Stars and Stripes
By Chuck Hawks
After reading my Guns and Shooting Online article about the .303 Savage (in which I wrote that factory loaded ammunition in the caliber was no longer available), Clint Huisinga of Stars and Stripes Custom Ammunition wrote to me and pointed out that Stars and Stripes offers brand new .303 Savage factory loads. In fact, Stars and Stripes offers factory loads in many obsolete calibers.
Stars and Stripes ammunition is manufactured in the U.S.A. Their street address is 2303 West McNab Road, Suite 4, Pampano Beach, FL 33069 (Telephone: 954-917-1129).
Stars and Stripes ammunition is premium new product, not reloads. In their Production Ammo line, Stars and Stripes offers all the usual calibers from .17 Remington to .458 Winchester Magnum. These are loaded with Barnes, Hornady and SSCA (conventional jacketed soft point) bullets at prices comparable to premium factory loaded ammunition from the "Big Three" American loading companies. Stars and Stripes will custom load production calibers with other premium bullets for individual customers by special order--they aim to please. All Production Ammunition is hand made, just like their custom ammunition.
To quote from the Stars and Stripes web page: "Unlike factory ammunition, each of our cartridges is made on a single assembly line so each round is exactly like the one before it, giving the shooter unmatched consistency from shot to shot. All propellants are matched to individual cartridges for top efficiency."
Speaking of propellants, the velocity of Stars and Stripes ammo is stable over a wide temperature range. This is because, with only a few exceptions, they use Hodgdon Extreme powders in their rifle loads.
Of particular interest to shooters with rifles in hard to find calibers is the Stars and Stripes line of Custom Ammunition. This is available in a bewildering variety of calibers from .14-222 to .700 Nitro Express, including common, European, wildcat, proprietary, nitro, magnum, black powder, safari, and other oddball types.
Here is another direct quote from Stars and Stripes regarding their Custom Ammunition: "This ammunition is made to order to your exact requirements: Max power, max accuracy, sub-sonic, premium grade bullet choices, match brass, etc. Custom ammo can also be built so as to ensure maximum performance under very specific weather conditions, temperature extremes, or firearm type. Some custom loadings may require the firearm to be present to verify safe functioning of a one off loading. All custom ammo conforms to SAAMI and CIP standards. Anything within the limits of safety can be made."
Stars and Stripes has other ammo lines including Pistol, Cowboy, Safari, Shotgun, Military, Obsolete, and .50 BMG ammunition. They really offer a huge assortment of different calibers and loads. The Stars and Stripes motto is, "We manufacture premium new ammunition for almost any firearm that shoots."
Clint offered to send me some Stars and Stripes ammunition for review, an offer that I gratefully accepted. My personal ammunition requirements are fairly mundane, since I don't shoot any really strange, wildcat, or obsolete calibers. I requested a couple boxes of Stars and Stripes Production Ammo in two calibers, .45-70 and .350 Remington Magnum. Those calibers are about as "unusual" as anything I shoot.
In .45-70 I requested standard pressure ammunition loaded with 300 grain Hornady InterLock HP bullets, a Stars and Stripes catalog item at a retail price of $23.99/box of 20. The muzzle velocity (MV) of this load is 1900 fps.
My .45-70 Browning 1885 High Wall rifle is equipped with a Redfield Widefield 2.5x fixed power scope. It shoots Federal Classic factory loads (advertised MV 1880 fps) using this bullet weight very accurately, and I had a box of Federal factory loads on hand for comparison purposes. It happens that I use the Hornady 300 grain InterLock HP bullet (with IMR 3031 powder) at about 1800 fps in my standard handloads for that rifle with great success. So I felt that I had a pretty good idea of how that bullet should shoot in that rifle.
Clint made these comments about his S&S .45-70 load: "The .45-70 ammo is safe for any firearm you want to shoot it in, even an original Trapdoor Springfield (in good condition). My loading preference on this case is to use the slower propellants so I can fill up the case to 100% load density. This loading delivers very uniform velocity and will remain stable over a wide temperature range. I do offer the .45-70 in Marlin and Magnum specific loadings for suitable .45-70 rifles."
In .350 Rem. Mag. I requested another standard Stars and Stripes catalog item, a 225 grain Nosler Partition bullet at a MV of 2500 fps (in an 18" barrel). The retail price of this load is $35.99/box of 20.
