We were working our way along the edge of the cap rock, chatting quietly and glassing the distant stream bottoms and the subtle breaks in the West Texas terrain, when I grabbed my guide’s sleeve and backed away from the cliff edge. “They’re just here, right at the base of the cliff,” I told Keyton Haines, the 22-year-old guide for Miller Brothers Outfitters. He had the eyes of a hawk, but this time the client saw the game first.
“Aoudad?” he asked. I nodded in affirmation, and we both crept to the edge to glass the herd.
“There’s a good ram in the front, but don’t move, because those ewes are looking up here,” Haines instructed. Crouched behind a cedar bush, we were forced to wait until the females decided to follow the ram before we could get in position. By the time I got the Winchester Model 70—an older Classic Stainless chambered in .300 Win. Mag. that has been on so many hunts with me—settled on the ram’s shoulder, the slam-dunk 100-yard shot had turned into one at more than twice that distance. I adjusted about a hand’s breadth high to account for the drop and sent a 180-grain Norma BondStrike Extreme bullet on its way.
An aoudad, or Barbary sheep, is one tough hombre, with a well-founded reputation for soaking up a lot of lead. This ram took the first shot a bit low, but the second put him down for good. I’m not much of a sheep hunter (in fact the aoudad is not technically a sheep), but in such situations I appreciate a good bullet. When a longer shot in windy conditions is the norm, I like a bullet that has a high ballistic coefficient (BC) and the construction to expand at low impact velocities, yet does not fall apart if an animal is taken at close range. The Norma BondStrike Extreme is just such a bullet.
Third in Norma’s Strike series, BondStrike Extreme follows TipStrike, a flat-base bullet designed for rapid expansion (see “Hardware,” January 2019), and the lead-free EcoStrike. BondStrike Extreme is a polymer-tipped boattail bullet with its copper jacket chemically bonded to the lead core. Norma has been long renowned for its high-quality components and more recently for its line of bullets in factory ammunition. BondStrike Extreme ammo continues the tradition of consistency and accuracy.
The initial release features a .30-caliber, 180-grain bullet in five cartridges. The bullet has a G1 BC of .615, which translates to good retained velocity and energy for flat trajectory and minimal wind drift. BondStrike Extreme uses the same Norma brass cases that handloaders revere, and it’s fueled by the excellent line of Norma powders. The ammo comes in handy five-round cartridge holders, which can be used as a fire starter in an emergency.
I tested two BondStrike Extreme loads in a couple of my rifles that shoot well with a variety of ammunition: a Ruger M77 Mark II .308 Win. and the aforementioned Winchester Model 70. The Norma ammo printed three-shot sub-MOA groups in both rifles—.90 and .85 inch, respectively—and produced consistent velocities. The 22-inch barrel of the Ruger .308 Win. resulted in a muzzle velocity of 2608 fps measured by an Oehler 35P chronograph, while the 26-inch barrel of the Winchester .300 Win. Mag. gave 2985 fps. Feeding and ejection were flawless.
The .308 Win. load accounted for a whitetail buck during the 2018 rifle season with a frontal shot in the white patch of the throat at a bit more than 60 yards; the deer fell out of the scope as if pole-axed. After striking the spine, the BondStrike Extreme bullet traveled down the vertebrae and resulted in an immediate kill. The recovered bullet weighed 73.2 grains—weight loss was mainly due to the violent impact with the spine—but it held together. I’ve seen a good number of boattail cup-and-core bullets separate their jackets from their cores at high impact velocities, but the BondStrike Extreme maintained as much of its structural integrity as could be expected.
My shots on the aoudad ram at 250 and 275 yards were both pass-throughs that created good wound channels, but my pal Tim Brandt from Norma USA had a different experience altogether during our hunt. Tim bumped a ram at a mere 32 yards. His Savage .300 Win. Mag. put the aoudad down immediately, with the shot breaking the onside shoulder and the expanded bullet coming to rest against the offside skin. The strain on a bullet impacting stout shoulder bones at nearly 3000 fps will test any design; still, the recovered bullet weighed 108.2 grains for 60 percent weight retention.
The 180-grain BondStrike Extreme bullet has a sectional density of .271, so there is plenty of length to allow for expansion. Its bonded-core design checks that expansion on the close shots, yet the polymer tip helps guarantee expansion at longer ranges and slower velocities.
All said, BondStrike Extreme ammunition is a great all-around choice for the big-game hunter: It is wonderfully accurate and works at a wide variety of ranges. Whether it’s an elk across a canyon, a whitetail in a bean field, bear over bait or distant pronghorn, BondStrike Extreme is designed to get the job done.