While most handloaders are aware that powders, brass and even
primers have changed over the decades, many carry around ideas about certain bullets long
after the bullet has changed. Typical is something overheard at my favorite sporting goods
store the other day.
"I wouldn't use
a Barnes X-Bullet if you paid me." The speaker was a tall guy in a cowboy hat. He
probably wore a big belt buckle too, but if so his belly covered it." I bought a box
when they came out, and none of 'em weighed the same. Heck, you could see some were
longer by just lookin' at 'em. How could somethin' like that group? And they foul barrels like crazy."
experience I've learned not to butt in on such "expert" speeches so kept my
mouth shut. But this is exactly the sort of "aggressive ignorance" (as a friend
calls it) that suppresses truth and freedom. From one 15-year-old box of bullets, this guy knew everything about Barnes X-Bullets for ever and ever - except that dimensional
quality is now almost perfect, and a couple of X-variations, the blue-coated XLC and
groove-bodied Triple-Shock, don't foul barrels as badly as many conventional bullets.
Back home I took a box of
120-grain 6.5mm X-Bullets off the shelf, the "naked" flatbases that shoot tiny
groups in my Ruger 6.5x55. Ten weighed 120 grains, +-0.1 grain, and calipered an average
of 1.221 inches length, +-0.001. I measured their diameter with an electronic micrometer
accurate to .00005. They averaged .26346 inch, the smallest bullet measuring .26335 and
the largest .26360. That's a "spread" of .00025, 1/4000 of an inch. So much for
I also keep hearing that
Nosler Partitions don't shoot accurately. This may have been true when John Nosler
first started turning jackets on a lathe, 55 years ago, and may have been semi-true back
when Partitions were made on automatic screw machines. These featured a "relief
groove," designed to keep the harder Partition from increasing pressures when the
bullet started down the barrel.
However, I started using
grooved Partitions in the 1970s, the 130-grain .270 and 200-grain .30, and they shot very
well in my rifles, groups averaging an inch or less. Today's Partitions generally
shoot alongside all but the plastic-tipped bullets, and in some of my rifles Partitions
out-group Ballistic Tips. Yet I still read articles by "experts" firmly stating
that you shouldn't expect much accuracy from Nosler Partitions. (My guess is that the
authors aren't lying. They just don't expect Partitions to shoot well, so don't
take any particular care when loading them. Few bullets shoot well if you don't pay
attention to basic details, like seating them fairly straightly.)
Even Remington's old
Core-Lokt has changed over the years - or at least some have. The original Core-Lokt
featured very heavy sidewalls, which normally prevented the bullet from expanding much
farther than one-third of the way back. I shot a bunch of these at big game before I
thought I could afford Nosler Partitions, and they worked very reliably.
In 1980 I plunked a small mule deer buck with
a 180-grain Core-Lokt Pointed Soft Point from a .30-06 factory load. The bullet hit the
buck's shoulder and came apart. Luckily the buck wouldn't have field-dressed
much over 100 pounds, so cooperated by dying anyway. I'd expected the bullet to sail
on through him, but there wasn't an exit wound. Some poking around found several
pieces of Core-Lokt in the buck's chest, none bigger than a thick fingernail.
This seemed curious, but
I had more important things on my mind, so tucked it away in my dustier brain-files. Over
the next few years some other Core-Lokt spitzers behaved badly, so I finally sectioned
one, discovering the thick shank jacket had almost disappeared. I called Dick Dietz, at
that time the guy at Remington who dealt with gun writers, and he said hed look into
it. He called the next day, saying that unbeknownst to him, many Core-Lokt jackets had
been thinned down in the interests
of more efficient production. The bean-counters had discovered Core-Lokts
could be made faster (and hence at a higher profit) if made like other cup-and-core
Since then Ive
sectioned more Core-Lokts and found that the roundnoses still generally retain the thick
sidewalls, while spitzers dont. This is probably because hip, modern shooters dont
buy roundnose bullets anymore. So Remingtons roundnose dies dont produce as
many bullets, so dont wear out. This pleases bean-counters too.
Thats only a guess,
but the fact is that some Core-Lokts really arent anymore. This may be why Remington
recently started making the Core-Lokt Ultra, bonding the core to the jacket.
This can help a thin-jacketed bullet but probably wont produce the same results as
the old, thick-jacketed Core-Lokt.
Why? The old bullets (and
some of todays roundnoses) opened up like a Nosler Partition, the nose-jacket
peeling back along the shank of the bullet. Because of the heavy sidewalls, the shank
usually retained its shape, driving deeply into big game.
So far, in my tests in
newspaper and game, the Ultra version tends to open up widely, like any relatively
thin-jacketed, bonded bullet. If it meets enough resistance, the entire bullet expands
like a flower opening, leaving almost no shank to drive the bullet deeply. It does indeed
retain more weight than conventional bullets but doesnt penetrate as deeply as, say,
the equivalent Nosler Partition or old-style Core-Lokt. Because of the wide wound channel,
it often drops average whitetail like lightning, but I wont know how it acts on larger game until one or two
encounter Quebec caribou next month. French-Canadian bulls normally weigh 400 pounds or
more so should provide a more interesting test than 120-pound deer.
The Trophy Bonded Bear
Claw has also changed over the years. The basic plan is the same: a solid copper shank
like the Barnes X-Bullet, but instead of a hollowpoint up front, a chunk of lead is bonded
inside a cavity. The original Bear Claws tended to open into a ball, not the best profile
for tissue cutting. While they usually penetrated okay (though no deeper than Nosler
Partitions, in my tests), they didnt kill particularly quickly. In my neighborhood,
numerous deer and elk walked away after being lung-shot with Bear Claws, only to collapse
150 or 200 yards away.
Then Federal Ammunition
made a deal to load Bear Claws in factory ammunition and soon started producing the
bullets themselves. Federal made big improvements in the expansion end of the bullet.
Instead of opening into a ball, the Federal Bear Claws opened into a flat surface, much
like the front end of a Nosler Partition. They retained more weight than the average
Partition, so now drove deeper not quite as deeply as the Barnes X-Bullet or
Combined Technology Fail Safe, but farther than any other bullet Ive tested, both on
newspaper and game. After treatment with one of todays Bear Claws, none of the game
animals Ive shot has made it more than 75 yards, and if they make it that far, theres
a blood trail a blind vegetarian could follow.
Recently theres been one other change.
Now theyre made by Speer.