March 11th, 2013

How Barnes Bullets Are Made — Views from Inside the Factory

Barnes Bullets FactoryMany of our readers have been interested in learning how modern bullets are made. While a “boutique” bullet-maker, supplied with appropriate cores and jackets, can craft bullets using relatively simple hand dies and manual presses, factory production is different. The major bullet-makers, such as Barnes, employ huge, complex machines to craft their projectiles on an assembly line.

Modern hunting bullets are made with a variety of sophisticated (and expensive) machines, such as Computer Numerical Control (CNC) lathes, giant multi-stage presses, and hydraulic extruding machines that draw lead ingots into lead wire. Barnes offers an “inside look” at the bullet production process in a series of videos filmed at its Mona, UT factory. We’ve embedded four videos from the series here. These videos can also be viewed on the Barnes Bullets YouTube Channel.

Milling Slots in TSX All-Copper Bullet
This video shows how the slots (between the drive bands) in the TSX all-copper bullet are cut. The slots reduce the bearing surface that contacts the rifling. This helps reduce friction and heat, extending the life of barrels used with all-metal, drive-band bullets:

Varminator Bullets Produced in Jumbo Transfer Press
Here is the transfer press used in the production of Varminator and MPG Bullets. The process begins with a giant spool of flat copper material. The copper is stamped into jackets and eventually the formed Varminator bullets are ejected one by one into a bucket.

CNC Lathe Turns Bullets Automatically
In the video below, a Bar-Feed CNC crafts mono-bloc bullets from metal bar stock. Barnes uses a small CNC lathe to turn .50-caliber bullets from brass bar stock. We’re not sure which bullet is being made in this video. The material looks to be sintered metal. In the close-ups you can gold-colored shavings from when the machine was previously used for CNC-turned brass bullets.

Accuracy Testing in 100-yard Tunnel
Barnes regularly tests bullet samples for accuracy. In the video below, a Barnes technician loads sample rounds and tests them for accuracy in a 100-yard tunnel. The rounds are shot through a special fixture — basically a barreled action connected to parallel rods on either side. This allows the testing fixture to slide straight back on recoil (see it move back at 1:07-08 minute mark). Note how the tester actuates the trigger, which is oriented upwards, just the opposite of a normal rifle. The technician taps the upward-pointing trigger shoe lightly with a metal rod. Could this upside-down trigger orientation be useful in benchrest shooting — perhaps with railguns? It could make for an interesting experiment.

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