January 04, 2011
By Greg Rodriguez
Winchester and Nosler teamed up to produce this new, environmentally friendly bullet, and Greg was the first to put it to the test.
By Greg Rodriguez
This E-Tip bullet was recovered from a Texas hog by Winchester's Glen Weeks. It expanded just like it was designed to do. Photo courtesy of Winchester.
Environmentally friendly isn't high on my list of requirements for a hunting bullet. In fact, the idea that a bullet could be environmentally friendly has never even occurred to me. After all, hunting bullets are designed to kill game. What could a little lead hurt? Still, there is no denying that our society is growing more environmentally conscious every year, as evidenced by the recent ban on lead bullets by the famed Tejon Ranch in California.
The Tejon management banned the use of lead projectiles to appease those who want to protect the endangered California condors that nest on the ranch. They host a lot of hog and deer hunters every year, but I doubt they felt the minute amount of lead left by fired projectiles was an environmental hazard. But logic and science have never stopped environmental wackos. And why should it? After all, even a frivolous lawsuit is a coin toss. Throw in a liberal California court, and the antis know they have a pretty reasonable chance of prevailing.
I think the Tejon Ranch took that step to head off litigation aimed at stopping hunting in the name of protecting the endangered condor from lead poisoning. Like it or not, it was a smart move. Unfortunately, I think we'll see more and more of such clever maneuvering as animal-rights activists do everything in their power to stop hunting. Manufacturers are wise to stay on top of the market with lead-free bullets like the new E-Tip from Winchester and Nosler.
The E-Tip is far from the first lead-free bullet on the market. For instance, Barnes has been making lead-free bullets for years with its solid-copper X and Triple Shock bullets.
Solid-copper bullets are great when it comes to penetration and terminal performance on bigger-bodied game, but they have their issues. The biggest complaint among users of solid-copper bullets is accuracy. They shoot great in some guns, whereas other guns don't shoot them well at all. For example, my .257 Weatherby shoots the Weatherby factory load under a half-inch all day long. My GA Precision custom .308 shoots AccuBonds under 0.25 inch but can't break the one-inch mark with at least one type of solid-copper bullet.
An even more aggravating problem is inconsistent accuracy. Some rifles, like my .300 WSM Browning A-Bolt, shoot great from a clean bore, but accuracy degrades quickly after a few rounds.
Extreme fouling, which is the result of solid-copper construction, is the culprit. Copper gets stripped off as it passes down the bore and is deposited in the rifling, leading to poor or inconsistent accuracy. Another accuracy-robbing characteristic of copper bullets is the fact that the hard copper doesn't slug up and fill the bore.
None of this is meant to take anything away from solid-copper bullets. In fact, I use the X and Triple Shock in several of my guns, and they are my bullet of choice for Cape buffalo. But as great as those two bullets are, some guns just don't like them.
The New E-Tip
Nosler has had a tremendous amount of success with its AccuBond. The sleek, streamlined, boattail projectile looks great on paper. It has a high ballistic coefficient, great sectional density, and is designed to open up fast while driving deep. It works well, but it doesn't have the penetration or weight retention some hunters demand. And it has a lead core.
The E-Tip proved itself on Texas hogs and sheep. During our exclusive field test, each animal taken fell to a single shot.
When they teamed up to design the E-Tip, Winchester and Nosler set out to come up with a lead-free bullet that opened up as fast as the AccuBond but retained 90 percent or more of its weight. To get there, they had to go the solid route.
Nosler engineers used the same gilding-metal copper alloy on the E-Tip that they use to make the AccuBond. Called 210 alloy, it consists of 95 percent copper and 5 percent zinc. Its solid construction means it holds together well for deeper penetration. In fact, Winchester claims over 90-percent weight retention for the E-Tip bullet.
According to Winchester's Glen Weeks, the zinc content raises the tensile strength of the bullet. Although the
E-Tip is even harder than a copper bullet, the zinc acts as sort of a lubricant, so fouling is much less than with a solid-copper bullet. Winchester's Lubalox coating also helps in the fouling department.
To get the solid bullet to expand over a wide velocity range, the design team gave the bullet an extra-deep hollowpoint cavity. In fact, the cavity, which extends past the ogive, may be the deepest I've seen.
That hollowpoint, which Winchester refers to as the E2 cavity, helps the E-Tip bullet expand at various velocities. That means the bullet will expand about as well at 500 yards as it does at 100, despite the fact that it is tough enough to withstand a close-up impact on a bull elk's shoulder at magnum velocities.
Its hollowpoint is not just a tool to promote expansion. In fact, it is one of the main ingredients in the E-Tip's accuracy. When a solid-copper bullet starts down the bore, it doesn't slug up to fill the rifling like a conventional cup and core bullet does. The E-Tip, on the other hand, slugs up and really grabs the rifling like a conventional bullet. According to Nosler's Mike Lake, its unique construction also decreases pressure, which means you can use the same reloading data you would for, say, an AccuBond of the same weight.
Some other E-Tip design features are consistent with the design of Nosler's AccuBond and Winchester's XP3. A sexy profile and a boattail give the 180-grain .30-caliber E-Tip a ballistic coefficient of .523 and a sectional density of .271.
