Last October, Jessica Brooks, the media relations rep for Barnes Bullets, called and asked me to join several industry folks on an antelope hunt in Wyoming.
The purpose of the outing was to evaluate the performance of a new product--the Tipped Triple-Shock X-Bullet.
The TTSX is a solid-copper bullet with a polymer tip--something new for Barnes in a solid. The tip improves upon the capabilities of the original TSX bullet at longer ranges, and it provides even faster expansion than its predecessor. Even though the all-copper bullet is relatively lighter than traditional bullets for any given caliber, Barnes wanted to ensure that the handloader could achieve the maximum terminal ballistic performance with its solid.
"The tip ensures the bullet will open and expand over a broader range of impact velocities," said Brooks. "That and the boattail base maximize the effective ballistic coefficient, so the point-blank range is extended."
Speaking of ballistic coefficients, the .270-caliber TTSX that I would end up taking on the antelope hunt has a BC of .377--as measured with an Oehler Model 43 PBL. The TTSX retains the familiar rings cut into its shank to provide lower pressures.
In addition to being offered as a new component, the new bullet was also planned to be loaded in Federal Premium factory ammunition. Since 110-grain .270-caliber and 130-grain .30-caliber bullets were in production, I had a choice of either Federal test samples, or I could develop my own handloads. Knowing all that, I immediately thought of using my latest acquisition, a .270 WSM rifle that shoots like a house afire.
We had a rather short time to prepare for the hunt, so I requested a couple boxes of bullets and then called Federal to secure samples of its new factory load. I planned to develop at least one good handload and use it if it performed on par with the factory ammo. Up until this hunt, I'd never had the opportunity to hunt with my handloads.
BARNES TIPPED RIPLE-SHOCK X-BULLET
|Model ||Tipped Triple Shock X-Bullet |
|Purpose ||Big Game |
|Manufacturer ||Barnes Bullets |
P.O. Box 215
American Fork, UT 84003
|Contruction ||Solid-copper body with poly tip |
|Calibers/weights ||.277/110 grs., 130 grs.; |
.284/120 grs., 140 grs.;
.308/130 grs., 150 grs.;
168 grs., 180 grs.;
.338/160grs., 210 grs., 225grs.
In my haste, I forgot to ask Brooks for load data. Instead, I reviewed my .270 WSM records and selected four propellants that had performed satisfactorily for me before. By comparing various recipes for similar-weight bullets in several reloading manuals, I arrived at conservative starting loads for the 110-grain TTSX. Federal Large Rifle Magnum primers had worked well in the past, so I simply stuck with their proven performance.
Although the maximum overall length for the .270 WSM is specified as 2.860 inches, the rifle's short throat limited my TTSX handloads to 2.835 inches OAL (max). Barnes recommends backing the solid-copper X-Bullets off a bit from the lands, so I arbitrarily seated them to 2.800 inches.
Fortunately, by the time I had assembled 40 rounds of test ammo, two boxes of factory samples had arrived. The bullets in the factory loads were seated even deeper, at 2.765 inches, with the case mouths firmly crimped into the uppermost grooves in the TTSX bullets.
Three range sessions later, I had fired in excess of 80 rounds. I was pleased to note that 68.0 grains of Reloder 19 and 65.0 grains of IMR-4350 performed as well or even a bit better in my rifle than the Federal test ammo. And my best handloads' muzzle velocities almost matched the factory load's average velocity.
I called Barnes to compare my results with the company's data. Customer support rep Dave Card assured me my charge weights actually fell in the middle of Barnes' tested loads. However, he stated, "That rifle obviously has a 'fast' barrel because your velocities exceed our max loads' results. How does it group?"
I replied, "Three shots, 2 inches high and well under an inch at 100 yards. And dead on at 200."We agreed my rifle and ammo were ready for the trip to Wyoming, and a few days and a couple thousand miles later, we were on the prairies scouting our prey.
Surprise would be the order of the day, as a small group of antelope coming around a hill spooked my guide and me as much as we spooked them. We maneuvered so I had a good shot at the leader at maybe 100 yards. Realizi
ng that my shot window was quickly closing, I hurriedly aligned the crosshairs just behind the shoulder. Just as I started to squeeze the trigger, he bolted, and I attempted to follow as the shot broke.
It surely wasn't buck fever, I simply took a shot I wasn't prepared for. The antelope dropped, but it immediately jumped back up and bolted away from us with a noticeable hobble. My guide Ty drove ahead and stopped so I could set up for another shot, which I hurried and missed!
While consciously condemning myself, I grimly resolved to finish the task. It's true, you have to put the bullet in the right place to achieve a sure kill, and when I calmed down enough to take that last shot, the buck dropped like a rock. Upon examination, my first round struck about a foot too far back, but the third bullet punched through both lungs.
Before the hunt, I had asked Brooks whether my rifle or the new bullet should get credit for a successful hunt. When it was over, it was obvious both had performed superbly--much better than I had!