These days Barnes bullets are engineering marvels.
Most of their line of projectiles are formed out of strange amalgamates that are lead-free and offer near 100 percent weight retention. Barnes makes solids, hollow points, long-range fodder and even led the industry in moly coating bullets.
Their designs are continually refined and improved as the years go by to keep the company on the bleeding edge of the bullet industry, but did you ever pause to contemplate how Barnes got its start?
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Like most bullet manufacturers, the Barnes Bullet Company grew out of the simple fact that a guy, Fred Barnes, wanted a better bullet. Not being able to find one to suit him at the local sporting goods store, Fred decided to make his own.
Way back in 1939, Barnes Bullets hit the market in the form of Barnes Originals. Of course, they were only called Barnes Bullets at the time, kind of like the first battle of Bull Run wasn’t the “first” until the second one was fought.
These bullets operated on a very straightforward principle. Fred Barnes figured that if you wrapped a relatively soft lead core in a really sturdy jacket, you’d get a bullet that would retain most of its weight but still expand well.
Using copper tubing of various thickness for the jackets, Fred eventually developed a bullet that would hold onto 70-90 percent of its weight and expand to twice its original size as it passed through a game animal.
Here’s a quick video from BarnesBulletsLLC that gives you an idea of how it happens:
To say the least, hunters loved the original Barnes Bullets, even if they cost a bit more than the other pills on the market. In a single stroke, Mr. Barnes had invented both the controlled expansion bullet and the premium bullet market.
Currently, most of the “Originals” have been dropped from the Barnes line. Folks have come to discover that X-bullets offer improved weight retention but there are still a few Originals being offered, and many of us who favor older cartridges are glad they’re still in the lineup.
If it wasn’t for the presence of .348 diameter originals, my 71 Winchester would only be half the rifle it is. For the 38-55 enthusiast, Barnes still makes a 255gr .377 diameter Original and a 255 gr .375 diameter for those still clinging to the 375 Winchester.
Naturally, 300gr and 400gr Originals can still be had for the 45-70 for those who still value the “thump” the Original offers.
Last, but hardly least, you can still find 300gr and 400gr, .510 Diameter Originals for the 50-110 Winchester. With its ability to expand reliably at low velocities, the Original might be the last jacketed bullet on the market that really makes the 50-110 applicable to hunting.
There may not be as many Originals on the market as there used to be, but the ones that remain are well appreciated and a lot of lever gunners out there hope they never go away.