Federal Hypervelocity Tipped Triple-Shock Ammo

Federal Hypervelocity Tipped Triple-Shock Ammo

I'm a lead-bullet kind of guy. From snappy .22-250 varmint hand-loads to my ponderous home-cast .45-70 blackpowder loads, I trust lead and its multiple-century legacy of performance. But last fall my eyes were opened to the performance potential of non-lead hunting bullets--unwillingly at first, then with interest.

Due to the concern of a few illogical but well-meaning folks for a certain oversize buzzard--which said avifauna I fully appreciate--the southern California area I lived in and hunted locally at the time is now closed to the use of any projectile containing lead. As a result, I've extensively shot--and in several cases hunted with--non-lead bullets in .25-06, 7mm-08, .270 Winchester, .270 WSM, and .300 Weatherby.

The first thing that startled me about all-copper projectiles--especially in the Federal factory loads I've been shooting--was the consistent ballistics these bullets produced. Two of the new hypervelocity big-game loads by Federal gave standard deviations of 6 and 8 fps when chronographed--outstanding indeed.

The second surprise was the inherent accuracy displayed. It still amazes me, but I can honestly say that in recent testing, I have found not a single all-copper load that performed poorly in the accuracy department. Two of the rifles in particular shot better than with typical lead-core projectiles.

The past decade has seen a massive leap in bullet development across the board, and copper bullets are no exception. The leading company--and I might add the original driving force--in development of the copper bullet is Barnes Bullets. Innovations such as the three grooves around the company's Triple-Shock (TSX) bullet--which reduce friction, pressure, and fouling--and the more recent polymer tip built into the Tipped Triple-Shock vastly improve the performance of copper projectiles.

This bullet was recovered after traversing through a trophy antelope at a steep angle. Fired from another hunter's .270 Win. rifle, it's the same TTSX bullet loaded in the .270 WSM that the author used for the hunt.

Designed to resist deformation, add downrange aerodynamics, initiate immediate and reliable expansion, and do so across a very broad velocity range, the polymer tip is, in my humble opinion, the perfecting element of the copper bullet. Not that copper bullets are perfect--no bullet really is--but it makes them as perfect as possible.

Federal's Vital-Shok hypervelocity loads, which are initially being produced in .270 Win., .270 WSM, 7mm Remington Magnum, .300 WSM, and .300 Winchester Magnum, are designed specifically with open-country hunting in mind. Utilizing light-for-caliber Tipped TSX bullets from Barnes, Federal has pushed velocity boundaries beyond traditional limits, extending maximum point-blank ranges significantly and reducing the potential for error in range judgment.

Some may question the ability of 110-grain .270- and 7mm-caliber and 130-grain .30-caliber bullets to penetrate satisfactorily, but it must be remembered that we're talking homogeneous copper projectiles here. They don't shed weight like lead-core bullets do. And that means, of course, that penetration is significantly higher than would typically be expected from such light projectiles.

I was fortunate enough to hunt pronghorn antelope in New Mexico's legendary open country last fall with a group testing the hypervelocity .270 WSM load. Federal's Tim Brandt sent me a good quantity of both .270 WSM and .270 Win. for testing, and I put close to 100 rounds of each downrange. The ballistics of both loads were impressive. Sighted-in at 200 yards, point of impact at 100 yards was less than 1 inch high, and 300-yard drop hovered around the 5-inch mark. I felt like I was shooting varmint rifles.

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Trajectory Comparison

Load Velocity (fps)100 Yards200 Yards300 Yards400 Yards500 Yards
.270 WSM 110-gr. TTSX3500+0.9 0.0 -4.9 -14.6 -30.0
.270 WSM 130-gr. SP1303250+1.2 0.0 -5.9 -17.5 -36.0
Data is derived from manufacturer's published figures.

<td colspan="5" class="noborder"Notes: Accuracy is the avg. of four, three-shot groups fired from a Sinclair rifle rest. Velocity is the average of five rounds measured 12 feet from the guns' muzzles.

