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SHOT Show 2010: New Ballistics Options

While the 2010 Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade (SHOT) Show, owned and sponsored by the National Shooting Sports Foundation, drew more than 58,000 attendees to the Sands Expo Center in downtown Las Vegas Jan. 19-22, a Jan. 18 “Media Day at the Range,” held in nearby Boulder City, provided additional hands-on opportunity to test fire the latest in weapons, optics, and ammunition programs.

One series of potential military ammunition developments was presented on the range by Barnes Bullets. As a premier manufacturer of premium, deep-penetrating hunting bullets for handguns and rifles, Barnes is introducing a new series of 2010 bullet options that appear to be optimized to meet emerging specialized military requirements.

To date, Barnes’ lead-free military and law enforcement (M/LE) bullet designs have fallen into four trademarked groupings: TAC-LR, including two different 750 grain .50 caliber long-range bullets with high ballistic coefficient and precise tolerances; TAC-XP, designed for superior performance on intermediate barriers; TAC-X, controlled double-diameter expansion to penetrate barriers with minimum deflection; and TAC-RRLP, highly frangible, open-tipped bullets (reduced ricochet/limited penetration) for employment in training or urban environments.

While the TAC-LR line features no new products, a new 6.8mm 85-grain bullet in the TAC-RRLP line could be one candidate for application within some specialized military communities.

Likewise, in light of recent reports involving various special operations weapons, a new 9 mm 95-grain TAC-XP and both 6.5 mm 120-grain and .338 Lapua 285-grain TAC-X bullets could also offer M/LE applications.

However, the majority of new M/LE applications appear to fall into a brand new (fifth) Barnes’ bullet category being introduced in 2010: TAC-TX™, offering the same ballistic performance as the TAC-X line, but with the addition of a streamlined polymer tip to the all-copper bullet body, increasing ballistic coefficient and improving long range ballistics.

Barnes is introducing seven new bullets in its TAC-TX family: 6.5 mm 100 grain; 6.5 mm 120 grain; .30 caliber 110 grain; .30 caliber 168 grain; .338 caliber 225 grain; .338 Lapua 265 grain; and a .458 caliber “SOCOM” 300 grain.

Thad Stevens, Ballistics Lab Manager for Barnes, highlighted some of the recent M/LE bullet developments out at the range. While others at Barnes had referenced specialized military community employment, Stevens was far more cautious when asked for specifics, noting, “We can’t really go there,” and declining to even acknowledge whether the company had U.S. military users at this time.

He was, however, willing to discuss the technical advantages of the new TAC-TX line, emphasizing the “increased BC [ballistic coefficient] value.”

“The [polymer] tip also does initiative expansion,” he said. “It does really well through intermediate barriers like glass, car doors, and those kinds of things.”

Pointing to some test photos showing penetration following passage through a glass barrier, he added, “We originally came out with that design through our hunting line. And then we just kind of transitioned over to M/LE because we saw the tactical benefits.”

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Scott Gourley is a former U.S. Army officer and the author of more than 1,500...