Review: Barnes VOR-TX Ammo & Copper Bullets For Hunting

barnes 1Copper bullets for hunting came onto the scene more than 30 years ago. But since I have been traveling all over the country and shooting lead bullets with great success during that time, felling my share of bucks and a few elk, I never felt the need to go non-lead.

Until last September, when I traveled to the Central Coast of California to hunt for blacktail deer. Doug Roth, my host for this hunt, told me to bring copper bullets, as lead projectiles were prohibited in the area we’d hunt. This was a first for me, but I gladly did so, seeing this as an opportunity to test a different kind of hunting bullet.

On the hunt I carried a Remington Model 783 rifle in .270. In my past experience with the .270, most any brand of 130-grain lead bullet had always proved very accurate. So for my first “copper hunt” I chose the Barnes VOR-TX .270 with 130-grain Tipped TSX (Triple Shock) boat-tail bullet.

barnes ttsxPhoto: As to the bullet’s design, notice the circumferential grooves in the long shank. I understand these grooves serve as relief valves, giving the hard copper material little slots in which to expand as the bullet travels down the bore. This in turn reduces pressure and leads to good accuracy in most rifle barrels.

Now see the bullet’s blue polymer tip, which serves two purposes. First, it improves the ballistic coefficient of the TSX bullet for better performance at long range. Two, upon impact with a thin-skinned animal (deer), the tip is driven back into the nose, initiating rapid expansion. As the bullet penetrates, the nose peels back into 4 sharp copper petals that basically double the bullet’s diameter to create a wound channel. The nearly 100% weight retention of the copper bullet results in great penetration and tissue damage, since the bullet doesn’t break apart and continues to do damage all way through an animal to the exit wound.

That is what this Barnes bullet is designed to do. So how did it perform for me?

barnes accuracyFirst, as you can see in this next photo, the 130-grainer shot super accurately in my Remington .270. At .6 inches with two holes touching, this was one of my best 100-yard groups, but I can consistently shoot MOA with this rig on a good day with little wind.

cali blacktail scenicPerformance on game: As you will see on TV later this year, the blacktail buck I shot with this bullet was quartering-away, pretty hard.  I could not have asked for a better angle for bullet-testing purposes. I aimed back on the last ribs and let the copper pill run three-quarters of the way up and through the animal and vitals, and into the off shoulder. The buck ran 60 yards, maybe, and piled up.

The bullet did not exit, and we found it when we skinned the deer. It had mushroomed nicely to about halfway back the bullet, which made for a “longer” mushroom that I am used to with a lead bullet. But I think this is pretty typical with a hard copper bullet.

On the smaller pig that I drilled at about 120 yards, the bullet blew through the critter noticeably fast and blew up a big cloud of dust on the off side. (A copper bullet is lighter and less dense than lead, and velocities are higher; this Tipped TSX 130-grainer is about 3,060 fps at the muzzle.) So fast was that bullet that it looks like I missed the piggy on TV. But no, it bolted 20 yards and went head over heels in a death roll.

In my limited experience, the Tipped TSX performed wonderfully, both at the range and on game. As we skinned the buck and I found the bullet, I asked my new friend Doug, who has hunted big game across North America with lead bullets for 30 years, and who through his first-rate California guiding business has seen as many animals shot with copper as any man, what he thought.

Given his druthers, I suspect Doug would still use lead. “I will say copper bullets have come a long way,” he says. “The early ones didn’t perform or expand very well. But the newer tipped rounds, like that Barnes you used, are pretty good.”

Some final notes: I look forward to using this copper 130-grainer more this fall, not because I have to, but because it might solve a dilemma for me. I love a lead 130-grainer in the .270 for its accuracy, as mentioned earlier, but oftentimes this bullet does not exit on a good-size buck. It kills deer dead, but with no exit wound, blood trails are non-existent. Bucks can run off and be difficult to find. Sometimes for that reason I go with a heavier 150-grain bullet for .270, but then I give up some velocity and flat trajectory at long range.

I like a hunting bullet that works hard all way through a deer, and then exits with a good-size hole. Copper bullets are noted for their penetration, so the 130-grain Tipped TSX might be just the ticket for me in my .270. I need to try it more on broadside deer to see.

In the end, I am glad I got the chance to hunt with copper bullets and I will do it again. The Barnes VOR-TX with Tipped TSX Bullet is available in some 20 calibers suitable for deer hunting, from .22-250 to .300 Win Mag. Best price I found on the Web was $41.99 for a box of 20 cartridges.