Federal Vital-Shok Hyper-Velocity Accuracy

Load Velocity (fps)S.D. (fps)100 Yard Accuracy (in.)Rifle
.270 Win. 110-gr. TTSX3407 6 1.00 Winchester M70 Classic
.270 WSM 130-gr. TTSX3559 8 1.36 Sako 85 Hunter

Designed for superior downrange aerodynamics, immediate and dramatic expansion, and deep penetration, Barnes's Tipped TSX tends to be very accurate in most rifles.

Varmint-Flat, Big Game Tough
On a clear, crisp morning, I managed to get within range of a great buck with massive prongs. My Sako M85 Hunter rifle placed the 110-grain Tipped TSX precisely through the top of the pronghorn's heart at 198 yards. Impacting at an estimated 2,950 fps, it completely eliminated half of said heart and hemorrhaged both lungs. Dead on its feet, the antelope dashed about 100 yards and piled up.

On the following day, Jessica Brooks, Barnes's ballistic lab manager and media relations pro, made an absolutely spectacular 225-yard shot on a running buck and dropped him with a perfect behind-the-shoulder hit. The load she used was Federal's .300 WSM hyper-velocity 130-grain Tipped TSX, and it performed beautifully, creating a large wound channel and imparting enough shock to put the running buck down instantly.

Of the six hunters in the group that shot pronghorns with Federal's new hypervelocity loads, only one recovered the bullet. That shot was taken at roughly 150 yards--a quartering-to shot--with a 110-grain Tipped TSX fired from another writer's .270 Win. caliber rifle. The bullet traversed through the shoulder, vitals, and paunch and came to rest under the skin at the buck's flank. The recovered projectile showed picture-perfect mushrooming, and while I didn't have the opportunity to weigh it, I'm sure weight loss was negligible.

Consider the implications: Hunters can shoot a deep-penetrating, highly accurate bullet--which as a side bonus produces low-for-caliber recoil--fast enough to be truly forgiving in the field. Range-estimation errors have little ill effect when armed with a rifle/load combo that provides a very long point-blank range.

Usually there are trade-offs. Usually, to gain deep penetration, heavy bullets must be used--which means heavy-for-caliber recoil, steeper trajectories, and shorter point-blank ranges. Not so with Federal's Vital-Shok hypervelocity ammo.

For instance, with said .270 WSM load exiting the muzzle at 3,500 fps (which actually proved conservative in my testing) and accepting the standard 12-inch vital area circle, a shooter can sight-in a very accurate rifle at 340 yards and have an inch to spare--impacting within a 10-inch circle--all the way to 400 yards. Incredible!

Do I advocate such a sight-in approach? Not in the least, unless the shooter is an accomplished rifleman who expends hundreds of rounds through his hunting rifle each year practicing at those distances. But I think a sight-in distance of 250 yards, which provides a comfortable point-blank range on a 6-inch circle to 300 yards and allows shooters a good margin of error to compensate for the human element, is reasonable and can provide a measure of confidence when range estimation proves difficult.

I will say I draw the line on the use of light-for-caliber bullets for game much bigger than mule deer. While a 110-grain .270 bullet would likely be fine on caribou, I still prefer something heavier, and for elk--which I grew up hunting with a .270 Win. Model 70--I'd choose a heavier bullet for its greater sectional density.

The only slight downfall I have found with homogeneous bullets was demonstrated when I shot that pronghorn buck--it dashed off about 100 yards before dropping. In my experience, a similar hit with a very soft lead bullet would have put it on the ground more quickly. But the blood trail was excellent, and internal damage was severe. The important thing is that a quality homogeneous hunting bullet, properly placed, will always put the game down.

Have I been weaned off of my lead-loving ways? Nope. Not even close. I don't begin to buy the toxic/environmental-hazard garble that's currently influencing wildlife management in some politically conscious regions. But I do believe in products that perform, and homogeneous copper-based bullets perform without question. For some hunters currently, it's not a matter of choice--but luckily, there are products available that I would choose to hunt with even if it were.

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