Obsolete Arms and Ammo
By Bob Shell
They always performed well for me both in hunting and accuracy tests.
I have toured bullet plants and saw how conventional jacketed bullets are made but haven’t had the opportunity to see how pure copper bullets are made. In August, I went to a POMA conference for gun writers. Barnes is located on the way so I called ahead and a tour was arranged for us. The plant is located in Mona, UT which is a tiny town right off of I-15 about 2 hours or so south of Ogden. Upon arrival, I noticed that the plant is modern in every way and the employees are very courteous and helpful.
The tour was conducted by Ty Herring who is the customer service lead technician. As a long time employee, he is very knowledgeable and helpful. He showed us the dies in various stages of manufacture with the tolerances being kept at 50 millionths of an inch. To give you an idea as to how much thickness that is take a human hair and slice it lengthwise into 200 pieces and that will give you an idea of their tolerances. In order to make consistent bullets you need tooling that is consistent. With their modern machinery, such tolerances are possible.
To make the bullets Barnes buys rolls of copper wire that is made to their specifications both in material and diameter. The wire then is pulled through a die to insure that the diameter is perfect then is cut into a cylinder shape, the length determines the weight. After inspection they are fed into a large press that used punches to give the bullet its shape and hollow cavity. The tooling in the presses are inspected and replaced often to insure that the dimensions are as needed. Every operator is their own quality control technician and they always keep the bullets in specs.
Since they measure by ten thousands of an inch, we shooters can appreciate the effort used in making these fine bullets. There are no shortcuts taken and if the bullets don’t measure up they don’t leave the plant.
Once the bullets are made they have a proprietary machine that cuts the grooves in them. It is amazing to watch the process but no photos are allowed of that machine and a couple of others which is totally understandable. The bullets are cleaned in a large tub that contains ball bearings which shines them up really nice. They are then inspected again with a laser device that can pick up any defects and sort them out. As they are being packed the inspection process is again repeated. I have personally bought and used a lot of Barnes bullets of various calibers including the lead core bullets and never saw a defective specimen.
I watched a nice lady inspecting some 348 traditional bullets by hand, and since it is such a tedious job I joked with her as to whether she dreams of them when sleeping.
After the bullets are made some are tested at their shooing range upstairs to insure accuracy.
One of my several favorites is the TTSX 338 210 grain loaded in the 338 RCM Ruger Hawkeye in a 20” barrel. I get great groups and it should handle anything that I am likely to hunt. My 300 RCM, 30-06 and 270 also shoot very well with various Barnes bullets. I am presently conducting tests with the 70 grain 22 bullets and results so far look very promising. I have been shooting a Colt/Cooper in 260 Remington caliber. I had some Barnes ammo in 100 and 120 grain TTSX bullets and they were among the most accurate in this rifle which is one of the most accurate full caliber rifles I have shot. When I test ammo for an article I chronograph it as well as accuracy testing. I want to see if it is in the area of advertised velocity plus I can tell about consistency as well. I have shot a lot of their 30 caliber bullets in various weights and designs and they never disappoint. They have a 150 grain made for the 30-30 and I have found it to shoot extremely well in a couple of 30-30 rifles I have tested. Since it is pure copper it should anchor a black bear or hog.
The company started by making pure copper jacketed bullets with a lead core for hunting large game. The bullets worked very well as the design principal is sound. Pure lead and copper are more malleable then harder and more brittle alloys. They gave great penetration and killing powder as they also expanded reliably. Some of the harder alloys might shatter on large bones rather then penetrate and break the bones. I have some that are no longer made and I will hoard them away, my favorite is the 30 caliber 250 grain. I also have some 600 grain in 45 caliber that I will never fire as I don’t want the abuse. Anyway, I have shot various weights and calibers of these bullets with complete satisfaction.
About two decades ago Barnes started designing and producing pure copper bullets. They felt, and correctly so, that pure copper bullets will give superior penetration and killing power even with lighter weight bullets. They have established a worldwide reputation for a great hunting bullet and also an accurate slug. I have shot quite a few from the 6mm to the 454 Casull. Without exception they have performed quite well. My favorite is the 8mm 200 grain which is very accurate in my 8mm Remington Magnum. I plan on an elk hunt with this bullet.
