Winchester Ammunition and Nosler Bullets
By: Tom Armbrust, Fall 2007

Posted: 10/26/2007

A couple of dozen outdoor writers and editors attended the Winchester Ammunition and Nosler Bullets Seminar and plant tour on Thursday, April 12, kicking off the 2007 Annual National Rifle Association (NRA) Show and meetings in St. Louis, MO, April 12 through 15th.  

A tour bus from the Renaissance Grand Hotel in St. Louis arrived at the Western Club in East Alton, IL at 9:45 sharp to take the various gun writers on the Winchester plant tour that was put together by Howard Communications.   We were divided into two different groups, and our tour guide was Steve Goldschmidt, Director of Centerfire Manufacturing.   Alan Lee, manager of Centerfire Manufacturing, took the next group.   My group was taken first through the plant where Winchester Centerfire Ammunition is produced from the diminutive newly introduced 204 Ruger Varmint load with a sizzling muzzle velocity of 4150 FPS featuring a 32 grain ballistic Silver Tip.   When sighted in at 200 yards, bullet drop is just 4.4 inches at 300 yards.   This co-development with Nosler combines a ballistic tip design with Winchester's Lubalox coating.   This varmint bullet produces rapid expansion and fragmentation on impact.   Then way to the other end of the size spectrum is the Winchester 50 caliber government contract Browning machine gun round.   Pushing a 30 caliber Sabot bullet to a velocity level that is kept under wraps, but let me tell you it is way up there.   This load is favored by our counter snipers in Iraq and Afghanistan being a heavy hitter at ultra long range against the bad guys.  

Being a big John Wayne fan, I was tickled when we were shown the collectable Winchester ammunition in three classic loads, 44-40 Winchester, 45 Colt, and 30-30 Winchester to commemorate 100 years of "The Duke".   The cartridges are designed with the "Duke" customized head stamps and nickel plated brass.   The boxes come in specially designed embossed packaging with 100 years of John Wayne printed on the front of the box.   Plus great pictures of "The Duke" holding his legendary Winchester Model 92 hoop handle lever action carbine.  

"Born on May 26, 1907 at Winterset Iowa, John Wayne created his legacy by starring in more than 170 films and earning at Academy Award in the classic western, "True Grit".   Wayne was a model of individualism and courage who pursued his life with enthusiasm and generosity.  " Winchester is making a donation to the John Wayne Cancer Foundation in the support of the fight against cancer.  

Steve handed us a small disc of brass about the size of a very thick penny telling us this piece of brass would be formed into 9MM, 40 S & W, and 45 Auto in a single draw.   Then the various machines were viewed after the case was formed, cutting the extractor groove, stamping the head stamp, punching the primer pocket, and trimming the case to the exact overall length.   Winchester makes all their own cases in their brass mill keeping very close tolerances in their manufacturing.   Next we got to see the loading of countless numbers of both rifle and pistol rounds on line.   Primed cases on high speed loaders were almost a blur as they were fed both power and bullets.   We also saw pistol bullet jackets swaged over lead bullet wire before they were loaded in cartridges.  

What really caught my eye was the importance of quality control people keeping a very keen eye on the once in a million chance that the ammunition has some defect or problem.   On a 9MM pistol line a woman with a closed circuit TV monitor was viewing the heads of the brass cases to visually check primers seeing if any were inserted backwards or not seated to the right depth.   Loading both police and government contract military ammo is a very important commodity as lives very much depend on this very high quality assurance.  

After about forty-five minutes we met our second tour guide Ben Frank, Shotshell Engineering, and Mike Tinsley, manager of Shotshell Manufacturing, proceeding on to the shotshell loading facility.   What first caught my eye was hundreds of feet of hollow plastic tubing in both red and yellow colors unrolling off a number of huge drums.   This tubing then has to meet specific tube wall thickness dimensions after being run through a priority process and then is cut to the proper length.   Next the case head is put on, and base the wad is inserted into the tube.   Many barrels full of the empty shells in various gauges were awaiting to be processed into loaded ammunition.   From the huge 8 GA Magnum Industrial shell firing a 3 ounce zinc or lead slug at 1750 FPS, producing 9000 foot pounds of muzzle energy.   This industrial shell is used to clean out material build up in rotary kilns.   At the other end of the spectrum is the slim little .4l0 bore 2-1/2 inch AA skeet shotshell loaded with 1/2 ounce of Size 9 lead shot with a velocity of 1200 FPS.   Winchester AA 12 GA loads were pouring off the line at a tremendous rate right before our eyes.   It was a real treat to witness the speed and precision of powder drops, wad insertion, shot drops and final crimping of many thousands of shotshells.   Another very important quality control check was weighing each full shotshell box that came off the line to verify that powder and shot drops were right on.  