Again, like the AccuBond and XP3, the E-Tip has a polycarbonate tip. The OD-green plastic tip prevents tip deformation under recoil in the magazine and enhances the bullet's ballistic coefficient, which makes for better downrange performance.
Here are sectioned and intact E-Tip bullets. Note the deep cavity and the polymer tips. Photo courtesy of Winchester.
Winchester and Nosler engineers tested the E-Tip extensively before introducing it. In their testing, it proved to be as accurate as the AccuBond and XP3, and it performed as intended on game. In fact, they shot 17 hogs with the final version of the E-Tip, not one of which ran more than a few yards after being shot. But I'm a skeptic, so I invited Winchester's Kevin Howard and his son Andrew down to the Pamandan Ranch in Southwest Texas to do a little bullet testing of our own.
The E-Tip had just been announced when the Howards came down. In fact, the bullet was so new, we only had 60 of them--20 each in .308 Winchester, .30-06, and .300 WSM. Limited supply meant we didn't get to shoot much, but the E-Tip shot as well in all three of our rifles as the XP3s we brought along with which to zero our rifles.
Kevin was my guest, so I offered him the first shot. He got his chance late on the first day when a small sounder of pigs came out into a clearing to mow down some freshly sprouted greenery.
There were no big hogs in the group, but an eatin'-sized sow made the mistake of stepping clear. Just as he was about to shoot, another sow walked behind his intended target.
"What should I do?" he asked.
"We're here to test bullets, Kevin. Take 'em both," I replied.
He touched the trigger of his .300 WSM and sent a 180-grain E-Tip downrange. The first hog took off, as heart-shot animals often do. We found it piled up under a bush, 30 yards from where it stood at the shot. A postmortem revealed tremendous internal damage on par with that of rapid-expansion bullets like the AccuBond. The exit wound was about .75 inch, which was consistent with exit wounds I've seen from tougher bullets like the XP3.
The E-Tip bullet passed through the first hog and dropped the second in its tracks. Obviously, the entrance wound was substantial due to the already-expanded bullet, but that didn't seem to slow the E-Tip down a bit--the wound channel was just as devastating as that of the first hog.
Andrew got the second shot when we found a herd of exotic sheep feeding in the north pasture. The Pamandan is a low-fence operation, so we don't waste a chance to take a trophy exotic when we get one. The ram was big and black, and it was clearly the boss of a herd that numbered 10 or so animals.
We closed to within 60 yards of the 145-pound ram before it realized something wasn't right. Andrew took a slight quartering shot with his .30-06 Browning BAR. The ram reared up, then collapsed where it stood. The E-Tip hit the ram just behind the shoulder and exited the offside flank. Since the E-Tip exited the animal, again, we were unable to recover it, but the internal damage was very extensive.
Fortune conspired to give Andrew the next shot, too. I was hunting for a scimitar oryx, but I had told Andrew that when he got there he could take a hog because he had never shot one before. Late on the second day, I delivered on that promise when a nice, 80-pound boar worked its way out of the brush.
The hog was 100 yards from us, facing away. Andrew placed a 180-grain E-Tip through the boar's spine, just in front of the tail. The bullet traveled through the pig, devastating the spine and everything in between before exiting just ahead of the left shoulder. Ordinarily, an 80-pound pig isn't much of a bullet test, but a hog's heavy spine is notoriously hard on bullets. Despite penetrating several inches of the thickest part of the spine, the E-Tip showed no signs of fragmenting.
The last shot was another bit of bad luck for me. Kevin offered me the next shot, but I insisted on a coin flip. Kevin won, and it wasn't long before we finally caught up with the herd of oryx we'd been chasing for 2 1/2 days. Kevin skulked off into the cedar thickets while we watched and waited.
Kevin snuck to within about 125 yards before the herd spotted him. The herd bull had just turned to run when Kevin shot it a bit behind the left shoulder. The 300-pound bull was already in motion at the shot, which probably explained why it managed to run 40 yards before piling up in a heap, mid-stride.
A postmortem revealed tremendous internal damage. Both lungs were destroyed, and the off shoulder, which was not quite tough enough to catch the E-Tip, was shattered. The exit wound was about the size of a half-dollar.
|Winchester E-Tip Offerings|
|Cartridge||Bullet Weight (grs.)||Muzzle Velocity (fps)|
|.300 Win. Mag.||180||2950|
Time ran out before I could catch up with the herd in order to take a bull of my own, but I headed back to Houston with a pretty good feel for the E-Tip's capabilities.
I look at a lot of factors when testing a new bullet: penetration, the size of the exit wound, the presence or absence of bullet fragments in the wound channel, the size of the wound channel, the weight of the recovered bullet, and the animal's reaction. These all help me evaluate a bullet's performance. I've tested a lot of bullets over the years, and I have to say the E-Tip performed admirably in every respect. However, I don't know that the E-Tip is any better than some other top-of-the-line bullets, like Winchester's XP3. The XP3 is a fine bullet, so that's not a knock on the E-Tip. Rather, it's a testament to the engineering skill that went into making a solid-copper bullet perform as well as one of the best lead-core bullets on the market.
When you combine that great performance with the E-Tip's environmentally friendly construction, you end up with a first-rate bullet that is as effective on game as it is at shooting down another avenue of attack on our hunting rights. For that, I think we all owe Nosler and Winchester a hearty "thank you."