“Battle of the Bullets - .264 Cal…”
This Week’s Tips or Tricks…
Note: all BBTO and BBS measurements noted below were taken using a Hornady Bullet Comparator attached to a Hornady Dial Caliper as shown below in the example pictures. Please also note that for all BBTO and BBS values documented below, I had to subtract 1.0035” from every BBTO measurement to get the corrected BBTO lengths and 2.0085” from every BBS measurement to get corrected BBS lengths.
Example: I measured BBTO with the Hornady Bullet Comparator attached to the Hornady Dial Caliper and noted the value as 1.72475”. To find the length that you will need to subtract for your particular tool to get corrected BBTO, close the Dial Caliper jaws all the way down with the Bullet Comparator Tool and the correct size comparator inserted and document the value of the Dial Caliper when fully closed, in the case of my particular tool this value was 1.0035” when fully closed. So to find corrected BBTO I would then calculate 1.72475” – 1.0035” = 0.72125” BBTO. If you are using a digital caliper, simply close the jaws and press the ‘Zero’ button on your calipers to achieve your corrected BBTO.
TIP: In order to get the best performance and accuracy from your reloads, there are several extra steps which you should evaluate and/or consider adding to your reloading practices when trying to ensure the greatest consistency and tightest tolerances are achieved from round-to-round including:
· Sorting bullets by Bullet Weight (BW)…
o Separating your bullets into BW classes or “Lots” of Light, Medium, and Heavy can make your reloads more uniform and consistent when it comes to POI shift effects from gravity and velocity down range. Lighter bullets may fly faster and impact higher on the target as opposed to heavier bullets which may drop quicker and will have less velocity at various ranges.
· Sorting bullets by Bullet Base to Ogive (BBTO)…
o Separating your bullets into BBTO Length classes or “Lots” of Short, Medium, and Long can make your reloads more consistent in terms of seating depth, “jump”, and case fill capacity ratio. If your bullets BBTO vary by several thousandths and you are shooting a secant ogive bullet (such as a VLD) which may be more susceptible to seating depth tolerances, you are likely in for trouble! But if you are shooting a tangent ogive bullet (such as a Hybrid) that combines the VLD nose characteristics of the secant bullet with the more tolerant tangent ogive, then you may see less variance due to “jump” and you may/may not see big differences. However, if you are varying your seating depth within the casing by several thousandths from round-to-round because of a large variance in BBTO, your reloads can adversely suffer because you are now varying your case fill capacity ratio, even though CBTO hasn’t changed, which may lead to varying Muzzle Pressures and therefore cause fluctuations and inconsistencies in your Muzzle Velocity due to the increased/decreased compression/expansion of empty space within the casing.
· Sorting bullets by Bullet Bearing Surface (BBS)…
o Separating your bullets into BBS Length classes or “Lots” of Short, Medium, and Long can make your reloads more consistent in terms of friction and pressure effects induced into your ballistic trajectory by more uniformly controlling your Muzzle Pressures. A bullet with a longer BBS is going to encounter increased friction which causes increased pressure through greater contact with the Lands of the Rifling and therefore can potentially cause Muzzle Pressures to spike upward increasing your bullets Muzzle Velocity. A bullet with a shorter BBS is going to encounter decreased friction which causes decreased pressure through less contact with the Lands of the Rifling and therefore can potentially cause Muzzle Pressures to spike downward decreasing your bullets Muzzle Velocity. This is a prime example and just one of many reasons why Muzzle Velocity Extreme Spread (ES) and Standard Deviation (SD) values can vary wildly all over the place with your reloads even though you do everything else perfectly!
Note: All of the referenced values, data, and/or observations noted above and hereafter are strictly dependent to the rifle, bullet, powder, primer, brass, and conditions in which this test was conducted. These results are all to be used as informational only purposes for you to see how the before and hereafter mentioned reloading methods can be applied to your particular reloading methods and practices and none of the following data should ever be used without proper understanding of metallic cartridge reloading and the exercise of safe and SAAMI compliant reloading practices and procedures.