UPDATE May 6, 2015: California will require the use of lead-free hunting ammunition state-wide by July 1, 2019. And know this now: Non-lead ammo will be required for all hunting on CDFW state lands beginning with the 2015 season! 

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Deer Rifle Update: Remington Model 783

hanback stalking 783.jpg compressd

I was one of the first hunters to shoot and test the Model 783 back in 2012. That November John Fink, who works for Remington, shot the first ever buck with the 783 on a hunt with me in Saskatchewan. We filmed that 160-inch giant going down for my show, Big Deer TV On Sportsman Channel.

When I posted my first review on the Model 783 in January 2013, I had shot the rifle (in .30-06 caliber) quite a bit, but I had never killed a deer with. I have since shot 5 bucks with the 783, 2 with the .30-06 and 3 with one chambered for .270.

A recap of the Model 783’s features and specs:

Built in Mayfield, KY, the 783 bolt-action has a cylindrical receiver and a premium contour button-rifled barrel (22 inches and 24 inches for magnums). Designed for strength and rigidity, the barrel is attached to the receiver with a barrel nut system. Rifle is rock-solid, you feel that first time you pick it up.

The 783 utilizes a detachable metal magazine. The Crossfire trigger is set at 3½ pounds and adjustable.

The rifle is a little rough around the edges, with a no-frills, functional look. Stock is black synthetic, pillar-bedded and designed for a free-floated barrel. The butt-stock has a SuperCell Recoil pad. The 783 weighs in around 7.25.

For the last 2 seasons, I have hunted extensively with the Model 783 from Canada to Texas to Mexico. My observations:

The rifle is easy and comfortable to carry. Weight is well distributed, and it feels lighter than 7 pounds. You’ll like it if you hunt in mountains.

I’m big on the fit and feel of a hunting rifle–the better the feel of it the better you’ll shoot it. The first time I shot the 783 off a bench, it fit my shoulder and cheek right. I shot it well that day and have it shot well ever since. The design, lines and fit of the 783 also help to minimize recoil of the .30-06 and magnum calibers.

rem 783 target.jpg webRead any review of the Model 783 written by gun experts in the last 2 years, and the overwhelming theme is the rifle’s impressive accuracy…words like “amazing” or “astounding for a $400 rifle” is how most pundits put it.

I’ll leave discussion of the metalwork and craftsmanship of the 783’s button-rifled, contour barrel to those experts who know a lot more about those things than I do. But after 2 years of hard hunting with this rifle, I’ll jump on the bandwagon and go so far as to say the Model 783 is one of the most consistently accurate rifles I’ve ever hunted with.

In my .30-06 test model, I sighted-in and hunted with 150-grain Remington Premier Core-Lokt  and Hypersonic loads. More recently, in my .270 I have sighted and hunted with 3 loads: Barnes 130-grain Vortex copper, 130-grain Remington Bronze Point and 150-grain standard Core-Lokt. With all these loads, 100-yard groups have averaged 1 inch. Largest group with 150-grain .30-06 was 1.2 inches…smallest with 130-grain Bronze point was .6 inches, with several holes cutting. The .270 model (my favorite) is a real tack driver and loves the 130-grainers.

No matter the rifle and load, you can’t achieve consistent accuracy like that without a top-quality scope. All the Model 783s I have tested and hunted with are topped with the Trijicon Accupoint, either 3-9X or 2.5-10X.

Mike and deer profileIn the field, knock wood, I have fired 5 shots and killed 5 bucks. But don’t just take my word for it. Many of the bench shots and all the kills are documented with video from my TV show.

To me, a hunting rifle is a tool. I take care of my guns, but I use them hard, and don’t baby them. I’ve carried and banged my 783s around in mountains, in the high desert, on ATVs… This rifle is a workhorse, rough around the edges, but a durable performer and a shooter.

The Model 783 was originally chambered for .270. .30-06, .308 and 7mm magnum….243 and .300 Win. Mag. have been added. A camo synthetic stock is now available, as is a shorter compact version of the rifle.

The biggest news is the soon to come “scoped version” of the Model 783. The rifle will be sold with an “unbranded” 3-9X scope that comes mounted and bore-sighted. It will retail for $399, but you should be able to get it for around $330. If the scope is durable and shoots, this will be the deal of the decade for a deer-hunting rifle.

