There has been much development in ammunition, not just in propellant and projectiles but in general manufacturing terms. Years ago it wasn’t uncommon to find variations in brass and other components among factory rounds, especially with cheaper ammo.
As a handloader I recall brass with non-concentric primer flash holes for instance, things like standard deviation for velocity was greater by today’s levels. Nowadays with modern manufacturing, such tolerances seem to be held to a much tighter criterion and I’m often surprised by the accuracy obtained from factory ammunition that might be otherwise considered value offerings.
It could actually be said we live in an age of abundant high-quality factory ammunition. When I started in this game if you wanted affordable, consistent and accurate ammunition, you had little choice but to load your own. There was premium factory ammo to be bought but choice was limited and relatively expensive by modern benchmarks.
Today, for the more popular calibres, choice would appear endless. For instance, based on ammo sales, .223 Remington is the most popular calibre in Australia and certainly the most prolific used in the western world. This is especially the case when such calculations include the manufacture and sale of the 5.56 NATO cartridge which is the military’s nomenclature for what effectively is the same round loaded to higher pressures, the other key difference left to a small variance in chamber dimension.
Hornady Ammunition for example lists 52 product offerings in .223 Remington/5.56 NATO on its website. Everything from 35gr Varmint to 75gr HPBT Match loadings in boxes containing 20 rounds up to 1000 and Hornady is just one ammunition manufacturer of many. It seems we’re really spoilt for choice, so what to use?
As with firearms themselves much development in ammunition has been made with military and law enforcement clients in mind, as these areas generally produce the largest opportunities in sales to the manufacturers. But as is often the case, civilian shooters can reap the benefits as product attributes developed cross over to dual civilian use.
There’s no better example than with Hornady TAP Urban Law Enforcement Ammunition in the 60gr .223 Remington loading, TAP being an acronym for Tactical Application Police. In developing a round for law enforcement that delivers dependable performance in urban areas who’d have thought it could be equally at home in the Australian bush?
There are a couple of factors at play with the Hornady 60gr TAP Urban round that indeed makes it worth the consideration of Australian shooters. In 1957 when the .223 Remington round was first developed, it had a 55gr projectile to be fired in a rifle (the ArmaLite AR-15) with a one in 14 twist rate. This was shortly after revised to a one in 12 twist which up until recently was the most prevalent twist rate found in civilian .223 Remington calibre rifles. This was most suitable for varmint weight projectiles in the 40gr to 55gr scale.
In the 1980s, looking to improve the terminal ballistics of the military version of the round the 55gr loading was replaced by a 62gr loading that required a one in 7 twist rate to stabilise the heavier bullet. In more recent years on the back of improved performance obtained by the use of heavier projectiles, the .223 Remington has become a more versatile cartridge and its appeal has grown. Many new commercial .223 rifles now come with a faster one in 9 twist rate to be more flexible with heavier projectile choice.
One problem has been if you owned a rifle with the one in 12 twist you may not have been able to take advantage of the versatility gained by using heavier projectiles. My own go-to around the farm rifle has long been a .223 Remington (one in 12). Originally my regular loading was always a 50gr Ballistic Tip or V-Max which worked great on ’roos under permit and small vermin such as rabbits, foxes and cats. My preference for heavier game has always been a larger calibre but fate would sometimes dictate the only gun at hand when the odd pig popped up was my .223 Remington. Although I found with proper bullet placement pigs could still be despatched humanely, I did change to 55gr projectiles and would have preferred heavier if the one in 12 twist would have allowed.
The Hornady 60gr TAP Urban offering is loaded with a flat-based polymer-tipped projectile which, being shorter for weight than the equivalent boat-tail 60gr projectile, means it still stabilises well in a one in 12 twist. To quote directly from the Hornady website in referring to this loading: “TAP Urban is the heaviest polymer-tipped bullet acceptable for 1:12 twist rifles. The heavier 60gr bullet transfers more energy to target for enhanced terminal ballistic.” What this basically means is you can take advantage of the harder hitting 60gr projectile in your one in 12 rifle. If you have a newer rifle with a one in 7 to one in 9 twist, even better.
I would note the lack of a boat-tail projectile design means little to most shooters. While they may look the part, in reality for practical use they offer no real advantage at moderate ranges. The boat-tail design comes into its own at extreme long range in the transition from super to subsonic velocities (transonic range) which in this loading does not occur until about 640m.
Hornady distributor Outdoor Sporting Agencies (OSA) having recently secured a large shipment of the Hornady Tap Urban ammunition, organised a sample for Australian Shooter to review and having access to several rifles chambered in .223 Remington I tried the ammo in my Sako 75 and Howa 1500, both older versions with a one in 12 twist. I also had on hand a Remington 7615 with a one in 7 twist.
I didn’t shoot any tack-hole groups myself ‑ I seldom do these days. But average groups across all rifles ran around the 1 MOA mark for five-shot groups and half that when measuring the best three from five. Ultimately accuracy is dependent on both the user and equipment. OSA rep Greg Coleman shared with me an image of a target shot with the same ammo in a current Howa 1500, a T3 Tikka and a Shilen barrelled Ruger M77 which all put my groups to shame. Even so, my own testing established consistent practical accuracy across an array of firearms.
I put the Hornady 60gr TAP Urban ammo to some practical use when, in the wake of Cyclone Trevor, I made a quick trip to the Northern Territory to inspect some damage on a property I do some work for. Knowing there would be a .223 Remington on site (another Howa 1500) I threw a packet of Hornady TAP Urban ammo into my kit. I was there on business but didn’t miss the chance when a solid young boar wandered across the track in the distance. Jumping out of the vehicle I followed the trail and was shortly presented with a shot, a single round to the side of the head bringing a swift end to his travels, the result leaving no question as to the lethality of the round.
Back on my own farm a feral cat made the mistake of slinking out from behind some brush when I happened to be armed with my Sako 75 loaded with TAP Urban ammo. I knew the distance to be about 220m so hold was adjusted and a shot despatched. As with the pig the result was emphatic. I didn’t have any current ’roo tags but have no doubt the 60gr TAP Urban load would deliver immediate and humane results equally in this application.
In summary my assessment of the Hornady TAP Urban 60gr ammunition was it would present a good all-around choice in the .223 Remington for Australian shooters targeting soft skin vermin such as rabbits, foxes, cats or dogs as well as providing ample energy for well-placed shots on feral pigs. I understand OSA has been able to offer TAP Urban 60gr to the market at a competitive price, a quick check online seeing it retail for as little as $18 per box of 20. This is great value for a premium polymer-tipped offering so should really appeal to professional shooters and farmers who don’t reload.
Ammunition: Hornady 60gr TAP Urban
Muzzle velocity: 3124fps
Muzzle energy: 1300ft-lb
Ballistic coefficient: .265
Sectional density: .171
Bullet length: .873^
Case: Match grade brass