Hornady's Big Announcement: the ELD-X with Heat Shield Tip

TFB Staffer
by TFB Staffer

Last week we shared a video from Hornady that gave broad but enticing promises of a new, exciting technology to come. Considering the source – Hornady has been coming up with innovative ammunition ideas for more than 60 years now – it was definitely a promising moment, and now the official announcement has been made. Hornady’s new tech? The ELD-X, or eXtremely Low Drag – eXpanding, with the company’s own Heat Shield Technology.

Early hints of the coming tech mentioned the use of Doppler, and although some of the guesses being made as to the nature of Doppler’s use in the tech were in the general neighborhood, none actually hit the proverbial nail on the head. The logic behind this new bullet is the fact that heat plays a significant role in the quality and performance of bullets, and if you’re a long-range hunter – and many of us are – it’s going to effect your hunt, if not your overall success. According to tests carried out by Hornady’s engineers, the ballistic coefficient (BC) actually changes at a certain point along the trajectory of bullets designed specifically for a higher BC. For the first 100 to 150 yards the BC may be as expected, but after that distance it drops to a lower BC, which has a noticeable and negative effect on its performance. Why? Well, apparently the nose of the bullet is quite literally melting down, softening and deforming from a combination of speed and heat generated while in flight.

Rather than put the studies, tests, and their results into my own words, let’s take a look at the information straight from Hornady (if you’re interested in videos and what calibers will be available, scroll down):

The ELD-X™ bullet is a technologically advanced, match accurate, ALL-RANGE hunting bullet featuring highest-in-class ballistic coefficients and consistent, controlled expansion at ALL practical hunting distances.

All manufacturers conventional polymer tips in high BC bullets melt in flight. Hornady® engineers discovered that conventional bullet tip materials in streamlined, high BC bullets melt and deform. Although not a significant issue affecting moderate BC conventional tipped varmint and hunting bullets, aerodynamic heating causes BC reduction and degradation of accuracy, particularly at extended ranges (400 yds +). To counter this effect, Hornady® identified a heat resistant polymer and developed the patent pending Heat Shield™ tip. This revolutionary new tip creates the perfect meplat (tip) with exceptionally consistent results from bullet-to-bullet and lot-to-lot.

At conventional range (0-400 yards), the ELD-X bullet is designed to continually expand throughout its penetration path. Upon impact the thin nose section of the bullet peels back and sheds material until it reaches the thick shank of the bullet jacket where the InterLock ring works to keep the core and jacket together. The remaining heavy shank of the bullet continues to drive forward and expand for extremely lethal results.

Available as component bullets or in factory loaded ELD-X Precision Hunter ammunition, ELD-X bullets are “heavy caliber” and designed for maximum ballistic coefficients, the highest levels of accuracy, consistency and extreme lethality at ALL practical hunting distances.

ELD-X™ Extremely Low Drag – eXpanding

  • Best-in-class BCs
    Verified by Doppler radar, the Heat Shield™ tip defies the effects of aerodynamic heating and retains its shape to maintain the highest in-class BC over its entire trajectory.
  • Match accurate hunting bullet
    Streamlined secant ogive with optimum boattail design + highly concentric AMP® bullet jackets + patent pending Heat Shield™ tip combine for radically superior aerodynamic efficiency.
  • Devastating conventional range performance
    With high velocity, 0-400 yard impact, the bullet continually expands throughout its penetration path. The thick shank of the jacket and high Interlock® ring keep the core and jacket together providing 50-60% weight retention.
  • Best extended range terminal available
    Upon low velocity, 400+ yard impacts, Heat Shield™ tip drives backward into bullet to initiate expansion. Exhibiting expansion with a large and 85-90% retained weight the provides deep penetration and large cavities. Available as component bullets or in factory loaded Precision Hunter™ ammunition.

