The National Association of Sporting Goods Wholesalers (NASGW) held its annual fall event in Dallas. Like other NASGW shows, it proved the ideal place to scout innovations soon to debut in sporting and defense ammunition and handloading components. While the Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade Show (SHOT) in January is a hectic convergence of thousands of vendors, the wholesalers get-together gives harried journalists a chance to jam a question between hunting stories, and snare details of items still in prototype stage. I asked about planned 2014 introductions, and products slated for 2013 but delayed. “We sold all we could make of just about every existing load,” became an echo. “We didn’t have time, staff or the need to change over plant machinery to make new items.”
The buying frenzy that wiped dealer shelves clean of pistol and .223 ammo and drove .22LR fare above $5 a box is subsiding, though plenty of shortages remain. Ammo makers know the line between relentless demand and static inventory can be thin indeed. New products drive interest and, in slack times, can keep a business alive. Here are some of the new and recently available ammo offerings I uncovered in Dallas.
Since its acquisition by Remington, Barnes has accelerated its introduction of new ammunition lines. Last year alone, it introduced TAC-XPD Defense loads in .380, 9mm, .40 S&W and .45 ACP, as well as a .270 offering in its LRX long-range-rifle series, plus four new loads (.22-250, .260, .280 and .300 Weatherby) in the Vor-TX hunting group. Like many ammo manufacturers, Barnes was swamped with orders in 2013, and not all the new products reached dealer shelves. I suspect the TAC-XPD was especially hard to keep on hand. It features all-copper hollow-point bullets in plated cases, with powder formulated to kick bullets out at top speed with little muzzle flash. No doubt Barnes will roll out more loads in its rifle, handgun and muzzleloader lines. The Utah company’s “tactical” catalog lists eight flat-shooting offerings, .223 to .338 Lapua, including two in .300 AAC. For more information, visit barnesbullets.com.
Five lines of ammunition from this growing young firm—Hunting, Tactical, Long Range, Safari and Defense—have been joined in 2014 by a sixth. Lead-free cartridges will serve shooters using indoor ranges and hunters where traditional lead-core bullets aren’t permitted. DoubleTap has profited lately not only from strong industry demand for ammo, but from a fortuitous choice right out of the gate. “We decided to market 10mm pistol loads when that ammunition became scarce,” said DoubleTap President Mike McNett. “Four of those loads are still in the line, and we still sell more 10mm ammo than anyone else.” According to McNett, the Cedar City, Utah, firm peddled 15 million 10mm cartridges in 2012! DoubleTap centerfire rifle ammunition gets thorough testing. “We fire all long-range loads at 1,000 yards.” To qualify for that label, each must shoot into a minute of angle from more than one rifle at that yardage.
For more information, visit doubletapammo.com.
One of the most innovative products I’ve seen lately is a new big-game load from Environ-Metal, the makers of lead-free Hevi-Shot for waterfowl. “Actually, we designed it for pigs,” said Hevi-Shot President Ralph Nauman. “Tough animals, often shot on the run.” You might consider these 12-gauge loads hybrids, with the best attributes of both slugs and buckshot. Available in 3- and 3½-inch shells, each payload is a stack of two or three steel balls, sized to nearly fill the bore but clear the tightest chokes without dragging. Each ball has its own plastic cup. Upon firing, the balls are cushioned by the cups, which hold them as they zip down the bore. “Those balls print within 6 inches of each other at 50 yards,” Ralph insisted. “Sometimes much closer! And they’re centered. You get adequate spread for running shots, but good odds for multiple hits and at least one strike through vitals. Because they don’t deform, the balls drive deep. And the two or three points of entry cause more damage inside than you get from most single-wound channels.” Yes, the Oregon-based firm still produces Hevi-Shot. It’s 10-percent denser than lead and 56-percent denser than steel. For more information, visit hevishot.com.
