Obviously, not all ammo can be cheap junk. So what’s going on?
Anecdotal evidence. Rural myth. The notorious garbled grapevine. One hunter has trouble with a particular brand of ammo and, whether it was the wrong bullet for the job, his firing pin was striking too softly to ignite the primer or he made a bad shot, the ammunition gets blamed. The Internet has email hoaxes. The shooting world has equipment rumors.
The truth is today’s ammunition is better and more consistent than ever. Not only does most of it “go off,” but it goes off consistently with amazing accuracy driving some of the best bullets ever produced. Not long ago major manufacturers constructed basic cup-and-core bullets in two or three weights per caliber. You bought Remington Core-Lokts or Winchester SilverTips—and that was about it.
Then, in the late 1970s, Federal Ammo took the bold step of loading someone else’s bullet—Nosler’s famous Partition—and everyone else joined in. Hunters have been benefiting ever since.
Today, Federal, Remington and Winchester load a variety of formerly “handloaders only” bullets, such as Nosler Ballistic Tips, Woodleigh Weldcores, Sierra GameKings, Trophy Bonded Bear Claws, Swift A-Frames, Barnes’ Triple Shocks and more.
Hornady has gone from selling bullets to selling an extensive line of loaded ammo using their great lineup of bullets. Nosler and Norma offer high-quality loaded centerfires.
Smaller firms like Double Tap, PMC, Black Hills Ammo and others give us even more options. Then there are custom loading companies, such as Superior Ammunition and Ultimate Ammunition, tailoring loads for top performance in your rifle with virtually any bullet you desire. Bergers, perhaps?
Many rifle makers like Gunwerks offer custom ammo loaded for top performance in their long-range rifles.
So, bad ammunition? I don’t think so. The trick is to ignore wild rumors. Check things out for yourself. Study bullet design and construction. Then determine which you think will work for your type of hunting or target shooting. Keep accurate records of performance over chronographs and from a solid bench rest.
If you’re worried about ignition in cold temperatures, put the ammo in the deep freeze overnight, haul to the range in a cooler full of ice and shoot it cold. Heck, you can even submerge some in water for a few hours if you want. To save money, try trading ammo with buddies so you can all test five to nine rounds or so to determine which specific loads group best in which rifles.
As for performance on game, you’ll have to test that under actual hunting conditions. If a bullet doesn’t do what you think it should, start looking for another—but don’t ignore an entire brand of ammunition just because of some rumor.