Factory ammo is where the innovation is.
By Richard Mann
With the dawn of the new millennium, shooters might have suspected an unprecedented level of innovation with regard to firearms. That’s something we’ve yet to see. Not so with ammunition. A few short years ago, factory ammunition was a generalized offering—if shooters needed specialization, they had to handload. Today, that’s hardly the case. Ammunition manufacturers have diversified their offerings more and more every year, and 2017 is no exception. Factory ammunition just keeps getting more varied and better.
The VOR-TX line of ammunition has become very popular with hunters. For 2017, Barnes has added two new loads, and all of the loads/bullets are optimized for the cartridge. There’s a new .308 Winchester load with a 130-grain Barnes TTSX bullet at 3170 fps and a new .300 Winchester Magnum load with a 190-grain Barnes LRX bullet at 2,950 fps
Browning has added a host of shotshells to its ammunition line. First are the BDX Turkey Extra Distance loads, made up of six new 12-gauge offerings of the 3- and 3 ½-inch variety, in three shot sizes—Nos. 4, 5, and 6. There’s also one new 3-inch 20-gauge load topped off with 1¼ ounces of No. 5 shot.
For those who hunt deer with a shotgun, the BXS line has a new 12- and 20-gauge load. Both 2¾-inch loads utilize a solid copper heavyweight slug with a polymer tip. Also debuting this year is the BPT (Performance Target) 12-gauge. This is a 2¾-inch 1 1⁄8-ounce Handicap load of No. 7.5 high-antimony (hard) shot for improved patterns.
Four new loads make up the BXV additions to the Browning centerfire lineup. All are loaded in nickel-plated cases, with flat-shooting rapid-expanding polymer-tipped bullets, and are available in 35-grain .22 Hornet, 50-grain .243 Winchester and .22/250 Remington, and 56-grain .243 Winchester loads. The BXR big-game centerfire rifle line gets four new SKUs—.270 WSM, 6.5 Creedmoor, 7mm-08, and 7mm Remington Magnum—for 2017.
All are loaded in nickel-plated cases with a unique copper-matrix-tipped bullet with a nickel-plated jacket.
With all the focus on compact semi-automatic pistols seemingly small enough to fit in a watch pocket, one of the most trusted and reliable defensive handguns seems to have been almost forgotten. But not by Federal. It has engineered a load, utilizing a 135-grain HST bullet, for the .38 Special that is ideally adapted to the snubnose revolver.
Federal has also applied its ballistic brilliance to another cartridge that has been somewhat neglected. The new 40-grain HP Hunter Match .22 Long Rifle load has been designed to provide true long-range accuracy and unmatched terminal performance out to 100 yards. With its nickel-plated case to help with flawless extraction and corrosion resistance, this load is ideal for hunters. SRP: $7.95 for a 50-round box.
Centerfire rifle shooters will also find a lot to like this year. Federal offers one of the industry’s widest arrays of hunting loads, and the line is now even more comprehensive with the limited-time reintroduction of several user-requested rounds. Loaded with premium bullets—such as the Trophy Bonded Tip, Nosler Ballistic Tip, and Nosler Partition, in nickel-plated brass cases, with Gold Medal match primers—hunters now have another factory ammunition option for the .270 Weatherby, .220 Swift, 6mm Remington, 7mm STW, 7mm Weatherby, .300 H&H, and .338 Remington Ultra Magnum. SRP: $29.95 to $69.95 per box of 20.
Federal Premium Gold Medal rifle rounds have always been a top choice for long-range precision. Elite shooters now have even more accurate options with new Gold Medal Berger loads. These feature Berger bullets with high ballistic coefficients to provide flat trajectories, minimal wind drift, and surgical long-range accuracy. These new loads are available for four cartridges, including the .223 Remington, 6.5 Creedmoor, 6.5 Grendel, and .308 Winchester. SRP: $32.95 to $34.95 per box of 50.
The bulk of the new and specialized loads, however, are for shotguns. For starters, there are the Nos. 5, 6, and 7.5 shotshell loads for the often-forgotten 28-gauge.
