Hornady announced their new A-TIP match bullets about two months ago before the NRA annual meeting. But if you’re not a long-range precision shooter, the news may not have caught your eye. Another new bullet design? OK then. Yawn.
A closer look, however, reveals just how big a deal the new A-TIP Match bullet design and manufacturing process really are. Short version: A-TIPs feature a machined aluminum tip (rather than traditional polymer) and are sequentially packaged for the highest possible round-to-round consistency.
That blurb still doesn’t really do these bullets justice, though.
Long-range shooters crave one thing above all…consistency. They want to know that each bullet they send downrange is as identical in every respect to every other round they fire. That gives a precision shooter accurate, predictable results they can count on.
Until now, lots of precision shooters bought polymer-tipped bullets like, say, Hornady’s ELD Match rounds. But polymer tips have a couple of problems. First, they shrink slightly during the molding and curing process. Second, they aren’t as flexible in the kind of profiling that’s possible when they’re made.
There’s another problem, too. Testing of polymer-tipped bullets using Doppler radar revealed that polymer-tipped bullets’ ballistic coefficient changes during their flight path. This was due to the tips actually melting and deforming as they traveled.
Hornady came up with their Heat Shield Tip to address that problem years ago, but that didn’t address the issues with shrinkage and profile. The A-TIP bullets’ machined aluminum tips fix all of that.
First, since they’re turned metal rather than molded plastic, there’s zero shrinkage when they’re made. Each tip can be formed to exact, consistent standards throughout the manufacturing process. Second, aluminum can be turned to almost any length and geometry (within reason). This flexibility gave Hornady new options in terms of center of gravity and other properties that polymer tips don’t allow.
Heres’ what Hornady’s 140 grain ELD Match polymer-tipped rounds look like:
And here are 135 grain 6.5CM A-TIPs:
You can see the difference in length and geometry. That lengthened design results in lower drag coefficients (higher ballistic coefficients).
The interface between the tip and bullet is incredibly precise as well. If you run your thumbnail over the seam, you can hardly feel the transition.
So that’s what Hornady did with the A-TIP bullet’s design. Then they changed the way the bullets are packaged for what has to be the utmost in bullet-to-bullet consistency.
Most match bullets are manufactured in quantity, dropped into a bin, then scooped out for the packaging process. As a result, match bullets bought in bulk tend to vary in weight and length depending on where each was produced in a manufacturing run.
That variance may not seem like much, but to precision shooters who try to wring every bit of accuracy out of each round, it makes a difference. If you weigh a package of match bullets fresh out of the box, they will fall somewhere along a bell curve with about 75-80% in the middle, having very similar weights. The other 20-25% will fall on one tail or the other, either lighter or heavier.
Hornady, however, packages A-TIP bullets sequentially. That means far more consistency and a much flatter bell curve.
Each round is packaged as it comes off the line, one after the other. So when you buy a box of from 100 to 1000 bullets, you know they were all made in the same production run, one after the next.
Here’s the promo video Hornady made for the A-TIPs that describes them well.
A-TIP bullets aren’t tumbled or washed after they’re made, either. They may have some oil or other residue on them when the buyer gets them. That’s why Hornady packages them with a Hornady-red polishing bag to clean them before loading.
As you might imagine, all of this makes A-TIPs significantly more expensive. The cost of A-TIPs runs anywhere from 70% more to over twice as much more per bullet over comparable ELD Match bullets depending on caliber and quantity.
Hornady’s offering the A-TIPs in three calibers and five weights so far.
TTAG got a chance to spend a couple of days at Leupold’s range in central Oregon last week shooting 135 grain 6.5 Creedmoor A-TIP rounds last week.
We chronographed our rifles and fed the environmental data into Hornady’s free-to-download 4DOF ballistic calculator app which does its magic based on drag coefficient rather than ballistic coefficient (the same app has a BC calculator, too). Then we got to pulling triggers.
Note: Hornady isn’t selling A-TIP bullets loaded into cartridges. They’re only offering the bullets in quantities of 100, 500 or 1000 for loading. The cartridges we shot were pre-loaded for us by Hornady for our use last week. Hornady has no plans to offer the A-TIPs in loaded cartridges at this time.
Make no mistake…I am not a long-range precision shooter. I’ve shot at distances out to about 1200 yards, but I’m not an expert or competitive shooter. That said, the combination of the A-TIPs and the 4DOF app were enough to get me right on target, right away.
We were dealing with winds that varied anywhere from 8 to almost 25mph depending on the time of day. That obviously made windage…a challenge. But my results were amazing with the A-TIPs and other, better shooters than I had the same assessment.
That said, TTAG’s Jon Wayne Taylor will be doing a much more scientific and complete review of the A-TIP bullets. We have a quantity of 6mm A-TIP and ELD Match bullets headed our way now, so stay tuned for a much more objective evaluation.