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 6.5 Creedmoor bullets, including the Remington Core-Lokt Tipped, Winchester’s Deer Season XP Copper Impact, and the Federale-loaded Nosler Accubond, fared in the test.
The new Outfitter CX bullet from Hornady represents the industry’s latest effort to provide the best performing lead-free bullets for hunting. Very similar in design to Hornady’s GMX bullet, which has a solid reputation for killing big game, the CX bullet is the next logical evolution from Hornady. When developing the ELD line of bullets, Hornady discovered that the material commonly used for polymer bullet tips can corrode under the high heat that can result from supersonic flight. The new CX’s heat shield tip prevents this tip erosion so the bullet can maintain a predictable BC, and thus flight path, to the target.
But that’s not all there is to the CX bullet. The GMX-like mono-metal design offers 95 percent or better weight retention, and Hornady optimized the bullet groove geometry to maximize aerodynamic performance and reduce the bearing surface between the bullet and the bore. This reduction helps manage pressure and reduce contamination. The new CX bullet comes in 120 and 130 grain weights; we tested the 120-grain in 6.5 Creedmoor. Here’s how it worked out.
Hornady Outfitter CX Velocity
Fired from a Nosler Model 21 rifle that has a 22-inch Shilen barrel, this Outfitter CX load had an average muzzle velocity of 2865 fps, with a standard deviation of just 28.2 fps. Hornady advertises this load as having a muzzle velocity of 2925 fps, which was most likely obtained with a 24-inch barrel. With a BC of just .428, it registers at or just below average when compared to most 6.5mm 120 grain bullets. However, the Heat-Shield tip should help the bullet maintain a constant BC in flight.
Hornady Outfitter CX 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 unbreathable 1.50 inches. Granted, you don’t need a sub-MOA rifle/load combination for most big game hunting, but that’s what most hunters today expect from a good rifle with quality ammo. It is worth noting that sometimes all-copper or gold-plated bullets require a good barrel cleaning before firing in order to extract the greatest accuracy they can provide. I have seen this on many occasions, so keep that in mind if you try this load in your riff. There’s just something, monometallic lead contamination that tends to make this happen. Of course, the CX Outfitter load can shoot well out of your rifle. Like people, individual rifles have likes and dislikes.
Hornady Outfitter CX Trajector
This isn’t an extremely flat 6.5 Creedmoor load, but for most of the big game hunting most of us do, the 120-grain CX trajectory is good enough. With a rise of about 2 inches at 100 yards, you can stand dead at 200, on the back line at 300, and about 12 to 16 inches over the back at 400 yards. And in a 10 mph, 90 degree headwind, you’ll only see a foot of movement in that last distance. If that’s not a flat enough trajectory for you, you’ll want to look elsewhere for your Creed ammo.
Hornady Outfitter CX Terminal Performance
Many believe that 100 percent weight retention is the key to a bullet’s killing ability. Its not. While it is true that a bullet must carry weight in order to penetrate, penetration is also largely determined by the frontal area of the bored bullet (commonly called expansion). Bullets that are bored with a wide front diameter drastically reduce penetration. But wide-opening bullets also increase injury. Bullet engineers seek to balance these two things. They adjust the bullet design to give as much upset as possible while still guaranteeing a certain amount of penetration. Your goal in choosing a hunting bullet is to decide how many of these things you need for each application.
I would rate the performance of the 120 grain CX bullet from the 6.5 Creedmoor as middle of the road. Offers better than average penetration, with slightly less than average bullet breakage. For deer hunters, this is useful for tight shots where you need good penetration to reach vital organs. It should also work well for broadside shots on larger game and still deliver an exit wound, which, contrary to those who believe that energy pitting is everything, is much easier to track down a deer that it bleeds from two holes as opposed to one. Overall, I’d say that if you like Hornady’s older GMX bullet, you should like the newer CX bullet just as much.