NovX 9mm loose rounds

[Review] NovX Ammo 9mm

NovX ammo is really popular now. Along with Ruger’s ARX ammo, this very-light-for-caliber bullet moving at hyper speeds is helping redefine self-defense ammo. The light-bullet-moving-fast trend isn’t new — Lee Jurras helped push that idea in the 1960s with his SuperVel company based out of Shelbyville, Indiana. Now, NovX has taken up the baton with its super-light, uber-fast 9mm ammo.

The Question…Faster or Slower?

SuperVel’s light JHP bullets were pushed along at a good clip, helping set up the argument about a slow, heavy pistol bullet being more effective than a fast, light bullet. There is no clear answer to the question of which is more effective. It really depends on the situation you’re in. If the weather is warm and people are dressed lightly, a fast-moving JHP might be more effective than if it’s winter with its attendant bulky coats. Another scenario pops up if you have to shoot through a barricade. In this case, the slower, heavier bullet might win the day. Here’s another argument for slower, heavier bullets…the British have typically chambered a lot of their revolvers for slow, heavy .455-caliber “thumper” bullets. It was explained to me by someone who should know that sometimes that’s required. In defending the Brit’s use of the big, slower bullet, the example was given of shutting a safe’s door. A slow, steady push will close it (the big, slow bullet) whereas a quick “whack” with the hand (the fast, lighter JHP) will just bounce off. Where you stand on this is your business. In our modern times, the trend seems to go both ways depending on who you buy your ammo from and your particular situation. I’ve seen heavy, cast or jacketed bullets sold alongside the zippier JHPs. We do know, however, what side of the argument NovX falls on.

Enter NovX

NovX ammunition is built differently than conventional lead-and-copper bullets in a brass case. The big difference is the bullet. In terms of what is “normal” (other than the setting on your dryer), most 9mm rounds use bullets of 115, 124 or 147 grains. These can be FMJ, JHP, coated or lead. The NovX 9mm loads use bullets of 65 grains, made as (the company calls them) poly-copper matrix projectiles…lead free. They are claimed to weight 40% less than lead and to be harder. These bullets are designed to go through glass and to create massive soft tissue wound cavities. They will, however, fragment upon contact with hardened steel or concrete. This is to lessen the danger of ricochets.

The bullets are loaded into a two-part stainless steel NAS3 case. Here is an illustration from their website…

NovX 9mm Ammo

As you can see from this and the photo at the very top, the bullet is fluted. It is sort of similar to a 3-bladed Phillips-head screwdriver. Other companies load 4-fluted bullets…this is becoming more popular. Here are a couple of claimed advantages of the NovX round… 1. It tends to have less recoil than “normal” +P 9mm defensive ammo. (I did feel less recoil when I shot it). 2. You can buy lesser-expensive practice ammo that is the ballistic twin of the “corkscrew” round. This “cross-trainer” ammo uses a rounded 65-grain bullet made of the same materials as the self-defense bullet, but is a little lesser expensive. Here’s a shot of both types…

NovX 9mm loose rounds

Here’s a closeup of the case that I shot:

NovX 9mm case

You see the two-part construction. Here’s another screen shot that goes into a bit more detail about the case:

the case

The stainless steel case is an interesting twist. For one thing, it supposedly increases lubricity over brass which helps in chambering rounds. Another nice feature is that you can pick up your cases from a range session with a magnet…no more bending over a zillion times to pick up brass. And, being a reloader, I value the very-shiny aspect of stainless steel. But, alas…these cases are not reloadable. Don’t try, in spite of what they say above (not sure what they are referring to, “9mm reloads are increased”). I tried to reload one, and pulled the base off the upper part with the very first die. I am the inquisitive type – I know that a two-part case would probably not be able to be reloaded but I just wanted to see what would happen anyway. Now I know. I got the stuck case out and now promptly throw all NovX cases in File 13 (old-timer slang for the trash). Do not get them near a resizing die.

Even The Box Is Different…

What might a young company looking to create a niche in the decades-old ammo market do to attract attention to itself? Maybe they might change the packaging the product come in, and then throw in an extra round with every box. Let’s look at the boxes these rounds are shipped in.

2 boxes NovX 9mm Ammo

We see a modern-looking box with a window that displays the 26th round (self-defense ammo) or the 51st round (practice “cross-trainer” ammo). In the 26-round box is this folded flyer:

NovX 9mm Ammo flyer

NovX 9mm Ammo flyer

A Package Deal

One of the smartest things they did is to make two similar loads… the fluted-bullet self-defense load and the same-weight round-nose practice load. As we look at velocities (below) we see that they are fairly well matched. You can practice with the round-nose and carry the fluted-bullet load and not worry about them shooting to different points-of-aim.
Speaking of shooting, what does the company claim in terms of velocity for their 9mm loads? Let’s look at the numbers from their website…

Ballistic Gel:Gel w/Alumimum *Gel W/Car Windshield: **
65-gr. Fluted, +P180046816.75"13.75"12.25"
Weight Retention:100%91%70.50%
65-gr. Fluted173043216.75"
Weight Retention:100%
65-gr. Cross-Trainer +P180046819.25"
Weight Retention:100%
65-gr. Cross-Trainer1730432N/A

* aluminum 10″ in front of gel
** car windshield 10″ in front of gel

This is all well and good. We’ve all seen terminal ballistics numbers from the manufacturers that put their product in a very good light. But…what if it were true? What if the velocities they claim really do happen (or are close) when you pull the trigger?