For a decade, Black Cloud has reigned as the deadliest load for waterfowl hunting. Now it’s even better. Equipped with the new Flitecontrol Flex wad, it delivers improved pattern density and consistency through both ported chokes and standard tubes. The wad’s redesigned rear-deploying petals and side-mounted vents stimulate the payload for separation from the wad at the ideal moment for dense, deadly patterns. Eight new loads for the 20-, 12-, and 10-gauge are available in a variety of shot sizes, from Nos. 4 to BBB. SRP: $20.95 per box.
For 2017, Federal has improved upon its industry-leading design with Gold Medal Grand. These new loads provide less felt recoil, more reliable ignition, improved shot hardness, and excellent reloadability, while still providing the same world-class performance shooters expect from Federal. Ten-and 12-gauge loads will be available in Nos. 7.5 and 8 shot, offering velocities from 1,100 to 1,245 fps. SRP: $10.95 per box.
Federal has combined speed, hard-hitting pellets, and a specialized wad to create an all-new load that will fold the highest-flying doves, crows, and pigeons, as well as upland birds. The powerful Hi-Bird load’s two-piece wad features SoftCell technology to decrease perceived recoil and produce more consistent long-range patterns. In addition, its lead shot is engineered for the optimum blend of hardness and density. Five high-velocity 12-gauge loads are available in shot sizes ranging from Nos. 6 to 8. SRP: $10.95 to $12.95 per box.
Daniel Boone and Simon Kenton knew that ignition was everything when it came to their muzzleloaders. Nothing has changed here, and the modern hunter who relies on the front stuffer has a new way to make his smokepole go bang. Federal has developed a new #209 muzzleloading primer to complement its line of B.O.R. Lock MZ bullets. The formulation provides superior resistance to moisture, and more reliable and hotter ignition of both granulated powder and pellets, without causing excessive fouling in the breech area. SRP: $8.95 per 100-count pack.
Always respected for the innovation it has brought to shotshells, Hevi Shot has new 20-gauge (3-inch) and 12-gauge (3- and 3 ½-inch) loads for turkey hunting for 2017. The all-lead turkey loads combine multiple technologies to deliver better performance. The Triple Beard version combines an equal mix of premium lead antimony pellets in Nos. 5, 6, and 7.
The biggest announcement from Hornady for 2017 is the new line of Black Ammunition. Possibly best described as ammunition that has been tailored to firearms generally considered to be within the tactical arena, Black Ammunition departs from common specialized ammunition lines in that it is not bullet-specific; it is best described as platform-specific. The packaging is easily identifiable, and the loads are intended to provide high performance for high-volume shooters. Initially, 14 offerings will be available, including loads for the 5.45×39, .223 Remington, 5.56 NATO, 6.5 Grendel, 6.8 SPC, 300 Blackout, .308 Winchester, 7.62×39, .450 Bushmaster, and 12-gauge.
In the custom line, Hornady has a few surprises that should appeal to old-time handloaders. Here, offerings include a .218 Bee 45-grain hollowpoint, .250 Savage 100-grain Interlock, .264 Winchester Magnum 140-grain Interlock, and .41 Magnum 210-grain XTP load. SRP: $25 to $50 per box.
The Precision Hunter line utilizes the new groundbreaking ELD-X bullet to ensure match accuracy, best-in-class aerodynamics, and reliable terminal performance at all practical ranges. For 2017, Hornady has added five new loads: 145-grain .270 Winchester, 150-grain 7mm Remington Magnum and 280 Remington, 200-grain .300 WSM, and .300 Weatherby Magnum.
New additions to the wildly popular American Gunner and Whitetail lines include a 6.5 Creedmoor load that utilizes a 140-BTHP bullet and a reduced recoil 12-gauge slug. For deer hunters, there is also a 129-grain Interlock load for the 6.5 Creedmoor.
Further proof that the specialization and diversity in factory ammunition mentioned at the outset is real can be seen in the new LEVERevolution loads from Hornady. For starters, you’ll see a new 190-grain FTX load for the .41 Magnum, but the real surprise is the 110-grain FTX load for the mostly forgotten, completely antique, and almost extinct .25/35 Winchester. Some grandpas and sentimental whitetail hunters will be really happy with the latter.