As last year’s shortage of .22 rimfire ammunition eases, Federal is pushing more through industry pipelines. A new load will bolster its 2014 selection. Marketed under the CCI label (also owned by ATK), the Suppressor .22 Long Rifle is a subsonic offering, with a 45-grain hollow-point leaving the muzzle at 970 fps (feet per second). A gentle cartridge made gentler still! The bullet is designed to open readily at the reduced speed for lethal hits on small game. Also new are the Federal Champion .22 Long Rifle 36-grain hollow-points in a Fresh Fire pack, a nitrogen-sealed can that ensures like-new performance after extended storage. A plastic lid lets you keep the can airtight after opening. This full-throttle ammunition kicks bullets out at 1,275 fps.
While most shooters think of Federal Premium as a line of centerfire rifle ammunition, it’s also the banner for high-octane handgun loads. The latest of these serves the 10mm market. Vital-Shok TB 10mm ammunition features 180-grain Trophy Bonded jacketed soft-point bullets at 1,275 fps. Premium handgun loads for personal defense cover a wide range of pistol and revolver rounds, from .32 Auto to .44 Magnum and .45 Auto. Last year, Federal added the HST line in 9mm, .40 S&W and .45 ACP. The HST jacketed hollow-point was developed to endure tough FBI tests. Weight retention through FBI barriers—clothing, wallboard, plywood, steel, auto glass—averages over 90 percent. These bullets deliver double-diameter upset in gelatin. Guard Dog ammunition for home defense (9mm, .40 and .45) fires bullets designed for immediate expansion and reduced penetration through walls. For more information, visit federalpremium.com.
One of several ammunition brands under Germany’s RUAG banner, Geco catalogs a range of metallic sporting ammunition, plus air-gun pellets and a shotgun load with a Teflon-coated slug at 1,476 fps. Pistol ammo from .25 Auto to .44 Magnum includes five bullet types. Centerfire rifle loads, from .223 to 9.3x74R, come with three hunting bullets: an RWS semi-spitzer soft-point (Classic line), a poly-tipped spitzer (Express line) and a new bonded bullet, the Geco Plus. The Plus behaves “much like the Norma Oryx in tough game,” according to Alan Newcomb, VP of sales and marketing for RUAG Ammotec USA. In other words, expect deep penetration in tough animals, with at least 90-percent weight retention. Look for it in Geco hunting loads for popular American numbers like the .270 and .308, the 7mm Remington and .300 Winchester Magnums—and, of course, the .30-06. For more information, visit Geco-munition.com.
The new-products list from the Grand Island firm includes a handgun safe under the Hornady Security label, plus a Lock-N-Load Control Panel for advanced handloaders who might also want the new rifle bullet feeder and powder safeguard die (to eliminate no-charge and double-charge drops). The company’s bullet line has grown by two SST spitzers: a 170-grain 8mm and a 285-grain .338 A-Max.
In loaded rifle ammunition, Hornady has followed its American Whitetail series with Custom Lite, a stable with lightweight InterLock and SST bullets in eight chamberings: .243, .270, 7mm-08, .30-30, .308, .30-06, 7mm Remington Magnum and .300 Winchester Magnum. They’re charged to deliver deer-killing punch but substantially less recoil than standard cartridges. This is also true for the new 12- and 20-gauge Custom Lite shotgun slug loads, with 300- and 250-grain FTX bullets. Want more sauce from that slug gun? American Whitetail 12-bore loads launch 325-grain InterLock hollow-points at full throttle. Recoil-tolerant 20-bore fans should favor the Heavy Magnum Turkey load, with 1.375 ounces of #5s packed into a 3-inch shell.
Hornady’s Critical Defense ammunition for handguns excels for close-quarter, life-on-the-line shooting. The addition last year of the .32 NAA, .32 H&R, .38 Special Lite, .30 Carbine and .410 raised the number of Critical Defense offerings to 17, including a 45-grain load for the .22 WMR. The “Triple Defense” .410 round launches two 35-caliber round balls behind an unjacketed FTX slug.
