As many of you know, Barnes Bullets makes some pretty good bullets. From their Varmint Grenades, Multipurpose Green, Copper X-bullets, Original Barnes, Busters and Monolithic Brass Solids, the pretty much have you covered for hunting anything from Mice to Elephants.
I had the chance to tour the Barnes facility and visit with their staff a few weeks ago. I had few questions prepared to ask them as I toured their facility. I actually wanted to know the answer to some of these and some were from statements I had heard at gun shows, shooting events or even at the gun counters of sporting goods stores. Whether these questions made sense to me or not, I had heard them so often that I wanted to hear what Barnes had to say about them. I also wanted to post their responses for everyone to see, and begin responding to these types of questions in a way that is not just my opinion but backed with knowledge of process and material use.
Q-1. Is Barnes Bullets really just an all copper bullet company?
A-1. No Barnes makes all kinds of bullet from the Original Barnes with a copper jacket and lead core to non-toxic Multipurpose Green Frangible, Varmint Grenade expansive, Copper TSX, TTSX and Monolithic Brass solids with a flat meplat or spire point.
Q-2 What do you say to the folktales that Barnes-Copper bullets shred the rifling in your weapon after 300 to 500 rounds?
A-2 It’s crazy talk! First of all, the metallurgical quality of the copper used in Barnes copper bullets is 99.95% pure copper. This is basically the same as electrical grade copper (Electrical grade copper is 99.997% pure). With respect to the hardness to steel, this grade of copper is obviously much softer. In respect to the standard copper jacket on every bullet produced in the last 100 years, Barnes copper is just as soft if not softer than those jackets. Each one of Barnes Test Barrels fire thousands of Barnes Bullets for performance evaluation (Accuracy and Deformation). These test barrels would advertise any type of excessive wear, fouling or other problems, but they don’t have any of theses problems.
Q-3 What is the function of the rings along the shaft of a Barnes Copper Bullet? Does it make the bullet hit harder, or cause more damage?
A-3 The function of the rings along the bullet reduces the bearing surface of the bullet, reduces barrel fouling. This improves accuracy and overall bullet performance. (Barnes bullets don’t cause more barrel fouling than any other “typical” bullet, they foul the same).
Q-4 Does the construction and materials of Barnes bullets offer any benefit to Magnum Cartridge Hunters? What about slower velocity cartridges like the 30-30, 444 Marlin or 458 Win?
A-4 Barnes TSX and TTSX Bullets are built to deliver optimum expansion and mass retention at a very wide range of both high and low bullet velocities. For example they are built to open properly if fired from a .300 RUM that impacts a target at 60 yards or from a 308 Win that impacts at 500 yards. Each bullet is built for a specific cartridge or group of cartridges. So whether you are shooting a laser fast 30 caliber or a slow 45 caliber, the bullets are built to perform correctly in each cartridge type and at each range of velocity.
Q-5 With a Barnes Copper Bullet, does the ability of the “petals” to curl back provide more controlled, repeatable and predictable expansion when impacting heavy or thick animal tissue and bone?
A-5 We say yes. Barnes tests and makes sure that the bullets expand or that the petals “peal and curl back” in a controlled and even manner. This maintains a uniform frontal surface as the bullet penetrates the target. It also helps keep the bullet in the original line of penetration.
I was already impressed with Barnes bullets performance from my personal experience. But this visit really impressed me. I spent several hours visiting and touring the facility while they were producing, firing and evaluating their bullets. I learned some amazing information about their production processes, their exacting performance requirements, and their very high standards of quality. Barnes pulls bullets from the production line every 5,000 bullets produced (or about every hour, 65-80 minutes) and tests them for accuracy and performance on their 300 yard indoor range. Most of us can’t hand load 10 to 15 rounds, fire them and look at what happened in two and a half hours. But Barnes does this everyday they are producing bullets with each different load, bullet type, and cartridge type. They did this three times in my two hour visit.
Barnes even has “cartridge specific” constraints! That’s right, not just caliber or even caliber and bullet weight requirements, but they have specific requirements for the bullet based on the cartridge they will shoot it from. (They even package the bullets differently for the different cartridges within that caliber group). For example; .357 caliber bullets. Barnes builds their bullets specifically to be fired from a 380, vs. a 9mm and a 357 magnum. How do you like that?!
I was privileged to see at least one phase of the production of virtually every bullet that Barnes produces. I was able to ask a lot of questions to both to the machinists and the folks that work in their labs. Barnes uses processes that assure proper and uniform jacket thickness, improves the center of mass alignment with the center of form, reduces stress concentrations in bullet structures and keeps actual weight extremely close and consistent to design bullet weight. When I put everything together that I saw and learned, I was pretty much blown away.
As I was getting ready to leave I asked Barnes what their thoughts were about competing with everyone else to produce bullets that have higher and higher ballistic coefficients. Barnes replied, “We make bullets that work. We are always looking for ways to make our product better. Our focus is making a bullet that will perform extremely well in virtually any situation, any condition and at any realistic range of velocity. If a hunter can make the shot, our bullet will do its job. Our bullets are built to function in any situation, so their form follows that function. At the end of the day, you use what works. Our products functions very well, so we don’t worry too much about changing their form.
I am not a one bullet kind of guy... I think they are all beautiful. I shoot them all and I have a few different favorites for just about any specific purpose. Needless to say, I love them all. But after visiting the Barnes Bullets Facility, if I was looking to start up a long term relationship with one particular bullet, Barnes would be at the top of my list to find a potential fit.
Be safe and Good Hunting! Andrew C.