Browning Enters the Ammo Market With a Bang!

By Gary Zinn


Browning Buckmark cartridges
Illustration courtesy of Browning North America.

Given how long the Browning name has been prominent in the firearms industry, it is surprising that the firm has not attempted to market ammunition since the 1970s. About a year ago, though, an extensive line of Browning Ammunition (browningammo.com) was launched. The product categories include centerfire rifle, centerfire pistol, shotshells and .22 rimfire cartridges.

These were developed in conjunction with and produced by Winchester ammunition, using unique bullets and loads. All Browning brand ammo wears a Browning Buckmark headstamp and is packaged in black and gold boxes.

The product development and marketing gurus at Browning did some segmentation of these categories that should make it easier for customers to choose the specific products that best suit intended uses. A first, simple example of this is in the .22 rimfire category.

Browning Performance Rimfire offers two BPR Hunting .22 Long Rifle cartridges (40 grain lead Hollow Point and 37 grain fragmenting bullets) that are designed for small game and pest hunting and one 40 grain lead Round Nose load that is identified as intended for target shooting. The bullets feature a black oxide coating and the cases are brass.

The high velocity 37 grain fragmenting bullet load claims a muzzle velocity (MV) of 1400 fps and muzzle energy (ME) of 161 ft. lbs. from rifles and 1215 fps MV and 121 ft. lbs. ME from handguns. It is intended for varmint hunting and is packaged in 50 round plastic boxes showing a rodent on the lid.

The high velocity 40 grain HP load claims a MV of 1435 fps and ME of 183 ft. lbs. from rifles and 1305 fps MV and 151 ft. lbs. ME from handguns. It is intended for small game hunting and comes in 100 round plastic boxes with a tree squirrel on the lid.

The 40 grain RN target load claims a MV of 1255 fps and ME of 140 ft. lbs. from rifles and 1060 fps MV and 100 ft. lbs ME from handguns. It is sold in 400 round bulk packs marked by a row of targets on the box.

In the pistol ammunition category, four BXP jacketed hollow point ("X-Point technology") loads are offered that are identified as suitable for personal defense use, while the four BPT full metal jacketed loads in matching calibers and bullet weights are designed for target shooting. The BXP bullet's hollow point is formed with an internal "X," intended to prevent plugging of the cavity if it passes through heavy clothing. (Note photo at top of page.) Initially, one load for each purpose is offered in .380 ACP (95 grains at 1000 fps MV), 9mm Luger (147 grains at 1000 fps MV), .40 S&W (180 grains at 1020 fps MV) and .45 ACP (230 grains at 920 fps MV).

These pistol rounds use silver nickel-plated bullets loaded in black-nickel-plated brass cases for a unique appearance. The BXP boxes show a graphic of a hand drawing a pistol from a high ride belt holster, while the BPT boxes have a graphic showing a pistol aimed at a bullseye target.

The largest category of cartridges is shotshells, with eighteen products offered in total. There are three subcategories, including BXD Extra Distance high velocity steel waterfowl hunting loads, BXD Extra Distance high velocity lead upland hunting loads and BPT Performance Target high antimony lead clay target loads. There is a duck on the BXD waterfowl boxs, a pheasant on the BXD upland boxs and a clay target on the BPT boxes.

Most of the options are in 12 and 20 gauge, but the upland and target product groups each include a 16 gauge load. Browning shotshells have black hulls with brass colored heads. They are not designed to be reloaded.

I am not highly conversant with the technical considerations that might lead a pistol shooter or shotgunner to choose one specific load over another. Accordingly, I will leave it to someone else to comment in detail on the merits of the Browning shotshell and pistol cartridge lines.

Browning Centerfire Rifle loads

I feel more confident commenting on the centerfire rifle loads. A summary of the loads being offered is in order. In addition, some things about these cartridges caught my attention as unique and interesting.

Browning has built their centerfire cartridge line around two proprietary bullet designs. A lighter "deer" cartridge line (whitetail, blacktail, mule deer and antelope are specifically mentioned) uses a flat base bullet called the BXR, further described as a "rapid expansion matrix tip" bullet.

