There are more firearm owners today than at any other time in American history, and a large segment of our gun-owning population are not hunters. For decades, the firearms industry has lumped those types of shooters together and sold hunting rounds as self-defense loads. I say, “No more.”
Hornady has been observing the population growth of its non-hunting consumers, including those who own a variant of America’s rifle: the AR-15. These ARs are also part of a growing category often referred to as “black guns.” For a day of plinking at a range or shooting a 3-Gun match, these shooters don’t look to traditional hunting ammunition when it’s time to feed their black guns. It’s often unnecessary and cost prohibitive.
Knowing that it can be confusing to navigate ammunition shelves or peruse an e-commerce site, Hornady recognized the need for simplification. To present non-hunting consumers with ammunition that best fits their needs, Hornady is introducing a new line of ammunition called “Black.” Black is easy to identify and is intended for shooters looking for ammo to feed modern firearms, regardless of barrel length, suppressed/unsuppressed or gas-piston or direct-impingement operated.
Hornady Black is more than the repackaging of existing ammunition offerings. Proven loads have been selected and categorized to fill specific needs. For example, their 75-grain 5.56 NATO Interlock HD SBR load is optimized for short-barreled rifles (SBR) and AR pistols. It is designed to expand at the lower velocity threshold that these shorter barrels produce, while providing the reliability and performance demanded of professional-grade ammunition.
Testing Guns & Ammo had an early look at the new Hornady Black, and we performance tested every sample we could get our hands on. A total of eight cases of ammuntion included 155-grain and 168-grain .308 Win. loads; 110-grain and 208-grain .300 Blackout (BLK) loads; and all four .223 Rem./5.56 NATO loads. I shot five additional cases of the 75-grain 5.56 NATO SBR load through a suppressed 11½-inch-barreled Daniel Defense DDM4V7s while attending a recent Vehicle CQB course near Savannah, Georgia.
While training in Georgia, I used Hornady’s 75-grain SBR load during a week of heavy rain, which saturated the Georgia clay, producing some of the sloppiest conditions I’ve experienced. The ammo proved to be 100 percent reliable. The primer pocket of this load is sealed from the factory, ensuring its reliability by preventing moisture from entering the case.
.223 Rem., 62-grain FMJ & 5.56 NATO, 62-grain FMJ. These two 62-grain full metal jacket (FMJ) loads share the same brand-new projectile. One is loaded to .223 Rem. chambers and the other for 5.56 NATO. Most Hornady bullets are tipped or boattail hollowpoint (BTHP), although Hornady has produced some 55-grain FMJ loads over the years. The 62-grain 5.56 NATO version mimics what the military shoots: M855. This load was developed for shooters seeking similar ballistic qualities in a training, shooting or plinking round as the M855. Loaded to traditional velocities, Hornady’s 5.56 NATO 62-grain bullet produces match accuracy. These two loads would be ideal for use in action-shooting competitions such as 3-Gun matches or extended-range steel challenges. The 62-grain 5.56 load was G&A’s top performer in the accuracy department. I managed to produce a .62-inch five-shot group at 100 yards using an 11½-inch-barreled upper receiver from Bravo Company Manufacturing (BCM).
.223 Rem., 75-grain BTHP Hornady’s 75-grain BTHP uses the same projectile as Hornady’s longstanding Tactical Application Police (TAP FPD) load. This match ammo configuration has long been popular, and has proven to be high performing and accurate. The 75-grain BTHP bullet provides a heavier weight and a higher ballistic coefficient (BC), which maximizes the ballistic performance for medium- and long-range shots.
5.56 NATO, 75-grain Interlock HD SBR Hornady’s 5.56 NATO 75-grain SBR load was designed specifically for the brand’s law enforcement line. This is a round for an SBR or an AR pistol. It has been optimized for these platforms and utilizes a new low-flash propellant that is extremely stable. Further, it was engineered to obtain complete powder burn in a 10½- to 11½-inch barrel with a carbine-length gas system. Our tests resulted in virtually no muzzle flash.
Hornady states that the round will not foul or overheat sound suppressors. The projectile itself is a soft point (SP) instead of a tipped or hollowpoint (HP) design. Hornady’s ballisticians borrowed the technology from the Critical Duty FlexLock handgun bullet and created a projectile that expands easily through clothing. When shot through open air or through intermediate barriers such as wall board, sheet metal and ¾-inch plywood, the projectile expands in a traditional manner; however, when shot through auto glass, the damaged nose of the bullet is designed to sheer off to leave a clean slug on its way to produce optimal penetration (per FBI standards). Hornady informed G&A that while this is not a traditional hunting round, it performs exceedingly well on hogs and other medium-sized game — where legal, of course.
.300 BLK, 110-grain V-MAX The supersonic 110-grain .300 Blackout is a proven all-around shooting load and is designed to function reliably in all gas systems and barrel lengths. This load uses the 110-grain V-MAX projectile that offers superior terminal performance for self-defense and incorporates a low-flash, quick-burning propellant to maximize velocity in short barrels. While not a hunting round, we know of many deer that have fallen to this bullet.
.300 BLK, 208-grain A-MAX Hornady informed G&A that there is a trick to producing a subsonic Blackout cartridge that will function in all ARs and work effectively downrange. Powder and bullet composition play a large part in this round’s success, we’re told. It should be noted that this is not an expanding round at subsonic velocities, and the terminal effects are different than supersonic loads. The projectile tumbles on entry into flesh rather than expands, but the load offers very good penetration. The 208-grain bullet is almost Hollywood-quiet in a suppressed .300 BLK carbine, but it still offers a pleasant experience when shooting unsuppressed. The powder used in the round’s makeup is low-flash and obtains full burn in short barrels. Not many powder options can run subsonic and still function reliably. This one does.
.308 Win. 155-grain & 168-grain A-MAX For years, both loads have been staples for match .308 Win. shooters. In particular, the 168-grain A-MAX has a high BC, tipped projectile for long-range capability and consistent accuracy, making these two loads a must to include in Hornady’s new Black line.
Several other loads are available or expected to be available in the coming months, including a 60-grain 5.45×39 load; a 123-grain 6.5 Grendel load; 6.8 SPC with 110-grain V-MAX; 7.62×39 with 123-grainers; a 250-grain .450 Bushmaster; and a 12-gauge 00 Buck load.
Our lives just got simpler.