August 19, 2016
By Brad Fitzpatrick
One upon a time, the 400, 500 and 600 yard shooting lanes at our local rifle club were rarely visited by anyone except the poor guy who had to mow the grass — and that's a lot of grass.
Now the same gentlemen must almost schedule a time to landscape because there are so many hunters and shooters lobbing bullets a quarter mile or more. Long-range hunting and shooting are all the rage, and 300 yards, once considered quite a long shot, is bayonet distance compared to the ranges at which some hunters now shoot game.
But long-distance shooting isn't easy. There are a variety of factors that, at 100 or 200 yards, may not really effect a bullet's path. At a half mile or more, though, those nuances can mean missed shots, big groups or wounded game. Those who are truly dedicated to long range hunting and shooting are detail-oriented, type-A individuals. Nothing is left to chance. "Good enough" is not, in fact, good enough.
Those who take long-range hunting seriously have a reason to smile with the launch of the Hornady ELD-X Precision Hunter ammo. As you might imagine, the ballistic engineers in Grand Island, Neb., don't accept good enough either, and to that end they developed a hunting bullet that changed the way we think about big game hunting at long ranges.
Dave Emary and his team of engineers at Hornady were in the final stages of testing a new bullet and were using Doppler radar when they noticed an issue developing at extended ranges with their new projectile.
The equipment showed that the bullet was actually becoming less aerodynamic at ranges beyond 400 yards, reason being that the tip of these high-BC bullets was melting due to friction. This increased meplat (point) area, which increased drag. Not good.
Hornady's work with lead and copper suddenly turned to a detailed examination of polymers, and the team found one specific polymer that provided a high level of uniformity (a favorite word among long-range shooters) and — most importantly — didn't start melting at long range.
The result was a bullet that retained its high ballistic coefficient from the muzzle to a half mile or more. The new Hornady ELD-X polymer point became known as the Heat Shield tip. For those who are type-A shooters, there's a detailed video on Hornady's website. For the more type-B individual the answer is simple; the tip won't melt, ballistic coefficient stays the same, and that leads to consistent accuracy.
Match shooters aren't terribly concerned what happens to a bullet when it strikes the plate, but hunters needed a projectile that was as lethal as it was accurate.
To that end, the company added the new polymer tip to a long, heavy-for-caliber InterLock bullet that provided effective expansion across a wide variety of velocities. Hunters might find themselves shooting deer at 400 yards or more with a .30-06 — or a whitetail may step out at 60 yards and you're carrying a .300 Remington Ultra Magnum because you expected a quarter-mile shot.
In this first instance, your bullet might being traveling at less than 1,800 feet per second, and in the second case that bullet might be pushed at close to 3,200 feet per second. Hornady has tested these bullets in ballistic gel out to 800 yards and their results have been uniformly deadly.
The Hornady ELD-X bullet is now being loaded into Hornady's Precision Hunter line of ammunition in eight different calibers (6.5 Creedmor 143-gr., 7mm Remington Magnum 162-gr., .308 Winchester 173-gr., .30-06 173-gr., .300 RCM 173-gr., .300 Winchester Magnum 200-gr., .300 RUM 220-gr., and .30-378 Weatherby 220-gr.).
The first thing you'll notice is that the grain weight of each bullet is high, a means by which to achieve higher ballistic coefficients for improved long-range shooting. The 143-gr. 6.5 Creedmoor load that I tested had a G1 ballistic coefficient of .625, which is quite impressive.
The rifle I used to test the 6.5 Creedmoor Hornady ELD-X Precision Hunter load was Bergara's new B-14 Hunter topped with a Trijicon Accupower scope. That scope/rifle combo had already produced sub-MOA groups with match ammo so I had a baseline of performance, and with Hornady's Precision Hunter the Bergara produced three-shot groups ranging from .71 to .79 inches at 100 yards.
Normally that would suffice for an ammo test, but I wanted to see how the 100 yard consistency compared to what the ammo would do at 200 yards, and groups were actually better at the range, averaging 1.24 inches with a best three-shot cluster of just 1.08, or slightly over ½ MOA. Average velocity was 2,618 with the chronograph placed 10 feet from the muzzle, and standard deviation was just 14.2, quite consistent for a factory load.
Long-range hunters need the right gear, and the Hornady ELD-X ammo is perfect for that application. But if you happen to still plan on shooting deer at 100 or 200 yards and have no aspirations of trying to knock over game at a quarter mile, you'll find that this ammo provides reliable expansion and consistent accuracy, and those two factors are key, regardless of range.