Not all match-grade bullets are created equal, especially those featuring an aluminum tip.
STORY BY PHIL MASSARO • PHOTOS BY MASSARO MEDIA GROUP
In the cold, dry air of the eastern Oregon desert, the Leupold Optics Academy hosts its shooting courses at an impressive rifle range, with targets at distances from 100 yards to 2,000 yards. The ever-changing winds, the constant mirage and the physical location of the targets make for some very interesting shooting, to say the least, and you’ll want every advantage possible to make that steel ring.
There are many facets, but an accurate rifle, good glass and a proper
cartridge/bullet combination will make the shooter’s job much easier. Steel and paper targets are the playground of the match bullet, as they are not designed for any sort of terminal performance, and only concern themselves with their flight to the target. Match bullets have gone through some serious changes over the years, with some older designs (read: Sierra MatchKing) still leaned upon heavily, and some of the new designs being absolute game-changers.
One of the newer offerings that made an immediate impression on me – and was a definite advantage in those high desert conditions – was Hornady’s A-Tip Match.
DATING BACK TO 1947, when Joyce Hornady and Vernon Speer partnered to convert spent .22 rimfire casings into bullet jackets, the Hornady name has been equated with value, performance and innovation. Though Joyce is no longer with us, his son Steve and grandson Jason – as well as their excellent team of designers, engineers and ballisticians – have kept the products evolving, in both cartridge development and bullet development.
In recent years, Hornady has been responsible for the .375 and .416 Ruger, the .300 and .338 Ruger Compact Magnum, the .17 Hornady Magnum Rimfire, and perhaps most famously, the 6.5 Creedmoor. Their projectiles are equally famous; think about the wonderful pair of DGX Bonded and DGS Solid bullets for dangerous game, the ELD-X hunting bullet and its brother, the ELD Match bullet, with their revolutionary Heat Shield tips, and most recently, the A-Tip Match.
In nearly all aspects of shooting, consistency equals accuracy, and that concept certainly holds true in the extreme long-range shooting world. When designing a match bullet, you’ll want all the parameters of that bullet to be as consistent as possible, including the weight of the bullet, the concentricity (or uniformity), the outer dimensions, and perhaps most importantly, the tip or meplat of the bullet.
The bullet industry has long labored to keep the meplats of match
bullets not only consistent throughout the construction phase, but also when resting in the magazine of a rifle. The hollowpoint design – employed for decades – is certainly sound, but you’ll find trimming tools designed for keeping the fine bullet noses consistent, in an effort to achieve a uniform ballistic coefficient value. It is a uniform BC (along with uniform muzzle velocities) that aids in long range accuracy, and projectiles have become increasingly complex in the
effort to attain the uniformity desired to routinely hit targets to 1,000 yards and beyond.
The polymer tip made a huge difference in keeping a consistent meplat, and therefore a consistent BC, but it was Hornady who discovered that their polymer tips were actually melting in flight, drastically affecting the BC downrange. Solving that problem was certainly a step in the right direction, and I’ve had great results with both the ELD-X in the hunting fields and the ELD Match at the target range.
But Hornady wasn’t done, and the pursuit of the perfect match bullet continued. Using aluminum for a meplat material wasn’t exactly a new idea; the original Winchester Silvertip used a flat-tipped aluminum cap as a means of slowing expansion, and Hornady themselves used a huge (in comparison to the A-Tip Match) aluminum tip on their National Match line of bullets years ago. But the manufacturing techniques of yesteryear are not those of today, and Hornady turned to aluminum once again to try and manufacture the ultimate meplat. DEAD FOOT ARMS
Hornady used their excellent AMP bullet jacket and machined a long, and very precise, aluminum tip, which relocated the center of gravity and
optimized the long-range performance of the A-Tip Match. And the tolerances held by Hornady are so tight you can barely feel the seam between copper jacket and aluminum tip.
AT THAT OREGON range, I had the opportunity to take the 135-grain A-Tip Match to task, handloaded in the 6.5 Creedmoor, launched from a Ruger Precision Rifle and topped with a Leupold Mark 5 7-35×56. Those handloads – the A-Tip Match is only available in component form, you see – generated an average muzzle velocity of 2,769 feet per second, as observed on a LabRadar unit.
In spite of wind gusts up to 20 mph, changing direction numerous times throughout the day, we were able to make solid hits out to the 1,500-yard mark, the furthest we could engage from the particular point we
were shooting from.
I found the A-Tip Match to shoot a bit tighter at longer ranges than
it did up close; it’s the type of bullet that needs a bit of time to stabilize. It handled wonderfully in those stiff winds, needing much less correction for wind deflection than other designs I’ve used. Admittedly, the 6.5 Creedmoor is a wonderfully accurate bullet, but the cartridge is made better by launching Hornady’s new A-Tip Match. On the last day of the Shooting Academy, we had an opportunity to use a different shooting position and stretch the Creedmoor/A-Tip Match combo out to the 1-mile mark. While my shots fell victim to the winds and transonic window (that’s my story, and I’m sticking to it), a couple of colleagues made contact at that distance.
Hornady ships the A-Tip Match directly off the machines in sequential order; in fact, they provide a polishing cloth bag to remove the machine lubricants. They are shipped in boxes of 100, and Hornady will sell you a sequential run of up to 500 bullets, in an effort to obtain the best consistency. They have also seen the wisdom of producing this bullet up and down the spectrum, with the geometry of each bullet being unique to the caliber/weight combination.
It is currently available in: .224-inch-diameter 90-grain bullet; 6mm-diameter 110-grain bullet; 6.5mm-diameter 135-and 153-grain bullets; 7mm-diameter 166- and 190-grain bullets; .308-inchdiameter 176-, 230- and 250-grain bullets; .338-inch-diameter 300-grain bullet; .375-inch-diameter 390-grain bullet; and .416-inch-diameter 500-grain bullet. My .300 Winchester Magnum shows a definite liking for the 230-grain A-Tip Match, though here in New York I have only had the opportunity to take it to 300 yards.
While Hornady offers both the G1 and G7 BC values for each of these bullets, we had excellent results using the 4-DOF ballistic program from Hornady, relying on an axial form factor rather than ballistic coefficient.
These are not cheap, as the street price will run between $0.80 and $1.35 per bullet, but they are a good value for those who take their precision shooting serious. Look at how our optics, receivers, barrels, triggers and stocks have changed for the better over the last 20 years. I can’t possibly understand why anyone would have an issue with an expensive projectile, especially considering that it is the only part of our setup that touches the target at all.
Hornady has a winner here, and I think you’ll see the product line expand over the coming years. Perhaps for the target shooter who stays within 500 yards there may be more affordable options – including Hornady’s ELD Match – but when the distances get truly long, look to the A-Tip Match.