Federal firepower

Good match: Finding ammo that your rifle likes is crucial

Byron Pace puts the Nosler-topped Federal V-Shok .223 Remington ammunition to the test

An interesting move by ammunition manufacturers in recent years has been to join forces with well-known bullet makers to offer the shooter an increasingly diverse array of options for each calibre. One of the great advantages of homeloading – beyond quality control and cost saving – is the flexibility of components. Manufactures such as Federal are bringing this advantage to the non-homeloader, by offering their most popular cartridges with multiple bullet choices.

Federal holds a high standard across the industry, and is known for producing accurate, high quality ammunition. A good example of this is a friend of mine, who happens to be head keeper of one of the big estates near me. His custom .22-250 Rem, built by the well-known riflesmith Callum Ferguson of Precision Rifles, shoots Federal 55-grain V-Shok BlitzKings like you would expect of a finely tuned homeload. The results are so good that, although his array of other rifles are fed customised loads, his workhorse .22-250 Rem finds company in factory Federal ammo.

However, every rifle is different: my .22-250 Rem shooting the same ammo manages groups between 0.5in and 0.75in, as opposed to the single ragged hole produced by my mate. With homeloads, on the other hand, I was able to replicate similar results in my rifle.

So the lesson here, as most people already know, is to find ammo that your rifle likes. In this case it also shows the quality of Federal ammunition, in both components and manufacture.

The ammo I had on test this month was Federal V-Shok with Nosler B-Tips in .223 Rem. The .223 ammo I have previously fired was all loaded with 55-grain bullets. Compared to a .22-250 Rem firing the exact same bullet, I always found these to be a little disappointing. However, on paper the 40-grain Noslers would be zipping along at a very quick 3,700fps, mirroring the 55-grain .22-250 trajectory out to 300 yards.

Federal’s factory ammo performs well under Byron’s scrutiny

Running the first string over the chrony returned velocities around 270fps less than stated, but given my 20in barrel I was already expecting this. Consistency was good, with the lowest extreme spread of any ammo I have tested so far. In fact, if it hadn’t been for two shots in the sample of ten, the spread would have been only 17fps. Despite the short barrel it still returned a surprising 3,450fps on average, equating to around a 6in drop at 300 yards if zeroed 0.7in high at 100yds. So far I was impressed.

Even through a factory Tikka T3 the grouping was not just good, but enviably impressive. Shooting prone from a bipod, groups of 0.4in were not uncommon with my shooting friend, Stuart Mackie, or me behind the rifle. Granted, we had landed a bit lucky in that the rifle was eating the ammo like delicate hors d’oeuvres, but it proved the point that it could be very accurate.

With all my other testing to date, I have only shot the ammo after putting it through its paces on the reloading bench. This time had been different. Already knowing how the Federal ammunition performed, I was expecting great things when it came to the numbers. If I found it to be as crooked as a bonsai tree, it would throw me a bit of a curveball as to why it shot so well. I was now desperate to see the results.

Shot group of Federal V-Shok .223 with Nosler B-Tips

After turning the sixth case on the concentricity gauge, I wondered if there was any point measuring the rest of the box. With most producing a bullet run-out of 0.001in, the only ‘fliers’ cut that in half. This was exceptional. Neck thickness for most cases was a consistent 0.014in with the odd one fluctuating by 0.0015in. Case length to ogive averaged 1.83in, with a spread of 0.01in. This does indeed seem high, but taking a look at the sample this was thrown off by just one cartridge. Interested to see if it was an anomaly, I opened another box. Again I found most to vary by just 0.003in, but two similarly variable lengths occurred again.

Case weight – and in turn volume – is especially important in smaller calibres, as even tiny variation can result in a large percentage change, by virtue of the fact that the case weighs very little to start with. The same is true when loading smaller cases. Whereas big magnums may be tolerant to a bit of sloppy powder measurement, you are far less likely to get away with this in small calibres. Taking +/- 0.25 per cent of the average showed around 85 per cent of cases falling into the 0.5 per cent standard tolerance, with those outliers only marginally missing out. I found the head spacing compared to SAAMI spec to be 0.009in under minimum, but measuring fired cases showed no measurable stretch in the chamber.

The conclusion is pretty straightforward: this ammo will perform. I have no reason to think that similar results will not occur with any of the other head variations. It just depends on what suits your rifle and the application at hand.

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Posted in Ammunition, Reviews

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