Back when I was apup (which you can translate as “young son of a bitch” if you choose)new bullet designs arrived as often as glaciers. Now they are as common as CEOsbeing led away in handcuffs. Here are three of the very latest big-gameslugs–good news for us, bad news for the critters.
BARNESMAXIMUM-RANGE X-BULLET (MRX)
Barnes’ originalX-Bullets were based on a very simple idea–that if you make a solid-copperbullet, you get rid of all the problems involved in sticking a lead core into ahunk of copper. But all-copper construction created a new problem. Since copperis much lighter than lead, X-Bullets had to be much longer than conventionalslugs in order to make their required weight, and this long length, combinedwith the “sticky” nature of copper as it travels down a steel barrel,led to pressure problems. Years ago, I got hold of some of the very earlyX-Bullets and loaded them in a .270. Out of every five shots, three cases wouldshow normal pressures while two would have their primers mashed absolutelyflat, meaning that pressures were way too high. I know other shooters who haveused the slugs and had no problems at all, but I was not, and am not, a fan ofthe X-Bullet.
Barnes solvedsome of the problem by cutting three relieving grooves into the X-Bullet. Thesenew slugs are called Triple-Shock X-Bullets, and they go squirting right outthe bore with no pressure problems at all. The ones I have shot are uncannilyaccurate, penetrate as far as anything can, and expand fiercely.
The only fault ofthe Triple-Shocks is an odd one. Because they require so little pressure to getthem out the barrel, I find I have to use more powder than usual to getvelocities up to snuff, and when you seat one of those long, long Triple-Shocksin a case that is jammed full of propellant, it can actually cause the case tobulge slightly. When I hunted deer in West Virginia last December, there were acouple of rounds that simply would not chamber, and I sat there on a hillsidemuttering to myself until I figured out what the hell was going on. I shouldpoint out that this only occurs with the really long bullets in the line, andif you don’t insist on stuffing the case full of slow-burning powder as I do,it won’t happen.
Now there is athird generation called the Maximum-Range X-Bullet. It is the Triple-X Bullet(for short) with a long polycarbonate tip and a Silvex core (Silvex is atungsten-based compound that is heavier than lead).
The MRX looks tobe a considerable improvement on the Triple-X, which means it is a doozer.Right now, MRXs are made in .270, 7mm, .30, and .338. They come in packs of 20and cost a little over $1 a bullet. They’re also loaded by Federal, for thetime being in .30-caliber only, for about $50 a box. The MRX, I think, is goingto be a world-beater.
WINCHESTERSUPREME ELITE XP3
This isWinchester’s shot at a premium all-around big-game bullet that provides fineaccuracy, good penetration and expansion at all ranges, and a high ballisticcoefficient. As I understand it, the XP3 is the eventual replacement for theFail Safe, which is one of the best hunting bullets around but very expensiveand complex to produce.
The Fail Safe isa hollow-point with a rear lead core that’s protected at its front and rear bysteel caps. I’ve shot it in various calibers ranging from .270 to .338, throughelk, zebra, caribou, and nilgai, and there is simply no stopping it. If theFail Safe has any faults at all, it is not as aerodynamic as other bullets. Infact, writing about its demise is so painful that I cannot go on.
The XP3 is acopper-jacketed bullet with a polycarbonate tip, a bonded rear lead core with acopper web in front of it, and a boattail base. As is customary withWinchester’s Supreme line, it has a black Lubalox coating, which, the companyclaims, reduces copper fouling. You couldn’t prove this by my experience, butit does look nice and it doesn’t gum up your bore like moly does.
By the time youread this, XP3-loaded ammo should be available in .30/06, .300 WSM, .300 Win.Mag., .308, 7mm Rem. Mag., 7mm WSM, .270, and .270 WSM. Real-world prices are$40 to $47 a box, depending on caliber. It looks like an excellent bullet and,I must admit, a worthy successor to the Fail Safes.
Almost allbullets are made by punching a piece of copper or gilding metal into more orless the right shape and then inserting a lead core or cores. Developed as a”premium deer bullet,” the Fusion is built to the beat of a differentdrummer. Federal starts with a lead core and then electrochemically bondscopper molecules to the lead, a process that takes 30 to 40 hours. After thejacket has been formed, the bullet’s base is shaped into a boattail, and thenthe tip of the bullet is skived, or scored, to ensure that it will open asprogrammed. When this is done, the bullet tip is closed and formed into a flatpoint.
I’ve shot a bunchof .30-caliber Fusions at targets and at the Ballistic Buffalo (for adescription, go to fieldandstream.com/ballistic buffalo) and have found theygive very fine accuracy, excellent expansion, and good penetration. These arefirst-rate projectiles, available in .243 through .300 Win. Mag., and you’llpay $15 to $20 a box.
They will notpenetrate as well as the best of the tough premium bullets, but they’re morethan you’ll need for the biggest deer. I also think that a lot of people whodon’t know that you “need” premium bullets to do so will kill a greatmany elk, moose, and black bears with these slugs. It’s easy to get mesmerizedwith all the high tech available in the bullet world, and we tend to forgetthat most really big game is killed by deer bullets in the hands of people whomay not be up on the latest projectiles but know how to shoot a rifle.
A SMART SIGHTER
A boresighter, or collimator, can save you untoldanguish by showing you where your scope is aiming, as opposed to where youthink it’s aiming. (But remember, no boresighter can substitute for actuallysighting in.) The Leupold Zero Point, beloved for its light weight, small size,and the fact that it doesn’t need a spud to attach to a rifle barrel, has beensignificantly improved by the addition of a grid reticle (in place of the oldstadia lines) and a small red light that shows you what you’re doing. It’s aninvaluable piece of gear, and the real-world price is about $70(www.leupold.com). –DAVID E. PETZAL