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Precision Reloading

SHOOTING TIMES – MARCH 2003

Precision Reloading
by Rick Jamison

Barnes has a new varmint bullet. It’s called the Varmin-A-Tor, and varmint eliminators they are! The bullets are available in .224 and .243 diameters. The .22s are offered in nicely rounded-off 40- and 50-grain weights while the .24s are in odd 58- and 72-grain weights. The bullets are hollowpoints – thin jacketed, non-coated, and specially skived internally to make them really come apart on impact. Disintegrate is the word.

I sectioned each of these bullets and noticed a large hollow cavity behind the bullet’s opening at the tip. The internal jacket scoring is readily visible just forward of the lead core in the sectioned bullets. The word from Barnes is that these bullets are the Barnes Burners without the blue coating. I found the blue coated Barnes Burners to be exceedingly accurate, and these uncoated bullets are no less accurate. But they are less expensive. The suggested retail price of the .22-caliber Varmin-A-Tor bullets is $10.99 per 100 or $26 in the 250-bullet pack. The .24-caliber bullets are $12.99 per 100 or $29.99 for 250. I fired these bullets for group from two off-the-shelf hunting rifles, a heavy-barreled Remington Model 700 in .22-250 topped with a Leupold 8C scope and a standard-weight Remington Model 700 chambered in .243 Winchester and fitted with a Leupold 2.5-8X scope. The .22-250 is capable of shooting 0.8-inch groups on a good day with the right load, and .243 is a one-inch rifle at best.

Without taking the time to experiment with powders or bulletseating depths, I simply assembled four different loads for the four different bullets using different propellants for each.

For the .22-250 and the 40-grain bullets, I loaded 37.0 grains of H4895 in a Norma case with a Federal 210 primer. The bullet was seated for a SAAMI-standard overall cartridge length of 2.350 inches. I fired three groups with these lightweight bullets and the randomly selected load at 100 yards. The five-shot strings measured 0.6, 0.9, and 1.0 inch for a 0.83-inch average. That’s about as good as this rifle ever shoots. The three-shot strings were 0.4, 0.6, and 1.0 inch for a 0.67-inch average.

For the 50-grain bullets, the load was 37.0 grains of IMR-4064, also in a Norma case with a Federal 210 primer and, again, a 2.350-inch overall cartridge length. This load fired a 1.07-inch five-shot average for the three groups and a 0.93-inch average for the three-shot strings.

I decided to fire the 40-grain load from the Douglas barrel in my machine rest over 200 yards. When I checked my wind indicator just prior to firing the group, it read nine mph, but the wind was ranging from about eight to 12 mph and from the 8:00 o’clock position. I was firing across the Oehler System 83 with the Model 57 infrared screens. The screens are set on a 20-foot spacing, and there is a four-microphone downrange target that is exceedingly precise. Three of the shots clustered into 0.28 inch! And four of them measured 0.55. But the five-shot string grew to 1.7 inches. I have no idea what caused the flyer. Again, these clusters were fired at 200 yards.

Next, I fired the .24-caliber bullets from the Model 700 .243. For the 58-grain bullets, I loaded 43.5 grains of IMR-4895 in a Remington case with a Remington 9 ½ primer. This load fired 1.0-, 1.1-, and 1.7-inch five-shot groups for a 1.26-inch average. The 72-grain Varmin-A-Tors were seated atop 39.5 grains of Reloder 15, again in a Remington case with a Remington 9 ½ primer. The groups here were 2.4, 2.0, and 1.0 inches for a 1.8 inch, five-shot average at 100 yards.

Based on the group sizes received and what I know about the history of the rifles, all these groups are more representative of the firearms than of the bullets. It just illustrates what I received with off-the-shelf rifles. With a little load tuning in terms of propellant selection, adjustment of bullet-seating depth, and possible case treatment, there’s no telling how well the new bullets might shoot.

As for their explosiveness, I fired each of the bullets into an animal glue expansion medium using the same loads. The shooting distance was about 30 feet to position the bullets precisely in the animal glue sticks. All the bullets dumped most of their energy only about two inches into the medium, .22 and .24 calibers alike in all weights. About the deepest any fragments penetrated was three inches for the .22-caliber bullets and four inches for the .24-caliber bullets. Only tiny fragments were found in the medium. The bullets literally disintegrated.

For more information, contact Barnes Bullets Inc., Dpet. ST, PO Box 215, American Fork, UT 84003; 800-574-9200; www.barnesbullets.com.