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We don’t need new guns to shoot better. What we need is practice. Of course, good ammo helps too. In fact, better ammunition alone can make your guns deadlier and more versatile. Coming up with new cartridges and improved loads keeps ballisticians busy year-round. Here are the headliners for 2003.

RIFLE AND HANDGUN
Black Hills Ammunition began life remanufacturing rifle and handgun cartridges. But the South Dakota company has since developed lines of match, hunting, military and law- enforcement rifle ammo from scratch. There’s a new .223 load with a 60-grain Nosler Partition, and a .38/55 Cowboy Action load with 255-grain lead bullet. “Gold brand cartridges will soon include 100-grain Nosler Ballistic Tip and 115-grain Barnes X bullets in the .25/06,” declares co-owner Kristi Hoffman. “We’re also adding 140-grain Ballistic Tip and Barnes X loads for the 7mm Remington Magnum.” (605-348-5150; www.black-hills.com)

**Buffalo Bore **offers a .35 Remington load that drives a 220-grain softpoint at 2,200 feet per second (fps). There are also a couple of new heavy .44 Special loads: a 185-grain jacketed hollowpoint at 1,150 fps and a 255-grain Keith hard-cast bullet at 1,000 fps. (208-756-8085; www.buffalo bore.com)

As the most potent commercial revolver round in the world, the new .500 S&W; from Smith & Wesson reclaims the title once held by S&W; with the .44 Magnum. The .500 S&W;, loaded by Corbon/Dakota Ammo, Inc., with 275-grain, 400-grain and 440-grain bullets, turns up a ton and a quarter of muzzle energy. (800-626-7266; www.corbon.com)

Federal Cartridge’s Premium centerfire line will see few changes this year. Additions include a 150-grain Nosler Ballistic Tip at 3,300 fps, and a 180-grain Partition at 2,970 fps in the .300 Winchester Short Magnum (WSM). The Safari list now boasts a .338 Remington Ultra Mag load with a 210-grain Partition clocking 3,025 fps. Classic loads include a 64-grain JSP at 3,090 fps in .223 and a 180-grain Hi-Shok at 2,970 in .300 WSM. The .300 WSM loads added last year (with 180-grain Grand Slam and Trophy Bonded bullets) have sold to the wall, according to Federal’s Mike Larsen.

“We’ll market a new stable of cartridges with Speer Grand Slam bullets in 2003,” he says. “It will have an entirely new look. All Federal packaging will be overhauled. You’ll see attractive new boxes that more clearly tell what’s inside. There will be more ammo choices and the Classic line may also get a new look.” Larsen also confirms that the Trophy Bonded bullet, known for terminal performance, will see some changes. “We’ll make it more consistently accurate,” he says.

CCI/Speer lists a new 38-grain flat-point .22 Long Rifle bullet at 1,280 fps, a small-game load that hits hard but doesn’t mangle meat. There’s also a subsonic hollowpoint Long Rifle load in the works, which will fire a 40-grain unplated bullet at 1,070 fps. (800-322-2342; www.federalcartridge.com)

Hornady has introduced the polymer-tipped Interbond bullet, with an extra-thick jacket wedded to the core so securely as to ensure 90 percent weight retention in tough game. Test bullets show double-diameter expansion too. Five Interbond bullets are now available for handloaders: 130-grain .270, 130- and 154-grain 7mm, and 150- and 165-grain .308. Hornady Ammo loads the Interbond in .270 Win., 7mm Rem. Mag., 7mm Wby. Mag., .308 Win., .30/06, .300 Win. Mag. and .300 Wby. Mag. High-velocity Light Magnum loads also feature the Interbond.

Blackpowder hunters get a red-tipped bullet from Hornady, too. The SST muzzleloading bullet in .40 (200-grain) and .45 (250- and 300-grain) is for sabot use in .45- and .50-caliber rifles, respectively. It’s a jacketed bullet that looks like a squat SST and flies flat. So does the 300-grain .45 XTP hollowpoint Hornady now loads in its H2K shotgun slug loads. With a 150-yard zero, this sated slug drops less than seven inches at 200 yards. (800-338-3220; www.hornady.com)

Lapua, the Finnish firm known for high-quality ammo since 1930, now serves both hunting and military markets as part of Nammo (Nordic Ammunition Company). Last year’s moly-coated Signum .22 LR ammunition is just now reaching dealers in this country. It joins hyper-speed .223 and .308 “Aficionado+” rounds that launch 70-grain and 167-grain hollowpoint bullets at 3,180 and 2,719 fps, respectively. There’s also lead-free hunting ammunition in .30/06 and .308. (630-350-1116; www.Vihta vuori-Lapua.com)

CORE-LOKT GOES ULTRA
Remington debuts the Core-Lokt Ultra bullet as a bonded version of the venerable Core-Lokt. “It’s designed to replace the Nosler Partition and Swift A-Frame in our big-game line,” says Remington spokesman Eddie Stevenson, who notes that A-Frames will remain available only in Safari-grade cartridges. Partition bullets have been deleted from the lineup. Core-Lokt Ultras are now loaded in .270, .308, .30/06, .300 Short Action Ultra Mag and .300 Ultra Mag ammo. Expect to see that list expand.

