As I walked down the reloading isle at my local sporting goods store, my trained eye was already fixed on the shelf, the spot that typically had my favorite go to component bullets. The latest ammunition scare had driven the shooting public to buy everything up, and as I made my rounds looking for what was left, all I could see was the barren and depleted shelves. What was once a bountiful supply of fine bullets from every manufacturer had been reduced to a couple red boxes with numbers like .35 on them, and some green boxes that hadn't moved in years. What was a frugal and zealous shooter to do?
It's times of drought, and serious projectile privation like these, that can drive a trigger-happy enthusiast to try something out of the ordinary. Having just come into a .260 Remington barrel for my DT SRS, I was very eager to experience the craze of the 6.5 millimeter cartridges I'd heard so many good things about. Unfortunately this all happened a while back, during the last ammunition scarcity. My desperation took me in a direction I had never considered, and thank goodness it did.
It was on this, one of my ventures to the gun shop, whilst scouring furiously for some 140 Amax's, or some 142 Match kings, I found myself looking at a black box from Barnes. " 140 Match Burner's ," I mumbled to myself, checking over my shoulder to make sure nobody was snooping around the single can of powder I'd managed to scrounge. After a few minutes of quick paced internet research on my phone, I decided I'd give them a try. The ballistics looked impressive, and the price was less than my other choice bullets. So it made sense, and I wanted to get this .260 underway.
That first box was the beginning of a beautiful relationship, with almost no load work up, I had them shooting well under MOA groups. I hastily bought up every other box of Match Burner's I could find, which at the time of this ammo crunch, didn't seem to be as affected as other brands.
That was a long time ago, and it seems like I wasn't the only one to catch onto this great bullet, and great American brand. That .260 and I have made some pretty awesome shots since then, every one of them made with a Match Burner. One of the things that made this bullet so remarkable to me, was how it lined up perfectly with my ballistic computer. So many other times I'd have to fudge the numbers here or there in order to make things line up. Not so with the Match Burner, it was on at 300 yards, 900 yards, and 1200 yards as well. I had begun to think I was simply lucky, but my curiosity led me to find the source of all this precision.
I decided to investigate the lineage of these fine bullets, and since I only live a few hours away from the Barnes factory, it was a worthwhile opportunity.
I first met up with Brett, the Barnes public relations rep in the lobby area of the Barnes factory. An impressive collection of animals decorated the scene, making it very clear, that when it comes to hunting, Barnes is serious. I explained to Brett my experience with the Match Burner, he nodded and smiled. I could tell it was no news to him, traditionally a hunting bullet manufacturer; Barnes was now taking an impressive share in the competition and match bullet market. With their introduction of the Match Burner line in 2011, Barnes intended on giving shooters a superior bullet, at a cost that was friendlier to their budget. It has since been gaining traction.
Earlier this year, Barnes released their Precision Match line of ammunition. For those that rely on factory made ammunition, Barnes has 5.56 ammunition loaded with 69gr and 85gr OTM bullets. As well as 308 Winchester loaded with 175 OTM, and 300WM loaded with 220gr OTM. I asked him when the 6.5 family of competition cartridges would be loaded, he smiled and said my request would be added to countless others. Someday, one can only hope.
We began the tour of the facility, starting off in the machine shop. Like most other gun company machine shops I've been to, this one had a pleasant aroma. The whir of machines working smoothly, the smell of cutting fluid mixed with a light scent of burnt powder lingering with it. State of the art equipment, used for making tooling and other parts was neatly arranged across the floor. Skilled American's working them, and above all the bustle, hung Old Glory, bathed in warm sunshine.
