Browning BXS Hunting Ammunition
May 08, 2019
Photos by Mark Fingar
When it comes to evaluating any product, I prefer long-term testing. At times, abbreviated testing and a small sample size is all we have to familiarize ourselves with and base our opinions on. Other times, we’re fortunate to spend extensive time in the field to compile experiences. For me, this review of Browning BXS ammunition is one of the latter.
A Little History
In 2016, Browning entered the ammunition game and launched two very different lines of hunting ammunition: the Browning Rapid Expansion Matrix (BXR) and the Browning Controlled Expansion Terminal Tip (BXC).
The BXR features a cup-and-core bullet crowned with a large-diameter polymer tip. The tip is a uniquely blended copper-polymer matrix that fragments on impact to expose the bullet’s hollowpoint cavity and kick-start expansion shortly after impacting thin-skinned game.
The opposite is true for the BXC, which is engineered as a bonded heavyweight developed for big-game animals where penetration is the most desirable result.
Both loads proved successful in a crowded specialty market. Hunters chasing specific species rejoiced, but many general-purpose hunters were left perplexed as to which line was right for them.
In 2018, Browning Ammunition launched a third line of hunting ammunition called the Solid Expansion Big Game & Deer (BXS). Designed to target the middle ground between the BXR and BXC products, the BXS is proving to be a more general-purpose product.
The BXS combines the best attributes of both the BXR and BXC for a do-it-all bullet destined to become a traditional hunter’s go-to. It performs exceedingly well on many species ranging from smaller animals such as axis deer up to (and including) bull moose.
Anatomy of a Bullet
The standout feature of Browning’s BXS is its claim of a controlled-expansion projectile. Browning’s ballisticians and engineers set out to develop a hunting round that would penetrate and expand as reliably at 500 yards as it would at 100 yards, which is asking an awful lot of a general-purpose projectile. One of Browning Ammunition’s product managers, Jimmy Wilson, told me that even at the onset of this project, they were very confident that they could successfully design such a round using an all-copper bullet with a polymer tip.
“There are a lot of reasons why the shooting industry is asking for polymer-tipped projectiles,” said Wilson. “Polymer-tipped bullets fly better, have greater ballistic coefficients and kickstart bullet expansion upon impact. There’s also less of a chance the bullet’s tip will become deformed when impacting the feed ramp on its way into the chamber, negatively impacting its aerodynamics.”
When combined, this means less drop-in trajectory, better resistance to wind and increased performance that’s more predictable at longer distances than its non-tipped cousins.
When a traditional jacketed bullet impacts bone, you’re going to see pieces of the jacket’s petals and, sometimes, core-jacket separation. Neither are good. One of the primary benefits of using a copper projectile is strength. Copper will crush through bone and is less likely to snap its petals off. The copper jacket covering a traditional lead-core bullet is normally not as thick as a copper petal would be, nor will it be as durable. “This equates to increased weight retention through both bone and thick muscle, a highly desirable outcome,” Wilson said.
Aside from their awesome performance, copper projectiles are lead-free, which is good for both shooter and the environment. Why is this important? With the increased restrictions imposed by some state-level environmental agencies regarding lead (I’m looking at you California), Browning’s BXS load is 50-state legal due to its solid copper construction.
Expanding on Expansion
The tip of the BXS bullet is smaller in size and diameter than the one found on the BXR. This feature requires more time in flight for the projectile to begin expanding after the moment of impact.
In addition to the tip, the thickness and length of each of the four petals within the bullet was engineered to strategically weaken the bullet along these lines. These lines have been swaged into the interior profile of the hollowpoint cavity and are designed to weaken the bullet so that it expands into segments. Thinner petals do not take as much energy to bend back as thicker petals do. “You play a game with thickness and petal-length to achieve optimum expansion characteristics,” Wilson added.
To get expansion right, Browning used unique tooling to form the hollowpoint cavity to ensure that petal thickness and length are perfect. Ideally, the bullet will properly upset at 100 yards (where the petals don’t break off due to the higher velocities), but will still fully upset at 500 yards. The interior profile of the hollowpoint behind the polymer tip is the secret to ensuring that the projectile fully expands at these different velocities.
During testing, BXS projectiles were fired into 20-percent ordnance gelatin to confirm performance. Loads were then downloaded in a controlled environment to simulate velocities at different yardages to verify proper upset after impact. Significant time was spent at the 400- to 500-yard distances. Not only was full expansion a requirement, but a minimum of 15 inches of penetration was also sought and attained with these loads.
The Browning BXS line currently includes seven loads: 7mm Remington Magnum, 6.5 Creedmoor, .270 Winchester, .308 Winchester, .30-’06 Springfield, .300 Winchester Short Magnum (WSM) and .300 Winchester Magnum (Win. Mag.). The last three share the exact same 180-grain projectile. The .300 WSM and .300 Win. Mag. produced identical performance during testing.