Critical Duty ammo has the same flat-top FTX polymer insert as Critical Defense cartridges, but there are differences. Critical Duty bullets feature hard (high-antimony) cores secured to the jacket with an InterLock band—a FlexLock design for deeper penetration and unerring flight through glass. Bullets for both of these ammo classes are cannelured to prevent setback under recoil. New for 2014 is a 135-grain FlexLock Critical Duty load in .357 Sig. It brings the line total to five, after the debut of the 220-grain +P .45 ACP offering last spring. This ammunition has been flying off the shelf and, given current market conditions, will probably continue to sell briskly. For more information, visit hornady.com.
Famous for its pure-lead (well, 99 percent), hourglass-shaped slugs, Lightfield has developed a wad and proprietary powder to give this big-game missile a killing punch and rifle-like accuracy. Its 1992 debut has been followed by a host of new loads in 12 and 20 gauge. The recent Boar-Buster sends a 465-grain, .73-caliber slug from a 2¾-inch hull at 1,600 fps. At 100 yards it’s still traveling at over 1,000 fps and packing 1,240 foot-pounds of energy. Lightfield has brought its experience with non-lethal wildlife-control loads to the personal-defense front, with 12- and 20-gauge and .410 loads driving polymer balls. Blanks labeled “Zombie Blasters” have practical counterparts in the NOVA-DR line in 12 gauge, 20 gauge and .410. A big flash and loud bang can intimidate intruders without destroying your home or bloodying floors. Such “warning shots” don’t preclude lethal loads from the magazine. For more information, visit litfld.com.
Norma’s experience with moose loads is largely responsible for the 6.5×55’s popularity among Scandinavian moose hunters. I’ve killed elk with it, too. Norma’s Oryx controlled-upset bullet from rifles of modest recoil is especially adept at upending big animals. Norma also loads the Swift A-Frame and Barnes TSX, Nosler’s Partition, AccuBond and Ballistic Tip. The company’s own hollow-point Kalahari bullet is a flat-shooting alternative that appears in new loads labeled American PH from Norma USA. The front of a Kalahari bullet breaks up in the vitals while its lead-free shank penetrates. From 120-grain .270 to 125-grain 7mm and 150- and 155-grain .308, these bullets are loaded to move fast in the .44 American PH offerings now cataloged (.54 with Weatherby chamberings). They’re attractively packaged in boxes featuring North American big game. Incidentally, Blaser Magnum cartridges are loaded exclusively by Norma. So is all Weatherby ammo. For more information, visit norma-usa.com.
Renowned for its bullets, from the famous Partition in 1947 to last year’s AccuBond Long Range, Nosler announced in 2013 a line of pistol ammunition. These loads, in 9mm, .40 S&W and .45 ACP, are just now becoming widely available. They feature Nosler hollow-point bullets in both Match and Defense ammo (though not the same designs). Another Defense-line option, due early in 2014, are poly-tipped bullets. Meanwhile, Nosler’s stable of rifle ammunition keeps growing. It includes the .280 Improved, a versatile wildcat that’s long been a Nosler family favorite for big game. You’ll also find the 6.5 Creedmoor and .300 AAC Blackout, the .338-06 A-Square, .350 Remington Magnum, 9.3×62 and many other rounds not commonly cataloged. The Bend, Oregon, firm also has Dangerous Game loads to .500 Jeffery, including the .470, .500/416 and .500 Nitro Express double-gun cartridges. These feature soft-points and Nosler’s own all-copper solids. For more information, visit nosler.com.
“Some of what’s new at PMC is packaging,” said PMC’s Richard Henderson, pointing out that vigorous demand for existing loads kept all machines humming throughout 2013. The .223 and 5.56mm will now come in Battle-Packs—vacuum-sealed, high-density polymer sleeves. “We’re also shipping the X-Tac line, introduced last year,” said Henderson. Look for the .223 with 77-grain MatchKing bullets and the .308 with 168-grain MatchKings. “The .50 BMG will feature our own 740-grain all-copper bullet,” added Henderson. PMC offers a line of shotshell ammunition, including a rifled slug, buckshot, light-recoil buckshot and copper-plated and lead-free birdshot loads. Besides high-performance rifle and pistol cartridges, you’ll find frangible “SinterFire” rounds in 9mm, .40 S&W and .45 ACP, and in 5.56mm, 7.62m and .50 BMG rifle chamberings. For more information, visit pmcammo.com.
