Federal Premium earns the top honor for 2021 as Ammunition Product Of The Year with Terminal Ascent, a bonded hunting bullet blended with attributes found in top-performing target loads. American Rifleman’s extensive testing with Terminal Ascent began at SHOT Show 2020 then again for a September 2020 American Rifleman feature penned by Editor In Chief Mark Keefe. Here is what we learned:
Terminal Ascent is proof of bullet evolution beginning with a man’s desire to create tough bullets that reliably function in myriad mediums. Federal Premium’s first foray with tough, bonded-type bullets goes back to Jack Carter and his Trophy Bonded Bear Claw design, which eventually lead to the Edge TLR bullet and onto Federal Premium’s Terminal Ascent, a bullet that combines the latest technologies to offer a loading that is designed to go the extra mile, elevating the user experience with factory hunting loads.
What’s in Federal’s Terminal Ascent that makes it so great?
In his article titled “Federal’s Terminal Ascent: One Bullet To Rule Them All?” Keefe wrote, “Federal Premium has taken the lessons learned from developing other projectiles and put them into one hunting bullet.” Bonded bullets offer hunters with tried-and-true lead-core projectiles for maximum upset while proving a chemically linked connection between the bullet’s core and copper-alloy shank. The resulting bullet bolsters high weight retention and controlled upset for reliable and consistent results.
More than just a bonded bullet, as Keefe revealed, other key ingredients in Federal’s formula combine to raise the bar, making Terminal Ascent an all-around load that is capable of hunting most all big-game species worldwide while providing match-grade accuracy results. Features such as a secant ogive, small-for-caliber meplat dimension, SlipStream Tip and AccuChannel grooves are fused together to strike a balance between target-quality aerodynamics and rugged functionality.
It was real-world testing during an ibex hunt in Spain that convinced Keefe after he anchored a nice Gredos at 346 yards and, a few days later, when he took a Southeastern at 185 yards. Later, he and three other staffers shot the bullet in top-tier rifles at an outdoor range—all of them learning that Terminal Ascent is accurate enough to imperil even a hanging tennis ball out to 300 yds. “We then began shooting steel plates, some as a small as 6", at 300 yds. It was at this longer range that Terminal Ascent really shined. With the Weatherby I was able to ring the 6" gong with near-monotonous regularity. I went nine for 10,” wrote Keefe.
Furthermore Keefe mentioned, “By the time we got down to the target frames, it cooled to a far more palatable 99° F with only 42 percent humidity. That heat meant that it was difficult to get the barrels to really cool down, but given the conditions I was pleased with the groups and even more so with the performance of the ammunition. There were no malfunctions of any sort.”
There are bullets with higher BCs in Federal‘s catalog, as well as bullets that will penetrate deeper, but it is the blending of those two things that makes Terminal Ascent likely the most broadly applicable big-game hunting bullet developed to date. It has nearly the ballistic performance of a match bullet without the fragility.
Given all its incredible engineering, Federal Premium’s Terminal Ascent won us over for Ammunition Product Of The Year.
So what does it take to make the cut? The winners are selected by a seven-member committee consisting of editors, graphic designers and veteran NRA Publications staff, representing more than a century of collective experience in the shooting and hunting industry. The criteria required to qualify for consideration of a Golden Bullseye Award include being: introduced and available to consumers prior to the selection of the Golden Bullseye Awards; used/tested by a staff member or regular contributor to the magazine and/or affiliated media; reliable in the field, meeting or exceeding the evaluator’s expectations; innovative in design and function; readily perceived as a value to the purchaser; and styled in a manner befitting the shooting and hunting industry and, perhaps more importantly, its enthusiasts.