Fox Classic Hunter
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- Last updated: 16/06/2023
A while back I was asked to make the move to non-lead ammunition for deer stalking, a request that has no doubt affected a lot of shooters. Given what I already knew about non-lead ammunition, my main concerns at the time were cost, availability, achievable accuracy and terminal performance.
After an initial look about, I decided that it would make sense to reload my own, as the cost of factory ammunition was prohibitive. So, the search was on for a projectile that would suit my needs, and for the record, I was after something that would be suitable for anything from Muntjac to Red deer, and considering the fact that my average shot distance over the past few years works out at 70m, I didn’t need to pursue any of the more expensive long range, high BC projectiles.
I decided straight off the bat to avoid anything from America, as I have been caught out by dwindling supplies too many times. I was soon pointed towards some non-lead hunting projectiles from Fox Bullets, a company based in Slovenia. Recommendations came from multiple sources, so it made sense to start my non-lead journey with Fox.
The Fox Classic Hunter bullets are distributed in the UK by Edinburgh Rifles and they offer a wide range of calibres and weights. I can’t list everything that they offer but calibre-wise they stock 5.56 (.224), 6mm (.243), .25 (.257), 6.5mm (.264), .270 (.277), 7mm (.284), .30 (.308), 8mm (.318), 8.5mm (.338) and 9.3mm (.366). However, it doesn’t stop there, as they also offer factory ammunition in .222 Rem, .223 Rem, .22-250, .243 Win, 260 Rem, 6.5 Creedmoor, 6.5×55, .25-06, .270 Win, 7mm-08, 7x57, 7mm RM, .308 Win, .30-06, .300 WM and 9.3x62!
So, after a phone call and chat, where we discussed my calibre (6.5 Creedmoor), barrel length (24”) and requirements, it was suggested that I try the 6.5mm (.264) 123-grain Fox Classic Hunter bullets (they also do a 100 and 139-grain bullet in 6.5mm). They soon arrived in boxes of 50 and I was ready to go.
So, looking at the specs, the Classic Hunters are manufactured using a copper-zinc alloy, which, of course, means that they are lead-free. This material, in conjunction with the bullet configuration, is designed to expand reliably at velocities as low as 1640 fps. This is ideal, as it means that customers won’t have to pursue high velocities to achieve effective expansion, plus it also ensures effectiveness as ranges increase and the velocity drops.
Looking at the tip of the distinctive cone-shaped bullet, there is an insert that is made from ‘thermo-stable’ plastic. Like most plastic-tipped bullets, this is designed to fill the expansion void within the bullet to improve the ballistic coefficient (BC) and to help with terminal performance. So, a well-established and proven design, then.
While on the subject of expansion, the bullet is designed to reliably deform into a mushroom shape, doubling the diameter of calibre. Expansion is rapid and controlled, enabling the transfer of energy to the animal while keeping meat damage to a minimum. The bullet should also retain as much of its weight as possible, exit and provide a blood trail.
As well as a flat base, the bullets have a fairly bright finish to them and each one shows some well-defined grooves/driving bands around the main body. These are often found on non-lead bullets, as they help to reduce pressure and increase speed.
Upon arrival, I soon had a box open in order to inspect the contents. First impressions were very good, as each and every bullet was clean and well-formed, with no blemishes, dents or damage. The published specs describe a bullet that measures 1.346” in length, but when I used a calliper to measure a sample, the average came to 1.338”. I also found that getting an exact/reliable measurement is a bit tricky, as there is a very small bobble at the centre of the flat base and this prevents the calliper from sitting flush. Just an observation.
I also weighed the same sample and the 123-grain bullets came in at an average of 122.6-grains. It must be noted that the weight consistency was excellent.
Thankfully, the website for Fox Bullets offers a PDF download that includes load data for a myriad of rifle cartridges, including 6.5 Creedmoor. Using the 123-grain Classic Hunter, they provide some recipes using Vihtavuori N550, plus Reload Swiss RS60 and RS62. There is also a link on the site to get access to some Quickload data, which is useful for those who use the program.
To further aid reloaders, Vihtavuori has a tonne of load data on their website, giving potential customers the necessary information to make use of Viht N140, N150, N540, N550, N555, N160 and N560. Considering the fact that Viht powders are readily available, this is great news!
Even though there was plenty of load data available, I decided to work up a load using H4350, as I have plenty and it always gives good results quickly and therefore would help minimise wastage and component consumption, as each bullet costs around £1.
After doing a ladder test and mapping the point of impact for each charge, I found three weights that hit the same spot (see reload table). I then loaded up 12 of each and printed some 3-shot groups (to keep costs down) while measuring velocity. In the end, I opted for 41.6, as it was safe in my rifle (always work up your own reloads), provided decent accuracy, plenty of velocity and an acceptable extreme spread (ES).
Once I had chosen my load, I crunched the numbers using the Strelok app in order to determine bullet drop over distance. It is here that I found that the BC figure Strelok provides (0.397 G1) differs from Fox’s (0.390 G1), but I stuck with the one on the app as historically it has been spot on.
With a 100m zero, the data showed a 0.53” drop | 1662 ft/lbs | 2467 fps at 130m, 1.67” | 1569 ft/lbs | 2396 fps at 160m and 4.22” | 1450 ft/lbs | 2304 fps at 200m. These figures are perfectly acceptable, only showing a slight reduction in performance when compared to a Hornady 123-grain SST travelling at a very similar velocity (4.14” | 1533 ft/lbs | 2369 fps at 200m). Of course, these figures are academic, as different rifles will achieve different velocities and some shooters will mitigate some of the drop by zeroing 1 to 1.5” high at 100m. At the end of the day, the deer won’t be able to tell the difference.
Firstly, I must explain that before my first stalk using the new bullets, research suggested that I should adjust my point of aim slightly, bringing it further forward from the traditional aim point, as this has proven an effective approach with a lot of non-lead bullets. Now, although I did do this for the majority of my shots, I found that my instincts regularly took over when things got fast-paced and I would inevitably use traditional shot placement. Here, I found the outcome was always an animal on the ground, which suggest that the adjusted shot placement might not be necessary. Close inspection showed good expansion, comparable-to-lead exit wounds and for the one runner I did have (only 15m), a decent blood trail. Anyway, the simple fact is that the Fox Classic Hunters have proven that they can take deer humanely, which as we all know, is very important.
To sum things up, the Fox Classic Hunter bullets are good quality, readily available, affordable, accurate and effective. If you don’t reload, then factory ammunition is available, if do reload, then there is tonnes of reloading data available. Crucially the powders used are widely available, which always helps.
Finally, it is worth mentioning that accuracy has definitely improved the more I use the bullet, and I regularly achieve sub ½ MOA groups when I check my zero before a stalk. Cleaning-wise, all I do is clean the carbon out of the barrel after each session.