A 130 grain hunting bullet in .30 caliber? Yes, these bullets are screamers and accurate as well! Another well-regarded hunting bullet from our friends at Barnes Bullets.
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About the Barnes 130 grain 30 caliber TTSX
The TTSX evolved from the TSX, which was preceded by the XLC and the Barnes X bullets. Barnes has been around since 1932 and initially made bullets from soft copper tubing with a lead core. In 1974, Randy and Coni Brooks purchased the company and moved it to American Fork, Utah. While hunting Alaskan brown bears in 1985, Randy started thinking about an all-copper hunting bullet. Production started on the X bullet by 1989 and hunters around the world quickly found it to be an outstanding big game bullet.
There’s always room for improvement, and the X bullet has evolved over the years. The TSX featured relief grooves on the shank of the bullet, allowing the copper to flow better, reducing bore fouling and improving accuracy in some rifles. The TTSX features an improved hollow point design for improved bullet expansion which is capped with a polymer tip to enhance the ballistic coefficient.
The TTSX is available in a wide variety of bullet diameters and weights from .224” to .458” diameter and is suitable for taking a wide variety of game.
With all of the benefits of the TSX, these bullets have a polymer tip that boosts B.C. and initiates expansion. The re-engineered nose cavity provides faster expansion and devastating terminal performance.
It’s often stated that the Barnes all-copper bullet works best when driven to substantial velocity. It’s also been recommended that a hunter consider using a lighter bullet than the standard cup and core jacketed bullet choice. For instance, if a hunter normally chooses a 180 grain jacketed soft point for his .308 hunting rifle, he might consider dropping down to a 165 grain or even a 150 grain TTSX Barnes bullet.
With this in mind, I chose to test the 130 grain Barnes TTSX bullet in the .30-06 cartridge. I wanted high muzzle velocity, flat trajectory at normal hunting ranges, good expansion on game and high retained bullet weight.
Cartridges & Applications
The 130 grain Barnes .308” TTSX bullet is suitable for a wide range of .30 caliber cartridges from the classic 300 Savage to the popular .308 Winchester and .30-06. It is even good for the various 300 magnums. Barnes loads this bullet in their .308 Winchester Vor-Tx factory ammunition with an impressive muzzle velocity of 3125 fps.
The Barnes reloading manual indicates that this bullet is suitable for taking deer-sized game such as pronghorn antelope, whitetail deer and mule deer. I wouldn’t hesitate to use it for black bear or even cow elk.
About Our Handload and the MEC Marksman Press
I have grown quite fond of the MEC Marksman single stage press. An open front design provides great access to the work area. The floating shell holder helps produce good quality ammunition and the leverage provided by this press makes resizing tasks easy. It’s a sturdy, heavy-duty cast iron press capable of handling all normal resizing and bullet seating.
Gavin added the KMS Squared UFO lights to the MEC Marksman which helps tremendously by lighting the work space. It’s easy to ensure the cartridge case has been properly charged with powder before seating a bullet.
We’ve used this press for several projects including this loading precision .308 ammunition.
For loading the .30-06, I chose a set of RCBS dies I’ve had for a number of years. They’re just standard dies, not match grade dies, but they’ve always produced good ammunition for my hunting and practice.
Perusing the Barnes reloading manual, I noticed Varget was shown to produce good muzzle velocities with my intended bullets. I had it available and have long used Varget in the 308 Winchester as well as other cartridges, so I elected to use it for this project as well. The recommended maximum charge was 56.5 grains.
It was nice that the 56.5 grains of Varget fit easily into the case, filling it to about the base of the neck on the R-P cases. Barnes indicated that a bit over 3200 fps could be expected. I used CCI 200 large rifle primers.
About the Springfield 03-A3
For velocity testing, I selected my treasured Springfield 03-A3 rifle, produced by Remington for WWII.
The 03-A3 is a modification of the original 1903 rifle with an adjustable aperture sight added to the receiver. Other changes allowed for more rapid production. Although the semi-automatic M-1 Garand was to become the most famous WWII American rifle, initial quantities were insufficient for demand and the 03-A3 bolt action rifles were needed. Interestingly, this 80-year-old rifle was built with a 24” 1:10 twist barrel, as is my much newer Remington 700 hunting rifle! Some things don’t change much (because they work!). A 1:10 twist, .30 caliber barrel is capable of handling bullets from 110 – 220 grains.
Our camera guys were very interested in the old rifle and had a great time shooting it at steel targets on the UR ranch. I appreciated how respectfully they handled the WWII issue rifle.
For accuracy testing, Gavin volunteered his Savage 110 which he recently re-stocked using a classy laminated stock from Boyds.
I was extremely pleased with the results of our testing! We recorded an average of 3273 fps from the old Springfield! This is significantly faster than any .30-06 load I’ve ever built or fired.