This is a lead/antimony core, tapered brass jacket (not bonded), nickel-plated bullet with a large proprietary tip made of 15% polymer and 85% copper. The tip is designed to fragment on impact, where upon the body of the bullet performs like a hollow point projectile. Browning says this bullet typically penetrates 14-16" of ballistic gelatin.

Browning BXR and BXC bullets illustrated
BXR and BXC bullets. Illustration courtesy of Browning North America.

A heavier "big game" bullet labeled the BXC uses a lead/antimony core with a heavier, heat bonded brass jacket that is also nickel plated. The BXC is a boat-tail bullet with a smaller "controlled expansion terminal tip" made of anodized aluminum. BXC bullets are said to typically penetrate 18-24" in ballistic gel.

Calibers, bullet weights and velocities of the cartridges in the BXR line are appropriate for hunting Class 2 game and a whitetail deer is pictured on the box, while the BXC line is for Class 3 critters and a bull elk is pictured on the box. Both lines use reloadable, nickel-plated brass cases intended to prevent tarnishing.

The seven loads in the BXR deer line are:

  • .243 Win, 97 gr. bullet - MV 3100 f.p.s., ME 2069 ft. lbs., BC .371, SD .235
  • .270 Win, 134 gr. bullet - MV 3060 f.p.s., ME 2786 ft. lbs., BC .464, SD .249
  • .30-30 Win, 155 gr. bullet - MV 2390 f.p.s., ME 1966 ft. lbs., BC .240, SD .233
  • .308 Win, 155 gr. bullet - MV 2820 f.p.s., ME 2737 ft. lbs., BC .405, SD .233
  • .30-06 Spfd, 155 gr. bullet - MV 2920 f.p.s., ME 2934 ft. lbs., BC .405, SD .233
  • .300 Win. Mag, 155 gr. bullet - MV 3260 f.p.s., ME 3657 ft. lbs., BC .405, SD .233
  • .300 WSM, 155 gr. bullet - MV 3260 f.p.s., ME 3657 ft. lbs., BC .405, SD .233

Except for the .243 Winchester, the loads for the various calibers in the BXR line feature bullets that are four or five grains heavier than the most common deer hunting bullet weights. However, these slightly heavier bullets are driven at or very close to the same velocity as their standard counterparts. E.g., a common factory load for the .270 Winchester uses a 130 grain bullet at 3060 f.p.s. MV; the Browning BXR 134 grain bullet claims the same MV. The slightly heavier bullets in these BXR loads will make for slightly higher energy and killing power at extended ranges.

I found the .243 Winchester and .30-30 Winchester loads to be the most intriguing items in the BXR group. These are new options for deer hunters who favor the light recoiling .243 and .30-30 rifles.

With a 97 grain bullet driven at 3100 f.p.s., the .243 Win. load achieves a +/- 3 inch maximum point blank range (MPBR) of 296 yards. However, the small diameter .243 bullet does not have the killing power on Class 2 game animals that matches its MPBR distance. I judge this load would be a dependable deer dropper out to about 225 yards, making it one of the better .243 deer loads available. (This assertion comes from an analysis of the capabilities of the .243 Winchester for hunting deer; an article on this subject is forthcoming.)

The Browning cartridge line includes a .30-30 load with a 155 grain BXR bullet (BC of .240). Fired at 2350 f.p.s. MV from a 20 inch barrel, this load has a MPBR of 216 yards, with adequate killing power to be effective on deer at that range. This load has downrange performance that is very similar to that of the 150 grain Federal Fusion .30-30 load.

