Supercharged Cartridges


Are the Federal High Energy and Hornady Light Magnum hunting ammunitions worth their premium prices? We say no.

Seven different loads with two different bullet weights of .300 Winchester Magnum ammo were fired, including two new High Energy offerings.

Choosing an off-the-shelf factory ammunition load for big-game hunting used to be straightforward. The serious hunter would go down to the local shop, buy a box of three or four different brands in the bullet weight he wanted to shoot, tested their grouping ability in his rifle on the range at 100 yards, and took the best round afield.

Then Federal introduced its Premium line of ammunition, which featured the Nosler Partition bullet, and the world of factory hunting ammunition was changed forever. Now virtually every major ammunition maker offers a premium bullet in factory ammunition. With high-performance bullets commonplace, the next step in the evolution of factory hunting ammunition was muzzle velocity. For many years, companies have been thinking about ways to make their bullets go faster without increasing pressures beyond acceptable SAAMI specifications. In 1995 Hornady accomplished the feat when the company unveiled its new Light Magnum line of ammunition. By using a special ball propellant manufactured by Winchester and a special method of dropping that powder, Hornady was able to increase the muzzle velocity of several cartridges enough to market new hunting ammunition to speed-crazy hunters and shooters. Federal soon followed, introducing its new line of Premium High Energy ammunition in 1996. Like Light Magnum, High Energy touts faster muzzle velocities and increased performance over standard loadings in the same caliber.

If you believe the advertising claims made about the Hornady Light Magnum and Federal High Energy ammunition lines, you believe that your .30-06 will now perform like a .300 Magnum—a claim both companies make. Furthermore, Hornady’s new television ads show a race car peeling rubber, implying that Light Magnum’s performance versus standard ammunition is comparable to a Formula One racer competing against a commuter clunker. Also, Federal’s High Energy ammunition was recently named 1996 New Product of the Year by the Shooting Industry Academy of Excellence, a 200-member academy comprised of dealers, manufacturers, and industry writers.

But can either of these products match their hype? Performance Shooter decided to take a close look at both Light Magnum and High Energy ammunition to see what, if any, benefits these new cartridge lines actually give to hunters.

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Premium Rifle Bullets

In our expansion tests, we preferred projectiles from Swift, Barnes, and Winchester over the venerable Nosler Partition. From left to right are: PMC’s Barnes X-Bullet
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Gold Medal .45 ACP Ammo

The Gold Medal brand edged out Winchester and Remington in a head-to-head test of factory 185-grain target ammunition. We recently tested three lots of .45
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The .30-378 Versus The 7mm STW

Both cartridges kick ballistic butt, but we pick Remington’s new Westerner over Weatherby’s big-dog chambering. The .30-378 Weatherby (right) and 7mm Shooting Times Westerner (left)
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High-End .22LR Ammo


This currently shipping lot of rimfire ammunition outshot seventeen other pricey brands in two different guns. Close runner-up: Lapua’s Dominator M.

Because .22 LR rimfire ammunition can’t be handloaded, we continue to test shipping lots of many commercially available .22 ammo brands, trying to find brands and lots that shoot well in more than one gun. Though there’s no guarantee that top-ranked rounds fired in our guns will shoot well in yours, we have concluded that good ammo tends to shoot well in most guns, and bad ammo doesn’t shoot well in any. We believe some lots of ammo are absolutely better than others, and they will tend to perform well in many different firearms. By testing ammo in a range of guns, we can find lots/brands that outperform other lot/brands in most cases. When we identify those products in multigun tests, we believe it is likely that ammo which shoots well in several guns will tend to shoot well in yours.

We recently tested eighteen brand/lots of expensive .22 ammo in two rifles, an autoloader and a bolt action. Of these currently shipping lots, we recommend Federal GM Ultra Match Lot 1674, which shot pack-leading groups in both guns. Also, Lapua Dominator M Lot 6849C took second in both guns. Among the bottom feeders in this test were PMC’s Zapper Lot 22CC2207 and the Winchester High Velocity Lot 2GA51L, which constituted two of the bottom three rounds in both guns.

