Ammo That's On Target

From hotter shotshells to faster rifle loads, there's always something new in ammo. Here's a look at a few of the top manufacturers' latest offerings. (October 2007)

In 2007, one of the most significant themes in the development and introduction of new hunting firearms, optics and ammunition is a growing importance of "niche-market" items: that is, products not aimed at mainstream purchasers, but at discriminating, special-interest hunters with specific needs who know exactly what they want and are willing to pay for it. At the same time, the overall trend of the past few years toward smaller and more powerful everything continues.

Driven by the ammunition industry's new propellant developments that permit higher velocities, more power, and longer-range capability in shorter barrels without higher pressure, we continue to see smaller cartridges and shorter-action, more compact, lighter firearms. "Easy-to-carry" remains the hunter's mantra.

All serious hunters know that the first decision they need to make is ammunition. First, you choose the load you need for the game you're after. The gun and the sight come next. This also means that if you're curious about what new guns and sights are coming on the market, you first look at what's new in ammunition.

For 2007, the ammunition world is increasingly marked by the advent of new, special-application cartridges, often tied to specific brands of guns. It's also continuing to center on new high-performance bullet designs and cartridges that use new fast-burning/ low-pressure propellants to put ever more power into smaller and shorter cases. Also, there are significant additions to the rimfire cartridge world, and also more developments in high-tech sabot shotgun slug loads and special-purpose shotshell loads. Here are some of this year's most interesting new ammunition products.

Brenneke Classic Magnum 16-Gauge, 2 3⁄4-Inch Slug

With more power than a 20 and less weight and bulk than a 12, the 16 gauge is enjoying a resurgence in popularity. Now, with Brenneke's Classic Magnum slug in 16 gauge, its comeback is complete. The Classic Magnum 16 features the H-type disk, which improves accuracy up to 50 percent. Five-shot groups of under 2 inches at 50 yards are common. It handles both smoothbore and rifled barrels with ease.

The Brenneke Classic 16 excels in knockdown power, accuracy and overall performance. Five-round groups under 2 1/2 inches at 100 yards are common. At the same time, its 3.53-square-inch frontal area generates 2,309 ft.-lbs. of muzzle energy, overcoming the lack of power that limits ordinary sabot designs.

CCI .22 Win. Mag. V-Max

No one offers more rimfire choices than CCI, which is this year adding yet another load for the .22 WMR: a new 2,200 fps velocity offering featuring a 30-grain polymer-tip Hornady V-Max bullet with 322 ft.-lbs. of muzzle energy. The V-Max bullet is known for explosive expansion on small game and varmints and sets the standard for accuracy with its higher ballistic coefficient for flatter trajectory -- only a .5-inch mid-range rise when zeroed at 100 yards. This addition gives CCI a total of seven offerings in .22 Win. Mag. that include TNT and GamePoint bullets and No. 12 shotshells.

Federal Premium Vital-Shok .204 Ruger

Federal Premium is offering another explosive bullet in the hot, new .204 Ruger. A 32-grain Nosler Ballistic Tip will be added to the 39-grain Sierra BlitzKing already available. The .204 Ruger is a proven performer in the field and an effective varmint cartridge.

Like other Nosler Ballistic Tip Varmint bullets, the .204 utilizes thin-mouthed, highly concentric tapered jackets and form-fitted, pure lead cores for accuracy and violent expansion across a broad spectrum of velocities and ranges. The Solid Base boat tail design, long ogive and polycarbonate tip confer ballistic coefficients substantially greater than bullets of identical weight and diameter.

Federal Fusion

Federal's new Fusion brand is expanding this year with offerings in four additional calibers, including three Fusion Lite options that provide terminal energy with half the recoil of standard velocity loads. These include the .270 Winchester 145-grain Fusion Lite at 2,200 fps, the .30/06 Springfield 170-grain Fusion Lite at 2,000 fps, and the .308 Winchester 170-grain Fusion Lite at 2,000 fps. New full-power Fusion offerings also now include the .338 Federal 200-grain Fusion at 2,660 fps.

