Lock & Load

The long and the short of it in new rifle cartridges, bullets and shotshells.

Maybe you think we already have more ammunition than we need. Could be, but as long as there is a demand for the latest calibers and loads, manufacturers will keep coming up with additions to their catalogs. In 2002 we get plenty more, including cartridges for the new short magnums, high-octane shotshells and supercharged rimfire ammunition. Here's a look at what's in store for next hunting season.

RIFLE AND HANDGUN LOADS
Black Hills Ammunition, the South Dakota firm that evolved from Black Hills Shooters Supply in 1988, was known, before and after, for remanufactured .223 ammo. Black Hills Ammunition now sells new and remanufactured rifle and pistol loads for competition, hunting and Cowboy Action shooting.

Three new bullets appear in .223 loads: 40-grain Nosler Ballistic Tip, 69-grain Sierra MatchKing and 73-grain Berger BTHP. There's also a new 250-grain match load for the .338 Lapua Magnum (imagine a rimless .338 Winchester on steroids).

The biggest news at Black Hills Ammunition since Jeff and Kristi Hoffman moved it into new Rapid City headquarters 11 years ago is a "Gold" series of hunting cartridges. Choose from two loads each in .243, .270 and .300 Winchester. There are three choices for the .308, four for the .30/06. Nosler Ballistic Tip and Barnes X bullets dominate the selection. Since its .308 match cartridges surfaced a decade ago, Black Hills has emphasized accurate ammunition; now it supplies tactical and match ammo to the Marine Corps. (605-348-5150)

New Premium rifle loads from Federal include 180-grain Speer Grand Slam and Trophy Bonded bullets in .300 Winchester Short Magnum. Pistol shooters get a 125-grain full metal jacket (FMJ) American Eagle load for the .357 Sig., and a +P .45 ACP that features an expanding FMJ bullet. This design incorporates a jacket over a plastic nose that upsets like a softpoint. (800-322-2342; www.federalcartridge.com)

The industry spotlight lingers on the .17 Hornady Magnum Rimfire, announced in January. Essentially a .22 WMR necked down, this delightful round fires a 17-grain V-Max bullet at 2,550 feet per second (fps). Zeroed at 150 yards, it drops only 3.6 inches at 200 yards. Marlin and Ruger chamber bolt rifles for the .17 HMR; no doubt you'll see other makers follow.

Big bullets headline the Hornady catalog, too. A Light Magnum load for the .444 Marlin (2,335 fps at the muzzle) gives this mild round terrific punch. If you're after more muscle, consider the .458 Lott, initially a wildcat .45/.375 H&H.; Hornady's new factory load tosses nearly three tons of energy downrange, with a 500-grain bullet at 2,300 fps. You'll find Teddy Roosevelt's pet round in the Hornady lineup, too: The .405 Winchester kicks a 300-grain flatpoint bullet out at 2,225 fps.

The Hornady SST bullet line has added a 154-grain bullet in 7mm Remington and Weatherby Magnum cartridges and 150- and 180-grain bullets in .300 Weatherby. (308-382-1390; www.hornady.com) Lapua of Finland has two new loads for the .308 Winchester, featuring 165-grain Swift A-Frame and Scirocco bullets. There's also a 275-grain A-Frame for the .338 Lapua Magnum. You may have shot Lapua's match-winning and bunny-busting .22 rimfire rounds. The newest, Signum, features a bullet with longitudinal grooves on the nose. They hold half again as much lube as do belts on traditional .22 bullets and offer smoother acceleration and better accuracy, claims Lapua. (www.lapua.com)

Magtech just announced a Guardian Gold line of handgun ammunition, featuring hollowpoint bullets in "+P" form: .380, .38 Special, 9mm and .45 Auto. There's also a .40 S&W; load. (magtech.com.br) Norma big-game ammunition now features four U.S. bullets: Nosler Partition and Ballistic Tip, Swift Scirocco and A-Frame (called the TXP by Norma). For dangerous game, Norma loads Barnes solids. (www.norma.cc)

PMC has added the Barnes XLC bullet to s cartridge line. The blue, dry-lube coating minimizes bore friction to boost velocity and reduce copper fouling. Loaded in .270, 7mm Remington Magnum, .308, .30/06, .300 and .338 Winchester Magnums and .375 H&H; Magnum ammunition, the Barnes bullets loaded by PMC range in weight from 130 to 300 grains. (702-294-002; www.pmcammo.com)

Remington's centerfire line has grown with the 7mm and .300 Short Action Ultra Mags (SAUM), each with three loads (140-, 150- and 160-grain bullets in 7mm and 150-, 165- and 180-grain in .300). Two of the six loads feature the new Premier Core-Lokt Ultra bullet, with a jacket 20 percent heavier than a standard Core-Lokt and an inner belt 50 percent thicker.

Besides SAUM loadings (a 150-grain at 3,200 fps in the .300 and a 140-grain at 3,175 fps in the 7mm), you'll find Premier Core-Lokt Ultra in ordinary cartridges: 140s in the .270 and 7mm Remington Mag., and 180s in .308, .30/06 and .300 Winchester Mag. [pagebreak] Other news: A 7mm Ultra Mag. load pushing a 160-grain Nosler Partition placates those of us who consider the overbore 7 shortchanged with 140-grain factory fodder. A 180-grain Swift Scirocco in the .300 Winchester Magnum is likewise a sensible move. This year, the Model 700 Classic comes in .221 Fireball, so Remington again makes the ammo (a 50-grain V-Max at nearly 3,000 fps).