Last fall, I tested this bullet on animals as heavy as 1,800 pounds. Pass-throughs were the rule on deer-size game. Weight retention after collisions with big muscles and bones varied more than I’ve come to expect from Winchester Fail Safes and Barnes X bullets, which drive deeper. The Ultra didn’t deliver the picture-perfect mushrooms you get routinely with the A-Frame and Trophy Bonded, but this bullet doesn’t cost as much as some of its cousins that have come to define “controlled expansion.” And it will floor tough game with quartering shots. It also seemed quite accurate. I fired several 1-inch groups from prone with Core-Lokt Ultras and a Remington 700 Titanium in .30/06.

Another new bullet from Big Green is the AccuTip. Gold-colored, the polymer tip might remind you of the Bronze Point bullet that deer hunters once favored for its flat flight and violent upset. Remington emphasizes that the AccuTip is supremely accurate and will deliver deadly expansion in deer-size game. As you might suspect, it will replace the Nosler Ballistic Tip in Remington loads. AccuTips now come in .243, .260, .270, 7mm Rem. Mag., .308, .30/06 and .300 Win. Mag. cartridges, in weights from 95 to 180 grains. Other long-range options include Swift’s polymer-tipped, bonded Scirocco, a more expensive bullet designed to penetrate tough game. A 90-grain .243 is the newest Scirocco load at Remington.

But there’s more polymer-tip news. Remington’s Lonoke, Ark., plant is now loading the .17 Hornady Magnum Rimfire. (Yes, those 17-grain spitzers are Hornady bullets.) There’s also a new rifle to shoot them: the autoloading Remington 597 Magnum. It shoots almost as accurately as the half-dozen .17 HMR bolt rifles I’ve shot that delivered sub-minute five-shot group averages at 100 yards.

Remington has also paid attention to old cartridges, like its own .350 Magnum, which first appeared in 1965. This year the .350 is back, with a 200-grain pointed softpoint Core-Lokt at 2,775 fps. Chambered with the .300 Rem. SAUM in the new Remington M673 Guide Rifle, which looks eerily like a 600 Magnum but with a longer barrel on a Model Seven action, the .350 routinely delivers 11/2-inch groups for me. Last fall it dropped a six-point bull elk that I stalked in New Mexico’s northern mountains.

Handgun hunters using the .454 Casull can now choose a Remington load with 300-grain Core-Lokt Ultra. (800-243-9700; www.remington.com)

A couple of years ago I carried a short-action Browning A-Bolt into Wyoming mountains, intent on bagging the first elk with the new Winchester .270 WSM cartridge. To the best of my knowledge, I did. This winter, hunting whitetails in Texas, I was well back in the line of industry people who’d used the new .223 WSSM on deer. This first of the Super Short Magnums is based on the WSM hull, cut from 2.10 to 1.67 inches. It is shorter than the .22-250, but kicks a 55-grain Ballistic Silvertip out the muzzle about 200 fps faster. You can also buy .223 WSSM ammo loaded with 64-grain Power-Point bullets.

I hunted with both, shooting four deer. I wouldn’t try to drive one of these tiny bullets through the rear ribs of a big whitetail quartering away. But of more than 20 deer shot at by several hunters on that trip, only one escaped, and it yielded no evidence of a hit. One-shot kills were the rule.

**.243 WSSM IN THE WINGS **
Winchester and Browning now chamber Model 70 and A-Bolt rifles for the .223 and .243 WSSM. Yes, the rifles do have extra-short actions designed for these rounds. Prototype .223 rifles with 1-in-14 twist delivered good accuracy with 55-grain bullets but mediocre groups with the 64-grain version. Kevin Howard, spokesperson for Winchester, tells me production barrels will have a 1-in-10 twist. Now three years old, the .300 WSM is proving to be the most popular of a bevy of short rimless rounds that duplicate belted magnum performance. Last year, hunters expecting a .338 were instead presented with a 7mm WSM-redundant, in my view, given the .270 WSM and Remington’s 7mm SAUM.