While analyzing the radar data on the new bullet, Hornady engineers noticed something right away that was puzzling. In Drag Coefficient versus Mach (Cd vs Mach) graphs, they saw that the new projectile was gaining drag shortly after leaving the barrel, which affected the performance of that bullet for the rest of its flight path. Simply put, the bullet acted like it had one particular BC for the first 100 to 150 yards, then transitioned to a lower BC for the rest of its flight path. Further testing was done with other bullets including BTHP match and A-Max bullets. While the BTHP bullets Cd vs Mach charts looked as expected, the A-Max bullets were showing the same increase in drag that the prototype hunting bullet did. It was as if the bullet was changing shape in flight.

Further testing was done to confirm suspicions that the polymer tip was the culprit. Aerodynamically efficient, high BC bullets at high velocity were suffering from polymer tips softening and deforming in flight. Further testing proved that it happens to all conventional polymer tipped bullets, regardless of manufacturer. Tipped varmint bullets and conventional low to medium BC (sub .550 G1) bullets are not significantly affected. They simply do not hold a high velocity long enough for the aerodynamic heating to significantly affect their tip.

To correct the issue of tips deforming from aerodynamic heating, Hornady engineers identified and developed tips from a new class of polymer. These new, patent pending Heat Shield tips provide a consistent BC throughout the bullets entire flight path. This is due to Heat Shield material’s greater heat capacity and also having a melting point roughly 2.5 times greater than currently used tips.

The Hornady 6.5mm 140gr A-Max is a very popular match bullet. Its long-time published G1 BC of .585 has been measured with chronographs at the muzzle, 100 and 200 yards. The radar verifies that exact BC out to 200 yards. When fired at 800 yards; however, the radar verified average BC it is actually .545. This is because of the polymer tip melting and deforming during flight. When the traditional tip is replaced with a Heat Shield tip, the Radar verified 800 yard average BC becomes .610 – a huge improvement! Why a .610 when we already established a 200 yard BC of .585? The .610 BC shows that the traditional tip was already exhibiting degradation at 200 yards.

As mentioned, moderate and low BC tipped bullets (less than .550 G1) are not significantly affected. Case in point: a 22 caliber 50gr V-Max with a conventional polymer tip, fired at 3,700 fps, has a 400 yard radar verified average BC of .232. With a Heat Shield tip, it still had a BC of .232. Similarly, a 7mm 162gr SST has a 500 yard radar verified average BC of .520. When tested with a Heat Shield tip, it only gained a small amount of BC – .532. The .012 increase in BC is too small to matter on this bullet at any distance this bullet would expand on game.

Why Bother With a Tip At All?

As mentioned earlier, we required that the new bullet have a tip. There are multiple reasons for this. Without a polymer tip (or an exposed lead tip, which is not as aerodynamically efficient), there is no mechanism for expansion. Upon impact, the tip is slammed back into the frontal cavity and forces expansion. Without a mechanism for expansion (tip), the target dictates what the bullet does. High BC, BTHP (Boat Tail Hollow Point) bullets have no mechanism for expansion. Their terminal affects are predictably unpredictable. They typically penetrate without expanding until they hit something hard enough to make them tumble or blow up. Sometimes, they pencil through until the bullet slows down enough to destabilize and start to tumble. Other times they simply pencil through without ever tumbling. Open tip match style (OTM, also known as BTHP) bullets are not designed for controlled expansion. The bullets simply have a hollow cavity where the lead core stops and the jacket material continues to be drawn together above it to form the tip. To get a hollow point to actually initiate expansion, the open cavity needs to be large, too large to facilitate a high BC. For hunting, hollow points do have their place though, in pistol bullets and low BC conventional rifle bullets where the meplat (diameter of the tip) is big enough to promote expansion. It is not simply having a polymer tip that promotes expansion. We can control exactly how fast or slow a bullet expands with the tip size, cavity size and shape below the tip stem and the relationship of the transition from jacket material to the outside edge of the tip. A BTHP offers no “fine-tuning” for expansion. It is totally dependent on what the target media makes it do.

