June 20, 2019
I returned to Texas and found myself in the middle of roughly 10,500 acres near San Angelo, Texas, that provided the backdrop for my field evaluation of the Remington HTP Copper ammunition loaded with Barnes’ famous TSX projectiles. The last time I was in these parts, I chased aoudad up its mountainous landscape. This time, free-range whitetail were my quarry.
Elements surrounding this experience were anything but new or exotic. Hunting whitetail deer is an American pastime, so I set out to revisit bullet technology that’s been available to us for more than 15 years. I carried a Remington Model 700 American Wilderness Rifle (AWR) that’s based on a rifle first manufactured in 1962. I selected one chambered for the century-old .30-’06 Springfield. Of course, Remington has been making firearms for 200 years.
Weighing 7 pounds, 6.4 ounces, the AWR won’t win the award for being the lightest or the most technologically advanced rifle, but I never found myself incumbered by its weight when stalking deer. To top it off, I used Leupold’s VX-Freedom in the classic 3-9X power range.
The AWR is an attractive rifle to those who know what they’re looking at. The barreled action is set in a Grayboe stock that’s finished in a unique brown color. I’d have to describe it as a rich chocolate mousse draped in black webbing. Beneath the black Cerakote finish is a 416 stainless steel action holding a free-floated 24-inch barrel.
The barrel was given its 5R rifling by hammer forging. The distinguishing feature of 5R rifling when compared to more conventional rifling is that the edges are not square, meaning they won’t cut into the bullet’s jacket as deeply as more traditional rifling. Also, the lands are opposite of the grooves while traditional rifling features lands opposite of lands, and grooves opposite of grooves.
The trigger is Remington’s adjustable X-Mark Pro, which has been with us since 2006. It arrived to me with a factory setting that measured 4½ pounds. Some shooters prefer this trigger, while others do not. I’m still on the fence, but the M700 enjoys an extensive aftermarket available to address such components.
Besides harvesting some venison, I used this hunt to further evaluate Remington’s High Terminal Performance (HTP) ammunition, which is loaded with Barnes’ 168-grain Triple-Shock X bullet (TSX). Barnes’ TSX is a projectile that’s sometimes overshadowed by the recent trend toward hunting with long-range, ballistic-tipped expanders.
Though Remington has owned Barnes Bullets since 2010, the High Terminal Performance (HTP) line is Remington’s first collaboration in loading Barnes bullets. Barnes still manufactures bullets in Mona, Utah, but Remington loads the ammo in Lonoke, Arkansas, using its own powder, primer and brass.
Despite the rising interest in other bullet technology, Barnes Bullets maintains a revered status in the hunting community for developing solid-copper hunting bullet solutions. No one ever looks at a Barnes bullet and says, “That’s not going to work.” Right?
The 1989 introduction of Barnes’ X bullet solidified the company’s reputation. The X bullet was distinct with its monolithic construction that offered great penetration, high weight retention and reliable expansion. The “X” name was the result of recovered bullets that featured a symmetrical, four-petal shape when expanded. The TSX bullet is almost the same as the original but now features a grooved shank.
TSX bullets are open-tipped projectiles constructed of solid copper. They have no core metals or a jacket. In manufacturing, the TSX begins as a solid-copper plug. The cavity and body are formed in a multi-step impact-extrusion process, and the grooves are cut into the shank at a later stage.
As time has proven, there are several benefits of using a monolithic bullet over a jacketed bullet with a lead core. Monolithic bullets are lighter than their jacketed-lead counterparts and achieve higher velocities when similar loads are compared. They also retain almost 100 percent of their weight and don’t require bonding technology to stay together.
Jacketed lead-core bullets are known to lose an average of one-third of their weight while penetrating due to core-jacket separation and other contributing factors. As a result, many of us have found that monolithic copper bullets will have greater terminal performance than their jacketed-core counterparts.
