With the amazing technology of the modern bullet, a hollow-point design is no longer necessary for superior ballistic performance from 9mm self-defense ammo in a handgun. One such load that exemplifies this is the NovX Engagement: Extreme. At the heart of the NovX 9mm Engagement: Extreme is a fluted copper/polymer projectile.

The projectile can create what NovX terms a massive wound channel through fluid displacement. Some may know fluid displacement as “hydrostatic shock.” Since human and animal bodies are mostly water, hydrostatic shock/fluid displacement, rapid blood loss and structural damage are important attributes in defensive handgun ammunition. Engagement: Extreme ammunition definitely has those attributes.

About NovX 9mm Rounds

When I received my sample box of the standard velocity 9mm Engagement load, I immediately noted that the bullet looked similar to the Inceptor 9mm ARX load I tested in the past. Inceptor actually makes the projectiles for NovX. Velocity of the 74-grain ARX bullet was listed as 1,475 feet per second with 357 foot-pounds of energy. It created a 4.5-inch diameter cavity when fired into a 25-pound block of moist modeling clay.

The NovX Engagement: Extreme is a significant step up from the original Inceptor load. Using a somewhat lighter 65-grain fluted poly/copper bullet, the NovX standard pressure 9mm is loaded to a blistering 1,730 feet per second, resulting in 432 foot-pounds of energy. The NovX +P 9mm load is launched at 1,800 feet per second and delivers 468 foot-pounds of energy … if you want to bump things up a bit.

The Engagement: Extreme load features a unique new technological advancement in addition to the bullet design: a two-piece stainless-steel cartridge case. According to NovX, the case design has several advantages.

  1. The overall weight of the cartridge is reduced by 50 percent per round.
  2. Velocity is 30 percent higher.
  3. Recoil is less vs. standard lead- and brass-cased ammo since there is less mass.
  4. The polished stainless-steel design features higher lubricity than brass and better sustains higher rates of fire.
  5. Stainless steel cases make for easy magnetic cleanup and are ballistically paired with NovX’s Cross Trainer/ Competition frangible round-nose ammunition for range use. However, some indoor ranges may prohibit use along with standard-steel case ammunition.

A handful of NovX ammo makes a gentle ringing sound when shaken around rather than the dull sound of brass-cased ammo. That handful of NovX was noticeably lighter as well. And the increased slickness of the stainless-steel case is readily apparent.

At the Range

Waking up to one-degree temperatures on test day, I decided to limit my firing to a few rounds at paper to verify zero and then do a shot on the clay block. I tested the NovX ammo at a buddy’s backyard range. For the firing test, I used my excellent new Springfield Armory SA-35 9mm “Hi-Power” (more to come on that). I fired three test shots at about 20 feet and was rewarded with a 2.5-inch group that landed right at the point of aim. The rounds cycled perfectly. Recoil, especially in the lightweight SA-35, was not noticeable. With only 20 rounds available for the test, I moved on to the 8×10 clay block, saving the rest of the ammo for a future date.

The 3-inch entrance hole on the 25-pound clay block used for testing.

The results were impressive. The Engagement: Extreme polymer/fluted projectile entered the 25-pound block and blew a 3-inch entrance hole. The internal cavity caused a pressure bulge on the right side of the block. The projectile exited at the lower rear corner, having penetrated the 10-inch length. It was not recovered.

It was obvious from the ¾-inch exit hole that the bulk of the NovX bullet’s kinetic energy was expended inside the block. When we sectioned it, we found that the bullet had traveled slightly downward (my fault), making a precise measurement of the cavity diameter difficult. My best estimate was that the cavity measured at least 5 inches at its widest point. This demonstrates excellent performance.

Choosing NovX Engagement: Extreme 9mm as Self-Defense Ammo

The NovX Engagement: Extreme works as advertised. A well-placed torso hit with it should prove discouraging to a deadly force threat. Since it does not rely on a hollow-point for expansion, there is no issue of clothing plugging up the cavity and limiting expansion, which is great in winter months. It also did not over-penetrate even though it exited. Penetration in ballistic gelatin is an ideal 16 ¾ inches, according to NovX.

NovX has also tested the Extreme Engagement rounds through windshield glass and aluminum barriers into ballistic gel. The results show the bullets retain good ballistic performance and do not shatter on these hard surfaces. They will shatter on hardened steel targets and flat concrete.

Current handgun calibers are .380, 9mm and .40. I highly recommend NovX Extreme Engagement ammunition for those who want an effective high-tech load that also reduces the daily carry weight burden.