Ammo of the Year 2011

Here's a look at some of the best ammo coming to you this fall.

An innovative steel-shot waterfowl load that is lethal and patterns like premium lead; a highly effective 6.5mm hunting load with an impressive track record on game; a new line of handgun hunting ammo using an iconic bullet; and a high-speed, lead-free rimfire load with pinpoint accuracy for long shots on varmints highlight the top ammo introductions coming your way this fall.

#1 - Winchester Blindside
In the realm of steel-shot waterfowl loads, Winchester's new Blindside is cutting-edge technology--literally.

The new loads use hexahedron-shaped pellets that offer the same individual pellet weights as traditional round steel pellets but have six flat sides and multiple corners. This significantly increases individual pellet lethality by producing a tumbling and cutting effect on tissue.

An additional benefit is that more flat-sided pellets can be stacked into a shell because they fill the air gaps left by round pellets. A load that would normally hold 1 1⁄4 ounces of round pellets can now hold 1 3⁄8 ounces of Blindside pellets.

Non-round pellets have been tried before and produced poor patterns with many fliers. Winchester solved that problem with a new diamond-cut wad that stays with the shot longer once the load has left the barrel. During a hands-on session at Winchester's Nilo Farms, I observed excellent patterns that equaled those I would expect from premium, plated, hard lead shot.

The new Blindside loads will be available in 3 1⁄2-inch 12-gauge 1 5⁄8-ounce loads in BB and No. 2; and 3-inch 12-gauge 1 3⁄8 -ounce BB and No. 2.

#2 - Hornady 6.5 Creedmoor GMX
Modest recoil, excellent accuracy from its rigid short-action dimensions and a wealth of quality target bullets with a high ballistic coefficient have made the 6.5 Creedmoor a favorite among long-range rifle competitors. This year, Hornady brings that performance to hunters with the introduction of the 120-grain GMX 6.5 Creedmoor bullet in its Superformance line.

The GMX bullet is a polymer-tipped monolithic, lead-free bullet composed of gilding jacket material instead of softer copper, which reduce fouling. The GMX bullet is a proven performer on game, and the Superformance powder launches the GMX bullet at 3,050 fps in the 6.5 Creedmoor.

#3 - Federal Vital-Shok Swift A-Frame
Handgun hunters have learned that the surest path to success is to use a bullet that maintains full integrity and weight retention, provides consistent expansion and delivers maximum accuracy. Those who reload have enjoyed these qualities in the Swift A-Frame bullet. Now those who rely on factory ammo are no longer at a disadvantage--they will be able to use this legendary bullet in the Federal Vital-Shok line.

New for 2011, the well-respected Swift A-Frame bullet will be available in Federal's Vital-Shok line in .357 Magnum (180 gr./1,130 fps); .41 Rem. Mag. (210 gr./1,270 fps); .44 Magnum (280 gr./1,170 fps); .454 Casull (300 gr./1,520 fps); .460 S&W Magnum (300 gr./1,750 fps); and .500 S&W Magnum (325 gr./ 1,800 fps).

#4 - Winchester 17 HMR 15.5 gr.
Winchester expands the horizons of the .17 HMR with a 15.5-grain load in its Varmint Lead-Free line that is advertised to hit a blistering 2,550 fps. If wind is not a factor, this hot little rimfire number will "reach out and touch" a varmint at distances well beyond normal rimfire ranges.