In the also very popular ELD Match line of ammunition introduced last year, Hornady has added a bunch of new offerings. They include loads for the .223 Remington, 6mm Creedmoor, .260 Remington, 6.5 Grendel, 6.5 Creedmoor, .308 Winchester, and the .30/06. New Superformance loads include a 129-grain SST for the .260 Remington, a 165-grain GMX for the .300 WSM, and a 168-grain ELD Match load for the .308 Winchester.
A pair of centerfire loads are being released to commemorate William B. Ruger. The limited-edition ammo will be available in .204 and .480 Ruger. Both loads will be in specially marked boxes that clearly identify it as being commemorative ammo. The .204 Ruger load will use a 32-grain V-Max bullet at 4,225 fps. The .480 load will use a 325-grain XTP bullet rated at 1,350 fps.
To ring the new year in with a bang, Nosler has two new cartridges. The first is the 338 Nosler, which shares the parent case of the .404 Jeffery, but will push a 225-grain AccuBond to 3,025 fps. The other new cartridge is the .22 Nosler, which is intended to be the most powerful .22-caliber centerfire cartridge that will reliably function in the AR platform. It will propel a 55-grain bullet to 3,500 fps.
In addition to some new bullet announcements, Nosler has added a variety of loads to its ammunition lines. The Trophy Grade line has one new AccuBond load for the .33 Nosler and three new AccuBond Long Range loads for the .308 Win., .30/06, and 33 Nosler. The Match Grade line has new loads for the 22 Nosler, 26 Nosler, 28 Nosler, 30 Nosler, and 33 Nosler. The Silver State Armory line gets a new 7.62×39 load, and the Varmageddon line benefits from a new .223 Remington load. In all, Nosler has added 12 new ammunition offerings.
Remington has expanded the American Clays and Field Sport shotgun ammunition line by 12 new products, with loads for the .410, 28-, 20-, and 12-gauge. All utilize high-antimony hard, round, lead shot and the Power Piston wad. Other features include the STS primer for consistent velocities and the STS unibody hull for optimum reloadability. They’re also affordably priced at between $7.49 and $10.49 per box.
There are also several new loads in the personal protection/defense category, including a reduced-recoil 8-pellet and standard 9-pellet 00 Buck load for the 12-gauge. And, for 2017, the high-tech Golden Saber Black Belt bullet—originally only available for law enforcement—is going commercial. Four loads will be offered in 9mm Luger, 9mm Luger +P, .40 S&W, and .45 Auto. SRP: $26.87 per box of 20.
For those who like to shoot a lot and spend a little, Remington has expanded its Range Bucket line of ammo to include the .380 Auto, .40 S&W, and .45 Auto cartridges. The .380 Range Bucket will contain 500 rounds (SRP: $202.99), the .40 S&W bucket contains 300 rounds ($113.43), and the .45 bucket holds 200 rounds ($92.54). There is also a new Freedom Bucket containing 180 rounds of 300 Blackout. SRP: $133.73
SWAT teams, detectives, and patrol officers have trusted their lives to Speer Gold Dot ammunition for a long time. Starting in 2017, they can rely on it even more. Instead of a large hollowpoint, Speer Gold Dot 2 ammunition utilizes an elastomer insert. This circumvents the need for target material to enter the hollow point and drive expansion. It also uniforms terminal performance through the wide range of intermediate barriers specified by the FBI testing protocol. Offered to law enforcement only, Gold Dot 2 ammunition is available in a 147-grain 9mm, 180-grain .40 S&W, and a 230-grain .45 Auto. SRP: Prices range from $27.95 to $33.95 for a box of 50.
Winchester has added three high-performance subsonic loads to the Super X line. These include a 200-grain .300 Blackout load and a 185-grain .308 Winchester load at 1,060 fps. Both are designed for improved terminal performance at subsonic velocities and have a radical profile for enhanced expansion. There’s also a 45-grain .22 Magnum load at 1,060 fps. It has been engineered expressly for use in suppressed firearms for the ultimate in low-noise performance, but it will also produce less audible sound when fired through standard .22 Winchester Magnum firearms.
Predator hunting continues to grow in popularity, but so do the number of areas, particularly in the West, that limit traditional ammunition. For 2017, Winchester is introducing a lead-free option called Varmint X Lead Free. This stuff is built with similar zinc-core technology utilized in Winchester’s Super Clean pistol ammunition. It will be initially available for the .223 and .22/250 Remington, and the .243 Winchester.
