New guns are great—who doesn’t love a new rifle, shotgun or handgun? But, let’s face it, guns last a long, long time. Ammunition is what really matters and, while hunting rifles haven’t changed significantly over the past few decades, ammunition really has. Advances in bullet technology have caused us to throw the rule book out the window when it comes to “X cartridge for Y animal” and precision ammunition with high ballistic coefficients have made shots possible that few of us having any business taking. So, let’s review some of the most exciting new loads for 2017.
Hornady Precision Hunter
Hornady’s Precision Hunter ammo, featuring its then-new ELD-X bullet, made a big splash when it hit the market last year. Though I have only used it on paper thus far, numerous credible field reports from friends using this ammo have been excellent. For 2017, Hornady expanded this line of ammunition to include the .270 Win., 7MM-08, .280 Rem., .300 WSM, and .300 Wby. Mag. Of particular interest to me is the 145-grain ELD-X load for the .270—a bullet with a BC of .536 is nothing to sneeze at and will help keep that classic cartridge relevant as shooters continue to push the distance envelope.
Nosler Subsonic Ballistic Tip
Suppressor use has skyrocketed in recent years, with 40 states allowing their use for hunting. Many hunters, particularly those of us who are trying to keep feral hog numbers in-balance on our lands, have sought-out subsonic cartridges including the .300 Blackout to further reduce sound signature afield. The problem has been that bullets designed to work at supersonic velocities were not performing well at slower speeds, resulting in failures to expand and the potential for wounded animals. Nosler responded to that feedback with a 220-grain .30-caliber bullet designed to expand at subsonic velocities. According to Nosler’s technical data, at 1000 feet per second this bullet expands to double its diameter, retains 90% of its weight, and penetrates 18 inches in gelatin. The Subsonic Ballistic Tip is available in both loaded ammunition (.300 BLK) and as a component bullet for handloaders.
Federal Premium Gold Medal Berger
Federal’s Gold Medal Match ammo has set the standard for accurate factory ammunition for as long as I have been shooting. The adage as always been “If it won’t shoot Gold Medal, it probably won’t shoot anything.” For 2017, Federal has teamed-up with Berger to create match ammunition using Berger’s sought-after projectiles. Berger has emerged as one of the absolute premier makers of match bullets but, previously, those bullets have not been available in loaded ammo by a major manufacturer. This line of ammo includes loads in four popular cartridges: .223 Rem., 6.5 Grendel, 6.5 Creedmoor and .308 Win. These loads will use Berger’s BT Match, OTM Match, and Hybrid OTM bullets.
Also worth mentioning from Federal Premium is the introduction of Fusion hunting ammunition for the 6.5 Creedmoor. As popular as the Creedmoor as become over the last few years, most of the ammunition available uses match rather than hunting bullets. The 140-grain bonded Fusion bullet should prove to be a versatile hunting load for 6.5 Creedmoor owners. Keep an eye out also for Federal’s Premium Edge TLR Long Range rifle loads, which should be available mid-year.
Remington Hog Hammer Buckshot
Back in 2013, the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimated that there were 5 million feral hogs in the U.S. that caused an annual $1.5 billion in attempted controls and property and crop damage. Who knows how many hogs we have now? As hunters, this epidemic presents an opportunity to be part of the solution while putting a steady supply of pork on our tables. Sometimes hogs are hunted in thick brush and they’re often on the run by the time we spot them. Solution? Buckshot. Remington has launched a line of 000 buck specifically for use on hogs. This load uses extra antinomy lead plated in copper so deep penetration is likely. It’s a 2¾-inch load so it will work in nearly any serviceable 12-gauge and eight pellets at 1325 fps will get the job done. This ammo comes in boxes of five cartridges so it will take at least million boxes to take out all of the hogs as long as no one misses.
Winchester Varmint X Lead Free
Coyotes could care less about lead ammo bans but, if you happen to live in California, you need to. Winchester’s Varmint X Lead Free ammunition uses a jacketed bullet paired with a zinc core to provide performance that mimics traditional cup and core designs while complying with regulations that prevent the use of lead containing ammunition. This ammo is available in three varmint appropriate chamberings: .223 Rem., .22-250 Rem., and .243 Win.
Federal Premium Hunter Match .22
No, we didn’t forget about rimfire ammunition and in 2017 you may actually find some on the shelves thanks to the outcome of the 2016 elections. Bulk .22 ammo is great for plinking but, for hunting small game, there are better options available. Federal’s Premium Hunter match is designed to provide excellent accuracy as well as terminal performance. The 40-grain lead hollowpoints are designed to expand out to 100 yards. The cases are nickel-plated which should help them extract more reliably from a rough or dirty chamber. MSRP is $7.95 for a box of 50.