In my typical form, I couldn't stop grabbing at things. I told Brett to stop me if necessary, he again cracked his smile. We moved along to another side of the production area, filled with big machines, who's complexion and finish reminded me of an era gone bye. Big spools of copper rod, and copper ribbons lay about, hooked up to different machines. Large shafts and reciprocating cranks churned away reducing rods into copper slugs, and ribbons into pretty little copper cups. Buckets and buckets of slugs were neatly stacked around, ready to move along to the next process. The huge presses went one stage after another, driving slugs into dies that start the forming process of the now abundant variations of the Barnes solid copper bullets. Each step would further form the petal seams, and then the curved ogive, and then like a tuned Vegas slot machine, they funnel out the end of the line, into another bucket.
Proprietary machines, built by Barnes in their own machine shop, then cut the grooves in the bullets destined to become TSX's, LRX's and such. Other machines were setup for adding the tension held poly tips. Many inspection and quality control stations along the way, giving uncanny and precise views of bullet tips, grooves, and edges. I was very impressed with the ability to control and inspect every angle and edge of these bullets. Polishers' and wash stations finished up the bullets.
The latest surge in long range hunting has brought many questions of ethics; many opinions can be heard with good arguments either way. Instead of picking a side, and risk an offensive stance one way or another, the good people at Barnes have simply chosen to make quality bullets that will perform well in most given scenarios. The LRX bullet was designed to extrude maximum efficiency during flight, and deliver its payload energy directly. With a design allowing expansion at lower velocities, all these distinctions make it an ideal projectile for the long range hunter.
Brett showed me the machine where all my Match Burner's had been made. Another large press, pushing copper ribbon into cups, adding precut cores, crimping and sealing every one. All the different technologies employed at Barnes give them the ability to make all kinds of bullets, with different variations and materials. I could resist no longer, and dug a fistful of fresh bullets from the bucket. Still literally "hot off the press" .
I was surprised as we climbed the stairs to the laboratory, to see so much room and equipment invested in testing and research as in their manufacturing. I guess it should be so, you cannot make good products without good equipment to test it with. There was a large reloading area, complete with all the trimmings, where ammunition is tested, loaded, and tested again. Bullets are fired, and immediate changes to production can be made if needs be. A massive assortment of test barrels and guns, all fitted to test for pressure, and other specifics.
The report of a rifle startled me as we looked at the seemingly endless array of testing equipment, chronographs, high speed cameras, etc. We donned ear protection, and entered into the test firing range. Several individual indoor ranges, from 25 yards, all the way out to 300 yards, all used for testing bullets and ammunition. Again, high tech equipment made paper targets obsolete. Radar and microphones triangulate bullet impacts showing technicians on a computer screen where bullets impact, feet per second, ballistic coefficient, and time of flight. All in a split second, the information is shown on a display screen at the shooting bench. All this technology helps Barnes technicians to adjust and perfect every aspect of their product. In addition, at a nearby range, Barnes uses Doppler radar to follow bullets from the muzzle, all the way out to the mile mark. The reasoning behind this is both simple, and complex. Historical procedures to attain BC numbers for bullets consisted of measuring a couple different values; Starting out with muzzle velocity, and adding in the values of either a downrange speed, or a time of flight, one can calculate the BC value and use it in his drop tables. The advantage of using Doppler radar is that it takes much of the estimation out of this equation. With a constant and accurate view of the bullet, Barnes technicians are able to see the bullet from muzzle to backstop. Instead of using two or three data points along the flight path, they have a picture of the entire flight. Much the same way we prefer looking at a bold marked line showing a route on a map, versus a couple dots marked along our intended path. It's much easier to get an accurate coefficient number if your have the whole flight mapped out in front of you. The Doppler even has the ability to see the pitch, yaw, and roll of the bullet during flight, giving an even better look into a bullets performance during flight. These hard numbers give the dedicated marksman, and dutiful game hunter, a consistent and accurate bullet.
I am always shooting, but a hunter first. Given the surplus of great bullets in the marketplace today, it's not hard to get what you want. I made the mistake of discounting Barnes Bullets for many years, thinking that they only made bullets for Grandpa's .270 deer gun. But I have since come to rely on Barnes Bullets as a first string player in both my competition, and hunting cartridges.
Submitted by Jeff Wood