F&S Bullet Lab is a series in which shooting editor Richard Mann will test the most popular hunting bullets on the market by shooting them in Clear Ballistics Gelatin to predict their terminal performance in the field – and ultimately, to help you choose the absolute best lead. for your hunt. See how other bullets, like the Remington Core-Lokt Tipped in 6.5 Creedmoor or Winchester’s Deer Season XP Copper Impact, fared in the test.
I have taken more big game with the Nosler AccuBond than any other bullet. I have used them on game ranging in weight from less than 100 pounds to more than 1,000 pounds, in cartridges ranging in caliber from .243 to .338. Although most have taken on a .308 Winchester and a 165-grain AccuBond, in 2018 I took on woodland caribou, a Canadian elk, and a black bear with the 140-grain Federal 6.5 Creedmoor load tested here. Because of my extensive field experience with AccuBonds, I have a lot of confidence in their performance regardless of caliber or bullet weight.
AccuBond uses a gold-plated metal jacket bonded to a lead alloy core. It is designed to provide Nosler-Partition-like terminal performance, with Nosler-Ballistic-Tip-like trajectory and accuracy. And that’s pretty much exactly what you get with AccuBond. In addition to Federale, Nosler also offers this load, but with an advertised muzzle velocity of 2600 fps. Neither should be confused with the AccuBond Long Range 142 grain bullet which has a significantly higher BC.
From a Nosler Model 21 rifle that has a 22-inch Shilen barrel, this load had an average muzzle velocity of 2,602 fps, with a standard deviation of velocity of just 16.4 fps. Federal advertises this load as having a muzzle velocity of 2,675 fps, which was most likely obtained with a 24-inch barrel and is pretty much standard for 140-grain 6.5 Creedmoor ammo.
Although this bullet has a .500 BC to help with distance performance, its 140-grain weight makes it a slow starter. However, AccuBond bullets still have to worry when hitting at slow velocities up to 1800 fps. This coupled with the high BC makes this bullet a solid 500 yard performer where it still retains more than 1000 pounds of energy.
Nosler AccuBond Precision
I shot three three-shot groups from a sandbag with the Nosler rifle, which held the Tract Toric 2.5-15X44 riflescope set to maximum magnification. The average for those three groups was an incredible 0.50 inches. This means that 600-yard groups can be as small as three inches. From this rifle, this load will give you the accuracy you need for long range shooting.
Of course, as with any load, performance in your rifle may vary. The Nosler Model 21 is a very good shooting rifle. I’ve tested eight different loads in it and the average group size for all of them was just a shade under an inch. However, it is worth noting that this load was the best shot of all.
Nosler AccuBond Trajectory
Hunters are drawn to the 6.5 Creedmoor for its ability to deliver not only flat trajectories, but because it can also fire high BC bullets that will maintain velocity and energy at distance without much recoil. Although this bullet has a higher BC than many lighter weight 6.5mm bullets, its BC barely exceeds .500. Because of this and its slower muzzle velocity, it offers no trajectory advantage over some of the faster, lighter, and even lower BC loads, the 6.5 Creedmoor.
However, it is important to understand that the Creedmoor derives its advantage over similarly sized cartridges from the 1-in-8-inch rifles’ twist rate. AND high BC bullets that need that degree of spin for stabilization. Unlike the long-range AccuBond, the standard Nosler AccuBond is not one of those bullets. With a muzzle velocity of 2600 fps, it needs an even higher BC to deliver the flat trajectories the Creed is known for.
Nosler AccuBond Terminal Performance
There are many theories when it comes to evaluating terminal performance. One of the simplest is to use the depth of penetration and the diameter of the recovered bullet to calculate a cylindrical volume of tissue damage often called the crush cavity. This 140-grit AccuBond penetrated 27 inches while still deforming with a frontal diameter of 0.509 inches and yielded a 5.5-cubic-inch compression cavity. Few 6.5 Creedmoor loads can match this at a comparable depth of penetration, especially at 140 grain bullet velocities. Also, AccuBonds dissipate a lot of energy during the early stages of penetration; just watch the reaction to the first block of Clear Ballistics in the video.
My affinity for the Nosler AccuBond comes partly from its great on-target accuracy, but mostly because of the terminal performance it offers. Although some have been convinced by bullet manufacturers—and even gun writers—that 100 percent weight retention is the Holy Grail of killing ability, I’ve found that bullets that have weight retention in the 75 to 85 percent range provide penetration. enough while at the same time damaging more tissue. This excellent balance of discomfort and bullet penetration is one of the reasons I tend to use AccuBonds so often.