How To Make "X" Bullets Shoot Like MatchKings

Nodak Hunter

New member
Jan 18, 2001
Grand Forks, ND
I have had a few inquiries lately about how to make Barnes bullets shoot accurately. I have had great success as of late getting just about every Barnes bullet I've tried to shoot well. In fact, in my seven different Ruger Model 77 MK IIs, my most accurate load in six of them are now X bullets. The only one where they aren't is my Swift, and that's mainly because I haven't tried one, and don't foresee myself ever doing it. That thing is for blowing up jackrabbits at 400 yards, not killing elk.

So, the first thing is to clean the bore of your rifle. I mean CLEAN it. No copper at all, none. Get all the powder fouling out that you can. In the thread about barrel cleaning, I outlined how I do this. If the barrel has no guilding metal from jacketed bullets in it, you'll have far less copper fouling from the softer X bullets, and accuracy will stay good longer before needing to clean again.

Now then, I've been using only the coated XLC bullets, they are much better than the standard, uncoated ones. They are only a couple bucks more per box, they go 100-200 fps faster, and they don't foul the bore as badly. All popular diameters and weights now are pretty much available coated, so you won't miss out on much selectionwise.

When working up a load, I start six grains below listed max, and load three rounds of the starting load, then one round each, increasing charge by one grain until I'm two grains above listed max. Yeah, I know, never go above listed max. If it bothers you, don't go above listed max. I've found that with these coated bullets, I'm sometimes 100 fps hotter than what the load lists at, and sometimes 100 fps slower. It all depends upon the smoothness of your barrel. These X bullets' velocity is affected much more it seems by individual barrels than regular bullets. That's probably one of the reasons they can be so hard to load well. Sometimes I am three or four grains below listed max, but still at the max listed velocity. Sometimes I'm one or two above max, and at max listed velocity. I always test with a chronograph, and recommend that you do also, if possible. Seat all bullets .050" off the lands for now.

I take my eleven loaded rounds to the range, and fire off the first three starting loads to foul the bore. Once again, X bullets seem to be more affected by bore cleanliness than regular bullets. I usually take a couple of sighting in shots whenever I arrive at my hunting destination anyway, to make sure I'm sighted in before hitting the trail, so this works out fine for me.

Ok, you now have a three shot group. It isn't really important where the first two landed, but note where the third one is. I usually make a little sketch of the target as I go, marking down each shot as I make it. Now start working your way up your loads, noting velocity, and noting where each bullet lands. What you're doing is checking pressure via velocity, and looking for the two or three sequential shots that are closest together. Stop when you reach max listed velocity in the book, or you have other pressure signs. You are done shooting for the day, with a max of eleven bullets fired.

Now I go home, and take a look at my target, and mark the two sequential shots closest together that meet my minimum velocity requirements. With these bullets, it's usually the hotter, the more accurate. Usually the two closest are somewhere in the last three or four shots fired.

I'll use an actual real world example. I was developing a load for my .300 Win Mag with 180 gr XLC bullets, and Re22 powder. The max velocity listed is 3,146 fps with 80 grains of powder. I loaded three bullets with 74 grains, and then one each at 75,76,77,78,79,80,81, and 82 grains. While shooting, the starting load chrono'd 2,934 fps. Each subsequent shot went up fairly consistently (about 25-30 fps). At 80 grains, I chrono'd 3,098, no excessive pressure signs. I went on to 81 grains, and chrono'd 3,137. Both Barnes' test barrel and mine are 24", so I know that I'm about where they were pressure wise and velocity wise.

The two closest sequential shots were 79gr and 80 gr. They were .22" apart. The last shot went a bit high. I loaded three rounds with 79 grains, and three with 80 grains, still seated .050" off the lands.

The group of three shots with 79 grains chrono'd 3,072 fps, and measured 0.77". The 80 grain group chrono'd 3,101 fps avg, and measured 0.66". So, my hunting load for this bullet is a 180 gr XLC, 80 grains RE22, at 3,100 fps.

Now that you have the best powder charge, if you want to try to get tighter groups, you can start fiddling with seating depth. I was happy with this accuracy, so left it alone. In my .264 Win Mag, the 120 grain XLCs shoot best .070" off the lands. In my 7mm Rem Mag, the 140 gr XLCs shoot best .020" off the lands.

That's how I do it. It's worked every time, and I've never used more than 25 bullets (once it took only 12) to get the accuracy and velocity I was looking for.

I hope this helps anybody looking to give these bullets a try.
Thanks for the tips!!! That is exactly what I was looking for. Now I just have to decide which .338 bullet to try the 185 or 210, after I get done fiddling with the 200gr BT.
You can smoke a 185 grain XLC out of a 24" tube at 3,300 fps. That's plenty o' gun for anything below the Canadian border. That's my hunting load for elk. My backup elk rifle is my .300 Win Mag, with a 180 grain XLC moving at 3,100 fps.

Of course, for some things north of the border, I'd go with the heavier bullet. :eek:
Nodak........another ????

I have a Browning .270 stalker had now for 10 yrs been shootin X-bullets for 5 yrs in this rifle. And I have never cleaned the copper solvent of any kind.

It will cut holes at 200 yards still to this day.

So why all the thorough cleanin :confused: :confused: :confused: :confused: :confused:

If you have a rough barrel, you'll get more copper fouling. You evidently have a pretty smooth bore. If you have guilding metal from a regular jacketed bullet in the bore, you'll get WAY more fouling.

If there is no copper to begin with, shooting X bullets doesn't seem to foul the bore much more than regular bullets. Coated ones seem to do even better.

I usually clean my barrels thoroughly after twenty-thirty shots, regardless of what type of bullet I'm shooting.
Bullet: Barnes XLC BT, 180 gr
Primer: Rem 9 1/2
Case: R-P
Powder: RE 25
Powder charge: 95.0 gr
Velocity: 3,297 fps

This is a MAXIMUM load. Start ten grains lower. It is for the coated (blue) bullet. DO NOT USE THIS LOAD FOR REGULAR (uncoated) X BULLETS.
Christ, is all that trouble worth it?

I dont have to go through all that to get nosler partitions to shoot that good.

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