The other advantage of the tip is the consistent shape and optimized geometry of the molded polymer tip. With a polymer tip, the meplat (diameter of the tip of a bullet) is the same from bullet to bullet, and lot to lot. A molded polymer tip shape is the same every time. The meplat of a BTHP, however, is inconsistent. Drawing the jacket material up to a perfect and consistently shaped tip every time is virtually impossible. Some match shooters use a meplat trimmer to even out the rim of BTHP meplats for consistency. This trimming perfects the shape of the tip but removes mass from the bullet.

ELD-X

The all-range hunting bullet is called ELD-X, which stands for Extremely Low Drag – eXpanding. They were designed from the ground up to be match accurate, all-range hunting bullets with best-in-class aerodynamics. ELD-X bullets have a precision swaged lead core. The bullet jackets utilize AMP (Advanced Manufacturing Process) technology for near-perfect concentricity. The jacket material is quite thick at the bullet shank and thins down along the ogive (curved area from the bearing surface up to the tip) to assist in expansion. A high Interlock ring helps to keep the jacket and core together during penetration. While this bullet is unique, it draws on some of the best features and technology of its predecessors like Critical Duty, LeverEvolution and established match bullets.

Why a traditional lead core and not solid-copper or bonded lead? While both of those styles have their place in hunting, both have significant limitations in an all-range hunting bullet.

Solid copper or copper-alloy bullets are tough and give great penetration and high weight retention at conventional range. Without a lead core though, they are relatively light and don’t have the BC to carry significant energy at extended range. Without enough velocity, the material is too tough to expand at low velocities. While a mono-metal bullet can be specifically made to expand at a lower velocity, it lacks the flexibility to perform well across a wide range of velocities.

Bonding a bullet’s lead core and jacket together can be useful for hunting bullets at conventional ranges, but there are some drawbacks. Bonding requires a soft, pure-lead core and a thicker jacket. There are various bonding processes but the result is a soft bullet that is inconsistent in its long-range accuracy and terminal effects. Current bonding methods don’t allow the kind of accuracy needed for extended range shooting. Case in point, there’s a reason you don’t see bonded match bullets.

Performance Expectations

The ELD-X bullet is very versatile in its terminal effects. It’s also quite unorthodox since it is a bullet that works at both conventional and extended range. The bullet works differently upon high velocity impacts versus low velocity, but, the terminal effects are quite similar.

Conventional Range

With high velocity impacts (conventional range, 0-400 yards), the ELD-X bullet starts expanding upon impact. It creates a very large, very deep temporary wound channel and typically 2 feet of overall penetration. The depth of the temporary cavity is a result of the bullet continuing to expand while penetrating. The expansion is more of a rolling back of the tough jacket, rather than a flattening out process that would stop penetration. The frontal area of the bullet sheds some mass during this rolling back and the thick shank continues to drive the bullet forward. Typical retained weight at close range impacts is 50-60%, this is by design.

Extended Range

With low velocity (extended range, 400+ yards) impacts, the bullet looks and acts much more like a traditional hunting bullet does at close range. It expands immediately and forms a traditional mushroom shape while creating a large, deep temporary cavity and 2+ feet of overall penetration. Typical weight retention at extended range is 80-90%.

Closing

The Hornady ELD-X bullet is the most technologically advanced hunting bullet on the market. It is match accurate and delivers dramatic terminal performance at all practical ranges. With the highest BC’s in its class, it retains its aerodynamic shape throughout its entire trajectory path with the Heat Shield tip. Offering match grade accuracy, it excels beyond a match bullet’s (BTHP or tipped) ability to provide true controlled expansion and lethality at any practical range.

