Now that Nick has weighed in on his experience with the Barnes 110 gr TAC-TX in his favorite caliber, I’m going to do the same for mine. In this case, the 80 gr. TTSX pill for my .243 WIN. First, a note on accuracy. When I went to Wyoming last year to attend a class at Gunwerks, Aaron Davidson opened things by saying that the best terminally performing bullet in the world is worthless if you can’t put it where you want it. Before I can evaluate a bullet in the real world, it has to put in some range time . . .
Using my Ruger M77 Mark II with a 1:9 twist barrel, I managed to see acceptable “hunting” accuracy from the Barnes loads. There are a couple of companies churning out high quality loads using the 80 gr. TTSX and 85 gr. TSX bullet, but for the purposes of my testing, I used Barnes’ factory load. On any given day using a solid rest, I was able to see no groups larger than 1.5″ in diameter at 100 yards. I use a 10″ x 10″ steel plate for testing and I was able to make it sing with boring regularity at those distances. The story is similar at 200 yards. While I’d love a 1/4 MOA gun, I’m also a realist. My shots usually take place at ranges of less than 150 yards. So 1.5 MOA is perfectly acceptable for the hunting that I do.
Trying out a new hunting bullet is frankly nerve wracking. I’m not big on animal suffering and I don’t hunt with anybody who likes to watch one of God’s creatures struggle in pain. I read everything I could put my hands on in forums and message boards. I also watched a ton of videos of ballistics gel blocks being blown to all hell using Barnes Bullets. So last season, I loaded them up and took to the field.
I only managed to get one doe, but my initial impression was that the 80 gr. TTSX was a hell of a round. I shot my doe while she was facing me head on in a high neck shot to one side of her esophagus. The bullet entered, immediately expanded, and left behind what I can only describe as a completely devastating tunnel of carnage. By the time I got to her, she was stone cold dead from a massive amount of blood loss.
While impressed, I didn’t want to jump to any conclusions too soon. I waited a year and now have two more deer in the freezer thanks to the Barnes TTSX. One, a through and through lung shot placed directly in the middle vertically, and just behind the front shoulder at approximately 80 yards on a decent sized Texas whitetail seen here.
Prior to the Barnes, I was using the 95 gr. Ballistic Silver Tip from Winchester which I had found to be an absolutely devastating round on everything from whitetail to axis, and even sub 200 lb. hogs. The one thing that I liked about the BST was that you could be a little sloppy with shot placement and still be assured of an ethical kill as the bullet was designed to “blow up” on contact. The Barnes bullet isn’t that bullet. Where the BST would liquify lungs, the buck above had a clean hole about half an inch in diameter in his pulmonary system. Definitely a deadly round, but one that requires thoughtful shot placement. I learned that lesson the hard way on the second buck that I took.
My second kill of 2013 (third with the Barnes) was a four-point cull buck. I try to be fairly aggressive in taking cull bucks since I hunt for meat and my neighbors make part of their living from hunters taking trophy deer on their land. In fact, the eight-point I shot this year was the first “big buck” I’ve taken in close to five years.
All that is to say that a typical deer for me in any season in a 100 – 140 lb animal which is most definitively in the CXP2 class of animals. I took this four-point at a touch over 100 yards on a fairly decent downhill shot. One that took long enough to set up that Nick had time to get his camera out and take this photo.
The bullet entered high in the shoulder, broke the joint, continued through and exited the other side. The buck immediately dropped, kicked around for about 10 seconds and then hopped up and started running from left to right. I had already chambered another round so I waited until he stopped and touched off another that put him down for good. This time a bit lower so it actually got his lungs.
I don’t necessarily blame the bullet as I made a pretty crappy shot putting it high in the chest cavity like that. Fortunately, a broken shoulder and a leaking chest cavity would have eventually dropped him, but a second shot did it much faster.
In .243 WIN, the 80 gr. TTSX is a deep penetrating round that reliably expands and offers good accuracy. However, it requires thoughtful shot placement to do its job. I have officially made the switch to all-copper Barnes bullets and have full faith that if I do my part, they will too.