Big Green is in the rimfire accuracy game with its .22 Match EPS, provided by Eley, an old British firm renowned for .22 match ammunition. I've won three prone championships with Eley and fired many 50-yard five-shot groups smaller than a thumbtack. Wind hampered my testing of the new Remington ammo, but from a 40X rifle it shot into .60 as if it wanted to do better. Remington has added hollowpoint bullet loads for the 9mm, .38 Special, .40 S&W;, .357 Sig. and .45 Auto. (800-243-9700; www.remington.com)

CCI/Speer, the Lewiston, Idaho, ammunition and bullet outfit, has announced a super-quick .22 Long Rifle round called the Velocitor, which travels 1,435 fps, nearly 200 fps faster than ordinary high-speed ammo. Unlike the hyper-velocity .22s that match the Velocitor over the chronograph, the latter doesn't cheat you on bullet weight. A 40-grain hollowpoint offers the punch you need for woodchucks and foxes up close and carries over 100 foot-pounds of energy to 100 yards. Speer's big-game cartridge line is unchanged, but there's a 124-grain 9mm +P pistol load and a .480 Ruger round with 325-grain softpoint at 1,350 fps. (208-746-2351; www.speer-bullets.com)

Winchester's .300 Short Magnum has been necked down for 2002, to .270 and 7mm. I carried a prototype Browning A-Bolt in .270 WSM last fall, killing what was probably the first elk taken with the cartridge. In that rifle, factory-loaded 140-grain Fail Safe bullets shot into eye-popping half-minute groups to 300 yards. Supreme ammunition also comes with a 130-grain Ballistic Silvertip.

In Super-X boxes you'll get a 150-grain Power-Point. The 7mm WSM (listed in Super-X with a 150-grain Power-Point, in Supreme with a 140-grain Ballistic Silvertip and a 160-grain Fail Safe) have been delayed while the case is reconfigured so it can't be locked in a loose .270 WSM chamber. Otherwise, there are three new .223 loads in USA Brand ammo and a 115-, 124- and 147-grain jacketed hollowpoint load in 9mm pistol ammo. (618-258-3340; www.winchester.com)

SHOTGUN AMMO

Federal has souped up its 11/4-ounce, 3-inch steel shot load to 1,450 fps, and now offers a Grand Slam 17/8-ounce, 3-inch turkey load clocking 1,300 fps. The company has dropped the price of its tungsten-iron loads (this year including No. 5 shot) from roughly $19 to $13 per box of 10. Hornady is loading its 300-grain .45-caliber XTP hollowpoint bullet in 23/4-inch, 12-gauge shells to 2,000 fps.

PMC has beefed up its Field & Target line for 12- and 20-gauge shooters. Waterfowlers and turkey hunters will like Remington's new nontoxic option that's 10 percent denser than lead, 54 percent denser than steel. Hevi-Shot, of tungsten-nickel iron alloy, has a third more energy at 50 yards than steel at 45. Patterns are exceedingly tight and, in my tests, as uniform as steel patterns. Premier Hevi-Shot is available in 10-, 12- and 20-gauge Magnum loads, shot sizes No. 2 to No. 71/2, at velocities around 1,300 fps. Turkey hunters can obtain it in five buffered 12-bore magnum loads, in No. 4, No. 5 and No. 6 shot. You'll even find 12- and 20-gauge Hevi-Shot buffered field loads.

Remington has added four Sportsman 12- and 20-gauge Magnum steel loads and a 385-grain Premier Core-Lokt Ultra Bonded sabot slug at 1,900 fps in 23/4-inch 12-gauge hulls.

Winchester's two high-velocity Drylok Super Steel 12-gauge loads achieve 1,550 fps. Choose BB or No. 2 shot in a 31/2-inch hull, No. 2 or No. 3 in a 3-inch. BB shot is now available in Xpert steel, and there's a new 20-bore sporting clays load, with 7/8-ounce of No. 71/2 or No. 8 shot. Winchester also lists a new 12-gauge sabot slug, a 400-grain Platinum Tip hollowpoint at 1,700 fps. turkey hunters will like Remington's new nontoxic option that's 10 percent denser than lead, 54 percent denser than steel. Hevi-Shot, of tungsten-nickel iron alloy, has a third more energy at 50 yards than steel at 45. Patterns are exceedingly tight and, in my tests, as uniform as steel patterns. Premier Hevi-Shot is available in 10-, 12- and 20-gauge Magnum loads, shot sizes No. 2 to No. 71/2, at velocities around 1,300 fps. Turkey hunters can obtain it in five buffered 12-bore magnum loads, in No. 4, No. 5 and No. 6 shot. You'll even find 12- and 20-gauge Hevi-Shot buffered field loads.

Remington has added four Sportsman 12- and 20-gauge Magnum steel loads and a 385-grain Premier Core-Lokt Ultra Bonded sabot slug at 1,900 fps in 23/4-inch 12-gauge hulls.

Winchester's two high-velocity Drylok Super Steel 12-gauge loads achieve 1,550 fps. Choose BB or No. 2 shot in a 31/2-inch hull, No. 2 or No. 3 in a 3-inch. BB shot is now available in Xpert steel, and there's a new 20-bore sporting clays load, with 7/8-ounce of No. 71/2 or No. 8 shot. Winchester also lists a new 12-gauge sabot slug, a 400-grain Platinum Tip hollowpoint at 1,700 fps.