For more than a year, I’ve earned quite a bit of field experience with three of the seven loads. I’ve not only examined post-shot terminal ballistics, I also conducted same-day interviews with more than 20 accomplished hunters noting their experiences, ranges, shot placement and examining each bullet recovered. Here’s what I found: .300 WSM The .300 WSM is basically a short-action version of a .300 Win. Mag. A benefit of the .300 WSM is that it chambers in a shorter and lighter action making it capable of faster reloads in a bolt action than its long-action brethren. There is no performance advantage to using the longer .300 Win. Mag. when compared to the .300 WSM (at least with the Browning BXS load).
During this long-term evaluation, I shot a nice 145-ish-class mule deer with a single shot off sticks at 130 yards using the BXS load in a Browning X-Bolt Max Long Range Hunter. The shot was a quartering one, with the bullet impacting just in front of the right shoulder. It exited the left shoulder after breaking it, and the upper-left leg.
The buck immediately leapt forward and snowplowed before it expired about 20 yards from the initial impact site. I never did locate the projectile, but the wound cavity it created was significant and proved the bullet’s devastation.
Other hunters in camp using the same .300 WSM load made shots ranging from 13 to 330 yards on similar-sized bucks (both mule deer and whitetail) and experienced nearly identical results. All reported that their deer ran 20 yards or less. Recovered projectiles had fully expanded and produced significant wound channels without destroying the meat. That said, a pair of shoulder impacts fairly ruined some of the meat.
.300 Win. Mag. The .300 Win. Mag. is my preferred hammer for pretty much any medium- to big-game animal. It has earned the spot as my go-to cartridge. As the saying goes for muscle cars, “There’s no replacement for displacement.” I feel the same way when it comes to hunting loads; bigger if often times better.
Why? As a hunter I feel that it is my responsibility to ethically and immediately incapacitate any quarry I shoot. The .300 Win. Mag. has proven capable of living up to that expectation as long as I do my part.
With the BXS in Colorado, I took a very nice nontypical adult bull elk at 234 yards with a single shot using a Browning X-Bolt Pro. The shot was broadside and the impact was slightly high due to my elevation over the elk’s position. (I had to use a tree limb for stability.) The round penetrated the upper shoulder and was recovered in the opposite shoulder — yellow tip and all. One petal had barely separated from the projectile, but was located alongside the expanded bullet. The elk fell dead within 40 yards of where he was struck.
My fellow hunters — all using the same rifle and load — had similar results with shots ranging from 80 to 530 yards. All elk were quickly recovered, and some dropped in their tracks. The spent projectiles had reliably expanded with most with their petals intact.
On the island of Lanai, Hawaii, I used the same Browning X-Bolt Pro and Browning’s 180-grain .300 Win. Mag. load on a pair of axis deer. This was my second hunt with this rifle and load.
The first deer shot was a textbook with a behind-the-shoulder impact at 80 yards; he dropped where he stood. I took a second axis with a single shot at 140 yards that also dropped on impact, but was unable to recover that projectile.Over a dozen axis deer were taken by hunters that week with the same rifle and load at distances ranging from 50 to beyond 400 yards. Results were the exact same. All the deer died within yards of where they were struck.
6.5 Creedmoor The 6.5 Creedmoor has taken over the precision rifle market. It can now be found in even the most remote brick-and-mortar gun stores throughout the country meaning that the 6.5 Creedmoor is now mainstream.
There’s a lot of myth and legend surrounding the capabilities of the cartridge, so one must be realistic about expectations in the field. Choosing the right tool is always sound advice when hunting game — shot placement is king. As such, I view the 6.5 Creedmoor as an excellent predator cartridge capable of ethically taking critters at very long distances.
In the right hands, Browning’s 120-grain BXS is lethal on medium and larger game. I’ve seen the aftermath of a dozen or more deer taken with this round. I have personally taken and observed numerous coyote and other predators taken with the 120-grain BXS load at distances between 90 to 432 yards. It performed wonderfully each time. The bullet for the 6.5 Creedmoor is very effective at cheating wind and is hard-hitting on small game. Its versatility makes this load one of my top choices.
The more field experience I gain using Browning’s BXS load proved one thing: it is effective. Those I’ve hunted with were all accomplished shooters, which made them competent and ethical. Shot placement will always be the deciding factor, but if you can make a good shot, you can hedge your bets by using any load in the Browning BXS lineup.
I’m not a long-range hunter and I will always try to get as close to an animal as I can before attempting a shot. Having confidence in my equipment has been the key to my success afield. Selecting the right rifle, optic and ammunition is just as important as having a rock-solid zero and knowing your DOPE. While I may try and avoid a 500-yard shot if I can, I’m convinced that the BXS performs exactly as Browning says it will.