This load is particularly noteworthy because Remington offers only their 200 grain PSP Core-Lokt bullet in .350 Mag. factory loads. While that is a good bullet, I sometimes prefer something heavier. In fact, I regard 220-225 grain bullets as ideal for most purposes in a .350 Mag. rifle. So I was interested to see how the Stars and Stripes ammo performed in my new Ruger Model 77R Mk. II rifle, which wears a Leupold VX-II 1-4x20mm scope. I had been wanting to try the 225 grain Nosler bullet in that rifle, but hadn't gotten around to it. For comparison purposes, I had on hand some of my reloads using 220 grain Speer bullets at about 2450 fps.
As a little bonus, Clint enclosed a box of his .308 Winchester Match ammo, loaded with 170 grain Lapua FMJ-BT bullets. The retail price of this load is $28.99/box of 20.
My resident .308 rifle is a Mannlicher stocked Ruger M77RSI International with a light contour 18.5" barrel. The M77RSI wears a Leupold 2-7x28mm Compact scope. This is a great little woods and brush country hunting rifle, but not a rifle in which I would ordinarily shoot Match ammo. For comparison purposes I had on hand some Remington Express factory loads using 150 grain Core-Lokt PSP bullets, the only factory load I ordinarily shoot in this rifle.
When the ammunition arrived I found that the Stars and Stripes Production Ammo was packaged in white boxes with Stars and Stripes labels showing the caliber, bullet, quantity (20 cartridges) and price. The cartridges were securely held in Styrofoam blocks. Both the .45-70 and .350 Magnum cartridges were loaded in new Remington brass.
The box of .308 Match ammo was packaged in a Frankford Arsenal plastic cartridge box (the kind with a slip-off top). It too wore a Stars and Stripes label indicating the caliber, bullet, quantity, and price. This ammo was loaded in new Lapua brass.
At the first opportunity, with my Stars and Stripes ammunition clutched firmly in hand and all three test rifles, I beat a path to the Isaac Walton outdoor rifle range south of Eugene, Oregon where we do most of our Guns and Shooting Online product testing.
The Isaac Walton range provides solid bench rests for the use of their members, and we fired the test rifles from a Caldwell Lead Sled weighted with two 25 pound bags of lead shot. The Lead Sled is very steady and greatly attenuates recoil.
The weather was sunny with a high of 74 F degrees and variable wind gusts of about 10 mph. A nice summer day in rainy Western Oregon!
Guns and Shooting Online regulars Nathan Rauzon and Bob Fleck assisted me with the shooting chores. For record we shot 3-shot groups at 100 yards on Outers Score Keeper targets using the rifles and ammunition mentioned above.
Remember that we used hunting rifles with hunting scopes for our testing. The results are useful for comparative purposes in these rifles. No doubt smaller groups could have been achieved with match grade barrels and target scopes, but that would be impractical in the field. Following are the shooting results by caliber.
.308 Winchester / Ruger Model 77RSI rifle
.350 Rem. Mag. / Ruger Model 77R Mark II rifle
.45-70 Government / Browning 1885 High Wall rifle
As you can see from these results, in our test rifles the Stars and Stripes ammo performed comparably to the reference loads. It is probably only fair to mention that the .308 Ruger rifle had its best day ever with both factory loads, and broke all prior records with the Remington Core-Lokt ammo. Previous range sessions with a variety of ammunition (including Remington Core-Lokt) in that rifle have generally produced perfectly satisfactory, but not spectacular, groups averaging about 2 MOA.
On the other hand, the Browning .45-70 rifle has generally produced considerably better groups, both on average and specifically with the Federal Classic factory load, than it did this time out. That 3 7/16" group is about the worst it has ever shot. The Ruger .308 had a great day, but the Browning .45-70 had an off day. Or at least we shooters did. Such are the vagaries of testing rifles and ammunition.
The Stars and Stripes ammo looked and functioned like any other premium factory loaded ammunition. There were no malfunctions of any kind.
Our group's subjective opinion is that Stars and Stripes ammo is good stuff. The .350 Mag. and .45-70 hunting loads seem to be loaded pretty close to the maximum allowable SAAMI pressure limits. In our test rifles this is high performance, but safe, ammunition.
All of us would be perfectly willing to use Stars and Stripes ammunition on our next major hunting trip. And Stars and Stripes offers new factory loaded ammunition in a greater variety of calibers and loads than any other brand with which I am familiar. Their competitive pricing is just icing on the cake.
Stars and Stripes ammo is available from dealers or direct from Stars and Stripes. Visit them onlinle at: starsandstripesammo.com
Copyright 2005 by Chuck Hawks. All rights reserved.
Custom, Obsolete & Hard to Find Ammunition