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Bone Orchard Ammunition: Vintage Feel Without the Fuss

Bone Orchard Ammunition: not just for cowboys.

When it comes to shooting, it's important to never skip trying something out even if it seems like it might not be of much use to you.

Military rifles often make great hunting implements, big game rifles can work great on gophers and concealed carry handguns can be fine target shooters. You never know what you'll discover when it comes to shooting.

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This kind of open-minded thinking is what had me spending some time at the Bone Orchard Ammunition booth at the SHOT show.

Bone Orchard specializes in Cowboy Action Shooting ammo. The folks who shoot at these kind of competitions prefer to keep their ammunition as close to the original fodder as possible, without having to deal with the added cleaning and corrosion that goes hand-in-hand with firing real black powder rounds.

Basically, Bone Orchard rounds are built to give the feel of 1800s-vintage ammo without the fuss.

So far, the company mainly shucks out a lot of 45 Colt and 38 Special, which are two favorite rounds for Cowboy Action shooters. These rounds are even doctored up to produce a bit more smoke when they're fired to simulate the cloud formed by black powder combustion. Funny what those Cowboy Action people enjoy, isn't it?

So, if you're not a Cowboy Action enthusiast, what's the interest in Bone Orchard ammo? The answer is that, from my point of view, Bone Orchard's ammo isn't for playing cowboy -- it's perfect for small game hunting.

Bone Orchard loads their 38 Special ammo with a 125gr truncated cone lead cast bullets. These bullets were probably chosen to keep recoil and report low for competition shooting, but the 125gr truncated 38 is also a heck of a small game bullet.

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These little guys offer the perfect amount of thump to take down rabbits or squirrels without tearing up too much meat.

This balance between terminal ballistics and meat preservation is also built into Bone Orchard's 45 Colt ammo, which isn't easy to do.

The 45 Colt can knock over just about anything, but toning it down enough to use it on small game takes some work and experimentation. Bone Orchard loads their 45 Colt ammo with a 200gr round nose lead cast bullet. The round nose of this bullet lets the big 45 slip through critters without destroying what you hope to put in the pot later.


Like any Cowboy Action load, they're also easy on the hand and ears, which is a plus if the jackrabbit population is peaking.

Obviously, it wouldn't be too hard to drum up some handloads to match Bone Orchard's ballistics, but this can be a bit of a hassle. Personally, I don't like to load for a lot of my older 38s. The powder loads are tiny and finding the right balance that delivers clean-burning loads requires a lot of messing around.

The same complaint can be made when it comes to loading lighter bullets in the 45 Colt. I think this year when winter rolls around and it's time to lower the rabbit population, I'll be buying a few boxes of Bone Orchard ammo instead of running the reloading press.

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When it's 20 below zero I won't be able to tell the difference between my breath and the extra smoke, anyway.


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Bone Orchard Ammunition: Vintage Feel Without the Fuss