Winchester has their own shot tower on site so they do not have to depend on an outside source for their lead pellet production.   This way they can keep very close tabs on shot quality, such as hardness by the exact amount of antimony and also size grading by sorting the different pellets as to dimensions and numbers to the ounce.  

Even though John Olin was the driving force at Winchester for many years, his sense of pride in workmanship and dedication to Winchester ammunition is still carried on today by the people at Winchester.   After the plant tours were completed the writers were bussed back to the Western Club to a delicious luncheon.   Tim Vaitekunas told us a very interesting story at lunch about one of his first assignments at Winchester 25 years ago.   He worked for John Olin on a shotshell project to make sure Winchester trap shotshells were out performing their competitors and if not, why not.   This meant some very diligent pattern test work carried out by the newly employed Vaitekunas.   A very time consuming project tallying thousands of tiny pellet hits on 48 inch square pattern paper sheets.   Not many people now days can say they rubbed elbows with John Olin, much less worked for him!  

After lunch was devoured by the hungry bunch, Kevin Howard and Mike Capps of Howard Communications introduced us to the unveiling of Winchester's new products.   Both Jon Monroe from Wicnhester's Center Fire Product Development division and John Nosler and Mike Lake from Nosler Bullets introduced the new Winchester E-Tip lead free bullet line up.   Mike explained how the E2 cavity promotes expansion at long and short ranges and improved accuracy.   A gilding metal lead free design that provides near 100 percent weight retention and helps prevent barrel fouling compared to pure copper bullets and how Lubalox coating helps prevent barrel fowling.   A polycarbonate tip resists deformation, plus improved down range ballistics.   Boat-tail design reduces drag and provides a more efficient flight profile for higher retained energy at long range.   This Winchester E-Tip lead free bullet is available in the following loads:

Order Symbol Cartridge Bullet Weight Muzzle Velocity
S3006 ET 30-06 Springfield 180 GR 2750 FPS
S300S ET 30-06 Springfield 180 GR 3010 FPS
S300 WMET 300 Win-Mag 180 GR 2950 FPS
S308 ET 308 Winchester 180 GR 2620 FPS

John Nosler told us this E-Tip lead free design was the first bullet patent applied for by their company since their Nosler Partation bullet.   By the close working relationship between the Nosler bullet people and Winchester's center fire ballisticians.   The E-Tip lead free bullet has become a reality in a few short months, since last October.   Now that's high tech bullet progress in motion in short order!  

Then if this was not enough Steve Meyer, Product Development Shotshell Engineer, told us about the new 12 GA Supreme Elite XP3 lead free sabot slug.   This 50 caliber 300 grain Sabot bullet leaves the muzzle at a sizzling 2000 feet per second with muzzle energy of 2665 foot pounds.   This is also a lead free bullet with a tin rear core.   The polycarbonate tip greatly enhances down range ballistic coefficient.   For example, at 100 yards, bullet velocity is 1620 FPS and energy 1750 foot pounds.   Way out at 150 yards velocity is still 1455 FPS and energy 1410 foot pounds.   If you have a solid rest 200 yards may not be out of reach for that trophy buck, as velocity is still 1310 FPS with energy of 1145 foot pounds.   If you sight in the scope on your rifled shotgun barrel to point dead on at 100 yards, bullet drop will run 3.9 inches low at 150 yards, and 12 inches low at 200 yards.  