Another thing to think about is lead bullets are banned in California so a hunter is obligated to use a copper or some other non lead alloy in that state. Never mind the stupidly of such a law it’s a reality and may spread to other areas. The pure copper Barnes bullets will pass the legal requirements in those areas. Barnes makes some copper bullets with hard alloy cores also.
Honesty would compel me to state that there are a lot of good bullets on the market today, some very sophisticated. Also for most hunting and shooting purposes, the common cup and core bullet works fine. In fact many hunters sight in and shoot their arms using the less expensive bullets then use the more expensive for a hunting trip. No one makes a “bad” bullet but using an incorrect bullet for the game hunted can make any bullet look bad. The Barnes lines of bullets are among the best and they deserve consideration on any serious hunting trip. Like any premium bullet they are not inexpensive but you get what you pay for. If you are going on a high dollar hunting trip it would be the height of folly not to have premium bullets.
They also make solids out of a brass alloy. They have long rods that are cut into length and machined to whatever caliber is desired. The laser cutter insures the demanded dimensions needed to produce a top notch bullet. They are made from 22 up to a dinosaur killing 577 Nitro. While I haven’t shot a lot of these the ones I did shot well. The Triple-Shock X bullet is made from 22 caliber up to a 577 while the tipped Triple’s go from a 22 to one made for the 458 Socom. You might want to check out their website as there are new bullets being added quite frequently. They also produce muzzle loading bullets as well as loaded ammo so you might want to visit www.barnesbullets.com to keep up with all of the goodies made by them.
I have shot the muzzle loading slugs in a couple of inlines and they were accurate as you expect from a Barnes product. They have a lot of other info on their site which would be beneficial to any shooter and reloader.
Anyone who is serious about reloading will have a reloading manual. In fact, I don’t see how you can reload without one. I strongly recommend that you buy several books from various companies. Like bullets, the other companies also make good reloading books that have a lot of info in them besides loading tables. No one produces a manual that covers everything and all calibers hence the need for owning several books. I have all of them and when a new one comes out I get a copy. I received the Barnes Reloading Manual Number Four for evaluation.
Before you get to the loading tables there is a wealth of information covering everything from reloading procedures to the history of the company. There are many safety tips and a wealth of ballistic info covered also.
I strongly recommend that anyone who has this book read it thoroughly whether you are a novice or pro. There is just too much good info not to read it. There is something for everyone from the novice to the expert. They even tell you how to sight in your rifle. The loading data has the usual recommendations for powder charges but instead of a history of the cartridge, it has a write up by an experienced hunter who has used it and the results he or she had. They do state in front of the manual that this info may not be suitable for gas operated semi auto rifles. My experience with them is they are definitely more finicky to load for and I try to avoid them whenever possible. There is also a small illustration of which game animals are best suited to that bullet. Since different people write these mini articles up you get many different styles which makes it more interesting to read. They also show the ballistic coefficient and sectional density of each bullet which is valuable info to have.
Since Barnes has a large line of bullets there is something for everyone. Like the rifle, section handguns are well covered also. They also have data for their muzzle loading projectiles which are pure copper like most of their bullet line. There is information in the muzzle loading section that should enable you to choose the right bullet for your hunting conditions. There are a few lead and copper jacketed bullets still being made mostly for the obsolete calibers such as the 38-55 and 348. They also produce it in the 45-70 which can be used in the 458 with somewhat reduced loads for deer and bear. One thing that I really like about the book is it includes such cartridges as the 500 Nitro Express among other rounds such as the 470 Nitro and the 505 Gibbs. I occasionally load for them and data is scarce so that addition is appreciated by me. It even lists the 577 Nitro! They fired about 200,000 rounds to develop the data shown in the book which is a lot of shooting.
There are a complete set of tables showing the trajectory of each bullet. It also has useful windage info and time of flight tables. The tables are done somewhat differently then other manuals. If you are planning a hunting trip using Barnes bullets you would do well to study the tables relating to your load. There are energy tables following that then a glossary. If you have any questions regarding which bullet to use this book should answer them. If you have any other questions try www.barnesbullets.com and someone there should be able to help you.
All in all there are 673 pages jammed packed full of info. The book retails for $24.95 depending on location and is worth every penny of it and more.
Over all great tour and great company I highly recommend hunters and shooters support the Branes Bullets band.
About Bob Shell
A Custom Reloader of Obsolete and Antique Ammo, Bob Shell, writes about the subject of Guns, Ammo, Shooting and Related Subjects. Visit: www.bobshellsblog.blogspot.com