August 05, 2013
By Brian McCombie
The West Texas hog ran across a grassy field and headed for the tree line, crossing right to left, and just before he cut into the trees, I fired. Too far back, actually — the Winchester Razorback XT .308 bullet slamming into his flank. But the shock of the bullet slowed the 150-pound boar and turned him, giving me a better broadside shot, and my next bullet took him hard in his left shoulder.
He bounced off a tree trunk from the impact, stumbled, got up and ran a ways. But he was done. The XT round had smashed through both shoulders, broke bone and punctured the top of his lungs.
That was August 2012, when I took my first wild hog with Winchester's then brand new Razorback XT .308 rounds made specifically for hog hunting. Since then, I've killed four more hogs with XT .308s and spent several range sessions with the ammunition. My conclusion: Razorback XT is accurate, hits hard and efficiently takes down one of North American's tougher big game animals: the feral hog.
When it was originally launched in 2012, Razorback was offered in .223 Rem., firing a 62-grain bullet, and the 150-grain .308 Win. Winchester plans to expand the centerfire XT line by early 2014 with new offerings in .270 Win., 7.62x39 and .30-06. (In the meantime, Winchester has introduced 12-gauge XT slugs and 00 Buck, plus XT handgun ammo in .44 Rem. Mag.)
After I got the assignment to review this ammo, I tried to recover an XT slug from a hog. Problem: All my slugs went right through, leaving gaping exit wounds. These hogs, by the way, took one shot to the chest or neck and dropped within 10 yards.
At the range, I chronographed nearly a full box of .308 XT with a PACT Professional Chronograph XP. I used a Savage Arms Hog Hunter Rifle, Model 111, topped with a Swarovski Z6(i) riflescope.
The PACT XP clocked my first nine-shot string at an average velocity of 2,605 fps, the highest velocity at 2,674 fps, the lowest at 2,546 fps. The standard deviation was 35.
Despite Winchester's advertised muzzle velocities of 2,810 fps for the .308 XT, I wasn't concerned about the initial velocities since the barrel of the Savage is 20 inches long and the company's velocities are generated with 24-inch barrels. My next 10 rounds averaged in the 2,590 fps to 2,610 fps range. I broke up those 10 rounds into three separate strings, and their standard deviations ranged from 28 down to 15.
Accuracy was darn good. Once I was sighted in, I pegged three-shot groupings of 0.94, 1.13 and 1.34 inches at 100 meters.
The XT rounds use a non-lead bullet, and Mike Stock, Winchester's centerfire manager, prefers not to say what the exact metallic composition of the bullet is. Non-lead is as far as he will go, adding that the bullets are California compliant for use in areas where lead projectiles have been banned (which could soon include the entire state, based on pending legislation).
"When we designed the XT bullet, we went for toughness," Stock notes. "They key design factor on our end was weight retention. Once a bullet hits the slab side of a hog, it has to hold together to do the job, so our first order of business was to make it a one-piece bullet. If you put a bullet together from multiple pieces? You have a greater chance of it coming apart."
In Winchester laboratory tests on ballistic gel, XT .223 and .308 bullets retain 99 to 100 percent of their weight. In the field, says Stock, bullets retrieved from actual wild hog carcasses still held 85 to 87 percent of their weight, even when hitting bone.
"We wanted a bullet that would expand late and expand large," says Stock. "XT bullets expand into really big frontal areas, not just thin ribbons cutting through soft tissue."
To achieve that, the XT bullets have very deep hollowpoints and beveled sides. The bevels help to compress the hollowpoints somewhat as the bullets are punching through thick materials like the hog's shield — the layer of tough scar tissue that forms over the shoulder and ribs of a boar — and once into the softer tissue, the hollowpoints open up and transfer knockdown power.
From what I've seen in the field, that's exactly what the XT rounds do.