A .223 Remington load joins the Deer Season XP lineup. With more hunters owning and shooting MSR rifles chambered in .223 Remington, the new Deer Season XP offers a 64-grain bullet specifically designed for deer hunting. There’s also a new 6.5 Creedmoor Deer Season XP load utilizing a 125-grain bullet.
Winchester continues to answer the demand for better performing, yet affordable ammunition options when it comes to training at the range. Enter the Super Clean line, which in 2017 will add a .45 ACP offering. Super Clean comes 50 rounds per box and is ideal for use on indoor ranges.
Winchester rolled out the Expedition Big Game line last year. It was introduced in a range of popular big-game calibers, and this year the offerings expand with the introduction of six new loads that include the .300 Winchester Magnum, .300 WSM, .30/06, 7mm Remington Magnum, .270 Winchester, and 6.5 Creedmoor.
Well worth the wait, Winchester will now offer its groundbreaking Long Beard XR in 20-gauge. With improved shotshell technology that delivers more power and tighter loads in smaller-gauge shotguns, an increasing number of turkey hunters are opting for the 20-gauge shotgun. The new 20-gauge Long Beard XR will come in a 3-inch offering, loaded with either No. 5 or No. 6 shot.
Boutique ammunition companies continue to creep up and challenge major brands for innovation and variety. GBW Cartridge out of Venice, Florida, is an example. Their Legend Pro line includes high-performance loads for common defensive handgun cartridges and big bores like the .454 Casull and 460 and 500 S&W. All are loaded with expanding, all-copper bullets. GBW is also offering centerfire rifle cartridges in this line, and they too are loaded with all-copper expanding bullets. Offerings include loads for the .223 Remington, 300 Blackout, and .308 Winchester.
Norma USA has added a new 6.5 Creedmoor load to its ammunition line. It is loaded with a 130-grain Swift Scirocco II bullet at a muzzle velocity of 2,789 fps. SRP: $40.88 per box of 20.
Changing the way we look at ammunition continues to be the mission of Polycase. And for 2017, it has added a wide array of loads that utilize its copper-polymer injection-molded projectiles. Aficionados of the .357 Magnum now have an 86-grain ARX load at 1,650 fps that generates 520 foot-pounds of energy. If your idea of stopping stuff is to use a .45 Colt, Polycase has a 158-grain ARX load in its Preferred Hunting line for that old cowboy classic. Additional ARX Preferred Hunting loads are available for the .458 SOCOM and .50 Beowulf.
The new RNP Sport Utility line of ammo from Polycase features a round-nose (RN) bullet intended for pinpoint accuracy on steel targets. Offerings include loads for the .380, .38 Special, 9mm Luger, .40 S&W, and .45 Auto. Also of note are the Sport Utility Packs that include 100 rounds of RNP ammo and 20 or 25 rounds of ARX ammo, wrapped up in a neat little bundle. SRP: $57.99 to $79.99 per box.
SIG Sauer has expanded its 9mm full-metal jacket (FMJ) Elite Performance Ammunition offerings with the addition of 124-grain and 147-grain loads. With these new rounds, customers now have three 9mm bullet weights—115-grain, 124-grain, and 147-grain—available in both the V-Crown JHP personal defense ammunition and FMJ target loads. Sig also has introduced a new .223 Remington load to its Match Grade Elite Performance Ammunition line. It’s loaded with a 77-grain Sierra open-tipped match (OTM) bullet with a muzzle velocity of 2,750 fps. The HT hunting line of premium-grade rifle ammunition now includes .223 Remington and .308 Winchester offerings, both of which feature an all-copper bullet that delivers deep penetration and maximum terminal ballistic performance.
The most exciting new load from SIG might be the subsonic 220-grain 300BLK V-Crown offering, which features the SIG V-Crown bullet, designed for reliable, controlled expansion, maximum weight retention, and superior penetration. Created for the AR15 platform, this load is also ideal for use with a silencer. Though intended for hunting, its tactical application cannot be denied.
Reporting by SHOT Business Daily, reprinted with permission. SHOT Daily, produced by The Bonnier Corporation and the National Shooting Sports Foundation, covers all facets of the yearly firearms-industry show. Click here to see full issues. Product pricing and availability are at of time of publication and subject to change without notice.