TEST 1, Gen 2 Berger 300 gr Hybrid VLD
Admittedly, over the past several years I have been pretty hard on Berger bullets. They simply were not good matches for most of my Allen Magnum wildcats because they operate at velocity levels beyond what the Berger bullets are designed to be driven to.
Again, I have been quite vocal about this.
Recently I was contacted by Eric Stecker who everyone knows is the VP of Berger bullets. He asked me if I would be willing to put his new 338 bullet design to the test, I jumped all over the chance. A box from Berger arrived Tuesday but I was unable to do any testing with them until yesterday.
I will be testing these new Berger 338 bullets in my 338 Ulta Maxx, 338 Allen Xpress, 338 Raptor and of course the big boy, the 338 Allen Magnum. The limitation of the Berger bullets all along has been the velocity ceiling so I decided the first test I would do would be a torture test to see what would happen to these new bullets. I was pulling no punches and the test would intentionally make life VERY hard on these new bullets. TO do this, I started with the ultimate 338 bullet destroyer, my 338 Allen Magnum.
This test rifle has a 32", 1-10 twist Lilja barrel. Not overly fast on average, very tight bore and proven very accurate with both the 300 gr SMK and 265 gr Barnes TTSX.
Because I wanted to push these bullets as hard as I could, I would have preferred to have a 36" barreled version of the 338 Allen Magnum but my 32" was as long as I had in shop so it would have to do. The 338 Allen Magnum with a 32" barrel has the potential to push a 300 gr SMK to well over 3400 fps but this is hard on the Jamison brass. Old TTI brass would allow us to get close to 3450 fps in a 32" barrel length but those were the old days. The Jamison brass works very well, just need to keep off the throttle slightly.
Weather conditions were warm but EXTREMELY windy on Wednesday so I decided to just do some simple velocity testing at the shop and then the next day I would try to get out and see what the new bullets did. I started with my standard accuracy load of 142.0 gr H-50BMG and worked up from there, again, looking for the most velocity I could get, even if that ment spoiling some brass for the sake of testing.
I topped out at 148.0 gr which produced 3420 fps. This load lossened the primer pockets on my test cases in one firing. Enough that on the second firing, the case would likely be used up but again, I did not care, I was not looking to load 100 of these rounds, I just wanted to see what this bullet did in an extreme test.
I loaded up 15 rounds at this point in some old, blank headstamped brass which I did not feel quite so bad about ruining for testing.
Combined with the velocity, I intentionally seated the bullets nearly 0.200" off the lands. Why do this, well, seating a bullet to touch the lands creates a situation where the bullet will start rotating the instant the bullets starts to travel down the barrel. Seating the bullet deep allows it to gain velocity before it engages the rifling, then when it slams into the origins of the lands which generally is very hard on match bullets with thin jackets.
Again, I wanted to make life very hard for these bullets, intentionally trying to rip them apart. The bullets had made it though the chrono at these velocity levels and into the back stop but that did not tell me if the bullets were really surviving the launch from the 338 AM.
This morning, I was able to head to the range with a couple customers to test their rifles so I brought the 338 Allen Magnum along. When we got the the range, I was sorry to see a 35 mph wind so there was really no point in doing any long range accuracy testing. This is not really what I wanted to do anyway. I knew that the test loads I had made up were likely NOT the most accurate loads I could have made, that was not their purpose, if this new Berger bullet would survive these velocity levels with good bullet integrity, they would have no problem with the 3250-3300 fps of my accuracy load velocity and certainly nothing from a conventional 338 magnum would give them any problems at all.
So, in the wind, we set up at 400 yards. I simply picked out a small rock on a flat face of the valley wall. Again, this was a torture test, my plan was to start shooting and keep shooting. Intentionally heating the barrel up to again make life hard on the bullets. A hot barrel is hard on a bullet, the hotter the barrel, the harder it is for the bullet passing through the bore to survive the launch.
I dialed the rifle in for 400 yards and sent the first shot down range. The first impact landed 1 moa above the target rock and made a very dramatic dust cloud from the impact and a nice dark impact crater. Again, I am not overly worried about accuracy, I just want to see that every bullet lands and lands were it should.
I ran though all 15 rounds, probably with 15-20 seconds between each shot. Very hard on the barrel, by round 7-8, the barrel was to hot to touch, by shot 12-13, I could smell the heat of the barrel.
The two guys with me watched closely for each impact. EVERY one landed in the same basic impact crater and kicking up a solid impact dust cloud. It was obvious that every bullet had clearly survived the launch, even in the VERY hot barrel.
I likely used up 200 rounds worth of barrel life in those 15 shots but the Berger proved that it could handle these high velocities, the long jump into the lands and very hot bore temps, something that the original 300 gr VLDs would never have been able to do with this consistancy.
Very impressed with those simple test results, now its time to do some precision work. I headed back to the shop and got some customer work done but then at lunch I loaded up another 15 rounds of test ammo. Instead of pushing things to the limit, this time, I loaded the Gen 2 bergers over my go to accuracy load for the SMK. 142.0 gr of H-50BMG. I also seated the bullets out to just off the lands.
Knowing that these bullets will survive velocities far over what my accuracy loads produce if a comforting thought. This load in this barrel length should produce around 3280 to 3320 fps. I will chrono them when I shoot them. Hoping the weather holds out and wind dies down tomorrow and if so, first thing in the morning, I will be looking to set up at 1500 yards and see how these bullets shoot.
Before loading these accuracy test loads today, I did some looking into the new berger bullets themselves. I took 100 bullets, two boxes. measured every one for weigth consistancy. Out of the 100 bullets, three of them weighed 301.1 grains. Two of them weighted 300.8 grains. The other 95 bullets weighed between 300.9 and 301.0 grains. Extremely impressed with this. This % of bullet weight consistancy extremely good.
I then measured all 100 bullets for baring surface consistancy. When I short the 300 gr SMK, I will sort them into lots that vary by no more then 0.001". These 100 Bergers had 92 bullets that were easily within 0.001" variation in baring surface length. 5 were 1/2 thou short, 3 were 1/2 thou long. In all honesty, you would NEVER know which were out of range with this minute variation in baring surface length, even shooting at extreme range would be impossible to tell which was which as human error will impose much more group variation then this amount of baring surface variation. Again, most impressive.
For all the comments I have made about Berger bullets over the years, I fully admit, what I have seen so far impresses the hell out of me. Today, the total size of the impact crater made by those 15 shots was far less then 4" across and thats measuring the entire diameter of the impact crater. Certainly no scientific method to measure accuracy but I would bet that those shots pushed 1/2 moa very hard for all 15 shots. First chance I get, hopefully tomorrow morning I will be able to prove that for the first time, the 300 gr Berger bullet is fully capable of anything the 338 Allen Magnum can throw at it and do so accurately and consistantly.
This barrel is a relatively fresh barrel. Time will tell what happens when these bullets are pushed through a barrel with several hundred rounds down the tube but compared to early tests with the original 300 gr Berger VLD, there is a stark improvement in bullet integrity at these very high muzzle velocities.
More testing to come!!! So far, very impressed.
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