March 28th, 2011

Hornady’s Superformance Ammo Wins IWA Award

Hornady Manufacturing recently received the coveted “Golden Keiler 2010 Jager (Hunter) Award” for Hornady’s innovative Superformance® ammunition. The award was presented at the 2011 IWA & Outdoor Classics show in Nuremberg, Germany. “It is an honor to have been selected to receive this award,” said Jason Hornady, a Vice President of Hornady.

Superformance ammo, now offered in 20+ calibers, features custom-blended powders tailored for particular cartridge and bullet combinations. Some of these blends consist of regularly available powders, but Hornady actually commissioned some new custom propellents that are not available to the general public. First introduced in 2009, Superformance ammunition was created to deliver extra speed. In some cartridge types, Superformance ammo runs as much as 200 fps faster than conventional factory ammunition loaded with the same bullets. You can usually count on getting at least 100 fps additional speed compared to factory ammo from from Federal, Remington, and Winchester.

How does Hornady deliver such high speeds with its Superformance ammo? That is explained in detail in’s 2009 Interview with Dave Emary, Hornady’s Senior Ballistician. Emery identified five main factors that yield the enhanced performance:

  • Superformance ammo uses advanced new Ball Powders (not yet for sale).
  • The powders are BLENDED, with different “recipes” for different cartridges.
  • The new powders maintain high-energy longer in barrel (like Reloder 17).
  • The new powders burn almost completely, reducing ejecta, for less exit pressure, and less felt recoil.
  • Superformance ball propellants pack very densely, so more grains of powder can fit inside a case, compared to typical extruded stick powders.
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November 22nd, 2010

New .224-Cal Varmint Bullets From Hornady

We recently had a chance to chat with Dave Emary, Hornady’s Chief Ballistics Scientist. Dave told us that varmint hunters should definitely check out two new .224-caliber bullets from Hornady, the 35gr NTX and the 53gr V-Max. Both bullets offer high-BCs for their weight class, along with excellent terminal performance.

New Lead-Free NTX “California-Legal” Bullet
First is the new 35gr NTX® BT plastic-tipped bullet. This is a lead-free California-compliant design. Designed with a boat-tail and extended ogive, the new 35gr NTX has better ballistics than most other bullets in its weight class. This bullet can be pushed to very high velocities by a standard .223 Remington cartridge. As you can see from the factory illustrations below, the new 35gr NTX bullet is far more streamlined that the previous 35gr flat-base V-MAX, and the NTX’s BC is much higher. So the NTX gives you a lead-free alternative, that has better ballistics to boot.

Hornady NTX bullet

New High-BC, 53gr V-Max May Be a “Game-Changer” for .223 Rem Shooters
The second recently-released bullet is a new, High-BC, 53gr V-Max with a field-tested 0.290 G1 Ballistic Coefficient. That’s a very high BC for a .224-caliber bullet in this weight class. To demonstrate that point, the Berger 55gr BTHP Varmint bullet has a .210 G1 BC, while the Sierra 53gr FB MatchKing has a .224 G1 BC (above 2800 fps). How did Hornady achieve the higher BC? Emary tells us that this new bullet was designed with an extended ogive (nose section) to provide significantly better ballistics than other bullets in its weight class. Emary added: “With this .290 BC bullet and the higher velocities we get with the SuperFormance powder blends, the .223 Remington runs pretty darn close to a .22-250 with standard loads — you can run the ballistics numbers yourself.”

Hornady V-Max 53

Taking Up Emary’s Challenge — Running the Balllistics
Given Dave’s challenge to “run the numbers” — we did just that. Hornady claims 3465 fps from its new SuperFormance .223 Rem factory ammo loaded with the 53gr V-Max. At 400 yards, this load will drop 20.8 inches from a 100-yard zero, and drift 15.6 inches in a 10 mph crosswind. (Figures calculated with JBM Ballistics, for 500′ altitude, 70° F.) To compare, Hodgdon’s Reloading Data Center says a .22-250 can deliver 3713 fps with a 55-grainer pushed by a max load of IMR 4064. So, for the .22-250, assuming a .220 BC for the 55gr bullet, the drop at 400 yards (from 100-yard zero) is 20.4 inches, while the 10 mph wind drift is 20.2 inches (again according to JBM). So, it looks like Emary is right, assuming his .223 Rem velocities are real. At 400 yards, the .223 Rem with the 53-grainer has nearly identical drop and much less wind drift than a .22-250 shooting a conventional 55-grainer. Here are the numbers:

Cartridge Muzzle Vel Bullet BC Drop at 400 yds Drift at 400 yds
.223 Rem 3465 fps 0.290 BC (53gr) 20.8 inches 15.6 inches
.22-250 3713 fps 0.220 BC (55gr) 20.4 inches 20.2 inches

We asked Emary how the new 53-grainers hold up when driven at high velocities. Emary replied: “The 53-grainer has the tough V-Max jacket. You should be able to push it up to 4000 fps with no problems”.

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November 24th, 2009

Hornady's Emary Shares Superformance Ammo Secrets

Hornady superformance ammoHornady recently announced its new line of Superformance Hunting Ammo. Loaded with GMX solid bullets and SST jacketed bullets, the new ammo is faster than conventional hunting ammunition. Hornady claims that, “across the board”, Superformance ammo is 100-200 fps faster than other factory hunting ammo with similar bullet weights.

