Author: Lindsey J. Bertomen
At this year’s SHOT Show I got to look at technology. I took this assignment in its literal sense, looking for old applications of new technology and new applications of old technology. You know, “Something old, something new, something borrowed, Back the Blue.”
Applied improved technology: FLIR
At Industry Day at the Range in Boulder City I had the opportunity to run rounds downrange with a FLIR PTS536. This is a weapon-mounted thermal sight with a shot-activated video recording, a desirable feature for law enforcement use.
As most thermal users know, this type of night sight is ideal for conditions that include a confusing foreground like fog or rain. Under visually challenging circumstances a user can reliably distinguish and hit a target the naked eye cannot detect.
Thermal sights use a microbolometer, a sensitive instrument that translates what is transmitted to the detector part of a scope into measurable changes in electrical resistance. These readings become an image whose attributes are measured in contrasting shades. The image is translated to the viewer.
Bolometers used to be rather large making it impractical to mount on a rifle. Advancements in technology have made them small enough to rival a modern rifle scope. If anyone needs the specs, the PTS536 uses a 320 x 256 VOx Microbolometer.
The PTS536 is compact, as thermal sights go, and has a rugged aluminum case. This model uses only two CR 123 cells for about four hours of service.
In my previous article I mentioned that Range Day weather included some stout gusts. It was also slightly chilly, which is perfect weather for me. However, it was a great challenge to have steel plate targets on the range with any kind of temperature contrast between the plates and the surrounding rocks. Before I got down behind the Ruger AR 15 steered by a PTS536 everyone warned me there may not be enough heat contrast to detect the targets, even though it was broad daylight.
The FLIR PTS536 easily distinguished between steel plate and the range’s namesake. I promptly tagged those steel plates half a dozen times without skipping a beat.
There are three models in this line: PTS233, PTS536, PTS736, at 1.5x, 4x and 6x, respectively. They come with several different reticle choices, and color schemes can be adjusted for ideal viewing. They use standard Picatinny rail mounts, and the PTS536 weighs only 1.78 pounds.
New technology in familiar clothing: Maglite ML150LR
Show of hands: How many of you old-timers worked patrol with a Maglite? I did, too. We liked the flashlight because it had a focusing beam, which was particularly effective on foggy mornings when other lights gave the user blinding backscatter. The Maglite always cut through.
The Maglite ML150LR is 10.7 inches long and weighs 15.5 oz. If anyone used the C cell Maglite, this is the same size. It fires a 1082 lm beam, which has been measured at 52595 cd. Compared to older models, the focus from flood to spot seems a little faster, requiring only 1/4 turn.
This is the perfect size and configuration for tucking under the arm during a traffic stop or changing magazines. I know I’ve given you numbers for the brightness, but the reflector shape is the thing that concentrates the beam, and the deep parabola demands attention out to 458 m.
The switch is user configurable and easy to learn. It is capable of fast charging, approximately 2.5 hours to 100 percent. The ML150LR uses a LiFePO4 cell, which is the latest in cell technology. Runtime is appropriate for a full shift of police work, which is approximately 3 hours and 15 minutes on high and up to 79 hours on super low. The charging unit can be car mounted.
The ML150LR looks like an old school patrol flashlight. Anyone who picks up this new technology in a traditional package will understand. This light needs to be sworn in.
Competing technology: Sim-X Ammunition and Seismic Ammo Company
I avidly test ammunition in ballistic gelatin. Ammunition manufacturers generally attack the needs of the industry in a very scientific manner. One trend I have observed over the years is a consistency in industry standards. Generally, a cartridge designed for a particular purpose will have similar specifications among the major manufacturers. That is, a 125 grain 9 mm duty cartridge will have similar specifications when it comes to velocity, penetration and after-barrier performance among different brands.
Please do not confuse this with “all ammunition offerings are the same.” They aren’t, and I know this first hand. There are still important character differences, which really keeps the industry interesting. I promise you: Major ammunition manufacturers publish specifications that are easily duplicated.
It is only among the smaller companies where the unusual trends exist.
This is something I have been watching steadily over the years at SHOT Show. There is a technological trend that has caused a split in the industry. All the ballistic junkies should be entertained by this.
1. The super lightweight projectile
Sim-X Ammunition uses a standard outer jacket, which appears to be copper and a soft polymer core. The company’s approach to ballistics is to use bullet weights that are extremely light, driven to astronomically high velocities. For example, Sim-X’s two 9 mm products are 55 grain and 45 grain. “Normal” bullet weights in 9mm run about 110 to 150 grain.
The core appears to be entirely polymer, which Chris Cowan of Sim-X showed me was very pliable. Driven at these speeds, the issue of penetration is not a problem. The bullet is designed to penetrate hard objects and surrender all energy quickly in tissue. This occurs because the polymer acts as a non-Newtonian fluid/solid, depending on the media in which it encounters.
Look up non-Newtonian, I dare you.
It’s impossible to tell if this works consistently without running hundreds of samples into media, which would raise my lab fees for article writing to an entirely new level. I will have to let someone with more resources test this one.
What would be the advantage here? According to the manufacturer, this bullet punches clean holes through windshields and steel doors, but dumps all of its terminal ballistics into media. The other advantage is that the cartridges are less than half the weight, which could reduce weight on the belt.
2. The super heavy projectile
At the other end of the spectrum, the Seismic Ammo Company uses super heavy bullets made of lead. Its 9 mm bullet is 185 grains, and achieves about 950 ft./s. The logic behind this cartridge is to strike the target with considerable momentum, which achieves nominal penetration. The bullets are hollow point, which open up like typical law enforcement bullets. The manufacturers of these cartridges appear to be all avid hunters whose success with these cartridges is quite tangible.
It will be interesting to see how these different approaches play out over the next few years. Look for some ballistic gelatin testing in the near future.