Swift Hunting Bullets

By Chuck Hawks

Swift Hunting Bullets
Illustration courtesy of the Swift Bullet Company.

Swift, located in Quinter, Kansas USA, began limited operations in 1982 by making their jacketed rifle bullets from .22 rimfire cases, much as Speer and Hornady had done in the late 1940's. Two years later, they began developing the A-Frame bullet for large game, the signature Swift product. In 1994, Bill Hober, a former Pepsi Cola executive, joined the Swift Bullet Company, becoming President and CEO. A period of heavy capital investment, expansion, research and development followed, resulting in the development of the Scirocco bullet line and bringing Swift to prominence as a premium bullet manufacturer. Swift bullets are used in Remington, Norma and Lapua factory loaded ammunition and by reloaders and hunters everywhere.

Swift manufactures two bullet lines, A-Frame and Scirocco II. Both are bonded lead core bullets with copper, rather than gilding metal, jackets. The difference is that the A-Frame is a partitioned bullet with a very heavy jacket, while the Scirocco II is a more conventional, long range bullet with a lead core bonded to a thick copper jacket and a black plastic tip.

A-Frames are famous as a heavy game bullets in both North America and Africa. They have a spitzer or semi-spitzer shape. The A-Frame's tapered copper jacket is divided into two sections by a traverse internal bulkhead, similar to a Nosler Partition bullet. The front half of the A-Frame has a lead core with a small exposed lead area flush with the tip of the jacket (what Speer would call a "mag-tip") and mushrooms in the manner of a tough, bonded core, soft point bullet. The heavy partition amidships positively stops expansion at that point, keeping the rear half of the bullet, with its separate lead core, intact for deep penetration. The base of the jacket is folded over the back of the rear core to prevent it slipping. All A-Frames are flat base bullets and lead is exposed at both ends. Both cores are bonded to the jacket to prevent separation of jacket and core. The A-Frame's exceptionally thick jacket and bonding of the lead cores to the jacket results in very high weight retention after impact, claimed to be around 95%. The A-Frame is a controlled expansion, lead core bullet with weight retention comparable to mono-metal bullets!

Although the concept of a dual core bullet is shared with the earlier Nosler Partition bullet, the performance of the A-Frame and Partition are different. John Nosler found that to achieve quick kills on medium (CXP2) game, it was desirable for the front part of his Partition bullet to expand rapidly. The core of a Partition is not bonded to the jacket and recovered bullets typically retain about 65% of their original weight. The A-Frame's cross member is thicker and farther forward in the bullet, its jacket is thicker and its bonded core prevents almost all lead loss after impact. It is a tougher bullet that retains almost all of its weight after impact and penetrates considerably deeper. At least in theory, the A-Frame should produce a narrower and longer wound cavity than the Partition, whose crush cavity is wider and shorter.

I have not shot animals side by side under controlled conditions with identical caliber and weight Nosler Partition and Swift A-Frame bullets, but my impression is that the Partition, in appropriate calibers, drops thin-skinned game quicker than the A-Frame (not that the A-Frame will not do the job on CXP2 and CXP3 game). The A-Frame, in appropriate calibers, delivers the extremely deep penetration required for thick-skinned game more reliably than the Partition. Indeed, in Africa the A-Frame is considered one of the best dangerous game bullets and it is widely recommended for hunting Cape buffalo. Here in North America, the A-Frame is highly regarded for shooting moose, brown bear and bison. I use A-Frames in my .338 Win. and .458 Win. Magnums and they deliver surprisingly good accuracy in both calibers, at least in my rifles.

I would suggest that an A-Frame bullet is a good choice when hunting CXP2 and CXP3 game at the top end of a rifle's capability, or for hunting the largest CXP3 and CXP4 game with appropriate calibers and bullet weights. Swift offers A-Frame bullets from .257/100 grain to .510/570 grain. New from Swift for 2012 is their 9.3mm/286 grain A-Frame that should be a spectacular performer on heavy animals in this potent medium bore caliber.

A-Frames are expensive bullets. The 2012 MSRP for box of 50 .308/180 grain A-Frames is $59, or $1.18 per bullet. Practicing for your big hunt with A-Frames is not going to be cheap!

The Scirocco II is Swift's general purpose and long range bullet for CXP2 and CXP3 game. It is a streamlined, secant ogive bullet with a pointed, black polymer tip and a 15-degree boat-tail base. Its tapered, pure copper jacket is exceptionally thick and bonded to the lead core in order to prevent the kind of fragmentation and weight loss typical of first generation tipped bullets. Its boat-tail forms what Nosler would call a "solid base," to resist distortion when fired in magnum cartridges. Scirocco II bullets claim very high ballistic coefficients and this results in a comparatively flat trajectory. They are a good choice for all-around big game hunting and especially for use in high velocity rifles. They also have a good reputation for accuracy. Incidentally, Swift claims that the new Scirocco II has exactly the same profile, inside and out, as the original Scirocco and all specifications and reloading data remain the same. (One wonders what the difference is and what makes the current version the "Scirocco II.") Weight retention after expansion is on the order of 80%.

The Scirocco II is a good choice for use on all medium and large game in appropriate calibers and bullet weights. It should produce quicker kills than the A-Frame on pronghorn antelope, sheep, mountain goats, deer, caribou and other CXP2 animals and it expands at lower impact velocities. Its bonded core and high weight retention make it a deadly elk bullet, especially at long range. Scirocco II bullets are offered in .224, .243 (6mm), .257, .264 (6.5mm), .277 (.270), .284 (7mm), .308 and .338 calibers.

Like the A-Frame, the Scirocco II is a premium priced bullet. The 2012 MSRP for a box of 100 .308/180 grain A-Frames is $64.25, about $0.64 per bullet.

Swift is a manufacturer of premium, bonded core hunting bullets. They have no "popularly priced" bullet line and they offer no match bullets, plinking bullets, lead free bullets, etc. A relative newcomer in bullet manufacturing, their tight focus on what they do best has made them a significant player in a mature industry and brought them the respect of serious hunters around the world.

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Copyright 2012 by Chuck Hawks. All rights reserved.