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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.

cali pig

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Earth Day 2015: Thank You Hunters!

earth day jpgHappy Earth Day, I hope you can get out and shoot a turkey, do some fishing or just take a hike in the woods and revel in God’s great outdoors. You deserve it, because you are one of America’s top environmentalists and conservationists.

By paying excise taxes on guns, ammo and bows, we hunters have generated $6.8 billion for wildlife conservation since 1937. For more than 80 years, sportsmen have paid more than $13.7 billion for habitat projects in every state to protect the environment and our fish and wildlife.

If you see a greenie-weenie environmentalist strutting around and preening on this Earth Day, tell them to stick that in their pipe and smoke it.

And tell them to read this excerpt from an article by two of America’s top deer biologists, Drs. Larry Marchinton and Karl Miller:

In the United States roughly 3 million white-tailed deer are harvested each year from a still-growing population of approximately 19 million. This translates to about 150 million pounds of meat. Add to this the amount of elk, turkey, squirrel, rabbit and other game as well as wild fruits, nuts, and vegetables that is consumed. To produce this amount of beef, chicken, or vegetable crops in addition to that which is already produced would be ecologically devastating. Acres and acres of wild places would have to be destroyed to accommodate this increased agricultural production. More wildlife habitat would have to be plowed under. More pesticides would be applied. More soil erosion would occur. More waterways would become lifeless drainage ditches. Isn’t it better that some of us reap a sustained harvest from natural systems, rather than destroy these systems?

Yes, and so we shall go on hunting, shooting animals and eating them, our environment is better for it.

Posted in BigDeer | 2 Replies

California: Lead Ammo Ban Statewide

cali pigThey have been talking about totally banning lead ammo for hunting in Cali for years, even decades, and now it looks like they are finally going to do it. The NSSF says:

The California Fish and Game Commission…adopted regulations to implement a law that will ban the use of traditional lead-component ammunition for all hunting in the state by July 1, 2019. The implementation will involve multiple phases, beginning with the 2015 hunting season. What has started in California could become reality elsewhere as anti-hunting groups use the supposed harm caused by traditional ammunition as a wedge issue to further their ultimate political agenda of banning hunting across the country. Get the facts in this video.

Nothing they do out in Cali surprises me. Rather than fussing about the lead ban, I used it as an opportunity to hunt with copper bullets for the first time. Last September, I hunted the beautiful oak hills and valleys in the Central Coast near Paso Robles. Here, the use of lead bullets has already been banned for years. I packed a couple boxes of Barnes VOR-TX (all-copper bullets with a polymer tip) in .270 caliber and weighing 130 grains.

I’ll post a full review of how the Barnes bullets shot and performed for me later this week. For now this hint: I fired 2 copper bullets in the field and dropped 2 animals, including my first-ever Cali pig in the picture.

 

Posted in BigDeer | 2 Replies
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