Unprecedented demand for all types of small-arms ammunition in 2013 has no doubt prompted a few enthusiastic handloaders to “go commercial” and validated growth plans for existing young firms. One of these, TrajeTech, already has three lines of ammunition besides the loads it provides government agencies. The Ohio-based firm, in business since 2006, employs Barnes TSX bullets in its hunting line. “Tactical” rifle ammunition and a line of pistol rounds are also “new-manufacture” and made in the USA. TrajeTech sells re-manufactured ammo as well. For more information, visit trajetech.com.
Doug Phair, president and CEO of Western Powders, confided recently that its new LT-32 has drawn plaudits from the most demanding clique in the industry. “Benchrest shooters are drilling smaller one-hole groups with this powder than with any other right now,” Phair said. For most of us, any one-holer, regardless of size, is cause for celebration. But to win at Benchrest, you must deliver absurdly tight knots. LT-32, a singe-base propellant available in 1- and 8-pound canisters, has top marksmen switching from Hodgdon’s 8208, which has also put shooters at the top of the scoreboard. Western Powders, in eastern Montana, markets Ramshot, Accurate and Montana X-Treme rifle powders, as well as Blackhorn 209, a favorite of the muzzle-loading clan. For more information, visit westernpowders.com.
Sometimes a company outdoes itself. Winchester has opened the floodgates in 2014 with a long list of new products. Its Train & Defend handgun ammunition, in .380, 9mm, .38 Special and .40 S&W, was engineered in pairings. The “Train” load for each cartridge features lead-free primers and FMJ bullets in brass hulls. Powder charges deliver mild recoil. These Train rounds come 50 to a box. The “Defend” loads duplicate trajectories of their “Train” counterparts, but the jacketed hollow-point bullets are driven faster from nickeled cases. They’re packed in boxes of 20. For recoil-shy people with limited time to practice and restrictions imposed by indoor ranges, the new Train & Defend option makes particularly good sense. But these loads will likely find a much wider market. An offshoot from this introduction is Winchester’s Win 1911 .45ACP ammo with 230-grain FMJ and JHP loads.
In 3-Gun competition, shooters must show up with a handgun, rifle and shotgun. Winchester can help with the ammo. Its new Win3Gun category has six loads, one each for the 9mm, .40 S&W, .45 ACP and 5.56mm, plus 00 Buckshot and #7½ birdshot 12-gauge loads. Pistol and rifle cartridges feature lead-free primers; the handgun bullets are “compensated-ready, encapsulated.” Also new for competition: Match rifle ammunition in .223 (69-grain), 5.56 (77-grain) and 6.5 Creedmoor (140-grain). These loads join .308 and .338 Lapua Match, with 168- and 250-grain bullets. These missiles are hollow-point boat-tails.
Big headlines for varmint hunters at last year’s SHOT Show was the .17 Winchester Super Mag, a rimfire that flings 20-grain poly-tip or jacketed hollow-point bullets at 3,000 fps and 25-grain poly-tips at 2,600. Savage produced the first rifle for this fast-stepping round—and at this writing it’s still the only one. “Like the rest of the industry, we didn’t expect the tsunami of orders for ammunition in 2013,” said a Winchester salesman. “Nor did we anticipate a hiatus in new-rifle development as firearms manufacturers scrambled to fill orders for existing models. But this .17 is fast and accurate, with almost no recoil and a lower price tag than centerfires that perform in its category.” He was no doubt referring to the .17 and .22 Hornets. Of course, you can’t reload .17 Winchester Super Mag hulls. But this limitation didn’t stall the .17 HMR, a less ambitious .17 rimfire that’s proven wildly popular.
