If you’re starting out shooting in whatever form that can take, such as hunting, competitive shooting, concealed carry/home defense or all of the above, one thing that’s a must is testing your ammunition. If you’re going to use a gun — for any purpose — you have to be able to rely on your chosen round to do the job you need it to do.
Experienced readers are now thinking to themselves, “well duh.” But based on my experience with a lot of new shooters, that’s not as intuitive as you might expect. Most new shooters think that anything on the shelf will work for them.
But just like guns, cartridges are tools that you have to be able to rely on to do their designated job. They need to fire reliably, cycle dependably, hit accurately and – in the case of personal defense or hunting ammunition – produce good terminal performance.
Even among a variety of popular quality ammunition brands and loads, you’ll find some work better in your particular gun than others. Therefore you need to determine what brands and loads work best for you. That way, you can be confident that you can depend on your ammunition come match day, when that whitetail gives you a broadside, or when an attacker gives you no other option.
That means burning a few boxes at the range to determine what cycles best in your carry pistol, produces the tightest groups from your rifle or patterns best out of your shotgun.
Here are some visual aids that demonstrate to why that’s important.
I spent some time experimenting with a few different loads in my hunting rifle. I’ve had a range of results with a few different loads and bullet weights and I wanted to test some that I’d accumulated to date. I shot them at 100 yards; the point here wasn’t practicing off-hand 400 yard shots. I was seated and it was hot, but not windy conditions.
It wasn’t my best day, but not my worst and I don’t claim to be the best shooter anyway.
I was shooting a Winchester Model 70 .30-06 rifle with a 3-9x by 40mm Tasco scope with a Leupold base and Leupold rings. Sorry for the picture quality and sun glare.
After checking my zero, here was the first brand of ammunition I tested:
This was Federal Fusion 150 grain. This is a good, quality ammo brand that plenty of people shoot well, but minute of barn doesn’t cut my mustard. Never again for me, at least not in this gun.
The second brand was a more premium load:
These were Federal Premium 180 grain Nosler Partition. Partition is a classic; it’s reliable, accurate and deadly. A lot of people depend on it in the field all over the world. If I was determined to only shoot Partition, I’m pretty sure I could dial it in. However, I won’t be and here’s why:
As you can see, cartridge #3 — Remington’s 165 grain Core-Lokt — is noticeably more accurate than the other two rounds from my rifle. All three cartridges are quality loads in different bullet weights that any shooter can buy with confidence and rely on. But as the testing revealed, my particular gun performs best with Core-Lokt.
Core Lokt is a classic hunting round. It’s been made for almost 80 years and is one of the first quality cartridges that was readily available over the counter. It also has the advantage of being the least expensive of the rounds I tested, which shows that spending more doesn’t always produce the best performance.
There are plenty of other loads I’m curious about and will be testing over time. For now, though, I’ve determined that Core-Lokt, a proven and reliable round, is quite accurate through my rifle…when I do my part…and will work for me.
In short, take the time to test a few different brands and bullet weights from your particular gun(s). Then you’ll know you’re carrying and shooting the stuff that works best for you. The peace of mind that knowledge gives you is priceless.