For 2003, Winchester offers heavier (55-grain) bullets in .223 and .22-250 loads. Other newcomers include 150-grain Ballistic Silvertip bullets in .270 WSM, and 180-grain BSTs in .300 WSM and .30/06. A hunting line of handgun rounds features the Platinum Tip bullets introduced last year as saboted projectiles for shotguns and muzzleloaders. You’ll find these hollowpoints with reverse-taper plated jackets in .41 (240-grain), .44 (250-grain) and .454 Casull (260-grain). The 260-grain Platinum Tip doubles as a 20-gauge slug, clocking 1,700 fps, and can be used in .50-caliber muzzleloaders to boot. A .40-caliber 200-grain Platinum Tip bullet is also available for .45-bore muzzleloaders, as is a .50-caliber 400-grain for .54s.

On Winchester’s rimfire front, there’s a .22 WMR with a 45-grain Dyna-Point bullet at 1,550 fps, and a .22 WRF with 45-grain flat-point bullet at 1,300 fps. Howard confirms that Winchester has no current plans to load the wildly popular .17 HMR this year. (800-333-3288; www.winchester.com)

SHOTGUN LOADs
Federal’s Classic Heavy High Velocity Steel line, new last year, will be expanded in 2003 to include 11/2-ounce loads in 12- and 10-gauge 31/2-inch hulls. Velocities: 1,500 and 1,450 fps. The 12-bore load beats the 10-gauge off the line because working pressures in the smaller shell are about 15 percent higher. The long hulls will be loaded with T, BBB, BB, 1, 2 and 3 shot. Add No. 4s to the 12-bore list.

Premium Tungsten-Iron shotshells will get pitched hard this year by Federal. So too Grand Slam Turkey loads Super Short Magnums is based on the WSM hull, cut from 2.10 to 1.67 inches. It is shorter than the .22-250, but kicks a 55-grain Ballistic Silvertip out the muzzle about 200 fps faster. You can also buy .223 WSSM ammo loaded with 64-grain Power-Point bullets.

I hunted with both, shooting four deer. I wouldn’t try to drive one of these tiny bullets through the rear ribs of a big whitetail quartering away. But of more than 20 deer shot at by several hunters on that trip, only one escaped, and it yielded no evidence of a hit. One-shot kills were the rule.

**.243 WSSM IN THE WINGS **
Winchester and Browning now chamber Model 70 and A-Bolt rifles for the .223 and .243 WSSM. Yes, the rifles do have extra-short actions designed for these rounds. Prototype .223 rifles with 1-in-14 twist delivered good accuracy with 55-grain bullets but mediocre groups with the 64-grain version. Kevin Howard, spokesperson for Winchester, tells me production barrels will have a 1-in-10 twist. Now three years old, the .300 WSM is proving to be the most popular of a bevy of short rimless rounds that duplicate belted magnum performance. Last year, hunters expecting a .338 were instead presented with a 7mm WSM-redundant, in my view, given the .270 WSM and Remington’s 7mm SAUM.

For 2003, Winchester offers heavier (55-grain) bullets in .223 and .22-250 loads. Other newcomers include 150-grain Ballistic Silvertip bullets in .270 WSM, and 180-grain BSTs in .300 WSM and .30/06. A hunting line of handgun rounds features the Platinum Tip bullets introduced last year as saboted projectiles for shotguns and muzzleloaders. You’ll find these hollowpoints with reverse-taper plated jackets in .41 (240-grain), .44 (250-grain) and .454 Casull (260-grain). The 260-grain Platinum Tip doubles as a 20-gauge slug, clocking 1,700 fps, and can be used in .50-caliber muzzleloaders to boot. A .40-caliber 200-grain Platinum Tip bullet is also available for .45-bore muzzleloaders, as is a .50-caliber 400-grain for .54s.

On Winchester’s rimfire front, there’s a .22 WMR with a 45-grain Dyna-Point bullet at 1,550 fps, and a .22 WRF with 45-grain flat-point bullet at 1,300 fps. Howard confirms that Winchester has no current plans to load the wildly popular .17 HMR this year. (800-333-3288; www.winchester.com)

SHOTGUN LOADs
Federal’s Classic Heavy High Velocity Steel line, new last year, will be expanded in 2003 to include 11/2-ounce loads in 12- and 10-gauge 31/2-inch hulls. Velocities: 1,500 and 1,450 fps. The 12-bore load beats the 10-gauge off the line because working pressures in the smaller shell are about 15 percent higher. The long hulls will be loaded with T, BBB, BB, 1, 2 and 3 shot. Add No. 4s to the 12-bore list.

Premium Tungsten-Iron shotshells will get pitched hard this year by Federal. So too Grand Slam Turkey loads

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