Hardware: Winchester Expedition Rifle Cartridges

posted on August 31, 2017

Let’s be honest. This is America, where looks may not be everything, but they are a big thing. That’s why pop stars wear evermore garish costumes, why famous brands update their logos, and why ammunition manufacturers upgrade their packaging. New colors and graphics catch shoppers’ attention.

But with ammo, pretty is as pretty does. Improvements in brass, primer, powder and bullet are what shooters really need. And that’s what they get in Winchester’s new Expedition Big Game and Expedition Big Game Long Range lines of centerfire ammunition. The boxes are new, the branding is new and the performance should be better than ever.

“One of our objectives with our new Expedition lines is to simplify our selection of hunting ammo, make it easier for hunters to identify the loads they need for various hunts, various species and various shooting ranges,” said Brad Criner, product manager at Winchester.

“Expedition Big Game is a rebranding of our big-game loads featuring AccuBond CT bullets,” he continued. “These hard-hitting, polymer-tipped, bonded-core bullets are optimized for trajectories and expansion characteristics ideal for use on big, tough game like elk, moose, bear and most African plains game out to 400 yards or so. Big bones, massive muscle, tough hides—AccuBond CT will handle it. These bonded bullets combine controlled expansion with deep penetration, so they can be used for whitetails, mule deer and the like, too. Gives you the option of making a less than ideal, steeply quartering shot if necessary.”

The AccuBond CT bullet is contoured much like the polymer-tipped Ballistic Silvertip, but with a thicker jacket and a more substantial, boat-tail heel. The biggest contributor to its deep penetrating characteristics is its bonded lead core. Attached at the molecular level—essentially welded together—the jacket and lead core cannot separate. The bonded design helps AccuBond CT bullets retain maximum weight and maximum momentum.

AccuBond CT expansion is initiated at the nose by the polymer tip being forced back into the lead core upon impact. The external jacket is relatively thin at the nose, so it peels back easily. As the nose contour reaches full bullet diameter, the jacket thickens markedly to limit and eventually stop expansion—another design feature that aids penetration. AccuBond CT bullets are coated with Winchester’s black-oxide Lubalox to reduce engraving forces and barrel fouling.

“Now, our Expedition Big Game Long Range line is all new,” Criner said. “It’s built around the more sleekly designed, higher-ballistic-coefficient AccuBond Long Range bullets.” These are heavy-for-caliber projectiles—for example, the .30-caliber AccuBond Long Range bullets Winchester loads weigh 190 grains—with long ogives and boat-tails. Because they resist air drag so well, they retain more energy downrange. This means they shoot flatter than bullets with lower ballistic coefficients and drift less in the wind.

AccuBond Long Range bullets have been engineered with deeper hollows behind the polymer tips, different jacket tapers and thicker, heavier jacket bases to optimize expansion and deep penetration out to 700 yards at impact velocities as low as 1300 fps. Essentially AccuBond Long Range bullets yield terminal performance similar to AccuBond CT bullets, but at extended ranges.

Both Expedition lines include Winchester-optimized powders in each load, and all rounds have nickel-plated brass cases for slick feeding and smooth function. “Basically what we’ve done with Expedition is focused on the end use and optimized performance to meet that need, then labeled it as such,” Criner elaborated. “This makes it easier for hunters to pick ammunition based on what they hunt and how far they shoot.”

I got hold of 6.5 Creedmoor and .30-06 Sprg. Expedition Big Game Long Range loads with just enough time remaining in a range session to fire several three-shot groups through three rifles. The 142-grain 6.5 Creedmoor load recorded an average muzzle velocity of 2650 fps from the 22-inch barrel of a Barrett Fieldcraft and a Bergara Stalker. In a custom Winchester Model 70 with a 24-inch barrel, the 190-grain .30-06 Sprg. load had an average muzzle velocity of 2736 fps. The extreme spread of the muzzle velocities from both loads was consistent, suggesting the ammo would achieve good accuracy.

Most of the groups measured between 1.28 and 1.5 inches, though I admit to being rushed. I had expected these rifles to turn in their usual minute-of-angle or better groups. Although the length of the AccuBond Long Range bullets might be pushing the envelope for stabilizing in these barrels’ twist rates, bullet holes in the targets appeared uniformly circular and showed no signs of unstable flight. I plan to spend more range time with Winchester Expedition Big Game Long Range in preparation for this fall, because the in-flight and on-game performance this ammo promises is too good to ignore. 

Technical Specifications: Winchester Expedition Big Game
Caliber: 14 loads from .25-06 Rem. to .338 Lapua Mag.
Bullet: 110-gr. AccuBond CT (.25-06), 300-gr. AccuBond CT (.338 Lapua Mag.)
Ballistic Coefficient: .420 (.25-06 Rem.), .720 (.338 Lapua Mag.)
Muzzle Velocity (advertised fps): 3100 (.25-06 Rem.), 2650 (.338 Lapua Mag.)
Muzzle Energy (advertised ft.-lbs.): 2,347 (.25-06 Rem.), 4,677 (.338 Lapua Mag.)
MSRP: $34-$44 per 20-rnd. box

Technical Specifications: Winchester Expedition Big Game Long Range
Caliber: 6.5 Creedmoor (tested), .270 Win., 7mm Rem. Mag., .30-06 Sprg. (tested), .300 WSM, .300 Win. Mag.
Bullet: 142-gr. AccuBond Long Range (6.5 Creedmoor), 190-gr. AccuBond Long Range (.30-06 Sprg.)
Ballistic Coefficient: .719 (6.5 Creedmoor), .640 (.30-06 Sprg.)
Muzzle Velocity (advertised fps): 2700 (6.5 Creedmoor), 2750 (.30-06 Sprg.)
Muzzle Energy (advertised ft.-lbs.): 2,298 (6.5 Creedmoor), 3,190 (.30-06 Sprg.)
MSRP: $35-$45 per 20-rnd. box


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