How We Tested
Our test guns were a Volquartsen Custom Model Mossad, which comes with a matte-black fiberglass thumbhole stock floating an 18.75-inch-long stainless fluted barrel. The barrel also has an integral muzzle brake. The 10/22-style autoloader retails for $1,136. The second gun was a KFS NS 522 bolt action. The Chinese-made rimfire has an overall length of 39.5 inches and an unloaded weight of 7.75 pounds. The gun’s 21-inch barrel is hammer forged and free floated. It sells for $300. We topped both guns with a 40mm-objective 36X Bausch & Lomb riflescope with a 1/8-minute dot.

We shot the test at 100 yards, using the 100-yard .22 rifle tube at the Bayou Rifles range in Houston, Texas. This ensured that wind and changing light conditions would n0t affect the data. We bench-fired the guns off a Ransom Rest benchrest and a rear bunny bag. We fired 10 five-shot groups to collect our accuracy data, spotting the rounds with a Nikon 20- to 60-power Field Spotting Scope. Using a Parker-Hale cleaning rod and jag, we cleaned the guns with Pro-Shot Lead and Powder solvent between lots and then fouled each gun before shooting the next test lot. We measured all the groups to the nearest tenth of an inch using a Neal Jones benchrest-scoring device. To collect the 10-shot chronograph data, we used an Oehler Research 35P chronograph.

Here’s what we found:

The Winners
Unquestionably, Federal GM Ultra Match Lot 1674 dominated this test. It shot 0.77-inch groups in the NS 522, with a best group of 0.57 inch and a worst group of 0.93 inch. In the Volquartsen Mossad 10/22, the Ultra Match shot 0.83-inch average groups, with a best group of 0.67 inch and a worst group of 1.05 inch.

Coming in a respectable second was Lapua Dominator M Lot 6849C, which shot 0.84-inch groups in the Mossad, with a super best group of 0.48 inch and a worst group of 1.27 inch. In the 522, the Lapua shot 0.97-inch average groups, with a best group of 0.78 inch and a worst group of 1.10 inch.

Worth A Look
Other bullets shot very well in at least one gun, which suggests they might do well in yours, too, if you own a similar product. Among this group is Eley Match Xtra Lot WQ3058, which shot 0.90-inch groups in the Volquartsen and 1.14-inch groups in the KFS gun. An inexpensive but good-shooting pick is Federal GM Target Lot CY110, which shot 1.07-inch groups in the Volquartsen and 1.19-inch in the KFS bolt action. Ammo that shot better than the field in the Volquartsen includes Eley Benchrest Gold Lot WS1211 (1.04-inch group average), RWS R50 Lot 463WF358 and Eley Club Xtra Lot FR43 (1.09-inch group averages). In the 522, Fiocchi Pistol Lot 0135002 shot 1.08-inch groups, and it didn’t do badly in the Volquartsen Mossad 10/22 autoloader, shooting 1.11-inch-size groups on average.

Not Recommended
The rest of the field didn’t match up to the handful of products mentioned above. We see no compelling reason to buy those lots of ammunition.

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Long-Range Hunting Rounds

Weatherby’s new, powerful cartridge outhits Remington’s Westerner—but the 7mm round is more affordable and matches up nicely with midsized game. Hunters who need to shoot
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Bolt Gun

Ruger’s .308 Bolt Gun

The M77RBZ rifle outshot Winchester’s Featherweight and Browning’s A-Bolt II Stainless Stalker—and it cost less. The Browning A-Bolt II Stainless Stalker com- bines a synthetic
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Safari And Trophy Bonded

These rounds from Remington and Federal showed speed, power, and expansion qualities we liked. Losers: Two Federal loads that turned to shrapnel.   The Remington
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