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Barnes Bullets Review

This is a real preliminary report on Barnes Bullets that will continue to be updated as I continue to load and shoot them. Barnes sent me a large stash of bullets awhile back for use in my .223 Remington, .22-250, .25-20, .257 Whby Magnum and in my .44 Magnum revolvers and rifles. That’s a pretty tall assignment really as I have a wide variety of bullets especially for the .22s. It will take me a year or more to get around to loading all and testing in multiple guns so rather than wait until the review can be completed I will report results as they come in.

So far I’ve loaded only two types of the many that I’ve been sent and those are the .224” 53 grain TSX-FB and the .257 TSX. To date I’ve limited my firing of the 53 grain TSX-FB to my Remington Model Seven Predator as I am kinda hoping to find a load accurate enough to give these a try on deer. I’m NOT a fan of using .223 Remington or any of the .22s for that matter on deer but I acknowledge that many people do so each year so I feel I should give it a shot so to speak and report the results of these bullets which seem they should be one of the better choices for deer if one is bound and determined to use a centerfire .22 for their deer hunting. This rifle wears a Mueller APV 4.5-14 scope.

So far my testing with it has been limited and I’ve honestly not found a load yet that is accurate enough to take hunting though one of the first three loads tested is showing enough promise to give a second try. To be completely fair I must say that so far this rifle has not shown great accuracy with any load I’ve tried though I did find an old load put together for prairie dog hunting several years ago that did shoot under an inch at 100 yards so I’m confident it’s merely a matter of finding the load it likes and it will perform.

The one load so far that seems to offer the most potential with the Barnes 53 TSX-FB is using 26.0 grains of W748. I have found W748 one of the best powders for use in a lot of my .223 Remington rifles. This particular load with a five shot group measured a totally unspectacular 1.95” but three of those clustered into only 0.60” which isn’t bad. Now I must figure out why the other two were so widely spread. I will try this same load one more time as I still have five more of them loaded and if it again shows some potential for better accuracy I will play around with seating depth to see if that helps and will also try different powder weights. I also have ten rounds loaded using 27.0 grains of the same powder. In the past I have found 27.1 grains to be almost magic in the way it delivers accuracy with both Hornady V-Max and Nosler BT bullets so have high hopes it is going to work that way with these Barnes bullets as well.

I gave AA2460 a fair trial as well and results proved to be just plain dismal with one load shooting into 1.95” and another into 3.65” both for five shots at 100 yards. Clearly that’s not the powder that is going to work with this bullet in this rifle. I do plan to give it a try though in my R700 SPS Varmint rifle just to see if the load combination stinks or if this rifle just doesn’t care for it.

I also have some 36 grain Varmint Grenade bullets loaded up with RL-7 which seemed the best powder choice from what I have on hand based on the new Barnes reloading manual. I’ll get around to shooting those next range session hopefully as well as finishing up the series I have loaded with the 53 TSX-FB.

Now on to the really bright side of this review which is the .257” 115 TSX.

I have a limited edition Remington 700 LSS in .257 Whby magnum made only one year which I am also doing a review on. Barnes gave me a variety of their bullets to try in this one and the first load right out of the chute seems to be real close to a winner for me. The rifle wears a Leupold VX-II 3-9 scope.

That load uses Weatherby headstamp brass made by Norma with Reloader 22 powder and the 115 TSX loaded to an overall length of 3.160” which is what Barnes recommends in their newest manual. I loaded up three rounds each with three different powder charge levels those being 65.0, 66.0 and 67.0 grains. That last one is pushing right up against maximum in the Barnes manual but bolt lift was no different than with the others and primers look no different. I am not one who believes you can judge safe pressures from such observations but still the load is within book limits and exhibits no signs different than lighter loads so I don’t think it’s gonna be too hot for use in this rifle at least not in milder fall temperatures.

Both of the two lighter charges turned in an identical performance of 0.9” for three shots at 100 yards. Each bullet in each group was darn near equal distance from each other in a near perfect equilateral triangle. To me that indicates no bedding problems with the gun and a load with some potential to do better once I determine what exact load it wants and what seating depth the rifle prefers with this bullet. I do believe I will find a really sweet spot with this bullet and powder that will get my groups down closer to a half inch and who knows maybe even reach that small group size. For really long range work and that really is what I bought this rifle to give a try I’d like to see 100 yard groups in the half to three quarters of an inch range though normally I consider any load that consistently shoots under an inch fine for my normal hunting.

