Venison — whitetail venison, to be specific — has been feeding red-blooded Americans since the first intrepid colonists landed on the wild coasts of the New World. That's well over 500 years now — half a millennium — and to this day the whitetail is the most popular and available big game on the North American continent.
No surprise, then, that the bulk of hunting ammo sold in the States is geared toward whitetail hunters, engineered to effectively drop canny, ghostlike bucks from Corpus Christi to the northern borders of Montana, from Florida's swamps to Maine's deep woods.
Over the past year or so, several new whitetail loads have been introduced, and I'll be telling you about offerings from two of our major ammomakers. Hornady has a new, dedicated line called American Whitetail; Remington's is an all-purpose line aptly named Hypersonic Rifle.
Hornady American Whitetail
Hornady has so many extraordinary projectile lines — GMX, InterBond, MonoFlex, Flex-Tip, and so on — that some folks tend to forget how good the company's classic copper-jacketed, lead-core InterLock bullet is. It may not be the most aerodynamic of bullets, and it may not be a bonded, tipped, whiz-bang bullet, but it is forgivingly accurate in most firearms; it expands ferociously, imparting tremendous shock; and it holds together relatively well, even when impacting whitetail bones.
American Whitetail ammo features whitetail-appropriate-weight InterLock projectiles (just one weight per caliber) in a selection of popular cartridges from .243 Winchester to .300 Winchester Magnum.
According to the company, gunpowder used in the American Whitetail line delivers "consistent accuracy and performance." Now, that's a pretty generic claim that any ammo manufacturer might make, but in this case, it probably holds water. With the exception of a few whitetail hunters that delight in shooting down senderos in Texas or across bean fields, most guys don't shoot at deer way out yonder. Heck, it's impossible to find a place to shoot farther than 200 yards in many great whitetail states. In the absence of demand for ammo that stretches its downrange legs, Hornady, it seems, had the luxury of selecting propellants purely for consistency.
A couple months ago I had the opportunity to shoot two axis deer — a buck and a doe — and six Texas hogs with the 150-grain .308 version. Every hog I shot dropped in its tracks. Bullets penetrated fully and exited in every case. In the interest of full disclosure, I'll admit that none was much over 100 pounds.
The axis deer were a different story. A mature axis buck can be up to twice the size of a big whitetail deer, and they are known for toughness, so they present an excellent push-the-limits test for a dedicated whitetail bullet.
In most cases, the other hunters in my group and I experienced fast kills and short blood trails, but according to the guides, who did the field dressing and caping, very few bullets exited. Most were found against the hide on the far side of the animal.
Many hunters consider that to be optimal performance because bullets that penetrate right to — but not quite through — the other side dump 100 percent of the bullet's energy into the animal. I like an exit wound because it bleeds more and makes tracking easier. As a case in point, I shot my buck at 138 yards and liver-hit him. It wasn't a long shot, but just as the trigger broke the buck took a step, and my bullet went 6 or 8 inches farther back than I'd intended. The blood trail was nil, and it took us a long, stressful search to find him where he'd dropped in a thicket. But don't get the impression that you wouldn't get full penetration on whitetails with this ammo — you would, usually.
For this report I also tested American Whitetail ammo for accuracy and velocity in .270 Winchester, 7mm Remington Magnum, and .300 Win. Mag. They shot great — in fact, the 139-grain 7mm Rem. Mag. load averaged 0.65-inch groups from my Hill Country Rifles accurized Remington Model 700. Interestingly, that load had large extreme spread and standard deviation figures, but the noonday sun was glaring right down into my chronograph, and I'm pretty sure it played havoc with the laser eyes.
You'll note that neither of the .300 Win. Mag. loads tested for this article shot particularly well. Not to worry because the rifle I tested them through is quite finicky, and 2.5-inch groups are pretty typical with all but its favorite loads.
American Whitetail ammunition is good stuff. It's very good stuff for the price, which ranges from $26 (.30-30 WCF) to $38 (.300 Win. Mag.) per box, suggested retail. Hornady's engineers did the thinking for you, choosing the best deer-bullet weight for the caliber and building the most accurate load they could around it. Choosing a great load to knock over your deer this fall is a cinch. Just ask for American Whitetail ammo in whatever caliber you shoot.
