Ammo Engineered for Law Enforcement

Sept. 15, 2017
We paired Federal’s T308T law enforcement ammunition with Savage Arms’ Axis SR in a truly unique partnership.

Federal recently introduced its Federal Premium Law Enforcement Ammunition using a 168 grain MatchKing Tactical Tip bullet. The polymer tip and tapered design increases the ballistic coefficient and flattens the trajectory. The T308T is a consolidation of all the desirable characteristics of a 30-caliber cartridge rolled into one. I chose to test Federal’s new .308 cartridge in a Savage Axis SR, using a Bushnell 3-12x 44mm scope.

Although I definitely got my intended results, nothing went as intended.

The T308T was designed for AR-10 platforms, and we found it fed well from a magazine. The cartridge combines a low flash propellant and premium components including well sealed, crimped primers.
168 grain bullets in a .308 are exactly what I would use for this combination. The twist rates most commonly used for a .308 run from about 1:10 to 1:12. The Savage Axis I used for most of the testing is a 1:10. In this cartridge, sometimes longer, heavier bullets don’t stabilize as well in a 1:12. This is relative to velocity and design, of course, but 168 is definitely the sweet spot. In fact, 168 grain bullets will do equally well in a longer-range bolt gun or a semi auto.

The pros of polymer tips

Polymer-tipped bullets are becoming more popular for a variety of reasons. Foremost, they insure out-of-the-box accuracy—I have found that they perform well when testing terminal ballistics. Besides a great-looking package, we have to realize that the sleek bullet is essentially a covered hollow point, and it behaves like a hollow point when it enters the target.

There is a little bit of a debate about bullet tip deformation and accuracy. Most studies suggest that the base of the bullet is more critical than the tip. I’m saying this because, of all things a polymer tip will do, it will not deform when a cartridge is subject to a little handling before it is sent to do its task. This doesn’t mean that the tipped cartridge is designed for users who subject their ammunition to pre-deployment abuse. The real advantage is the fact that polymer tips ensure very reliable feeding. If my .308s are going into a magazine, I want tipped bullets.

The TRU .308 consistency is evident right away. Before shooting, I gauged and inspected them. Federal uses their own headstamped brass, which I have used to reload in cast bullet matches. They are as uniform as a product can get and are measurable with commercially produced gauges. I weighed samples from each small lot and there was no measurable deviation.

Axis SR proves worthy of the job

Finally, I ran some rounds down range through a Savage Axis SR, which is one of the least expensive bolt guns on the market today that could reliably be employed for tactical intervention. I prefer the Savage Model 10 GRS, and hope Savage Arms forgives me, but there is an $1,100 difference between the two guns.

TRU cartridges feed just fine in a semi, by the way.

How good is the Savage design? I used a box stock Savage Model 10 FCP to compete against several custom guns, and placed in several categories with it. The funniest story I have about Savage guns in general is the fact that there is a group of shooters in several statewide matches in the western region who shoot production Savage rifles and dominate these matches. These aren’t shooters who shoot together consistently. Their only real tying factor is that they all shoot the same, completely production, rifles.

The Savage Axis SR has the same type of button rifled barrel and floating bolt head as the premium models, in a much lighter package. This is the strong suit of the Savage Axis SR. At 6.5 pounds, it was easy to haul around and the slim stock, especially around the free floated area, let this rifle fit into smaller cases.

If an agency is small enough where a call out means “everyone in the agency with a badge,” and therefore the precision rifle is already cased in the vehicle, this may be the right gun.

The Axis SR comes in a suppressor-ready model, which is the one I tested. The thing I missed the most was the AccuTrigger. This model doesn’t have one and, since this is the reason why Savage makes a superior tactical rifle, I would buy up if I could.

Having said that, the Axis SR isn’t just a great bargain—it has all the accuracy necessary for the job.

Adaptability in testing

Now comes the unintentional part of my testing. A group of us went to a range in the Sierra foothills, which we affectionately call Mallard Mountain Ranch. This is private property of a friend and benefactor who has built it up perfectly for shooting and harvesting game. On this property, one can send bullets several hundreds of yards, and drive right up to the target stands to inspect them.

It’s a 2-hour drive to this range, and the last part requires a little ground clearance and 4-wheel drive. Bears, coyotes and snakes frequent this terrain, but for some reason fail to emerge when we begin our range sessions.

We pasted targets on the 50 to 200 yard stands, unpacked the Savage Axis, and started to mount the scope. It was at that time I realized I had the wrong mounting platform for a Savage Axis. I sheepishly admitted this to our testing team. We were out in the middle of nowhere with the wrong scope mount.

I managed to remove another mounting system from a different rifle. It worked on the Axis, but it threw bullets quite a ways from the aiming point. It did, however, group.

We managed to gather enough data to prove that the T308T was perfectly capable of shooting nice groups at moderately longer ranges. We were also able to demonstrate that the Axis possesses the same accuracy as other Savage rifles we have tested. We were playing the, “Aim here…and the bullets will strike here...” game.

I confirmed our combination in a later shooting session, with the correctly configured parts. It finally did justice to the products, including the Bushnell 3-12x 44mm Elite Tactical Hunter riflescope. We had already shot twice the number of rounds through this kit we intended, and ran the turrets on the riflescope from one extreme to the other in search of a compromise with the incorrect mounting platform.

There was an unexpected bonus to adapting to using the wrong mount. Bushnell uses a G2H reticle in their Elite Tactical Hunter Series, which has a central crosshair, surrounded by stadia lines, which have mil and 1/2 mil marks. The lower portion of the vertical crosshair has sub crosshairs, beginning at the 3 mil mark. This allows for the user to calculate hold over for snap adjustments and quick sight in sessions.

When we got to our second shooting session, I bet my team that I could sight it within six shots, or I would buy sushi. Using the G2H reticle, it took five shots. The fifth shot was through the fourth shot, in the exact center. (I’m still going to buy sushi, but I have bragging rights.)

The results in gelatin

We shot the T308T cartridges through our Clear Ballistics gelatin. All day, I was asking everyone if they thought the T308T would just pierce the gel blocks and just keep on going. I hinted that I thought they would stay in a single block.

It almost doesn’t make sense. After all, I put on demonstrations using Clear Ballistics all the time with handgun bullets. These are usually just barely supersonic, and some of the bullets have much larger cross sections and lower coefficients. Logically, a faster, streamlined bullet should penetrate much further and strike the target beyond the gelatin.

Many cartridge manufacturers can make a product, but the . Most products will send a .308 through two blocks. The bullet went exactly 16 inches in the Clear Ballistics block. It shed the jacket a bit, but it didn’t create an unrelated wound channel.

Besides great downrange accuracy in a .308 rifle, what’s the advantage over a handgun bullet? Well, the evidence is in the method I use to test cartridges. When shooting rifle bullets, many testers strap the gelatin blocks down. I don’t. The result was that my block shot several feet into the air and flopped around on the ground before coming to rest. I had a backer block behind the first one, and it did the same thing. Handgun bullets cause the blocks to jump a little, but .308s gets them leaping tall buildings in a single bound.

Even though the bullet was completely captured in the first block, it deformed it, as if it had been melted. The block was covered in sand from our range floor.

Although the T308T bullet shed its jacket a bit, this is pretty close to ideal performance. After all, the entire energy potential of the moving projectile was captured within the intended target. Secondly, I can put T308T rounds on top of each other all day long.

My shoulder is a little beat up from running .308s through a 6.5-pound rifle, but this rifle definitely can reach out. Now I have to see if I can get some more Clear Ballistics gelatin; my blocks are full of sand.

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