Knowing that I could probably shoot Gavin’s scoped Savage 30-06 better than my 03-A3, I used it for the 100 yard accuracy testing. I haven’t shot many Savage bolt action rifles, but I do admire their interesting trigger, and reputation for out of the box accuracy. The Boyds stock not only looks good, but has a great feel to it. I found it very comfortable to shoot, yet the rifle remains light and handy enough for general purpose hunting. This is the best group I shot with the gun and the best 100 yard 30-06 group I’ve ever shot. Mind you, this is with the factory Savage barrel.
Between the scorching velocity and the tiny three-shot .397 MOA group at 100 yards, I knew we had a good load.
As a hunter, I value a flat trajectory over “normal” hunting ranges. I understand that “normal hunting ranges” can mean a lot of different things to different hunters in different areas after different game. My normal hunting range is between 50 and 400 yards. Most of the game I’ve taken has been within 300 yards and some of it as close as 20 yards. This little 130 grain TTSX bullet with a mere .350 G1 ballistic coefficient shoots with a nice flat trajectory. For my purposes, I’d sight it in at 200 yards and be very confident at 300 yards since it’s only a 6.3” drop from my 200 yard zero. Even a 400 yard shot would be reasonable (at that point we’re getting down to 2144 fps velocity). I would personally not push the 130 grain TTSX past 400 yards and use it primarily on deer-sized game.
As a hunter, the only Barnes bullet I’ve recovered was a well expanded .338 225 grain TSX from a grizzly shot at close range. I have never recovered a Barnes bullet from a deer. The shots have passed through and most of the hunters I’ve talked with relay the same results; excellent penetration and good expansion from their TTSX bullets.
Here at Ultimate Reloader we like to test our hunting bullets in Clear Ballistics Gel. This was intended to be a bit of a torture test for the 130 grain TTSX, slamming into the gel blocks from only 10 yards away, giving it an impact velocity of over 3200 fps!
The maximum cavitation of 10” was impressive. Obviously the bullet expanded quickly, then continued to penetrate. Penetration of 22.5” revealed this bullet should do nicely for deer-sized game, maybe even a bit larger. Barnes makes heavier bullets if more penetration is desired for larger, tougher game.
The recovered bullet weighed 129.165 grains and measured .8” at the widest point. Both of those are impressive figures. We were particularly pleased with the retained weight, losing only about one grain. That’s likely the loss of the polymer tip on impact.
We weighed and measured ten bullets from the box. Keeping in mind that this is a hunting bullet, not advertised as a match bullet, the results were exemplary. I believe the quality of this bullet is a key factor contributing to its excellent accuracy.
We found this to be the most accurate mono-metal bullet we’ve tested. It expands well, which is a concern with all copper bullets since they lack the soft lead core which expands so nicely on traditional jacketed bullets.
The amount of expansion shown indicates it should perform very well on deer-sized game, perhaps even larger game as well. The penetration is sufficient for most game taken in North America, though I’d prefer something heavier for the great bears or big bull elk. This bullet wasn’t intended for those animals — it was intended as a bullet for game weighing between 100 and 500 pounds. I’m including cow elk in my thoughts on this bullet.
Versatility is another attribute of the 130 grain TTSX. It can be used in a variety of 30 caliber cartridges from mild to very powerful.
Barnes has load data on their site indicating that 3600 fps is possible with this bullet from the 300 Win Mag, a very popular hunting cartridge in the western states. That velocity would create a very flat trajectory! Gavin and I may try to work up a load for his 300 PRC just for fun since he doesn’t have a 300 Win Mag. (If you think he should get one, let us know!)
Get the Gear
30 Caliber .308 Diameter 130 Grain Poly-Tipped Triple Shock Boat Tail 50 Count by Barnes (midsouthshooterssupply.com)
Hodgdon Varget Powder 1 lb | Midsouth Shooters (midsouthshooterssupply.com)
#200 Large Rifle Primer (1000 Count) by CCI (midsouthshooterssupply.com)
MEC Marksman Single Stage Press |Midsouth Shooters (midsouthshooterssupply.com)
Your Source For Shotshell Reloaders & Clay Target Machines|Metallic Reloader Units | Complete Parts List | Accessories (mecoutdoors.com)
UFO M² Reloading Press Light for MEC Marksman – KMS² (kmssquared.com)
Buy Full-Length Die Set – Group A – Popular Rifle Cartridges and More | RCBS
30-06 Springfield Full Length 2 Die Set by RCBS (midsouthshooterssupply.com)
Build & Price Gunstock Configurator | Boyds Hardwood Gunstocks (boydsgunstocks.com)
Ares ETR 3-18×50 APRS6 FFP IR MIL | Long Range | Athlon Optics
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