April 09, 2019
By Lane Pearce
Speer’s new Gold Dot rifle bullets are not conventional cup-and-core jacketed bullets. Instead, they are made using Speer’s proven production process of electrodepositing a thick copper sheath on a swaged lead-alloy core before final forming and sizing. It’s the same method Speer developed to manufacture the Gold Dot personal-protection and law enforcement handgun bullets. Likewise, these new component bullets are targeted for cartridges typically chambered in AR-style rifles and carbines.
I tested 10 of the new bullets. I did not perform any load development but simply used the recommended propellant/charge weights/primers listed in Speer’s data, which technicians spent several thousand hours developing. I also didn’t push for maximum velocity charges, but I did choose recipes near the top of the charts. Overall lengths in almost every case were defined by magazine length because varying bulletseating depth to improve accuracy is not usually considered when handloading for the typical AR.
I quickly discovered that handling Gold Dot rifle bullets requires a bit more focus and dexterity because they’re coated with a slick, powdery residue. When I asked Speer’s Product Development Engineer Jeff Williams about it, he explained that the pure copper jacket is stickier than typical gilding metal (copper/zinc alloy) used on jacketed bullets. The boron-nitride coating makes them quite slippery in the bore—and also in your fingers—and it serves to smooth out shot-to-shot pressure variations. The coating also means reduced jacket fouling, so cleaning your gun should be easier.
I also asked if years from now we might learn that handling the boron-nitride-coated bullets will cause unexpected health issues. “Not likely,” Williams said. “The same compound has been used in women’s makeup for decades now with no apparent impact on their well-being.”
So two caveats to remember when loading Gold Dot rifle bullets: Use only Speer’s load data specifically developed for them and pay extra attention to holding onto them while seating them.
I prepped and loaded 20 rounds of each of 10 test loads with the intention of firing four, five-shot groups for record. Then I invited a neighbor, Jeff Cheatham, to shoot some of the test loads. Jeff is a recently retired Air Force NCO who deployed seven times to the Middle East and is very familiar with ARs. During the first range session, I fired three groups of each load and saved the rest for Jeff.
We spent the following Friday morning at the range, with Jeff firing 10 five-shot groups. Five out of 10 times Jeff’s groups beat my previously fired results. And his 0.56-inch group with the 120-grain 6.5 Grendel Gold Dot handload matched the best result for all 30 of my groups. Keep in mind he had never fired any of these rifles before.
As you can see by the results in the accompanying chart, the performance of Speer’s new Gold Dot rifle bullets was quite good. The overall accuracy for the 10 loads I came up with averaged a little more than 1 MOA.
Some of you will be wondering how the new Gold Dot rifle bullets compare to Fusion component bullets. Fusion bullets are loaded and sold by Federal Premium, Speer’s sister company. The main differentiator between the two is the boron-nitride coating, which is appropriate given the number of rounds typically fired in ARs. In addition, Speer is intent on keeping the Gold Dot brand focused on personal protection and law enforcement applications.
Speer precisely skives each Gold Dot rifle bullet nose in order to provide reliable expansion at typical AR velocities. That’s done to ensure that they will consistently and reliably penetrate typical urban environment barriers or whatever target a citizen may encounter.
After loading and shooting the new Gold Dot rifle bullets, the bottom line is you’ll likely achieve optimal AR performance at a reasonable cost with them.