Hornady FTX bullets are influencing firearm companies with their lever gun capabilities.
The lever action rifle equipped with a tubular magazine is an American favorite, but it’s suffered some setbacks in the last half-century. The ascendancy of scopes replacing open sights had a lot to do with the lever gun losing ground.
Sure, there were bizarre high set scope mounts for many Winchesters, and Marlins have always had flat top receivers, but once the scope was in place it didn’t do you much good due to the short range ballistics of lever gun cartridges.
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Most of this had to do with the need to load tubular magazines with flat-nosed bullets, which work great on game but lose energy once they leave the muzzle like an eighteen-year-old with a credit card loses money.
Recently, Hornady introduced a line of spire point bullets capable of residing in tubular magazines, and the lever action crowd couldn’t be happier.
Hornady FTX bullets look a bit like the company’s ballistic tip bullets with a lead core, a copper jacket and a fetching red tip, but the similarity is only skin deep.
The tip of an FTX bullet is actually a sort of foam rubber and plastic hybrid that is squishy to the touch and acts as a tiny shock absorber for the back-and-forth action that occurs in a tubular magazine during recoil.
These little guys fly like spire points but keep your magazine from blowing up like flat noses. Now, for the first time, shooters can begin chasing bolt-action ballistics out of their lever guns while still using the rifle as a repeater.
It’s a brave new world for lever gun fans.
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Most of the hubbub over the FTX has to do with improved downrange performance. When the bullets originally hit the market, Marlin even went so far as to revamp their 336 model rifle and chamber it for two new calibers, the 308 Marlin Express and the 338 Marlin Express.
These new offerings closely mirrored the performance of the 308 Winchester and 338 Federal, respectively, but could be counted on to deliver the same level of downrange energy with the new, more aerodynamic, FTX bullets.
It didn’t take long for the rest of the world to begin milking extra performance out of old standards like the 30-30 and 35 Remington, which caused a groundswell of renewed interest in the lever gun.
Personally, I never had much interest in upping the downrange performance of my lever guns. I use my old Winchesters and Marlins as short-range fodder, and always make adjustments in my hunting strategy to match.
With my traditionalist feelings toward the lever gun, you might think that I wouldn’t have much use for FTX bullets. Instead, I’ve grown sweet on them for a reason that has nothing to do with ballistics: I’m cheap.
Traditionally speaking, a pretty tight crimp must be placed on a flat-nosed bullet to keep it from wandering back into the brass due to recoil within tubular magazines. This crimp on the case mouth shortens brass life considerably, and I never minded with common stuff like 30-30’s, but a 348 Winchester or a 33 Winchester is a different story.
I would prefer to keep my hard-to-find brass in good condition for as long as possible. The squishy tips of FTX bullets allow for less crimp because they act as a buffer between the rounds.
I’ve found that considerably less crimp is required to hold them in place, even with hard-kicking rigs like the 348.
So far my testing has shown the FTX to be just as reliable in terms of expansion and weight retention as Hornady’s line of Interlock bullets. Combined with the added benefit of longer brass life, I’d suggest that any lever gun shooter give them a try.