View CartCheck OutNews LetterNews Letter Sign-upWolfe Publishing Company
Wolfe Publishing Company
Handloader MagazineRifle MagazineSuccessful Hunter Magazine
Magazine Subscription Information
Wolfe Publishing Company
HomeShopping/Sporting GoodsBack IssuesLoaddataMy AccountAdvertisingGun Links
Online Magazine Login:    Email:    Password:      Forgot Password    Subscribe to Online Magazine
Search Thousands of Loads
Rifle Magazine
December - January 2003
Volume 38, Number 6
ISSN: 0017-7393
Number 226
On the cover...
The Smith & Wesson Model 627-4 .38 Super comes from the Performance Center with a compensator, 5.5-inch barrel and Miculek stocks. Mule deer photo by Ron Spomer.
Rifle Magazine
Rifle Magazine Wolfe Publishing Company
Rifle Magazine Featured Articles
Table of Contents
Product Tests
What's New
Rifle Magazine

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."

Through painful 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 Mr. Behind-The-Times.

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 he’d 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 bullets.

Since then I’ve sectioned more Core-Lokts and found that the roundnoses still generally retain the thick sidewalls, while spitzers don’t. This is probably because hip, modern shooters don’t buy roundnose bullets anymore. So Remington’s roundnose dies don’t produce as many bullets, so don’t wear out. This pleases bean-counters too.

That’s only a guess, but the fact is that some Core-Lokts really aren’t 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 won’t produce the same results as the old, thick-jacketed Core-Lokt.

Why? The old bullets (and some of today’s 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 doesn’t 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 won’t 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 didn’t 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 I’ve tested, both on newspaper and game. After treatment with one of today’s Bear Claws, none of the game animals I’ve shot has made it more than 75 yards, and if they make it that far, there’s a blood trail a blind vegetarian could follow.

Recently there’s been one other change. Now they’re made by Speer.

Lead Head Bullets
Home  |  Magazine Subscription Information  |  Shopping / Sporting Goods  |  Back Issues  |  Loaddata  |  Advertising  |  Contact Us  |  Gun Links
Wolfe Publishing Company
Wolfe Publishing Company 2180 Gulfstream Suite A Prescott, Arizona 86301    Call Us Toll-Free 1.800.899.7810