-Tek, made by J&M Specialty Products P/L in Australia. It's used by various companies and is also available to individuals who cast their own bullets.

All About Polymer-Coated Bullets
An example of Federal's discontinued Nyclad bullet (left), which had a nylon-coated bullet, next to it's newer Syntech round, which came out last year and features a polymer-coated bullet. photo from SSUSA.orgweb photo

Some companies, of course, use their own proprietary polymers or non-polymer coatings that remain a mystery, other than to say they’re polymer, moly, or teflon based.

Syntech wasn't even Federal's first foray into factory polymer-coated factory ammunition, the story says. For several years, the company produced several calibers under the Nyclad brand, which featured bullets coated in nylon. Though they were popular in certain circles, the Nyclad line was discontinued almost 10 years ago.

From the shooter’s perspective, there’s not much difference between using coated and non-coated factory rounds, only the colors, which can land anywhere on the rainbow.

For reloaders who use lead, polymer coatings mean there's no longer a need to include a lube groove in the bullet, and many manufacturers have added molds to their lineup without the grooves, the story says. With bullets that are completely coated (including the base), reloaders also limit their exposure to the actual lead, for what it's worth. Smoke is also reduced, as it mostly comes from burnt waxy lubricant, the story says.

All About Polymer-Coated Bullets
Lead bullets have been coated for years. Here, the wax coating on some old .22 loads has turned white.photo by Bryce Towsley

From the story: "There might be some differences in the maximum velocities that these coatings should be limited to. Generally, the coatings are good for velocities in the 1200-1500 fps range, similar to copper plated bullets, which covers the speeds of most handgun cartridges. Some polymer coatings can reportedly be driven to 2000 fps or better, such as claimed by Eggleston Munitions, which makes them a possible choice for some rifle loads."

And, from range data collected by SSUSA, coated bullets actually shoot better, producing tighter 15-shot groups than their waxed counterparts.