When Ted Torbeck, CEO of Freedom Group, Inc. (FGI), welcomed Randy Brooks and his team from Barnes Bullets to FGI following an agreement to purchase the famed bullet company in December of last year, many did not immediately know the full impact of the announcement. Count me among them.
“With the acquisition of Barnes, the Freedom Group continues to demonstrate our commitment to the ammunition business. We are excited about their research and development capabilities and the breadth of the products they bring to our portfolio,” said Torbeck.
Re-reading Torbeck’s quotes, “the writing was on the wall,” so to speak. FGI’s intentions were to leverage the might of its Remington ammunition manufacturing capability (at least initially) with Barnes’ renowned copper bullets to bring an all-new brand of ammunition into the marketplace.
No longer mere words, Barnes Bullets’ VOR-TX ammunition is a reality.
Barnes Bullets … And Again Ammunition
Although VOR-TX is new, factory-production ammunition from Barnes Bullets isn’t. In the early 1980s, owners Randy and Coni Brooks introduced Barnes Supreme ammunition—the name followed suit with that of Barnes Bullets founder and prolific wildcatter Fred Barnes’ proprietary line of cartridges, “Barnes Supreme”—which offered consumers handgun and rifles lines in popular chamberings. In its rifle line, the company loaded a host of cartridges from .223 Rem. to .458 Lott, and in handgun ammunition, the .44 Rem. Mag. especially found favor with those living in, or destined for, Alaska.
According to Jessica Brooks, product manager for Barnes Bullets and daughter of Randy and Coni, “The lines did well for a number of years, but the company redirected its focus solely to bullets, and the ammunition line was discontinued.” Since then, consumers have been limited to those loads made available by ammunition manufacturers, both small- and large-scale, or have had to handload their preferred Barnes product. Now, with VOR-TX, the offerings are even more diverse.
“We are servicing a portion of the market that, for years now, has specifically requested Barnes projectiles be loaded in Barnes ammunition,” explained Brooks. “This is a great way to ensure that the consumers who don’t handload have access to our products … . It’s really all about giving the consumer what they want, and making sure they have access to what they need in as many options and configurations as possible.” A case in point: The company is offering 15 loadings this year alone, with more slated for 2011.
In many ways, Barnes Bullets’ procurement by FGI breathed new life, and certainly capital, into the forward-thinking company. “The acquisition of Barnes Bullets by FGI allowed Barnes once again to pursue this opportunity,” explained Brooks. “It is part of the business we were anxious to rebuild, while it strengthens the company’s brand and position in the marketplace.”
So, will the move affect the company’s sales of bullets to those in competition with its new ammunition? Not so, according to Brooks, who said, “Barnes will continue to build and strengthen relationships with current customers … and partner with them on initiatives to build their businesses.”
Foremost considerations in the production of VOR-TX are, as explained by Brooks, “accuracy, precision and performance.” To improve downrange results requires optimal component selection and assembly practices, and Barnes Bullets has responded accordingly. VOR-TX features Remington-produced and Barnes-headstamped brass that is cosmetically different and manufactured to Barnes’ specifications. Propellants are selected to meet desired performance objectives with TSX and TTSX projectiles, and naturally the ammunition features Remington primers. Additionally, VOR-TX is manufactured at a lower production rate, and each round is hand-inspected for consistency.
Weighing 10 random tumbled, de-primed, post-fired .308 Win. cases revealed an average weight of 165.3 grains, with the heaviest case weighing 1.4 grains more, and the lightest two 0.9 grains less. For comparison, 10 unfired pieces of Lapua .308 Win. brass—a popular choice for competition shooters—averaged 173.7 grains, with the heaviest being 174.8 (or 1.1 grains above average), while the lightest case was 173.0 grains (or 0.7 grains below mean). As such, the VOR-TX brass, at least with regard to case-to-case weight, had respectable consistency.
As for projectile selection, “Accuracy and terminal performance were the strongest criteria for bullet choice,” Brooks said. “However, we realize that there are certain bullet weights consumers just expect to see in a given cartridge, and Barnes listens to its consumers.”
Although Barnes Bullets also offers Originals, Multi-Purpose Green (MPG), Maximum Range X-Bullets (MRX), Banded Solids and Varmint Grenades in its rifle lines, only TSX and TTSX bullets will appear in loaded Barnes ammunition—for now. Which bullet is used depends on performance requirements and availability.
As good as Barnes’ TSXs are, the fact remains that TTSXs are superior for long-range applications, where the light- to mid-weight, tipped boattail bullets’ higher ballistic coefficients (BC) result in flatter trajectories and less wind deflection—when compared to TSXs of identical caliber and weight. Also, the nature of their design—wider meplats, combined with the Delrin tips and larger cavities—enable expansion at lower velocities—a reality at greater distances. Plus, being lighter, TTSXs can be propelled at higher velocities for improved external and terminal ballistics, and since they are 99.95 percent copper, bullet integrity is not compromised. For these reasons, as well as the consumer demand for polymer-tipped projectiles, the majority of the loads feature TTSXs.
But, the tipped, boattail design that makes the TTSX desirable for long-range applications also curtails heavy-for-caliber options, as the bullets’ lengths would intrude too much into usable propellant space; hence part of the reason for the inclusion of TSXs. The other motive is simple: TTSX availability.
Examples of the latter include a 55-grain, 0.224-inch TSX in .223 Rem. and a 150-grain, 0.308-inch TSX flat nose (FN) in .30-30 Win. With regard to the former, at this point no TTSX exists in 0.224-inch diameter, and since the latter is most often associated with tubular-fed-magazine lever-actions, a non-flexible spitzer-profile tip cannot be safely used.