First, let’s take a look at the popular heavyweight contenders we chose to go head-to-head in this “Battle of the Bullets” below in the picture and the side-by-side specs comparison chart we laid out for you. We chose to focus on these Berger, Hornady, Lapua, Nosler, and Sierra bullets because these are going to be either the most popular bullets used in a Long Range Target Shooting setting for .264 Cal (at the time this article was written) or these are the ones that you are constantly seeing the bullet vs. bullet amateur hour fights taking place over within the inter-webs of the online underworld. We wanted to pull all the Monday morning quarterback analysts off the field and put this matter somewhat to rest the best we could by giving you the cold hard data to determine for yourself which bullet(s) are the true heavyweight contenders in the arena and which are just another fly in the ointment!
Now that we have all of our ‘test subjects’ determined for this battle, let’s compare how all these bullets stack up on paper according to their manufacturers and/or industry cited data…
Next, we are going to establish what equipment and procedures were used to conduct the hereafter samplings. These tools were all selected based upon their popularity, ease of use, accessibility, and the general affordability for which the average shooter may only have budget allowance for.
· Hornady Lock N’ Load Bench Scale PN# 050108
· Hornady Dial Caliper PN# 050075
· Hornady Lock N’ Load Bench Scale was powered using an A/C power source and allowed no less than (10) minutes warm up prior to taking any samples
· Hornady Lock N’ Load Bench Scale calibration was verified against both a 10g and 50g weight before and after testing each of the bullet manufacturer tested Lot #’s
· Hornady Lock N’ Load Bench Scale was required to settle for no less than (3) seconds on a single xxx.x grain weight value before each individual bullet weight was noted and documented
· Bullet Lot #’s were all broken out and separated down by 0.1 grain weight variances and documented/stored according to those variances into sub-Lot’s for that particular bullet
· Bullet sub-Lot #’s used for all BBTO and BBS measurements were chosen from the highest concentration sub-Lot of bullets to achieve the most consistent measurements from each
· All tests were performed in consecutive stages meaning that all test equipment was calibrated/zeroed/trued for the test and ALL bullets were measured before any further adjustments were allowed to the tool(s)
Now….for the RESULTS!!!
Bullet Weight Concentration Test…
In the below charts, we can see that the Berger 130 OTM’s and 140 Hybrid’s took the top slots in the Bullet Weight Concentration Test. The Berger 130 OTM’s had the highest concentration at (58) bullets weighed at the 130 grain manufacturer target mark and the Berger 140 Hybrid’s weighed in at slightly under the manufacturer target mark at 139.9 grains.
The worst loser in this test was the Sierra 140 HPBT SMK’s at just (34) bullets weighed at the largest concentration at 140 grains.
Bullet Weight Variance Test…
In the below chart, we can see that the Berger 130 OTM’s took the top slot in the Bullet Weight Variance Test by nearly 10%! The Berger 130 OTM’s had the highest concentration at (97%) of all bullets weighed being within +/- 0.2 grains of their 130 grain manufacturer targeted weight. The Nosler 140 RDF’s had the second highest concentration at (88%) of all bullets weighed being within +/- 0.2 grains of their 140 grain manufacturer targeted weight. The biggest loser here this time was the Hornady 143 ELD-X’s which only had (55%) of all bullets weighing in at the 143 grain manufacturer target weight.
The Nosler 140 RDF’s, Berger 140 Hybrid’s, Lapua 139 Scenar’s, and Hornady 140 ELD-M’s were all pretty neck-and-neck when it came to Bullet Weight Variance being within just +\- 0.1 grains of the manufacturers targeted weight. However, the Sierra 140 SMK’s trailed behind in the pack with (21%) of the bullets being at +/-0.2 grains or more from the manufacturers targeted weight. The Hornady 143 ELD-X’s more than doubled the Sierra 140 SMK’s by having a whopping (45%) of their bullets all being +/-0.2 grains or more from the manufacturer targeted weight.
BBTO Length Variance Test…
In the below chart, we can see that the Hornady 130 ELD-M’s had the shortest BBTO and the Lapua 139 Scenar’s had the longest BBTO. But why might this be important to note? Having troubles with rounds feeding from a magazine, nosing into the feed ramp, or a shorter throat chambered rifle keeping you from achieving the optimal seating depth and groups during you want during load development tuning??? Knowing which bullets BBTO are longer and which are shorter can help you diagnose and even solve some of these common feeding and tuning issues when selecting the appropriate bullet(s) for your rifle.