If you’re a bit of a guns and ammo geek like I am and would like to delve deeper into the graphs and charts from Hornady’s research, follow this link to take a look at the company’s technical information. There is quite a bit of fascinating info and some amazing images and testing in there, so I highly recommend taking a look: http://www.hornady.com/assets/files/resources/ELD-X_ELD-Match_Technical_Details.pdf

Hornady is manufacturing the new ELD-X rounds in a line they’re calling Precision Hunter in the following calibers:

6.5 Creedmoor, 143-gr. @ 2,700 fps*
7mm Rem. Mag., 162-gr. @ 2,975 fps
.308 Win., 178-gr. @ 2,600 fps*
.30/06, 178-gr. @ 2,750 fps*
.300 RCM, 178-gr. 2,900 fps*
.300 Win Mag., 200-gr. @ 2,860 fps
.300 RUM, 220-gr. @ 2,910 fps
.30-378 Wby. Mag., 220-gr. @ 3,025 fps*

*The asterisk refers to rounds still undergoing testing, meaning ballistics are still subject to some change when the final numbers are released

The following bullets are being listed as being made available as individual components featuring the new Heat Shield tech:

6.5mm, 143-gr. (G1 .620 / G7 .310)
7mm, 162-gr. (G1 .613 / G7 .308)
7mm, 175-gr. (G1 .660 / G7 .330)
.308, 178-gr. (G1 .535 / G7 .271)*
.308, 200-gr. (G1 .626 / G7 .315)
.308, 212-gr. (G1 .673 / G7 .336)
.308, 220-gr. (G1 .650 / G7 .325)

Hornady said they will also be selling the following match-grade ELD-X rounds in 2016:

6.5mm, 140-gr (G1 .610 / G7 .305)
7mm, 162-gr. (G1 .627 / G7 .313)
.308, 208-gr. (G1 670 / G7 .335)
.338, 285-gr. (G1 .789)

Visit Hornady’s site at www.hornady.com or go straight to the ELD-X page at http://www.hornady.com/store/ELD-X

A few videos about Hornady’s new Heat Shield tech:

TFB Staffer
TFB Staffer

TFB Staff, bringing you the latest gun news from around the world for a decade.

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  • LetsTryLibertyAgain LetsTryLibertyAgain on Nov 01, 2015

    I'm a big fan of Hornady rifle bullets, but I'm a bit surprised that Hornady engineers were surprised. The rifle bullets are travelling up around Mach 3. Jet planes that do that aren't made of plastic for a good reason. Some of the fastest are made with titanium skin on the leading edges to resist the heat of friction.

    Hornady has pretty graphs showing the kinetic energy of their bullets at different ranges. Did they think all of the energy was lost to heating the air and none of it heated the bullet? Why would they think that if it's obvious when a bullet strikes a target that the bullet melts as well as heating the target?

    To be honest, I wondered about this issue from the moment I started reloading A-max and V-max bullets. The tips looked like nylon (low temperature plastic) but I assumed Hornady did their homework and the polymer tips were sufficient to avoid melting at longer ranges. While I'm glad they now have the ELD-X bullets and I'm looking forward to trying them in my own reloaded ammunition, it's a bit disconcerting that it's taken years for Hornady to detect this problem and correct it. It seems like relatively low hanging fruit, and it seems like a bit of an oversight up until now, particularly given the complex technology that goes into other aspects of their bullet designs. Doppler radar isn't needed to detect this problem. Frankly, I'm surprised that some technical reloaders didn't report the changing BC to Hornady based on velocity measurements at various ranges or changes to point of impact at various ranges.

    Thank goodness for research. Better late than never.

    • Wzrd1 Wzrd1 on Nov 01, 2015

      @LetsTryLibertyAgain Yeah, it's not like current airplanes are made of carbon fiber *plastic* composites.
      The carbon fiber is really titanium/steel unobtanium.

      As for mach 3, another myth in the calibers involved.

      Hornady could've done better by studying NASA data for re-entry vehicles, what worked, why it did, what didn't work, etc. The velocities are lower, but the effects are similar.

  • Bp. David Bp. David on Nov 03, 2015

    Makes a whole lot of sense--The wings of the X-15 spy plane had to have special alloys invented to keep them from melting due to the air friction.

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