Velocity is the speed in which a bullet screams downrange, and the rule has typically been thus: The higher the velocity, the greater the recoil, report and cost. For years, ammunition manufacturers have been trading velocity, pressure and accuracy, especially with today’s copper and gilding metal bullets, which are longer than traditional lead bullets. High velocities with lead-free bullets have been primarily achieved by compressing large amounts of slow-burning propellants. This has caused pressure on the high end of Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers’ Institute (SAAMI) standards, as well as heavy recoil and accuracy problems for many manufacturers’ loads.
Hornady believes it has addressed these issues with its new Superformance ammunition through development of custom powder blends. Watch as Hornady Chief Ballistics Scientist Dave Emary explains the mystery behind the new ammo. To confirm his claims, American Rifleman Managing Editor Aaron Carter traveled to the Hornady factory in Nebraska for extensive testing on both the range and in the field.
Pain and Price for Performance
The ability to enhance external ballistics or, in some instances, attain SAAMI standards, without exceeding established Maximum Average Pressures (MAP) has proved difficult. The latter is especially true with copper and gilding metal bullets, which not only occupy additional case capacity, thereby displacing propellant but, with longer bearing surfaces, increase pressure.
Higher velocities have been, and still are, achieved by ammunition manufacturers primarily by using large, heavily compressed charges of slowing-burning propellants. Problem is, propellants used in such loads are of insufficient progressiveness, and therefore unlikely to be consumed before the bullet exits the muzzle—especially when using lightweight projectiles. With this, a solid crimp is required to prevent bullet migration. The result: For a modest increase in velocity, the tradeoffs are generally increased recoil and report, oftentimes lackluster accuracy, and higher ammunition prices.
Hornady experienced these tradeoffs in their Light and Heavy Magnum ammunition. “Like other companies’ ‘enhanced’ loads, Light and Heavy Magnum resulted in fierce recoil and concussion …,” said Emary. Assembled via a dual-mechanical compression procedure, not only was consistency difficult to maintain, but the process was also time-consuming and, requiring greater amounts of costlier propellants, forced prices significantly higher than those of the company’s Custom line ammunition.
Superformance: The Need for Speed
A Few More Details
Hornady’s Superformance ammunition achieves faster speeds with less propellant and recoil, and could revolutionize the ammo business. Watch the video of Dave Emary discussing Superformance, and be sure to check back here mid-December for Aaron Carter’s extensive report, including technical data, written for the January 2010 issue of American Rifleman magazine.
** Under no circumstances should a handloader attempt to blend propellants. Always follow reloading data from reputable reloading resources exactly.