Slug hunters will welcome the addition of a line of Fusion Sabot slugs in both 20 gauge and 12 gauge -- a 20-gauge 3-inch, 5/8-ounce Fusion Sabot Slug; a 12-gauge 3-inch, 3/4-ounce Fusion Sabot Slug; and a 12-gauge 2 3/4-inch, 3/4-ounce Fusion Sabot Slug.

Finally, blackpowder hunters can now take advantage of Fusion's unique technology with the addition of three .50-caliber Sabot bullets (.45-caliber projectiles) -- a 240-grain, a 260-grain and a 300-grain.

Fusion bullets feature a copper jacket electrochemically fused to the core. The resulting jacket is built up molecule by molecule, to eliminate component separation, and provides a uniquely uniform copper jacket wall thickness for balance, stability and accuracy.

Hornady's New .375 Ruger Cartridge

Designed in conjunction with Ruger, Hornady's new .375 Ruger cartridge is similar to the .30/06 in overall length, but delivers performance that exceeds the .375 H&H -- long considered a benchmark cartridge for African big-game hunters and North American hunters of dangerous game. The cartridge was designed from the ground up to provide greater knockdown power with a shorter cartridge from a standard action and a 20-inch barrel. Thanks to optimized case geometry and advances to propellant technology, the .375 Ruger improves on the velocity of the .375 H&H. When fired side by side with the .375 H&H with 24-inch barrels, the new .375 Ruger delivers 170 fps more velocity from the 270-grain load, and

145 fps from the 300-grain loads.

Hornady will produce the .375 Ruger in three different loads: a 270-grain Spire Point Recoil-Proof, a 300-grain Round Nose and a 300-grain Solid.

Lightfield Hybred EXP Slugs

Lightfield Ammunition's Hybred EXP slug system is available in 20 gauge and 12 gauge, with the 385-grain 20-gauge slug launching at 1,502 fps with 1,929 ft.-lbs. of energy, and the 546-grain 12-gauge slug launching at 1,454 fps and 2,564 ft.-lbs. of energy. The Lightfield Hybred EXP (Maximum Expansion) cartridge projectile has a two-sided sabot that keys to four tabs on the slug itself. When the shell is fired, the pressure pushes the wad forward, locking the slug and sabot together, and forces the locked sabot/slug assembly to expand to the full barrel diameter and spin together as one unit.

Just like a badminton birdie, the lighter wad or "shuttlecock" stays attached to the slug while in flight, giving the projectile stability while supersonic, and prevents shockwave deflection when the projectile becomes subsonic. Upon impact, the maximum expansion of the soft lead slug (essentially a .62-caliber bullet in 12 gauge) produces lethal results.

Remington .17 Remington Fireball

For 2007, Remington wants you warmed up to 4,000 fps velocities, extreme accuracy and less cleaning. The next generation of small-caliber performance is the Remington-exclusive new .17 Remington Fireball. It breaks the 4,000 fps barrier with one of the smallest powder charges ever, which means less fouling and more shots between cleanings. It's a super-efficient case design that, when matched with Remington's 20-grain AccuTip-V, shoots flatter than a .22/250 Remington 55-grain loading.

Remington will be chambering several of its rifles for this new cartridge, leading with the new Model 700 SPS Varmint, as well as the Model Seven CDL, Model 700 SPS, Model 700 CDL SF Limited and Model 700 VSF.

Winchester Xtended Range High Density Coyote Load

For the growing number of hunters who use a shotgun for coyotes and other predators, Winchester now offers its longest range load. New from Winchester Ammunition is the Supreme Elite Xtended Range High Density Coyote shotgun load. With a high-velocity and heavy 1 3/8-ounce load, the B-sized pellets deliver the energy and penetration needed to take coyotes at long ranges.

The Xtended Range Hi-Density pellets are consistently round and deliver uniformly dense patterns. Because they weigh more than lead, the pellets retain their penetration energy for long-range shot effectiveness. The result is Winchester's longest-range load, with effective knockdown power but less pelt damage than is normally encountered with rifle use.

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