In the below charts, now we will look at the number that REALLY matters in regards to BBTO and design in general from bullet-to-bullet which is the Standard Deviation (SD) of those bullets BBTO! As we can see from the chart below, the Nosler RDF’s had the most consistent BBTO SD’s. The worst BBTO SD’s were from the Sierra 140 SMK’s which varied by over 0.007” more from bullet-to-bullet compared to all the other bullets tested!
BBS Length Variance Test…
In the below chart, we can see that the Berger 130 OTM’s are back on top with the shortest BBS and the Hornady 143 ELD-X’s have the longest BBS. So depending on what your goals are and how many FPS of Muzzle Velocity you may like to try and pickup from your load, you have ~0.100” worth of variance here to play with in order to meet your needs. Note: if you are tuning strictly for the purpose of enhanced Muzzle Velocity ONLY though, you are much more likely to achieve this goal with a slightly faster powder and reworking your powder charge or by switching out to a longer barrel length for your rifle as opposed to simply changing bullets due to bearing surface of the bullet(s) alone. The new bullet which you change over to may not provide all the same benefits and characteristics or even the same level of consistency as your currently selected bullet(s)! You have to exercise the give-and-take method here to know exactly what you are wanting to accomplish and what you are willing to sacrifice in doing so though!!! But the thing that is for sure is that sorting bullets by BBS can/will make your ES/SD values start to drop!
However, let’s turn back to the metric of BBS that once again REALLY matters and that is the BBS SD’s! Below you can see that the Nosler 140 RDF’s came out on top again with the lowest BBS SD’s. The Lapua 139 Scenar’s this time ended at the bottom again with over 0.002” more BBS SD variance than its next closest ranking competitor the Hornady 143 ELD-X’s and nearly 0.009” greater standard deviation than that of the Nosler 140 RDF’s! Can’t figure out why you keep chasing your tail in a circle over-and-over again on load development tuning and nothing seems to help…this could potentially explain one of the many reason why your ES/SD continue to vary!!!
Bullet Cost Comparison Test…
We took the average retail price calculated from what we would consider (3) of the top Online Retailers for all of these bullets and put those averages together to generate a cost analysis breakdown. In the below chart, we can see that for the overall performance you get from the Nosler 140 RDF’s they also come with a very friendly cost too…a “you can have your cake AND eat it too” scenario!!! Berger 130 OTM’s and 140 Hybrid’s, in no surprise, came in dead last when it comes to their average price being the highest of all the bullets compared in this test. Hornady is known for being cheaper on the cost side, of which we have seen above can lead to some deficiencies elsewhere in performance and consistency, but they rounded out the Top 5 in Avg Cost / 100 and 500 quantities purchased.
Non-Weighted Testing Aspect Notes…
In all of the tests which we conducted on these various lots of bullets noted, there are a few details that we have purposely omitted thus far and needed to additionally address at some point…now is that point.
One of the huge game-changing aspects of the newer Nosler 140 RDF’s is the pointed meplat from the factory for this bullet. Nosler has pointed the meplat of the RDF’s which has the enhanced effects of increasing the BC’s of the RDF’s but additionally saves reloaders from the requirement of needing to execute this potential step within their reloading practices. This factory feature of the RDF’s is a huge money and time saver in the book of getting the most juice for your squeeze from this bullet!
Why didn’t we include the BC rating as a “test” metric for these bullets??? We did this for a few reasons. First reason is because BC’s are often one of the single most argued aspects of a bullets performance and are often argued by shooters as being incorrect or ‘inflated’ for marketing hype because they were derived by x or y entity. Second, in order to try and keep an impartial look and comparison of all these bullets, we didn’t want to factor in the whole “whose BC’s are better” argument into this mix and essentially render the statistical results noted within as being potentially skewed because of the selected BC’s we chose to compare for said bullets. So, what we did was do the best we could at finding the published BC’s from the manufacturers for each of their said bullets and quoted them as such. This allows the data and results here-in to remain unbiased and non-skewed from purposely omitting any undesired effects of having included this potentially controversial performance metric based upon a particular source(s). So, if you want this metric included…you can do it yourself with whichever your “pick of poison” you prefer to choose!
