October 28th, 2015

New Hornady ELD Bullets with Heat-Resistant Tips

Hornady ELD Low Drag Heat Resistant Bullet Tip Match Bullets Hunting

In 2016, Hornady will introduce new hunting and match bullets with high-tech, heat resistant tips. Hornady developed the new “Heat Shield” bullet tips after Doppler Radar testing showed that the Ballistic Coefficients (BCs) of old-style tipped bullets were degrading in flight in an unexplained manner. Hornady’s engineers theorized that the old-style plastic bullet tips were deforming in flight due to heat and pressure. Hornady claims this problem occurred with high-BC (0.5+ G1) tipped bullets from a variety of manufacturers. Hornady’s testers believed that, after 150 yards or so, the tips on high-BC bullets were actually melting at the front. That enlarged the meplat, resulting in increased drag.*

Consequently, Hornady developed a new type of bullet tip made from a heat-resistant polymer. Further long-range Doppler Radar testing seemingly confirmed that bullets equipped with the new tips did not suffer from the BC loss previously found. This allowed the bullets to maintain a higher, more consistent BC during the entire trajectory. The end result is a bullet with reduced vertical dispersion at long range (or so Hornady claims).

New Hornady ELD-X Hunting Bullets
For 2016, Hornady will bring out two lines of projectiles using the new tips. The first line of bullets, designed for hunting, will be called ELD-X, standing for “Extreme Low Drag eXpanding”. These feature dark red, translucent, heat-resistant tips. With interlock-style internal construction, these hunting projectiles are designed to yield deep penetration and excellent weight retention. Hornady will offer seven different ELD-X bullet types, ranging in weight from 143 grains (6.5mm) to 220 grains (.30 Cal):

6.5mm, 143 grain (G1 .620 / G7 .310)
7mm, 162 grain (G1 .613 / G7 .308)
7mm, 175 grain (G1 .660 / G7 .330)

.308, 178 grain (G1 .535 / G7 .271)*
.308, 200 grain (G1 .626 / G7 .315)
.308, 212 grain (G1 .673 / G7 .336)
.308, 220 grain (G1 .650 / G7 .325)

NOTE: We don’t know if the stated BC values are based on drag models or actual range testing. These new ELD-X hunting bullets will be loaded into a new line of Precision Hunter Ammo for a variety of popular hunting cartridges.

Hornady ELD Low Drag Heat Resistant Bullet Tip Match Bullets Hunting

New Hornady ELD Match Bullets
Along with its new hunting bullets, Hornady is coming out with a line of ELD Match bullets as well. Hornady’s engineers say the new molded “Heat Shield Tip” should be a boon to competitive shooters: “You can’t point up that copper [tip] as consistently as you can mold a plastic tip. With the ELD Match line, and the Heat Shield Tip technology… we now have a perfected meplat. These bullets allow you to shoot groups with less vertical deviation, or less vertical stringing, because the bullets are exact in their drag [factor].” There are currently four bullets in the ELD Match line:

.264 Caliber (6.5mm), 140 grain (G1 .610 / G7 .305)
.284 Caliber (7mm), 162 grain (G1 .627 / G7 .313)
.308 Caliber (7.62mm), 208 grain (G1 .670 / G7 .335)
.338 Caliber (8.6 mm), 285 grain (G1 .789)

Hornady will offer factory ammunition loaded with ELD Match bullets, starting with 6.5 Creedmoor ammo loaded with the 140gr ELD, and .338 Lapua Magnum ammo loaded with the 285gr ELD.

Better Tips Make a Difference — But other Factors Are Important
Hornady claims that its new Heat Shield Tips are more uniform than the meplats on conventional jacketed, hollow-point bullets. This, Hornady says, should provide greater bullet-to-bullet BC consistency than is possible with conventional, non-tipped bullets.

We have heard such claims before. Plastic tips are good, so long as they are inserted perfectly in the bullet. But sometimes they are crooked (off-axis) — we’ve seen that with various brands of tipped projectiles. Other factors will affect bullet performance as well, such as bullet weight, bullet diameter, and bullet bearing surface length. Even with perfectly uniform bullet tips, if bullet weights or diameters are inconsistent across a sample, you can still have accuracy issues (and pressure-related velocity variances). Likewise, if the bearing surface lengths vary considerably from one bullet to the next, this can increase velocity spread and otherwise have a deleterious effect on accuracy.

So, overall, we think Hornady has probably engineered a better bullet tip, which is a good thing. On the other hand there are many other factors (beyond tip uniformity) involved in long-range bullet performance. It will be interesting to test the new ELD Match bullets to see how they compare with the best hollow point jacketed bullets from other manufacturers.


* Hornady’s Chief Ballistician Dave Emary authored a technical report based on the Doppler Radar testing of a variety of tipped Bullets. CLICK HERE for Emary Report. Here are some of the report’s key observations and conclusions:

After early testing of prototype bullets it was observed that all currently manufactured tipped projectiles’ drag curves were convex, not concave and that abnormally low ballistic coefficients were being observed over long ranges. The drag was rapidly increasing at high velocities.

At this point extensive testing was done with all types of commercially-available tipped projectiles. They all exhibited this behavior to a greater or lesser extent depending on their ballistic coefficient and launch velocity. Most projectiles exhibited BCs relatively close to published values for 150 to 200 yards of flight. Beyond these distances they all showed BCs substantially below published values.

It was obvious that something was changing in the tipped projectiles to cause a rapid increase in drag at higher velocities. The drag increases were most noticeable from 100 to about 500 yards. Drag increases stopped at velocities below approximately 2,100 fps. This behavior was not observed with hollow point or exposed lead (spitzer) style designs. The problem magnified as the velocity was increased. The problem was worse for heavier, higher-BC projectiles that maintained higher velocities longer. After some consideration the answer was obvious and one that several people had wondered about for some time but had no way to prove their thoughts.

The tip of a bullet at 3,000 fps will see temperatures as high as 850 degrees F and decreasing as
the bullet slows down. These temperatures on the tip were a known fact. What wasn’t known was how long it would take at these peak and decreasing temperatures for the polymer tips to begin showing effects, if at all. As it turns out it is within the first 100 yards of flight. Currently-used polymers in projectile tips begin to have properties like rubber at approximately -65 to 50 degrees F and will melt at 300 to 350 degrees F, depending on the exact polymer.

All current polymer-tipped projectiles have tips that are at best softening and deforming in flight and under many circumstances melting and badly deforming. To cut through a lot of technical discussion the problem becomes worse at higher ambient air temperatures (summer) and higher launch velocities. Projectiles that have a high BC and retain velocity well see higher stagnation temperatures for longer lengths of time and have greater degradation of the tip. Simply put it is a heat capacity problem –temperature times time. This makes BCs for current tipped projectiles a rough average over some distance, dependent on atmospheric conditions and muzzle velocity, and does not allow the accurate prediction of downrange ballistics much beyond 400 yards.

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