The BXC big game line includes:

  • .270 Win, 145 gr. bullet - MV 2960 f.p.s., ME 2820 ft. lbs., BC .470, SD .270
  • 7mm Rem Mag, 155 gr. bullet - MV 2950 f.p.s., ME 2995 ft. lbs., BC .445, SD .275
  • .308 Win, 168 gr. bullet - MV 2820 f.p.s., ME 2966 ft. lbs., BC .436, SD .253
  • .30-06, 185 gr. bullet - MV 2700 f.p.s., ME 2994 ft. lbs., BC .484, SD .279
  • .300 Win. Mag, 185 gr. bullet - MV 2885 f.p.s., ME 3418 ft. lbs., BC .484, SD .279
  • .300 WSM, 185 gr. bullet - MV 2885 f.p.s., ME 3418 ft. lbs., BC .484, SD .279

These six cartridges/loads are suitable for hunting Class 3 animals. The .270 Winchester load uses a 145 grain bullet at 2960 f.p.s. MV, making it slightly stronger than the typical 140 grain .270 load at 2950 f.p.s. The .308 Winchester load uses a 168 grain bullet at 2820 f.p.s., while the .30-06 load features a 185 grain bullet at 2700 f.p.s. These loads will carry somewhat more killing power downrange than will the normal loads with 165 grain (.308 Win) and 180 grain (.30-06) bullets.

The magnum loads in the BXC line use weighty bullets, tempered with slightly decreased MVs. The 155 grain (7mm Rem. Mag.) and 185 grain (.300 Win. Mag. and .300 WSM) bullets should efficiently carry killing power downrange, even though driven at MVs that are 75 f.p.s. less than is usual for 150 grain loads in 7mm Rem Mag and 180 grain loads for the two .30 caliber magnums.

A note on Sectional Densities

Both the BXR and BXC bullets have sectional densities appropriate to the power levels and intended uses of the loads. Bullets used in the BXR loads have SDs between .233 and .249, which should make for more than adequate penetration on all Class 2 game animals. Coupling these SD values with the rapid expansion bullet design, I would expect to hear reports of some serious exit wounds when these bullets are used on deer and similar game.

The BXC line is touted as being designed for Class 3 game. (Browning specifically mentions elk, moose and bear.) With SDs between .253 and .279, the controlled expansion bullets in the BXC loads can be expected to penetrate deeply on large animals. In my opinion, all six loads in the line have bullet weights and SDs that make them adequate for any non-dangerous game up to elk size. Concerning bull moose and large bears, I would not be confident using anything less than the .30-06, .300 Win. Mag, or .300 WSM. When it comes to large and tough critters, I believe in the "use enough gun" maxim.

Future Additions

The centerfire rifle and pistol cartridges that Browning is initially offering are no-brainers, due to their proven performance and popularity. Browning hopes to expand their caliber offerings, so I pondered what loads Browning might add and came up with five rifle cartridges that are worth mentioning.

A cartridge I believe is likely to be added is the 7mm-08 Remington. Actually, I am surprised that this caliber was not included in the initial rollout, as the 7mm-08 has become quite popular for hunting Class 2 and lighter Class 3 game.

My next nominee for an addition to the Browning line may seem odd, but I can see it happening. The 6.5mm Creedmoor has gained traction in the market in recent years and Browning is chambering rifles for it. Offering hunting ammunition would make sense, as a complement to the Browning rifles chambered for the Creedmoor.

Two other possible additions are the .270 WSM (BXR and BXC) and the .25-06 Remington (BXR only), for both of which Browning also offers rifles. The .270 WSM is probably more likely, as Browning has a history of supporting the WSM cartridges and they have already developed appropriate .270 caliber bullets.

I believe the odds are good that Browning will eventually add .38 Special, .357 Magnum and .44 Magnum revolver loads to its handgun ammo line. This likely will depend on how much market traction is gained by the autoloading handgun cartridges they have already rolled out.

Conclusion

As I punned in the title, Browning has entered the ammunition market with a bang. As I see it, they have begun by making a particularly strong pitch in the centerfire hunting cartridge and shotshell segments. The upscale Browning brand name has considerable marketing power, the black and gold packaging is attractive and the retail prices are competitive with other premium ammunition brands. I expect the company to be successful in this venture, contingent on their ammunition proving to be effective at the range and in the field.




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