All-copper X-Bullets pack punch

You have waited a long time for your chance to hunt one of Nevada’s much sought after mule deer, elk or bighorn sheep. You have invested untold hours at the shooting range, practicing with an expensive rifle and dialing in your equally valuable scope. You spent a fortune on gasoline to reach your designated hunt area. When that buck, bull or ram finally steps into the open, are you going to depend on the stopping power and performance of low-end ammunition?

Chandler Bates posed that premise as he guided Calli, my youngest daughter, and me around the Barnes Bullets manufacturing plant in Mona, Utah. It’s a question worth pondering, and though some think any old bullet will do the job, seasoned hunters will understand what Bates was asking.

When it comes time for the shot, you want a bullet you can depend on. It must be accurate and capable of delivering enough knockdown power to do the job. To do that, your bullet must retain as much of its original mass as possible after striking the target. Bates, who serves as the director of business development for Barnes Bullets, is confident that ammunition using his company’s bullets will meet those needs.

Though Barnes Bullets probably is best known for its line of solid copper bullets, the company has produced traditional copper-jacketed bullets with lead cores since its founding by Fred Barnes in 1934. While “normal bullets have a thin layer of copper, Barnes’ designs use a heavier jacket that is noted for holding the bullet together for deep penetration, good expansion and straight tracking,” he said. In 1974, Randy and Coni Brooks bought the Colorado-based company and moved it to Utah. Ten years later, Randy Brooks developed the concept for the company’s all-copper X-Bullet.

Brooks’ design is based on a nose cavity, resembling a traditional hollow-point, which is scored four times on the inside. When the bullet strikes a target, its tip fills with tissue and mushrooms into four petals of equal size and length that create a devastating wound channel, but, more important, the X-Bullet retains nearly 100 percent of its original mass. The result is 28 percent deeper penetration than traditional copper-jacketed bullets, Bates said.

In addition, this allows shooters to use a lighter-weight bullet while retaining the terminal performance of the round. Shotgun slugs utilize six petals.

Early versions of the X-Bullet used a special blue coating to reduce copper fouling in the bore, but the process of coating each bullet was difficult and expensive. It was done away with when engineers found that cutting grooves around the bullet accomplished the same result.

Today the company offers a variety of bullets, including its new TSX bullets, in calibers ranging from small to the high-powered variety needed for large African game animals. Some come with polymer tips.

To ensure the quality of the product, personnel conduct quality control tests every 5,000 rounds rather than every 50,000 rounds as is typical in the industry, Bates said. In addition, every round manufactured at the plant is inspected using a computerized machine. Rejected rounds are run through a second time to verify the initial results, but if they fail again, the bullets are sent to a scrap yard. The company does not sell seconds.

Freelance writer Doug Nielsen is a conservation educator for the Nevada Department of Wildlife. His “In the Outdoors” column, published Thursday in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, is not affiliated with or endorsed by the NDOW. Any opinions he states in his column are his own. He can be reached at

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