Now what we all had been waiting for was a live outside demonstration of both the new Winchester E-Tip rifle bullet and XP3 shotgun sabot bullets fired into twenty percent ballistic gelatin.   Winchester's Jon Monroe led off with the 300 Winchester short mag, with 180 grain E-Tip lead free bullet with a muzzle velocity of 3010 FPS.   Hitting the gelatin blocks with a wallop depositing just under 3600 foot pounds of energy to a depth of twenty inches of penetration.   Next a 300 yard bullet impact simulation was created by a velocity level of 2500 FPS on the 25 yard gelatin block.   Again penetration was excellent at 22 inches with picture perfect bullet upset, opening to over sixty caliber.   Studying the wound channel was very enlightening in the gelatin.   Near the front of the block the radial destruction must have been at least six inches in diameter slowly tapering down like a cone till the end of the bullet travel.   Now you can understand with this internal massive destruction why a big game animal is killed very quickly by the advanced technology of an E2 cavity controlled expansion bullet.  

Last, but not least, was shotshell research and design engineer Steve Meyer's gelatin block demonstration ballistic test with Winchester's new 12 GA XP3 shotgun Sabot bullet.   I watched the gelatin block very closely just before Steve let drive noting the bullet impact.   The gelatin blocks were hit hard on impact as they actually moved backward slightly as the support bench also moved from bullet impact energy.   Again, bullet expansion was classic with a depth of penetration to sixteen inches depositing 2405 foot pounds of energy.   You may ask why the shotgun bullet penetrated four inches less deeply versus the rifle bullet.   My guess would be the bullet jacket thickness is thinner on the shotgun XP3 bullet to insure quicker expansion on thin skin deer size game with a lower velocity level versus the E-Tip big game rifle bullet.

Famous outdoor writer, Jack O'Connor, helped popularize the 270 Winchester with the 130 grain bullet.   Now Winchester ammunition is expanding the new Supreme XP3 with the addition of the 130 grain bullet in both the 270 Winchester and WSM cartridges.

270 Winchester Cartridge XP3, 130 grain load
Muzzle velocity: 3050 FPS
Muzzle energy: 2685 foot pounds
The bullet drops 6.5 inches at 300 yards when sighted at 200 yards.  

270 WSM Cartridge, XP3, 130 grain
Muzzle velocity: 3275 FPS
Muzzle energy: 3096 foot pounds
The bullet drops 5.5 inches at 300 yards when sighted at 200 yards.  

For the next couple of hours we were ferried back and forth by bus between the pistol range and Winchester's shotgun range.   I watched in utter amazement as Winchester's Morris Buenemann, supervisor of Shotshell and Rimfire Ammunition let fly with Smith & Wesson's new iron monster, their 500 S & W magnum revolver.   This hand cannon spits out a 400 grain Platinum Tip bullet at 1800 FPS for a muzzle energy of 2877 foot pounds.   This load should be just the ticket for big bears, moose and elk for the handgun hunter.   The extra heavy recoil of this above loading pushed Morris back a step.   Just five rounds a cylinder full was enough for me brushing the palm of my hand.   Many big bore 500 S & W shooters will welcome Winchester's new Super X reduced loading pushing a 350 jacketed hollow point to 1400 FPS for 1523 foot pounds of muzzle energy.   This Super X load has one third less recoil versus Winchester's full house load.   Proving to be much more comfortable to shoot, Smith & Wesson's big 460 S & W magnum wheel gun was much easier for me to handle having one third less felt recoil than the full house 500 S & W magnum load.   Winchester's 260 grain Partition Gold bullet left the muzzle at 2000 FPS for 2309 foot pounds of muzzle energy.   Hard to believe a wheel gun can achieve 2000 FPS.   In my day, the 44 S & W magnum was king of the hill, pushing a 240 GR bullet to a velocity of around 1400 FPS.   We had to drag Marty Sands off the pistol range shooting cylinder after cylinder of these monster loads.

Then on to the shotgun range to shoot some trap double targets with Winchester's new 12 GA and 20 GA WinLite loads.   The 12 GA WinLite load pushed 26 grams of Size 8 lead shot to a velocity of 980 FPS.   Up to fifty percent recoil reduction versus heavy 12 GA target loads.   Next was the 20 GA WinLite load with 7/8 oz of 8 lead shot at a velocity of 980 FPS.   This WinLite 20 GA load makes real sense to small younger shooters just getting started.   A 12 GA shotgun is just too big and heavy for a small kid even in a youth configuration.   But the 20 GA youth gun being much lighter is more manageable now that recoil has been tamed down by up to thirty percent in this 20 GA WinLite load.   Both Kevin Howard and I had no trouble breaking trap doubles clays with these reduced velocity WinLite loads.   A slight delay was noticed before the second target was broken yet recoil was almost nil in Winchester's Select Platinum Sporting O/U shotgun.   The new 12 GA 2-3/4 inch WinLite load featuring 9 pellets of 00 buck shot has a velocity of 1125 FPS.   The WinLite 12 GA 2-3/4 inch rounds with up to one half the normal recoil.   Available are a Platinum Tip hollow point Sabot load and a one ounce foster style slug at 1200 FPS.   A very welcome addition to smaller sized men, women and young shooters plus police officers who have to qualify with both buckshot and slug loads.  