Still I didn’t exactly buy this rifle for my normal hunting. I am hoping to take it west to give it a try on Pronghorn antelope and perhaps mule deer at some point in the future. Both can turn out to be long range propositions and given my health and lack of walking ability these days sneaking close as I prefer just might not be possible for me. I’m clearly and vocally not a fan of long distance shooting at game but I do plan to do some long range practicing with this rifle once I find a truly accurate load and see if I can push my confidence level to at least 400 yards from the current confidence level of around 300 yards that I generally call my personal maximum shot range. Hey if I can hit prairie dogs at 400-500 yards I should be able to hit a pronghorn hopefully at least that’s the plan for now.

The higher charge of 67.0 grains clearly had more noticeable recoil than the two lighter loads and while it wasn’t bad and in fact is less than a .30-06 rifle of similar weight it was noticeable in this higher charge weight whereas I was not able to tell a difference between 65.0 and 66.0 grains. That charge also didn’t shoot so well turning in a three shot group of 1.7” almost double that of the two lighter charges. So I’ll be working this one a lot more using the two lighter charges and perhaps also trying half grain increments below and above each. I will also vary seating dept by 0.010” at a time both shorter and longer and see if I can find the sweet spot with this bullet. I do believe it is going to work very well with this rifle.

I must confess to being happy to have finally found an accurate load with a Barnes bullet as I’ve given them a try in a lot of rifles and a few handguns in the past using the original X bullets with decided lack of success. Groups in the past for me have been more like the .223” 53 TSX load with AA2460 and so I’ve mostly not reported my findings as I hate to report really negative results when I ask for the product for a test. I do tend to talk about it when asked but seldom report such dismal results. This bullet and rifle combination are the brightest spot for me yet with Barnes bullets and I do have high hopes the new TSX bullets are going to be a turning point for me with Barnes bullets.

I’ve shot this rifle so far with a few other loads both factory and my hand loads and can say that this Barnes bullet so far is the best shooting bullet in this rifle of those tested so far. That really is high praise considering the other bullets tried so far which have a proven reputation for accuracy. Still I’ve only barely begun to shoot this rifle and I doubt it has more than 40 rounds down the barrel so far so I fully expect it to continue to get better as I shoot it.

More will follow as more shooting is done with the Barnes bullets I have on hand. So far they are looking like they will shoot well and as such will get some time on game once I work out my loads with them in several rifles.
 

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First follow up to my review

First follow up to my review:

I’ve now done some more firing with the Remington 700 LSS in .257 Whby magnum and must say that rifle loves those Barnes 115 TSX bullets. It is shooting them like a varmint rifle should shoot and making me mighty happy with both the rifle and the bullets. They aren’t the only bullets it’s shooting well but are the subject of this review.

I shot the rifle again today (11-03-09) using two loads. First was 65.0 grains of RL-22 with the 115 TSX and that load put three shots into 0.45” at 100 yards folks that’s varmint level accuracy from a magnum big game rifle. NICE! Next up I shot 65.5 grains of RL-22 with the same bullet. This group SHOULD have been better and it was strictly my fault it was not. I called shot number two a flyer as soon as it went off as I jerked just as I fired and knew it was not going to be with the group. It wasn’t but it only opened the group to 0.7” which is still darn fine for a big game hunting rifle. The other pair were kissing. I won’t say they over lapped but I find no gap at all between them. That group too would have been around a half inch or less had I not pulled the shot. That is not the fault of the gun, load or bullet but strictly a shooter error NOT the only such error made today.





On a less bright note I also shot the Remington Model Seven Predator using a couple of the Barnes .224” bullets. Performance varied from DISMAL to not bad. I completed the series I had begun previously with the 53 grain TSX-FB and five shots turned in groups of 2.0” and 4.7” and that was with W748 normally one of my most accurate powders for the .223 Remington.

I also shot a couple of loads using the 36 grain Varmint Grenade bullets over RL-7 powder. They weren’t great but weren’t horrible either. First up was 24.0 grains of RL-7 and the five shots went into 2.0”. With 25.0 grains five shots went into 1.2” and of those four out of the five went into a group of 0.75”. Had it not been for the flyer that group wouldn’t have been bad at all.

Next up was 26.0 grains of W748 with the 53 TSX-FB which had shot best for me last time out and those five shots went into 2.2” again due to a single flyer which might have been my fault as I did seem to have some flyers today that ruined otherwise fine groups. This time the other four went into a tight 0.5” group. This gives me hope that if I can avoid flyers that this load with the 53 TSX just might be a good load in the little Model Seven Predator and if so I’ll try to see how it will perform on game maybe even deer if/when the opportunity arises.

That’s the end of today’s update on the Barnes bullets.
 

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Bill,
May I ask what twist your Model 7 predator .223 is. Is it the 1-9" twist?
I have played with the 36gr Varmint grenade in my 16" RRA AR-15 1-9"twist. I had great luck with Reloader-7 and Hodgden BL-C(2). Using LC milspec brass and WSP.. The 48th Lymann manual has alot of data for the 36gr bullet..
 
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