The series of grooves found on the TSX bullet provide a space for the displaced copper to flow as the bullet travels down the bore rather than accumulating on the bearing surface. This feature reduces friction and fouling, while improving accuracy.
Knowing that Barnes and Remington are part of the larger Remington Outdoor Company, why would Remington create a TSX-topped line of ammunition knowing that it would compete directly with Barnes’ own TSX line of ammunition?
According to Nick Sachse, director of ammunition product management, Remington’s hunting line of ammunition lacked an all-copper bullet offering. For them, it made sense to include Barnes in their lineup. Given that Remington possesses large resources for manufacturing ammunition components, they felt that they were able to produce the HTP line at a price point that falls between Remington’s Core-Lokt and the Barnes’ VOR-TX line. Sachse also wanted to remind us that there’s a nationwide movement to restrict and regulate the use of lead bullets, so it made sense that Remington include a monolithic solid-copper bullet among its offerings.
Whitetail deer in Texas proved just as elusive as they do in other states. Their long olfactory system is 60 times more sensitive than a human’s. Couple that with a 310-degree field of view (FOV) that allows them to detect movement in almost any direction (they do have a 50-degree blind spot) and you have a recipe for hard to hunt. It’s no wonder why they’re one of the oldest living land mammals in North America.
Day one started in the late afternoon as my guide, Ruben Cantu of Wildlife Systems (wildlifesystems.com), put me in a box blind nestled in a small valley. With my camera placed on a chair next to me, I watched the sky turn deeper shades of blue before the golden hour. I saw a silver fox chasing moths through the dry grass before deer slowly emerged seemingly out of nowhere. The scene begged the photographer in me to grab my camera. Before I realized it, the field was brimming with deer.
Fifty yards away, I saw two young bucks playfully approached one another and pushed each other around. Like cubs playing, there was no anger in their movement and the soft tussle ended as it began. Then 20 yards from me, two older bucks showed them what a real fight looked like. They stood off, locked horns and shoved each other violently across the field. It ended with the dominant male standing his ground and the lesser slinking away in defeat. I still had two hunting days left, so I was in no hurry to trade my camera for the rifle.
During the next couple of days we alternated hunting from a blind to heading out safari-style, which meant that we’d explore the expansive landscape on an ATV and walk into areas where Cantu thought we’d find deer. We hid under thickets of Manzanita trees and rattled deer using plastic antlers. Cantu’s strategy worked; at one point we had three deer within 20 yards inspecting the noise, leaving us in awe as we silently observed the trio.
As we kept rattling, a beautiful eight-pointer entered my field of view and presented his broad side in my scope as he scrounged the ground. I traced the back of his front leg with the center of the duplex crosshair until I was above the crease. I locked in on him and pulled the trigger. The busy field quickly emptied.
The Barnes TSX performed beautifully. The bullet dumped most of its energy inside the animal causing the exit wound to be as small as the entrance wound. There was some blood at the impact area, but not a drop for another 20 yards. Following the trail, we found him a short 10 yards later. Unfortunately, I was unable to locate the projectile.
Collecting the buck, we headed back to the lodge to inspect the internal effectiveness of the TSX. On the inside of the rib cage where the bullet entered, we found that it had rapidly expanded and shattered two ribs. The bullet continued through the chest cavity traumatizing both lungs before exiting.
“This was a classic two-lung hit,” Cantu said. “This deer wasn’t going anywhere.”
I was proud of the clean, single hit.
My lasting memory will always be that the deer residing near San Angelo, Texas, are humorous. Each day I encountered deer with personalities that I wasn’t prepared to witness. Early one morning a doe watched me from 15 yards as I set up my photography equipment. Another time, a buck stayed bedded just 20 yards in plain view as Cantu and I rode up on an ATV.
Perhaps the real secret to a successful San Angelo whitetail hunt is to bring a good attitude, a camera and a box of Remington’s HTP ammunition.
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