From left to right: .270 Win, 7mm Rem. Mag., .300 Win. Mag.
From left to right: .223 Rem., .270 Win., .300 Win. Mag.
Three American Whitetail loads were tested for this article. Consistency and accuracy were good (the 7mm Rem. Mag. load averaged 0.65 inch).
Three Remington Hypersonic Rifle loads were tested for this report. Two averaged under 1 MOA, with the .270 Win. load averaging 0.79 inch.
Remington Hypersonic Rifle
There are those who would argue with me, but I consider Hypersonic Rifle to be Remington's biggest advancement in the art of ammomaking since the company engineered the bonded version of the legendary Core-Lokt bullet, the Core-Lokt Ultra Bonded (C-LUB). Since the Hypersonic Rifle line is loaded with C-LUB bullets, it combines two of Remington's greatest rifle/ammo achievements.
What is Hypersonic Rifle ammo? It is a line of ultravelocity big-game ammunition that's designed to provide up to 200 fps more velocity than standard loads. It's designed to enable standard cartridges to nip at the heels of the magnums. For instance, the .30-06 travels at .300 Win. Mag. speeds. The line also also pushes the magnums into velocity territories previously occupied only by extraordinary performers, such as the .300 Win. Mag. approaching the velocity of the .300 Weatherby Magnum.
Without being able to draw away the murky veil painted across the mysteries of ballistics R&D and discover definitively the processes used to obtain these high velocities without crossing the acceptable pressure threshold, it appears that Remington uses blended propellants — of special concoctions known only to the developers — to provide a series of pressure peaks, so instead of one propellant type with one peak giving its ultimate push to a projectile accelerating down a barrel, multiple propellants peak in succession, sustaining the period of maximum acceleration over a greater period, thus boosting the projectile to previously unobtainable speeds.
Remington's Core-Lokt Ultra Bonded bullet is a flatbase design, and though it gives up just a touch of aerodynamics in favor of toughness and forgiveness in the accuracy department, it is an excellent choice. Bonded construction is called for — even needed — to maintain bullet integrity in projectiles impacting at high close-range velocities. Kudos to Remington for pricing Hypersonic Rifle at $26 to $40 per box of 20, depending on caliber. That's just a short step up from standard Core-Lokt ammo.
My crystal ball is a little foggy on this one, but I don't see additional projectile types being added to the line for quite a while, if ever. That said, I'd personally like to see Remington add Swift Scirroco II bullets to the mix.
Hypersonic Rifle is initially available in popular calibers from .223 Remington to .300 Win. Mag. As can be seen in the accompanying chart, only .308 and .30-06 are available with more than one bullet weight, both of which can be purchased with either 150- or 180-grain pills. The rest are currently available in one popular weight bullet only, though I suspect that line extensions will broaden those options sometime in the near future.
I haven't had a chance to shoot any game with Hypersonic Rifle, but I did give three of the loads — .223 Rem., .270 Win., and .300 Win. Mag. — a good workout at the range. The .270 Win. load shot particularly well in the accuracy department, averaging 0.79-inch groups, but it didn't gain much, if any, over standard-velocity loads. I'm guessing that's the fault of the 22-inch barrel on my test rifle and that a 24-inch tube would have boosted speeds well above standard.
Likewise, the .223 load, though accurate, didn't provide the 3,262 fps touted by factory figures. I blame the 20-inch barrel; a 24-inch barrel would raise velocity considerably.
The .300 Win. Mag. load gained a potent 186 fps over the classic 2,940 fps that typical factory loads produce, putting it solidly into .300 Wby. Mag. territory. Barrel length again came into play; the test rifle's 26-inch tube tends to get the best velocity out of a rifle. Don't be dismayed by the lackluster accuracy; that rifle is very finicky.
While Hypersonic Rifle ammo is not marketed specifically for whitetail deer hunting, it's an excellent choice, especially if you tend to shoot long on big Midwestern or Northern bucks. It shoots flat, hits like a ton of bricks, and manages both to expand dramatically and maintain its integrity for deep penetration and blood-spilling exit wounds.