Barnes’ First Ballistician:
Eric Pedersen was hired as Barnes’ first ballistician after it was purchased by Randy Brooks. But why not just let him tell the story – check it out below.
21 years ago I had the good fortune of being hired by Randy Brooks as the first ever Ballistician for Barnes Bullets. My main task was to shoot, write, acquire and compile all the information and load data needed for our first reloading book. Coinciding with that project, Randy had just bought the Apex Barrel Company with the intention of building custom rifles and barrels, and since there was an accuracy guarantee with each of those rifles, it fell upon me to work up loads and shoot each and every one. For those of you who know Randy, it is an understatement to say he can enthusiastically sell product. I don’t know how many hundreds of rifles he sold, but over the next few years it would not be an exaggeration to say that I worked up loads for over 400 rifles. Then add in the thousands of loads worked on for the first and second volumes of reloading books and I have to ponder at what was truly a once in a lifetime experience, one that taught me much about rifles, bullets, loading and shooting. We redesigned many of the X bullets of the day, had a good run setting world records with one of our 50 BMG target bullet designs, developed the MZ muzzleloader bullets as well as the all copper XPB pistol bullets. I’m pretty sure that by 1997 when I moved on to other things, I had sent more X-Bullets downrange than any human ever had up to that point. Even to this day I am a certified bullet geek. My desk drawer is full of expanded bullets pulled out of game that I or friends have shot. It has gotten so bad, that my friends automatically tell their guides to try to find and save the bullets when skinning animals because they know that the first questions I will ask them is “what bullet did you use? Did you find it? What does it look like? Tell me what happened with the wound channel “ and on and on… Bullet performance is a big deal to me.
I was thinking about all this as I called Jessica this last June to discuss an upcoming safari that I had booked in South Africa for the following August. My timing is often flawlessly bad; I had already booked one safari prior to Zimbabwe and as we were preparing for the hunt, Zim had one of their social collapses (our PH called us about 2 months before we were to depart and said that while we could still come, he was on the next plane to the UK since there was no gas, no milk and few groceries) and another safari was booked right before the Tanzanian Government doubled the concession fees, which in essence put the cost of the safari out of reach for me. So, having booked and cancelled 2 hunts to Africa prior to this, I was excited to finally be able to get over there.
While having reloaded tons (maybe literally tons) of Barnes Bullets in the past, I had never shot any of the Barnes Vortex Ammunition and was contemplating trying some as Jessica made it an easy decision for me by offering to send me a couple of boxes for my .338 Win Mag.
A couple of shots to dial the scope in, and then 3 shots for group and I was simply amazed. I have been in the Ammo industry for 21 years now and rarely had I had it this easy to get a gun ready. My first 3 shot group was .485”! I shot more that day and continued to be amazed at the accuracy of the ammunition. It was at that moment that I realized that Barnes had really taken their products to a whole new level from where we were while I was there, you know, when I thought I knew it all. I later asked Jessica what they had figured out and knew now that I was still in the dark about regarding the design of the bullets.
Having booked my hunt with Blaauwkrantz Safaris, I was hoping to include East Cape Kudu, Cape Bushbuck, Warthog, various small antelope, a Blesbuck, and a Mountain Reedbuck into the mix. If the situation was right I also wanted to consider a Nyala and/or an Eland. Due to the nature of the climate and vegetation of the Eastern Cape, the animals of the region have capes that are exceptionally colored and prized for their thick hair and then on top of that Blaauwkrantz was supposed to have some of the biggest East Cape Greater Kudu in the world. I was very anxious to start my first African Safari and it goes without saying that having the right bullet and ammunition was of the highest priority for me.
Eventually it was time for the trip and I left for the Denver Airport on July 30, 2012 bound for Port Elizabeth, South Africa. I arrived on the 1st of August with just enough time before dark to quickly shoot the gun and verify that it was still ok after the long flights. That night at the lodge I met up with my hunting partner Ron Nilsson and some other hunters in the camp who had arrived prior to me. We dined on a meal of Kudu steaks and local vegetables while I listened to the newly formed stories that the other hunters had just made that very day. The Rudman family which owns Blaauwkrantz, along with the other PHs made a tradition of all joining us for dinner each night. So needless to say it was a fascinating time right from the start.
I can’t say that I made every shot that I pulled the trigger on, but I will say that the ammunition and particularly the bullet never let me down. I never had to shoot an animal more than one time nor did we have to track any of my animals. I confess to having had a couple of clean misses and trust me on this; if you go to Africa, practice shooting off of shooting sticks BEFORE you go. I now know that the Tipped Triple Shock bullet is a work of art. Our PH François mentioned that he handloads TTSX bullets for his own .300 Win Short Mag because he had been so impressed over the years. To hear a PH talk about and be impressed with this bullet, after he had seen so many animals taken with every conceivable bullet, really is a testament to the quality of the product. For me, the bullet expanded and penetrated perfectly with every strike.
I was fortunate to take 8 really nice animals in my 7 days of hunting. I might be the weak link in the chain of my hunting and shooting, but the Barnes Vortex Ammunition certainly is not. After years of thinking about all that we accomplished while I was at Barnes, I have to take my hat off to them now as they have most certainly raised the bar far over my head and are making some world class products.
The only real drag to this whole deal is that not one bullet was recovered for my desk drawer collection… Complete success on every animal from the 40 lb Duiker to the 600 lb Kudu. I guess it is worth that trade off.