Tipped bullets…why no metric comparison here? The Hornady ELD-M and ELD-X bullets all deploy the polymer tipped method of essentially ‘pointing’ a bullet for a higher BC. Adding such a polymer tip to a bullet also induces other unwanted issues such as resulting in the COAL of a cartridge to vary widely in measurements and the COAL is really only a SAAMI compliant spec that is required to ensure that all production and handload ammunition specifications and publications all adhere to the same industry standard measurements for safety purposes. If you are set on using the COAL measurement as a performance metric for your reloads currently and you have read this far, you are likely already lost and this article won’t do you much good without reading through some of our other articles in which we explain in much greater details why COAL is not a good Long Range Rifle handloading performance metric that should be used. The second possibility of why you may likely be shackled to the COAL may be due to the maximum OAL that your magazine dimensions support, which in this case you have physical limitations with your rifle/magazine that may be difficult to overcome regardless of your handload methods and practices implemented/considered without potentially changing hardware out. If you want a greater understanding of more in-depth aspects and handloading metrics for precision rifle, please see our various other articles by clicking on this link here.
How did we acquire the tools and specimens for this test??? NO, we ain’t a bunch of jersey wearing mofo’s and NO we didn’t get all this stuff given to us on a FREE ride…sorry, that dog don’t hunt around here fellas! In fact, we purchased ALL of the tools and bullets that were tested in this side-by-side comparison directly from our normal distribution and supplier channels…so everything we tested is what is currently in circulation and in use by consumers in the market right now…not some special one-off, cherry-picked Lot of bullets or special tolerance tools that were donated by any of the manufacturers and their products which were specifically involved in these tests. We were in no sort of contact, agreement, restrictions, or collusion with any of the manufacturers whose products are listed here…and NO there were NO Russian’s involved in determining the outcome of these results either!
Bullet Overall Ranking Comparison Test…
We took into account ALL of the above factors including BW, BBTO, BBS, and Retail Price and we determined the average overall rankings for each of the bullets tested throughout this process. Then we generated the un-edited overall ranking charts below showing how each bullet faired overall in this side-by-side ranking comparison test…
However, we did not want to just provide a simple and generic gross overall ranking which have factored the “price” element into the equation because production/retail costs are largely based upon suppliers, materials, and trends of Supply and Demand relative to their particular geographic area and product popularity for sales in those areas…which is why we have broken out the rankings into the following (2) separate comparisons.
Before we go any further, let us explain how the following results were determined and are to be read in terms of “ranking”. In the charts below, you will find a ranking system of 1 through 8 (1 being most consistent/quality and 8 being of the least consistent/quality). In the event in which we had multiple products land in a tie, we gave the tie rank to all the tied and then continued from the ranking which followed the ties. Example, below in the BW Concentration test we have the Hornady 140 ELD-M’s, Lapua 139 Scenar’s, and Nosler 140 RDF’s all tie for third best in that ranking. We then gave a (3) to all those bullets in the tie and the very next ranking bullet received a (6) being as if there wasn’t a three-way tie, the slots of (4) and (5) should have been filled, but instead the three-way tie consumed those positions in that test and we did not want to un-evenly weight these rankings. This is similar to the way that you would see a money payout for a three-way tie have the earnings for those slots be combined and then divided across the three-way tie competitors. So, just to recap the LOWER the average ranking value is to (1)…the BETTER that bullet(s) ranked and the HIGHER the average ranking value is to (8) the WORSE that bullet(s) ranked in the overall testing results.
First chart below is a pure mechanical design comparison of each of the bullets tested. This Overall Ranking Comparison of looking at just strictly the consistency, quality control aspects (QA), and overall design elements of the bullets themselves led to the Nosler 140 RDF’s coming out on top with an overall ranking of an impressive 2.5 out of 8…not too shabby for the newest guy (bullet in this case) on the block! With a good (1) pt lead over its next rival competitors the Berger 130 OTM’s and 140 Hybrid’s and then beating out the Hornady 140 and 130 ELD-M’s by a margin of (1.5) pts…the field begins to spread from there.