I really enjoyed talking with Winchester's Ben Frank, their young shotshell engineer, about the WinLite shells.   He put time in on this shotshell project and was very enthusiastic about his job.   Telling us working at Winchester was a great time, "It doesn't even feel like work.  "

Team Winchester really put on a show on the bird and bunny event.   A report pair of clays, the first a crossing rabbit on the ground at about 15 to 20 yards and then a right to left bird in the air at a similar distance-a slightly rising target out of the trap.

I selected a 12 GA Super X2 sporting semi auto shotgun with a 28 inch back bored barrel and Invector Plus skeet choke.   Teamed with Winchester AA, Supersport loads with 1-1/8 oz of Size 8 lead shot at 1300 FPS.   You darn near could not miss a bird or bunny if you wanted to keep up with the Winchester crew.   Not only can these boys roll out very high quality ammo, they can shoot too!   Winchester's Mike Jordan has been a highly competitive trap shooter for many years.   Being rated as a AA shooter shooting back at the fence from the 27 yard line, with many victories under his belt.

Many thanks to all the people, at both Winchester and Nosler Bullets, for working so hard to create such excellent ammunition at a competitive price.   Also for producing their products in the good old USA!   I was amazed when we were told Winchester produced just shy of a billion shells last year, Wow!   I would also like to thank Kevin Howard and Mike Capps at Howard Communications for making this Winchester plant tour and show a reality.   It was also good to visit with my good friends Mike Jordan, Morris Buenemann and Steve Meyer from Winchester, who have more years under their belts with Winchester than they may want to remember.   Having many years of hands on experience at the clay target sports, in the game fields and in the duck blind and goose pit, these years of real world experience are tailored into Winchester's fine ammunition.

Right after we returned home from the Winchester seminar, Marty Sands harvested a big 25 pound gobbler.   He fell asleep in his blind to be awakened by the ruckus caused by this big Tom putting the hurt on his life like fantail turkey decoy fighting with the fake bird.   Marty could not believe his eyes, no more than forty yards away was his turkey.   But he had to wait for his prize to move away from his decoy to take his shot.   His Winchester M-12 magnum duck gun with 30 inch full choke barrel did a number on this bird.   Teamed with Winchester's 12 GA 3 inch Supreme Elite Xtended Range Hi-density turkey load, pushing 1-3/4 oz of Size 4 shot to a velocity of 1225 FPS, this big boy never knew what hit him-stone dead.   Pattern density was very tight resulting in the head and neck area receiving 17 hits.   Plus the upper body above the wings had seven more hits, with 5 pellets completely penetrating the body just above the wings.   My young Jake was a pee wee in comparison to Marty's grand bird, tipping the scale at just 12 pounds.   Yet in performance the new 20 GA 3 inch Supreme Elite Xtended Range Hi-Density turkey load pushing 1-1/8 oz. of Size 5 shot to a velocity of 1225 FPS did not take a back seat.   My shotgun of choice was a Remington 870 full choke stopping the gobbler dead in his tracks.   My lazar range finder pegged the distance at 44 yards.   A head on shot resulted in 18 pellets in the body with 10 pellets giving complete upper body penetration plus four pellets in the head and neck.   Now this new load sure puts the 20 bore into the turkey gun class if anyone had any doubts.  

Morris Buenemann's son, Eric, at age seven shot his first turkey while sitting on Morris's lap and dad helping him steady his youth 20 GA shotgun.   The gobbler was almost as big as he way.   Morris showed us pictures of his boy, now almost eleven.   Eric has harvested a total of four gobblers at this young age.   He is carrying on the Winchester hunting family tradition,making Morris a proud father.

Copyight @ Tom Armbrust, USA 2007
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