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Rifle Ammo

Barnes’ Precision Match Ammo

by Tom Beckstrand   |  October 19th, 2016 0

I’ve been waiting for this day to arrive for many years, and it’s finally here. Barnes Bullets got into the ammunition game a few years back and has done an excellent job providing hunters with high-quality ammunition loaded with its fine line of bullets.

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Barnes will initially offer 5.56 NATO with 69-grain and 85-grain bullets, 175-grain .308 Winchester, 220-grain .300 Winchester Magnum and 300-grain .338 Lapua Magnum.

When I spoke to Thad Stevens, Barnes’ vice president of business development, and asked him why Barnes decided to do a line of match ammo, he said, “We wanted to offer something for the commercial sector that was on par with what we are doing for the military.”

The military spent a lot of money over the last decade improving the ammunition it issues to its snipers. It has set increasingly demanding requirements for muzzle velocities and consistency from one lot of ammunition to the next.

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Barnes is making its projectiles for the 5.56 and .308 Match product lines. For the larger bullets, it uses Sierra MatchKings.

Those lot-to-lot consistency requirements exist so snipers don’t have to worry about confirming their zero and dope every time they get a new lot of ammo. The same principle would make life a lot easier for competitive shooters who want to have access to factory ammunition and know it’ll match what they’ve been shooting, regardless of how far out they shoot it.

Once we get our rifles all dialed in and maybe have custom turrets made, it’s incredibly frustrating when the same brand, line and load performs inconsistently. While variations in muzzle velocity might not matter much inside 500 yards, they matter a lot once we start shooting out a bit farther.

Barnes took the same principles it applied to its SOCOM-issued .338 LM load and applied it to its commercial match line. It uses only premium brass made by either RUAG or Lapua (even though the headstamp will be marked “Barnes” or “BBR”) and then checks every 5,000 rounds for pressure, velocity and accuracy.

Each 10-shot group has to have a standard deviation of less than 15 feet-per-second and hold a sub-MOA group at 100 yards out of the test barrel. If the ammunition fails to meet these specifications, it’s scrapped.

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Barnes sources only the best brass for its ammunition. The match line will use cases made by Lapua or Ruag.

One of the reasons Barnes loads this ammunition to slightly less than maximum velocities is so it can accommodate powder-lot variation and still guarantee the same muzzle velocities. If it loaded to maximum pressure and velocity with one powder lot, it would be unable to adjust for a slightly faster-burning powder lot on the next.

Leaving a little wiggle room with muzzle velocity allows it to load to that same velocity even if pressures fluctuate due to powder variables. Even the best powders (which is all Barnes uses) will have slight variations in pressure due to humidity on the factory floor when the powder was made.

This unprecedented level of quality control means that we can go buy the exact same performance every time we grab a box of Barnes’ match line. To date, the only ammunition that has achieved something similar is the military’s MK 316, which is incredibly expensive to make and hard to find, even in the Special Operations community.

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It allows snipers to get consistent performance regardless of lot and sub-lot and is not available commercially. If you like long-range shooting or just want to have the most consistent match ammunition available, Barnes’ new line is designed for you.

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