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Hornadyís New ELD-X Bullets

Hornadyís New ELD-X Bullets

By John Johnston

In 1949 Joyce Hornady started Hornady Bullet Company. Using the machines used to make ammunition for WWII, he set a goal to have a family business that would produce the most accurate, best performing bullets on the market at a reasonable price. Today the company still uses the same massive machines that Joyce Hornady started with 66 years ago. Of course these are now augmented by state of the art computerized machinery. Today Steve Hornady, Joyceís son and CEO of Hornady, still sticks to his fatherís business goal. In 2012, not resting on the success of the companyís bullets and ammunition, he asked his ballistics staff to test and re-evaluate their current products and see if they could be improved. He challenged them to see if they could develop a bullet with higher BC that would perform well at all distances.

Hornadyís New ELD-X Bullets
The author getting down to business.

In order to evaluate the bullets, the staff found that normal chronographs and acoustic devices could not give them enough data to evaluate a bullet a long distances. At one point they even used extremely high speed cameras. To get the data they required, they enlisted the help of their new Doppler radar. The radar provides speed measurements so often during the bullet flight that when it is plotted on a computer, the readout is a solid line. With the radar, the speeds are registered out to the end of flight of the bullet. In examining the radar output, among other things they could see an unexplained drop in velocity at longer distances of 300+ yards. This loss of velocity could only be caused by a change in the bulletís ballistic coefficient. Hornady knew that somehow the bullet has to be changing in flight to have this effect. From experience they knew that the polymer tip or what is called the meplat would need to be examined. They tried shortening the tip in gradual stages but this did not give them any new information.

Hornadyís New ELD-X Bullets
The Doppler radar unit.

Hornady knew that a bullet going 3,000 feet per second could reach a short term temperature of 800+ degrees, which does not lessen until the velocity drops to below 2100 feet per second. What they did not know was the heat limitations of their polymer tip. Note that most of todayís bullet manufacturer use the same polymer. The testing showed that the polymer material used for the tip was starting to melt at a temperature of 320-340 degrees. Now they knew the problem, but their work was just starting. Their new goal was to develop a match accurate polymer tipped bullet with high BC that expands at all distances.

Hornadyís New ELD-X Bullets
The head of production explains how to read the Doppler readout.

The staff found a polymer tip material that surpassed their heat requirements. To test it, they loaded some of their tipped bullets with the new polymer. Steve Hornady and some of the staff tried out the new tipped ammunition while on a hunting trip to Africa and came back with a not so satisfying report. After examining downed game, they found bullet expansion and weight retention was not as expected. So back to the design table. They knew the new polymer was resisting any friction heat and the bullet was getting a better BC. The problem now was to increase the bulletís terminal expansion and weight retention. Hornady accomplished this by setting the tip slightly off the bulletís jacket and increasing the length of the tipís stem that extends down into the core of the bullet.

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