By and large, I can vouch for the velocities. I shot the ammo (regular pressure, not +P) in three different guns:

In the Taurus, I got about 1400 fps on the chronograph, not too far off from the advertised 1730. You might expect this, with the shorter barrel of the compact 9mm Taurus. Where it got interesting was with the 3.8-inch-barreled Sar. This excellent CZ75 variant shot the fluted 65-grainer right at 1700 fps…not bad at all. Figure in a target-model 9mm with a 5-inch barrel and then you might even get more velocity than they claim.

How about a 13.5-inch tube? The Troy M5 gave me 1930 fps with the self-defense load…200 fps more than advertised. I know, the velocity they got was in a pistol, but the 9mm pistol-caliber carbine/rifle is gaining in popularity and can be found in many bedrooms as a home-defense weapon. With this ammo, that makes sense. Five hundred and thirty-eight foot-pounds of energy from a 9mm is nothing to be sneezed at…you’re knocking on the .357 magnum’s door. Add in some secondary uses for this round…varmint control, target shooting, plinking, competition… using the Cross-Trainer round-nose version, you could have a lot of fun.

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What’s Next?

So…what is NovX up to? What can we expect in the future? According to their site, they are working on the introduction of a .223 rifle round. Here is what they are working on…a 35-grain bullet of similar construction at 4120 fps, with 1318 ft-lbs. of energy. Talk about a flat trajectory… This would be the round to try some distance shooting with, if you like your AR or bolt .223. According to the company, it gets 19.25 inches of penetration in gel and expands to 1 7/8 inches.

novx 3 rounds

I’ve not seen this on any store shelf yet. They are also projecting ammunition soon for the following calibers:

  • .380 Auto
  • .38 Special
  • .40 S&W
  • .45 ACP
  • 7.62×51 (.308)
  • .300 Blackout

I assume they will do what they did with the 9mm — bring out a self-defense load and a practice load, at least for the handgun calibers. I think it just cements in place the notion that the 9mm is “the” self-defense handgun caliber today, at least according to NovX, in that this was the first caliber that they actually have produced ammo for. I’m partial to the .45 ACP, but interestingly enough I own more 9mm guns than .45 autos …I guess that says something.

Anyway, check out the NovX ARX ammo. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. Run your own penetration tests, if you are in a place that will let you do that. Check the velocities like I did… you might come away very impressed. I think NovX is on to something here. I’d bet Lee Jurras would be onboard with what they’re doing — he got the ball rolling over four decades ago.

Let me know what you think below, especially if you’ve shot this ammo. I’m always interested in what you think about these topics. As always, go shooting and stay safe!

  1. I guess that I am more of a mass AND velocity guy. It is not completely clear to me that kinetic energy (M x V x V) is really a better way to measure ammo performance than momentum (M x V). Squaring increasing velocity really boosts the numbers in a hurry. Of course, one can continue to make lighter bullets and get even faster speeds. While fast speeds are good to avoid wind effects, this is not much of an issue with pistol ammo and their use at close range.
    The advertising copy is somewhat informative, but still comes across as hyperbole to me. The extra round in the box is gimmicky. I am particularly unconvinced about the advantage of a two piece case. For instance, I can see a case coming apart when the extractor tries to remove a stubborn case, similar to what happened with your reloading attempt. And, contrary to what you wrote, stainless is less magnetic than carbon steel and depending on the grade of stainless the case may not be attracted to any degree by a magnet.
    Another thing that I wonder about is what will happen regarding barrel wear? At your reported 4,000 fps speeds for .223 I can see barrel life being quite short, unless one can prove that the copper-epoxy matrix is less erosive, which seems unlikely to me.
    Another well written article!

    1. Mitch, good points. Thanks for the scientific viewpoint. And, on the stainless case/magnetic issue, I’ve learned something. Thanks for writing!

  2. The case design is NOT new . Way back in, oh about 1873 the 45/70 government had a two piece case , called a balloon case whereas the case head was a seperate piece of brass . Now if. The base is SS and the rest is aluminum it makes recycling more problematic. With copper prices being what they are , I can see where this could be cheaper. On the other hand , we can reload the brass; a good thing.

    1. Howard, point taken. I wasn’t aware of the .45-70 case. It is new, to the best of my knowledge, for an autoloading pistol. I agree about the reloading aspect – that isn’t possible here. Thanks for the info!

  3. These cases are fully reloadable. All you need is the proper set of dies. Dies which push the case out rather than pulling. I have some I have reloaded 10 times. The reloads are a bit heavy since they need to push a slide completely out of battery.

    1. Robert, that’s good to know. I learned something today. All I have are standard pull-type dies but I could see the other kind working. Thanks for the idea!

  4. Hey Mike,

    First let me compliment you on being a great writer! I really enjoyed your article on the Taurus Judge and this one as well. I was raised on a pig farm in Alabama. My dad and both granddads were exceptional hunters and valued their firearms for home protection as well. One of them kept guns staged strategically through the house, barn, P/U truck, and in his overalls!

    As I grew up, I kinda got away from firearm ownership, yet I’ve jumped back in with a shout the last couple of years! I love doing empirical research…so ballistics, reviews, and so forth make my day. Take care!
    BTW…16 vs 20 gauge pump shotgun for home protection?

    1. Reggie, thanks for the kind words-I appreciate your comments. As to 16 vs 20 ga, I’d pick 20. I grew up with a Browning Sweet 16 but the 20 has more guns and a larger variety of ammo for defense available. Thanks for writing!

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