Range Report: Federal Trophy Bonded Tip Vital Shok

expanded 62 grain vital shok bullet

During my time in law enforcement, I chose Federal Cartridge Company for issue loads after a grueling test period in two separate agencies. I have also enjoyed excellent results with Federal Cartridge Company for more than 40 years. I could discern the quality and accuracy of this brand even as a very young hunter. The newest development in .223 Remington ammunition was interesting from the first press release.

Federal Vital Shok cartridge on white background
The Federal Vital Shock demonstrates excellent cartridge integrity. Note nickel plated cartridge case and tipped bullet.

The .223 Remington was originally intended as a long-range varmint and pest cartridge. The cartridge was adopted as a jungle fighter by Armalite for use in the original AR-15 and later the M-16 rifle. Today, the cartridge remains popular as a varmint and pest control load but the 5.56mm NATO version is our service rifle cartridge. The .223 is also the single most popular police service rifle cartridge.

Many of us use the rifle in 3Gun Competition and for home defense. The shortcomings of the original bullets, designed for pests, become obvious when put to the test. These bullets were designed to humanely and quickly destroy pests and varmints. They do so, often vaporizing smaller varmints. With a standard velocity of over 3,000 fps, these loads have plenty of energy to work with. Modern bullet technology allows the cartridge to address the needs of personal defense and even larger game. Bullets heavier than the standard 55-grain projectile have been developed for use in these pursuits.

Federal introduced the Vital Shok Trophy Bonded Tip to those who favor the .223 for deer-sized game. With a proper bullet, the .223 will do the business. The bullet is the key. This bullet retains more than 90 percent of its weight in ballistic testing, penetrates deep, and shoots flat and accurately thanks to its high ballistic coefficient. The solid copper shank crushes bone. The exterior skiving on the nickel-plated bullet ensures optimum expansion at any range. The tough, bonded construction makes the new 223 Rem. load a viable choice for medium-size game.

expanded 62 grain vital shok bullet
The Federal Cartridge Company 62-grain Vital Shok offers excellent expansion and weight retention.

The bullet features a Neon polymer tip and boat-tail design for flat trajectory and accuracy. The tip is pretty important. When conducting classes and working with many AR-15 rifles, I have noted that the open-tip bullets popular in some applications may snag on the front of an off-spec magazines. How many off-spec magazines are there in use? Many, many and more! You must proof the cartridge of choice with the individual rifle. The polymer tip aids in feed reliability. Ballistic coefficient is also improved. I think that this was the original intent, but the ballistic tip design is also a good step in the right direction for proper feed reliability.

I like the 62-grain bullet weight for many reasons. One reason, is the fact that I have one of my top AR-15 rifles set up for the 62-grain Green Tip load from Federal Cartridge. It isn’t a problem to use the Green Tip for practice sessions, and then the Bonded TIP load for hunting or personal defense. Yes, personal defense. The bad guys sometimes wear heavy clothing; even heavy vests with various gear. They may also be behind cover.

While Federal offers personal defense loads and LEO loads in .223, the newest loading is clearly a good choice for all around use. Accuracy and function are also important, so I tested the new loading in three different rifles for function and accuracy. Using the Mossberg MPV bolt-action rifle, I fired the Federal 62-grain load for both accuracy and function. This rifle uses AR-15 magazines. The rifle was fitted with an affordable, but useful, Nikko Stirling rifle scope.

Smith and Wesson M&P Sport ar-15 rifle
The S&W M&P Sport isn’t the most accurate rifle in the safe but it is very useful. Good results came with the Federal loading.

Function was smooth, and the rifle exhibited a .9-inch 3-shot group at 100 yards. Moving to the Smith and Wesson Military and Police Sport, topped with a Burris ARFF3 red dot, I tested the rifle and load at 50 yards. A 3-shot group went into two inches, and again function was perfect. Switching to the Colt SOCOM with Redfield Battlezone scope, I opened the Champion bipod and went prone at the 100-yard line. I fired three 3-shot groups. While the average was 1.25 inches one group went into a solid .8-inch. The 62-grain Federal load is clearly accurate and function was never in question.

Finally came ballistic testing. I do not have the facilities that Federal does for testing, but I can stack up water jugs and fire the loads into them. The recovered bullets were picture perfect. The bullet does indeed retain most of its weight, even at the close range at which I tested the Federal loading. In the end, this is an outstanding loading well worth its price. Based on function, accuracy, and ballistic efficiency—as well as expansion and penetration—this is a superior loading that performs like few if any other .223 Remington load.

Will Federal’s Trophy Bonded Tip Vital Shok .223 become a regular in your ammunition cabinet? Share your thoughts and opinions about the best .223 for the job in the comment section.


