Outstanding Ammo

A Handful Of Handloading

By Celia Crane

Although ammo plays an undeniably crucial role in shooting accurately, we’ve all encountered folks who operate on the premise any “el-cheapo” steel-cased import ammo found on bargain basement markdown will feed their guns “good enough.” There’s a disparity between these unwary plinkers and some of my friends who unwaveringly adhere to the code of the projectile illuminati. These guys spend long, lonely nights in fluorescent-lit basement gun rooms, listening to “Best of Boomer Hits” at low volume, carrying out extensive experimentation with dozens of custom loads.

The ceaseless obsessing over fractions-of-a-millimeter discrepancies in test groups assures them of sleepless nights as they mull things over … and over … and over. Whether you gravitate toward either one of these extremes — or not — here’s a bit of take-it-to-the-bank info to mull over.


As distinctive as they are reliable, SIG firearms have earned consistently high marks for 40 years, and the company’s line of premium Elite Performance centerfire pistol ammo was clearly a natural area of expansion (pun intended). The SIG V-Crown bullet design does not fail to impress. With the addition of a 125-grain .38 Super +P to the line, this reliable JHP bullet is now available for all SIG SAUER pistol calibers. You can also enjoy comparable performance to your carry load during practice — without breaking the bank — with SIG FMJ ammunition.


Specializing in the manufacture of bullets for over 25 years, Barnes really knows bullets and if you’re a handgun hunter, you should take a look at VOR-TX Premium Hunting Ammunition. Chambered in .357 Mag, 10mm, .41 Rem. Mag., 44 Rem. Mag., .45 Colt and .454 Casull, VOR-TX handgun loads feature the patented, all-copper XPB bullet. This ensures the quickest, most humane kill with superior penetration, fast, double-diameter expansion and maximum weight retention.


With states like California going full court press on prohibition of “environmentally hazardous” materials (don’t they have anything better to do there?), bullet formulations are being questioned more today than ever before. Ruger is ahead of the curve on this movement and recently added .38 Special to its game-changing line of Ruger ARX Ammunition. Manufactured in the USA by Polycase under license from Ruger, the ARX bullet is injection molded with a highly specialized copper-infused polymer formulation removing the risk of lead contamination. The ARX is a non-expanding defensive round with unique grooves designed to maximize terminal performance through “fluid dynamic principles.” In other words — science happens. ARX ammunition is offered by Ruger in .380 ACP, 9mm, .40 S&W and .45 ACP.


HPR Ammunition is another company paying attention to the mitigation of lead exposure. Now offered in eight calibers from .380 to .45 ACP, the Total Metal Jacket (TMJ) round is said to be perfect for indoor range use by virtue of its “HyperClean” design. Black Ops OTF ammo, also offered by HPR, is perfect for shooters looking for a frangible cartridge for home defense use. Offered in 9mm, .40 S&W and .45 ACP, the Black Ops hollow point is designed to achieve superior expansion on contact, limiting the risk of over-penetration.


I’ll admit I’ve become something of a Black Hills groupie, so will resist the urge to wax poetic, but if you’re looking for a consistent +P round for a .38, you need look no further than Black Hills Xtreme Defense 100-grain +P. In fact, if you’re interested in achieving the absolute best accuracy from a pistol relied upon for personal protection, any Black Hills Xtreme Defense ammo will serve you well. As effective as it is reliable, Xtreme Defense features a sharp-edged, consistent copper projectile with cutting edges and flutes producing a radially superior wound channel. Unlike a hollow point design, Xtreme Defense cannot become obstructed by clothing, causing a failure to expand.


Why would you need an MTM box for .22 ammo? How about all those semi-crushed, half-filled .22 boxes you have stashed? Why not tidy things up some and make a statement about how you like to be organized at the same time? This particular new offering also holds .25 ACP and if you think that’s silly, don’t look in my ammo stash because you’ll see six of these filled to the brim since I inherited a can of loose .25 ACP a few years ago. Who’d a thought?


Of all the products I’ve looked at lately, the Nosler Varmageddon line of loaded ammunition and component bullets has got to win the prize for the craftiest name. Featuring the user’s choice of a highly accurate polymer tip or a hollow point combined with a flat base design, Varmageddon products were created to meet the needs of high-volume varmint shooters who care about precision. Check out this varmint- and apocalypse-ready classic .221 Fireball load topped with a 40-grain FB Tipped bullet. Time to dust off the TC Contender in .221 Fireball!


If you’re a handloader, you need to consider picking up the new Nosler Reloading Guide 8 (and any other loading guide you can find!). This 780-page hardback tome is chock full of comprehensive insights and advice from the Nosler ballistics team, including obscure data on obsolete rounds I’ve never even heard of. It pays to listen to the sage advice of the people who really know what they’re doing. Also, a few of our own staffers were asked to write the introductions to different calibers — even “His Editorship” — so tune in to see what they have to say.


HSM is a Montana-based ammo maker, veteran owned and operated. Since 1968 they’ve made a wide cross-section of ammo, with over 700 products in 125 calibers. They supply police agencies, hunters, shooters, plinkers and handloaders (they offer bulk plated and lead bullets), and even ship overseas to qualified buyers. They offer loads in specific categories (Bear Load, Cowboy Action, Dangerous Game, etc.) so it makes it easy to select what you need. Most of the big retailers stock it.


Alchemist offers Z-clean lead-free loadings (zinc-based) for indoor ranges or anytime you need a lead-free ammo. Their Frangible C3 Compressed Copper Cartridge loads use compressed copper projectiles. They act like an FMJ bullet and function just fine in full-autos too. They offer match-grade accuracy, reduced ricochet and contain no iron, conforming to federal LE specs for reduced ricochet ammo.


Starline Brass supplies many loading companies and commercial ammo makers. Handloaders also turn to Starline if they want the best quality brass around, in virtually any caliber you can imagine. Believe it or not, the .32 S&W is still popular and Starline has answered the call with this “best quality” brass in .32 S&W (loaded rounds shown for comparison). If you have an old top-break or just like to shoot reduced loads in your .32 H&R Magnum, here’s a present for you from Starline!

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