Hornady's ELD-X Long-Range Bullet

BY ARAM VON BENEDIKT

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The author poses with his wilderness bull elk, harvested cleanly with Hornady's new ELD-X bullet.

Opening my rifle bolt in the pre-dawn darkness before opening day, I slid three long cartridges into the magazine. The ruby-tipped projectile was an entirely new offering from Hornady and I was excited to give the magic bullets a try. Any branch-antlered bull elk careless enough to show himself was in danger of becoming test medium.

I’d be hunting one of Utah’s open-bull units where hunter success—even with a rifle—averages less than 10 percent. I’d saddled my horses the day before and packed 15 miles into the backcountry in an effort to escape hordes of hunters who nose their ATVs ever farther into the elk woods. A snowstorm spent its fury on me as I rode my horse above 10,500 feet and set up camp in a slushy patch of woods. Just enough daylight to scout left me delighted to find several bulls in the neighborhood.

IN THE BEGINNING 

Several months prior, Hornady rep, Neal Emery, introduced me to a new long-range bullet—the ELD-X (Extremely Low Drag eXpanding)—that Hornady spent over three years perfecting. Match-grade accuracy, very high ballistic coefficient (BC), and terminal expansion at all practical ranges were characteristics striven for during the engineering process; the results are, to say the least, impressive. Here’s why:

Match Grade Accuracy

Hornady’s new ELD-X bullets feature AMP Jackets (Advanced Manufacturing Process) with near perfect concentricity and almost zero wall-thickness variation. Manufactured to provide sub half-moa accuracy, the ELD-X shoots like a match bullet and mushrooms like a Portobello toadstool.

High Ballistic Coefficient

When Hornady began development of its prototype they discovered strange changes—particularly in BC—after 300 to 400 yards of flight. Using a Doppler radar (which takes precise readings of projectile velocity, time of flight, distance, and bullet drag every one-two feet during the bullet’s entire trip), they studied flight characteristics of their prototype as well as sample bullets from leading manufacturers. What they found is fascinating. Polymer tipped, high Ballistic Coefficient bullets experience significant loss of BC after 300-400 yards of high-velocity travel.

Further investigation revealed that the Delrin polymer tips (standard material used in manufacturing bullet tips) were changing shape while in flight—shedding particles and deforming, which adversely affected accuracy and Ballistic Coefficient. The cause? Extreme velocity coupled with high BC and extended flight time. It’s called aerodynamic heating. Essentially, friction with air raises the temperature of the tip above the melting point of the Delrin polymer (approx. 320-345 F).

Given the significant loss of performance due to tip degradation, Hornady set out to perfect a new tip material that would be immune to the rigors of life as a precision long-range, high-velocity projectile.

Enter the Heat-Shield tip. Made from a new, patented material with a melting point of over 700 degrees, Hornady engineered its new tip to resist heat deformation, have a larger diameter shank (aiding in expansion at lower velocities), and be harder, resulting in less in-magazine deformation during recoil. Accuracy and BC, especially over extended ranges, improved by up to 30 percent. As proven by the Doppler, Hornady’s ELD-X is the most aerodynamic bullet with the highest true BC of any bullet in its class. Check out these numbers:

(All BCs are precisely measured with the Doppler radar over 800 yards of distance and corrected to accepted standard sea level conditions.)

Projectile

Current Tip BC

Heat-Shield Tip BC

6.5 140 gr. AMAX

.545

.610

7mm 162 gr. AMAX

.584

.627

.30 208 gr. AMAX

.619

.670

.338 285 gr. AMAX

.735

.789

 Does this render the standard Polymer tip found on most bullets obsolete? Not at all: They perform admirably at conventional ranges. Only when high-velocity, long-range, and high BCs are combined does aerodynamic heating occur.

TERMINAL EXPANSION

A hunting bullet—no matter how accurate and aerodynamic—is useless unless it expands reliably at all practical ranges. The Heat-Shield tip on the ELD-X acts as a wedge, initiating expansion more reliably than a hollow-point can ever hope to. Featuring a thick jacket and high interlock, the ELD-X expands aggressively yet maintains adequate weight during impact at extreme velocities. And—you get to keep your cake and eat it too—the carefully designed tip cavity and jacket mouth ensure reliable expansion even at low velocities (down to 1,600 fps).

PROOF IN THE PUDDING

I had the opportunity to shoot the new Hornady ELD-X bullets extensively at ranges from 200 to 1,800 yards (over a mile). Accuracy was outstanding, and with a true BC of .626 my 200-grain .30 cal. bullets traveling at 2,900 fps flew true and bucked wind like champions. As we parted, Neal Emery gave me several boxes of the .300 Win. Mag. ammo, instructing me to have fun with them. Indeed. I could smell an elk hunt already.

Back in the high-country, I took one last look around camp to ensure that I wasn’t forgetting anything. Pitch dark and threatening snow, it felt like a perfect morning for elk hunting. I walked into the quiet woods.

At dawn I stalked the edge of a wilderness park, glassing carefully as I approached. A bull and half a dozen cow elk lay dozing in their beds 147 yards away. Not a huge bull, he was nonetheless a trophy in these woods, on this unit. I eased into a sitting position, settled my Zeiss crosshairs on his vitals, and squeezed the trigger. Rolling onto his side the bull expired in his bed.

An informal autopsy showed that my ELD-X bullet had taken the bull through high lungs and, after expanding aggressively, had exited the far side. Judging from the wound channel and the almost instantaneous death, it hit very hard indeed.

AVAILABLE BULLET CONFIGURATIONS

Projectile

G1 B.C.

G7 B.C.

6.5mm 143 gr.

.620

.311

7mm 162 gr.

.613

.308

7mm 175* gr.

.660

.330

.30 178 gr.

.535

.271

.30 200 gr.

.626

.315

.30 212* gr.

.673

.336

.338 220 gr.

.680

.342

*Long bullets / non-standard magazine length loads.

PRECISION HUNTER AMMUNITION BY HORNADY

Touted as the most advanced, high-performance hunting ammunition available, Precision Hunter Ammunition features ELD-X bullets atop single-base propellant and match-grade primers selected for uniformity and temperature insensitivity. The ammo is loaded for match-grade accuracy and at standard velocities.

6.5 Creedmoor 143 gr ELD-X

2,700 fps

7mm Rem Mag 162 gr ELD-X

2,975 fps

308 Win 178 gr ELD-X

2,600 fps (Est.)

30-06 Sprg 178 gr ELD-X

2,750 fps (Est.)

300 RCM 178 gr ELD-X

2,900 fps (Est.)

300 Win Mag 200 gr ELD-X

2,860 fps

300 RUM 220 gr ELD-X

2,910 fps

30-378 Wby 220 gr ELD-X

3,025 fps