By Keith Wood
Myth: You must handload to get the maximum performance out of your hunting gun.
The Backstory: I’ll start by saying that I’m a serious handloader, I rarely buy factory ammo and it’s even more rare that I hunt with it. The reason is part economic and partly due to the fact that I often hunt with oddball cartridges with few, if any, choices in factory ammo. That said, if you hunt with anything resembling a mainstream cartridge, the world is your oyster these days.
When you hunt with cartridges like these, handloading is often mandatory.
Premium bullets are a boon to the hunter, their performance is stuff that hunters of yesteryear could only dream about. Handloading used to be the only way that a hunter could use great bullets such as the Nosler Partition, Barnes X, or Trophy Bonded Bear Claw.
The Market's Response: Today’s ammo companies, large and small, have embraced the premium bullets and offer plenty of combinations for the hunter to choose from. Let’s say you hunt with a .308 Winchester, a great cartridge for just about anything that walks in North America and much that strolls elsewhere. Federal Premium lists 8 different loads with premium bullets designed for hunting. Add in the other major manufacturers, and you’ve got a couple dozen options to choose from.
Recently, I’ve spent a good bit of time testing ammo from boutique “custom” ammo makers. The two that I’ve been most impressed with are DoubleTap and ASYM. Mike at DoubleTap is a fanatic about performance; he eats, sleeps, and breathes high performance ammo—his company features 6 different hunting loads for the .308. ASYM is more defense-oriented and only has one .308 load suitable for hunting applications, but it’s great stuff and every load of theirs I've tested has been very accurate.
DoubleTap’s Mike McNett discusses his ammo’s performance with Gunsite Instructor Charlie McNeese.
Gelatin blocks demonstrate the performance of DoubleTap’s ammunition as well as excellent component bullets like this Barnes.
The Ruling: I’m not knocking handloading, and I’m not going to stop—there’s no question that it saves money and adds versatility. Economics aside, it’s no longer true to say that handloading is a always a necessary evil for ammo that maximizes accuracy and performance on game—as long as your deer rifle isn’t a .318 Westley Richards.