 

 

 

Obama, ATF Propose AR-15 Bullet Ban—Gun Owners and Hunters Take Action!

ar 15 AmmoFrom Washington ExaminerAs promised, President Obama is using executive actions to impose gun control on the nation, targeting the top-selling rifle in the country, the AR-15 style semi-automatic, with a ban on one of the most-used AR bullets by sportsmen and target shooters.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives this month revealed that it is proposing to put the ban on 5.56 mm ammo on a fast track, immediately driving up the price of the bullets and prompting retailers, including…Cabela’s to urge sportsmen to urge Congress to stop the president.

The AR-15 is among the firearms that the Obama Administration has unsuccessfully sought to outlaw. Since they can’t ban the rifle, they are going for the .223 ammo now.

The NRA’s Wayne LaPierre told  Fox Business that Obama is “grasping at straws,” since he has been unable to ban the AR-15 in the past. “This is a president that hates the Second Amendment, hates the constitutional right of Americans to own firearms.  He can’t win at the ballot box, he can’t win in Congress, so he’s putting on his dictator’s hat and he’s going to do it by fiat. And we’re not going to let it happen.”

The NRA worked with U.S. Representative Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, to draft a letter to BATFE expressing the lawmakers’ opposition to the proposed framework.

It is imperative that you contact your U.S. Representative and urge him or her to sign Rep. Goodlatte’s letter and to oppose BATFE’s proposed “armor piercing” ammunition framework. The NRA makes it easy for you to write your Representative, just click this link and go. Or call the Congressional switchboard at (202) 224-3121.

Fellow gun owners and hunters, we must stand together and never waver in our support of the Second Amendment. If Obama can ban one bullet with an executive order, what’s to stop him there? I wrote my Representative, Robert Hurt (R-VA), whom I fully expect to be with us. Write or call your representative today.

 

Video: Best Remington Core-Lokt Deer Shot

rem core lokt

The bullet that has killed more deer than other turned 75 years old in 2014. Serious gun writers with more knowledge of ballistic coefficients and terminal performance than me say that the iconic Remington Core-Lokt produces good accuracy in most center-fire rifles and “typically sheds considerable weight during expansion and penetration, which quickens the death of an animal.”

While I might not have as much ballistics knowledge as those gun writers, I have more field and hunting experience than most of them. I have shot dozens and dozens of whitetails and mule deer (and one blacktail) over the years with 140- to 180-grain Core-Lokts, both the soft-point and pointed-soft-points. The shock and knockdown power of these bullets are impressive. They kill deer hard.

Never is that more evident than in this video (below) we shot up in Saskatchewan. I am proud to say this is the quickest, cleanest and most ethical buck kill in all my years of hunting. I was shooting a Model 700 in .30-06 and using a standard 165-grain Core-Lokt. Keep in mind that this was a big-boned, heavy-muscled, 250-pound Canadian brute.

Is this one of the quickest and cleanest kills you’ve seen? And see the steam shoot out the deer? It was below zero that day.

Rifle Hunt: How Far to Shoot a Deer?

rifle shoot

One time I shared a camp out West with a gun writer of some repute. He was retired military and rough around the edges, but a nice enough fellow and well-schooled in literature, politics and firearms/ballistics in particular. Having fired hundreds of rifles and a zillion test rounds over the years, the guy couldn’t hear squat, but he could shoot.

I watched and spotted for him as he sighted his 7mm Mag. at 100 yards. I was impressed with his 1/2-inch groups, and I told him so.

A couple days later he dragged in a nice mule deer buck. “How far?” somebody asked randomly.

“542 yards,” the scribe bellowed proudly. He had missed with his first 2 “test” shots, but with his guide spotting the bullets as they kicked up prairie dust, the dude finally nailed the elevation and windage. He held a foot in front of the deer and over its spine, and plunked that third bullet smack into the lungs.

I was not impressed, and I told him so. I don’t care who you are, how experienced a rifleman you are, or how many thousands you spent on a rifle, scope and ammo. Nobody needs to be shooting at a warm-blooded critter more than 5 football fields away. I know long-range shooting is all the rage today, and that’s fine on the range, and fun. But not on deer!

My max is 300 yards…and then that is even far for me, especially when I’m striving to make a clean and ethical kill on TV. In HD, you can see the bullet part the hair on a buck. I want that bullet to be perfect on the shoulder, or almost so, every time—pressure man.

I ask you, how far is too far to shoot at a deer with a rifle? What is your max range?