by John Zent - Wednesday, September 28, 2016
For deer hunters preparing for the season, deciding what ammo to shoot when there are so many excellent options nowadays could be considered a good problem to have. That quandary just got a bit more unsettled for me after a trip to the range to test-fire the new Browning BXR. It’s part of a wide-ranging collection introduced early this year, including centerfire rifle, rimfire, pistol and shotshell cartridges, Browning’s return to the ammunition business after a 35-year absence.
While I got to see the line’s other centerfire offering—BXC (i.e., expansion controlled—in action during a New Zealand stag hunt in April, this was my first serious range work with the BXR (expansion rapid). To gauge the accuracy of the BXR .30-06 155-grain loading, I fired groups from a Browning X-Bolt Hell’s Canyon Speed Edition bolt rifle, the same model we used in New Zealand with the stouter controlled-expansion loads. Given the .30-06’s popularity, I expect it will be Browning’s top-selling rifle number, though in fact there are seven calibers in BXR line, ranging from .243 Win. to .300 Win. Mag. Whatever the caliber, if other hunters get results like I did, this stuff is really going to get a lot of attention.
To cut to the chase, my average for five 3-shot groups at 100 yards was .76 inch. The first group (on the middle bull) was the loosest (getting used to the trigger, perhaps) but after that the rig settled right in, eh? Group 4 (at 9 o’clock) opened a little, but the final cluster (3 o’clock) is back down to just over a half-inch. In my long experience, this is about as good as it gets from an out-of-box production rifle shooting factory ammunition. Now I want to be careful not to fall for a new flame after just one giddy “dance” and so intend to continue getting acquainted and extend the test-firing to a couple more rifles. Even so, a lot of deer hunters—me included, at times—have chosen a pet load based on even slimmer evidence.
Along with accuracy, deer hunters often seek ammo that optimizes fast knockdown. Of course the biggest part of that is shot placement, regardless of brand or bullet construction, but consensus holds that fast-expanding projectiles placed in heart-lung anatomy produce more immediate knockdowns than do tough controlled-expansion (bonded or copper) bullets that penetrate further before mushrooming, if they mushroom at all. Browning Ammunition achieves sudden upset by pairing a tapered jacket with an oversized proprietary Matrix Tip. Forced back on impact, the copper/polymer nose-cone jump-starts expansion at the front where the jacketing is quite thin. However that deformation is checked by the thicker taper at the bullet’s base. As such the BXR is designed to hold together and keep penetrating, most likely achieving complete pass-through. If it works according to plan, I’m predicting very few of them will be recovered from deer-sized game. I’ll also bet that many, if not most, users will have a sure-thing blood trail to follow.
Deer hunters also tend not to pay top dollar for their ammo. In that, they’re being practical, not cheap, because added expense is mostly in the bullet, which, as suggested above, may be counterproductive to on-the-ground expectations. Browning Ammunition is positioned in the mid-price range, a spend quite a few hunters will make for top performance. If you end up using a BXR load for your deer hunting drop us a line to share the outcome. If I get lucky when our season comes in, I’ll do the same.
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