by Aaron Carter - Friday, May 29, 2009
Varmint and predator hunters demand a lot from a bullet. A bullet must be uniform in weight, inherently accurate in design and it must withstand velocities of 4000 fps without coming apart in flight. Varminters also want explosive expansion and minimal penetration, thereby reducing the chance of ricochet, while most predator hunters need a bullet that delivers a lethal blow with minimal pelt damage. Barnes Bullets' new Varmint Grenade fulfills these needs.
The Varmint Grenade is a 36-grain, .224-inch, lead-free bullet with a highly frangible core consisting of a compressed copper and tin composite. Since the core material is less dense than lead, the bullet is long for its weight. The Varmint Grenade approaches the overall length and ballistic coefficient of heavier lead-core bullets, and greatly exceeds those in the same weight class. This improves downrange ballistics. A volatile core combined with a scored, thin jacket, wide meplat (tip) and cavernous cavity create a bullet that is extremely explosive at high velocity. According to Barnes, the Varmint Grenade "vaporizes" ground squirrels and prairie dogs while leaving little or no exit wound on larger animals, such foxes and coyotes. This sounded too good to be true, so I put the new bullet through a host of tests.
At the Range
I shot the Varmint Grenade into a Bullet Test Tube at 10 yards and found that the bullet began expanding approximately .25-inch after impact. Within the first 2 inches of penetration the wound cavity peaked in diameter, and at 5 inches it closely approximated the diameter of the pre-expanded bullet. Although most of the bullet fragmented, a small piece of the base and sidewall penetrated 8 inches.
I also tested the Varmint Grenade bullet by shooting several into the carcasses of nuisance beavers. Regardless of distance or shot angle, the results of the Bullet Test Tube were mimicked-a bullet-diameter entrance hole and no exit. The verdict: When shooting an animal, expect the entrance hole to be the diameter of the bullet-a good thing for those who save pelts-followed by rapid expansion and a small exit hole, if any. Barnes' claims held true.
The Groundbreaking Design
Bullets designed for varminting and predator hunting must be very accurate, as the quarry is small and shots are often at long range, so I put the bullet through its paces in the most accurate gun I had on-hand, a Savage Model 12 Long Range Precision Varminter in .22-250 Remington. Behind the Varmint Grenade, I used Hodgdon H380 powder, Federal Gold Medal 210M primers and Remington brass. The bullet was seated to give a 2.350-inch overall length. The best accuracy came with 39.5 grains of powder, producing an average velocity of 3915 fps and turning in a five, three-shot-group average of .325-inch at 100 yards. Although this bullet has better downrange ballistics than others in the same weight class, it's still a lightweight projectile and more apt to be affected by wind than heavier ones. There is no arguing that given the right rifle these bullets will turn in spectacular results, but the wind must be accounted for. For those who don't handload, the Varmint Grenade bullet is loaded in .223 Remington by Black Hills Ammunition. This load has a muzzle velocity of 3750 fps.
Bullet Type: varmint
Core: compressed copper and tin composite
B.C.: .149 (.224 cal.)
Calibers/weights available: .224/36 grain, .243/62 grain
Uses: varmint/predator hunting
MSRP: 100 count: $16.47; 250 count: $39.31
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