We had a lengthy discussion yesterday with Dave Emary, Hornady’s Senior Ballistician. Dave shared some of the secrets of the new Superperformance ammo, and explained how Hornady is achieving such high velocities. The key, as we suspected, is that Hornady is using new propellants — powders that are not yet available for sale. These new propellants are BALL POWDERS custom-made to Hornady’s specs. Hornady actually commissioned multiple new spherical formulations, in various speed ranges. Then Hornady blends these ball powders to suit particular cartridges and loads. So, each type of Superformance ammo (e.g. 243 Win with 95gr SST and 300 Win Mag with 165gr GMX) represents a custom blend of the new ball propellants of various burn ranges. Hornady tailors the powder blend to achieve maximum velocity, accuracy, and low temp sensitivity for each load.

Hornady is NOT using Alliant’s Reloder 17. However, in some respects, Hornady’s new ball powders behave like Reloder 17 — by “flattening the right side of the pressure curve”. Rather than hitting a high peak pressure and then dropping off dramatically in energy, Reloder 17 sustains high pressure behind the heel of the bullet for a longer in-barrel time. Hornady’s new powders do the same thing — they deliver high energy behind the bullet for more milliseconds as the bullet travels down the bore. This is the main reason Superformance ammo delivers high velocity — the new powders are maintaining higher energy levels for a longer period of time. Additionally, being ball powders that pack tightly, the new propellants can be loaded to a high density in the case — an advantage with medium-sized cartridges such as the 6.5 Creedmoor.

Here is how Hornady has achieved high velocities with its new Superformance ammunition:

1) Superformance ammo uses advanced new Ball Powders (not yet for sale).

2) The powders are BLENDED, with different “recipes” for different cartridges.

3) The new powders maintain high-energy longer in barrel (like Reloder 17).

4) The new powders burn almost completely, reducing ejecta, for less exit pressure, and less felt recoil.

5) Superformance ball propellants pack very densely, so more grains of powder can fit inside a case, compared to typical extruded stick powders.

Dave Emary Hornady superformance ammoHigh Progressivity Powders
In addition to high sustained energy, Emary noted, the new propellants exhibit very high “progressivity”. What this means, in practical terms, is that the new propellants achieve almost 100% burn by the end of the cycle. So, virtually all of the mass of the powder has changed to gas by the time the bullet exits the muzzle. As a result, Emary explained “with Superformance propellants you have less ejecta leaving the muzzle. With some other extruded powders, you’ll get unburned or partly burned sticks leaving the muzzle”. Why does that matter? Dave explains there are a couple major benefits to high progressivity. First, you get “every last ounce of energy” out of each powder kernel. Second, because less unburned ejecta is driven out the barrel, the amount of recoil is reduced, particularly for the large magnum cases.

Dave explains: “In the past, small arms performance has been limited by the powder’s ability to completely burn by the time the bullet exits the muzzle. To attempt to get higher performance, high charge weights of a slow burning powder were used to attempt to maximize muzzle velocity. Powders were not progressive enough to allow these heavy charges of slow powder to be completely burned by the time the bullet left the muzzle, especially with lighter-weight bullets. The end result was very modest increases in velocity with heavy recoil and many times unacceptable accuracy. Superformance powders solve this problem because of their ability to completely burn by bullet muzzle exit…. This results in a much higher percentage of the available powder energy being transferred to the projectile, rather than being blown out the end of the barrel as unburned powder[.]”

In practical terms, Emary stated, the high energy and high progressivity of the new propellants permit many cartridges to deliver “real-world” performance equaling that of larger cartridges loaded with conventional powders. For example, according to Dave, “the 6.5 Creedmoor is performing on a par with a Rem .260.” Dave cited the example of his own 6.5 Creedmoor hunting rifle: “It shoots as flat as a .260 and the accuracy is as good or better.”

Dave has authored a detailed report that shows how 30-06 Superformance ammo can match the velocities of Hornady’s “light magnum” 30-06 ammo loaded with conventional powders. The Superformance 30-06 achieved similar velocities, with equivalent peak pressures, while using 6 grains less powder. This is illlustrated in the graph below.

 Hornady superformance ammo

Dave’s report states: “[The chart] shows a comparison of Chamber Pressure vs. Time for Custom, Superformance and Light Magnum ammunition in 30-06 loaded with a 150 gr SST bullet. As can be seen from the graph, all loads produced approximately the same pressure but have widely different charge weights and velocity performance. There is considerably more area under the curve for both Superformance and Light Magnum. This is where the increase in performance comes from. One detail to note is that the Superformance chamber pressure has dropped to at or below that of the Custom ammunition by the time the bullet exits the muzzle. This shows the highly progressive burning characteristics of the powder and its ability to completely burn. As noted above, the charge weights which go along with the different loads and the performance achieved with them are quite different. Custom is loaded with 58.5 grs of powder, Superformance 61.0 grs and Light Magnum 67.0 grs. Superformance ammunition produces significantly higher velocities than Custom with only a small amount more powder and the same velocity as Light Magnum with significantly less powder.”

Superformance Ammo for Match Shooters May Be Next
Right now Hornady is marketing its Superformance line as hunting ammunition only. However, Hornady recognizes that the new propellant technology could benefit match shooters as well. Dave told us that Hornady has begun development of a 6.5 Creedmoor Superformance round using the 140gr A-Max bullet.

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