We have seen throughout this entire series of tests which we have conducted that the Hornady 143 ELD-X’s have struggled to compete with this field of target bullets. The Hornady 143 ELD-X’s appear to be one of the newest, run-of-the-mil, factory production bullets in terms of being pushed by some fans in the industry as a ‘big thing’ for Target Shooting uses, even though it is questionable by the results as to whether it really has anything superior per say to offer the Long Range Target Shooting community in comparison against the field of other target bullets which it was tested against here. The Hornady ELD-X’s may prove to be a much stronger ranking bullet against some of their other more equally suited hunting competitor’s lineup of bullets such as the Nosler Accubond, Berger VLD Hunting, and Sierra Game Kings, but since this bullet has also been marketed by Hornady as a “Match accurate hunting bullet” and backed by loyal fans as such within the inter-webs, we felt both compelled as well as obligated that it would be fair game to see just how it would stack up against other real Match accurate purpose designed bullets intended for Long Range Target Shooting. Bottom line here folks, we are not trying to intentionally dog on the 143 ELD-X’s or even start a war amongst their fans with this as these ELD-X’s have went up against an extremely tough field of competitors here. Rather our intentions are simply to point out that the term “Match” accurate associated with a bullets performance gets thrown around a LOT in this industry and that you won’t always get what you might expect from that “Match” title. As Tommy Boy might say here, seeing “Match” on the box might give you as a customer a warm and comforting feeling, but anybody can put “Match” on the box and then all you have is a guaranteed “Match” piece of…well you get the picture. This is exactly the reason why we don’t trust any marketing slogans or campaigns until we have proven those said claims for ourselves regardless of whom the manufacturer is and you shouldn’t either! Taking somebody or any marketing campaign or slogan for their/its “word” regardless of who it is often times won’t yield the best outcome for you…just ask Hillary how well that moving forward campaign thing worked out for her!
Ok, now that we may have gotten some folks on the inter-webs all fired up with these results so far, let’s see the second chart…where price comes into play!
As many of you are already likely thinking, yep…it did happen, Berger took a huge hit in the chamber within our rankings when price was factored in because those of us who love to shoot Berger know very well that the little yellow box which they come in with that usually spot on motivational sticker, is about as expensive as that nice CAT yellow or John Deere green paint we pay extra for on our ‘other’ equipment because we just “gotta have it”! As you can see here from the impact to our wallet, Berger coming in dead last and second to last in terms of the price associated with shooting those great 130 OTM’s and 140 Hybrid’s, the 140 Hybrid’s dropped from 2nd place to 5th place just due to price alone and the 130 OTM’s became tied with the Hornady 140 ELD-M’s!!! While we all love to have the very best, budgets and many significant others may put the kibosh on those snobbish hopes and dreams and we don’t always get what we want. So sadly and unfortunately to say, those Berger 140 Hybrid’s that many know and love to shoot get smoked! in the rankings merely because of their price alone…so now all you Hornady fans out there screaming at us for knocking on your ELD-X’s have something once again to do your ‘happy dance’ about…LOL!
So what is the moral of this story
folks...there is NO one
correct answer to the question we constantly here time-and-again asked on the
inter-webs about “what is the BEST
bullet” for “X” .264 Cal based cartridge. The term “BEST”
is completely relative to the purpose, expectation, and the goals for which you
set for a particular cartridge and rifle…sort of like that term “Match”! Indeed, some bullets are VERY different than others and some are indeed “better” in many ways than others, but
bottom line the benefit of said characteristics are completely dependent upon YOUR particular needs and
requirements! You should ALWAYS access ALL
relevant data and conduct a thorough analysis yourself BEFORE
establishing a basis for your conclusions.
Doing so will keep you on target and SAFE to shoot and reload yet
For any additional questions regarding information about these bullets or to purchase your next Lot of Berger, Hornady, Nosler, Lapua, or Sierra bullets please give us a call at 888-869-3150 Ext. 1 today!
Do you have a Tip or Trick regarding reloading that you would like to see posted? Please send us your Tip(s) or Trick(s) and we will see about getting them posted!
Written By: Kyle R. CEO of Broken Box R LLC
Copyright © 2017 Broken Box R LLC – All Rights Reserved
This article was first published on July 23rd, 2017.