About the Author:

Bob Campbell

Bob Campbell’s primary qualification is a lifelong love of firearms, writing, and scholarship. He holds a degree in Criminal Justice but is an autodidact in matters important to his readers. Campbell considers unarmed skills the first line of defense and the handgun the last resort. (He gets it honest- his uncle Jerry Campbell is in the Boxer’s Hall of Fame.)

Campbell has authored well over 6,000 articles columns and reviews and fourteen books for major publishers including Gun Digest, Skyhorse and Paladin Press. Campbell served as a peace officer and security professional and has made hundreds of arrests and been injured on the job more than once.

He has written curriculum on the university level, served as a lead missionary, and is desperately in love with Joyce. He is training his grandchildren not to be snowflakes. At an age when many are thinking of retirement, Bob is working a 60-hour week and awaits being taken up in a whirlwind many years in the future.

Published in
Black Belt Magazine
Combat Handguns
Rifle Magazine
Gun Digest
Gun World
Tactical World
SWAT Magazine
American Gunsmith
Gun Tests Magazine
Women and Guns
The Journal Voice of American Law Enforcement
Police Magazine
Law Enforcement Technology
The Firearms Instructor
Tactical World
Concealed Carry Magazine
Concealed Carry Handguns

Books published

Holsters for Combat and Concealed Carry
The 1911 Automatic Pistol
The Handgun in Personal Defense
The Illustrated Guide to Handgun Skills
The Hunter and the Hunted
The Gun Digest Book of Personal Defense
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911 second edition
Dealing with the Great Ammunition Shortage
Commando Gunsmithing
The Ultimate Book of Gunfighting
Preppers Guide to Rifles
Preppers Guide to Shotguns
The Accurate Handgun
The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (8)

  1. May just be my oldt eyes; however, that pic of the fired bullet appears NOT to be of boat tail design? Reviewed the round on Federal’s site and they offer no pic of the bullet outside the case.

    In any event, studying the ballistics of the .223 at extended range, BT’s may be of some use in long range competition, but no .223 retains sufficient energy, “out there,” for anything much larger than rabbit!

    1. Meant to mention that after around 350 yds, that rd has about the energy of a +P 38 special, and in a mild cross wind you would be dealing with over ten (10″) inches of drift – and it only increases exponentially after that – over three feet+ @ 500 yds! I would, personally, consider the .223 a max 200 yd gun. Want to “reach out and touch ’em,” snipers are not using the .223!

  2. The .223 has never been and will never be a viable CXP2 Game Round. It doesn’t matter what kind of bullet is stuffed in it. To suggest otherwise is irresponsible and this so called “expert” should know better.

    1. “It doesn’t matter what kind of bullet is stuffed in it.” Yesterday, I might have agreed; today, not so much – if you follow ‘my’ rules;) Rule 1) Use Barnes bullets or ammunition in an appropriate .223/5.56 and limit range to 200 yds. 2) Appropriate ammo, or reloads, that will retain MV above 2100 fps @ 200 yds (Barnes or ‘copies!’) 3) Shot placement, ‘know’ your limitations.

      Barnes bullets, in our experience, are double diameter expanders, under nearly any condition, out to where MV/ME is depleted below that recommended! Effective expansion will occur at impact velocities in excess of about 1800 fps. TSX bullets, HP and tipped, are known for very deep penetration (they usually shoot clear through CXP2 animals) with very high weight retention.

      As an example, our Sig Sauer SBR, suppressed 10.5″(1in7), w/Barnes 70 TSXBT does not fall below that 1800 fps threshold until after “325 yds!” In the areas we hunt, any shot over 100 yards will ‘seldom’ be offered, and in our case taken, on anything larger than coyote.

  3. Interesting cartridge, and I will try some in my 2.5 inch at 200 yards Bolt Action Rifle. It does sound like the article is a sales job for Federal, as I have on a few occasions had faulty ammo from them, as many other people. Report was a little too glowing. Just saying.

    However, I really like the idea of a better bullet for deer as the 223 is my back up deer rifle.

    1. “….better bullet for deer as the 223 is by back up deer rifle.”

      You don’t mention the twist rate in your bolt gun; however, if you stay within my (not so humble opinion) recommended 200 yd max range for hunting the .223, Barnes has a VOR-TX 55 grain (1in9). If you have the 5.56 capable of shooting .223 or 5.56, there is the 62 grain (1in8 or faster), or the 70 grain (1in8 or faster) that is, given a decent hit location, about as “dead right there” as it gets!

      We have used Barnes bullets in both .22 and .30 with “one shot, one kill” results on deer sized game. I don’t work for Barnes! Their stuff is pricey, but in their ammo or components, you do get, as they say, ‘wut you pays fer.’

  4. New Sellier & Benot EXERGY bullet; all copper hollow point, aluminum tipped! Aluminum doesn’t melt at high velocity, aluminum expands first, then copper penetrates deeper before expansion. Smarter even than Doppler radar!

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