Shotgunners after big, tough birds are always seeking higher pellet count and deeper penetration. They get both in Winchester’s new Long Beard XR 12-bore loads with 1.75 and 2 ounces of shot in 3- and 3½-inch hulls. Choose #4, 5 or 6 pellets. The transparent shot collar, enclosed at the heel, looks ordinary. But the copper-plated lead shot is fused, literally, by a compound you might confuse with clear, hardened glue. It is in fact a binder, if more sophisticated than glue. Take a shell apart and you can lift the column as a unit! The idea is to fill space between pellets so they don’t bang against each other and deform during setback or ricochet off each other as violently at exit. Upon launch, the binder releases its grip without “opening up” holes in the column. Winchester claims twice the usual pellet count in a 10-inch circle at 60 yards! More energy and deeper penetration, too. Pheasant hunters get this advantage with new Rooster XR loads, in 2¾- and 3-inch 12-bore hulls (1¼- and 1½-ounce loads of # 4, 5 and 6). Long Beard shells, 10 to a box, clock 1,200 fps. Rooster XR ammo is packed 15 to a box; the shot exits at 1,300 fps.
New shotgun loads at Winchester include 20-bore orange and black TrAAcker AA ammunition. A hit when it was announced last year, 12-gauge TrAAcker ammunition showed me exactly where I missed clay targets (and I’ve missed plenty!). Loaded with a normal 1.125 ounces of shot, the special wad has long notched petals. It also “captures” 0.125 ounces of the charge, which stabilizes wad spin and keeps the plastic cup in the center of the shot column well beyond the range at which many upland birds are killed. I found the orange color easy to track against a variety of backgrounds. Black works well against bright sky but can escape against a dark, mottled backdrop. Unlike tracer shells, TrAAckers are not incendiary. Loads of #7½ shot leave the muzzle at 1,300 fps. Winchester has also added 12- and 20-gauge waterfowl offerings to its Blind Side stable. Now available with 3- and 3.5-inch magnum charges of BB and #5 (12-bore) and 3-inch loads of #3 and #6 (20-gauge), Blind Side ammo features tightly stacked hexagonal shot that deliver more hits and more destructive wound channels than traditional round pellets.
These days, defensive shooting is driving ammunition development. Winchester fielded its first line of personal-defense ammo five years ago. For 2014 it’s adding a 20-gauge segmenting-slug load for shotguns. The slug is of traditional Foster profile but engineered to break into three equal projectiles on impact. The result: three lethal wound channels and a reduced chance of pass-through or ricochet. The 0.75-ounce slug exits the 2¾-inch hull at 1,600 fps. For more information, visit winchester.com.
You can pay $22 for some sporting ammunition. Per shot! But you won’t find it at Wolf, whose reputation rests solidly on affordable centerfire fodder. The WPA (Wolf Performance Ammunition) line of Berdan-primed, steel-case cartridges comprises nine rifle and six handgun loads. Bullets feature copper and bimetal (steel and copper) jackets. Wolf lists soft-points, hollow-points and full-metal-jacket spitzers. A “Polyformance” case coating aids in feeding and extraction. The Military Classic stable is similar, with a few more SKUs, three .30-06 loads among them. New in 2014 is a Military Classic listing in 6.5 Grendel. While this ballistic superstar of the AR-15 is offered by other companies (and in Wolf’s own brass-hulled, Boxer-primed Gold hunting stable), it’s priced as big-game ammo. The new steel-case Grendel, with 110-grain bimetal-clad JHP at 2,620 fps, costs little enough to shoot by the ammo can. And isn’t that what an AR is for? Other new Wolf offerings consist of 9mm 115-grain FMJ and .45 ACP 230 FMJ loads (both steel-case), and a .223 Gold load with a 55-grain FMJ at 3,240 fps. For more information, visit wolfammo.com.