When it comes to choosing match grade reliably-accurate ammo, that is also affordable, the field is pretty narrow. Some common names are Black Hills Ammo, Federal Gold Medal Match, and CorBon. If I were to pick the most commonly found factory match-grade ammo, those three would be at the top of the list. They are a staple of non-handloaders and are bought by the case due to their proven ability to work right and deliver the goods. Obviously there are other match grade offerings out there as well, but none with the following that those three brands enjoy. One may be better than the other, depending entirely on which rifle likes it best. Recently, another player threw their hat in the ring. We're going to see how well they stack up against the competition.
Desert Tactical Munitions (DTM) is a line of ammunition created by the crew at Desert Tactical Arms (DTA). Some of you will recognize that name as the creators of the SRS bullpup bolt action precision rifle that I'm so very fond of. DTA has proven their innovative ability and the craftsmanship capability of their facility with the Covert, SRS, and HTI rifles. Quality precision rifles of the highest order is the running mandate for these guys, with outstanding service to back up what they sell. We've been a DTA dealer for only a few months now, but I can tell you that DTA is a joy to work with as a customer as well as a dealer. So given our past relationship and my opinion of their products, I was more than a little curious about this newest offering.
As you guys know, I'm a handloader. I roll my own for maximum control and consistency. That being said, I run factory ammo in my gas guns simply because auto's beat up brass fairly well, and I don't feel like chasing down ejected cases while running around hosing things down with lead! Also, many of my customers buy rifles that do not have the time or inclination to handload, and I'm always finding ammo for them to shoot. So in that capacity I was interested in seeing how it would perform. I was on the phone with DTA's marketing manager Seth Ercanbrack, trying to scam some brochures and marketing trinkets out of him when he mentioned that he'd like to send me a couple boxes of ammo to test out. Seth had identified my weakness. Yeah, like I'm going to turn down free ammo. That would be like a homeless guy being invited to live at the Playboy mansion for a year. I doubt anyone would say no. We agreed on some 308win and some 338LM ammo to start with, and I set out to define some testing.
Here's a quick look at the ammo and the packaging. The box is easily identifiable with kind of a dirty-greenish background with clear and easy to read print. The DTM logo is proudly displayed and looks good. Inside, the rounds are held by a folded paper style caddy. The bullet tips are not suspended above the bottom, so it is not unforeseeable that some shipping damage could occur if you have an idiot for a ups/fedex driver or if you are a little rough on your ammo. You'd really have to be rough for this to happen. However it is worth noting, considering that BHA packages their rounds in a styrofoam caddy, and FGMM comes in a plastic caddy. When comparing those brands, the FGMM definitely has the best packaging. Consequently, the BHA and FGMM packaging is also much less environmentally friendly! The DTM packaging is all paper, and smashes down for easy transport away from your shooting spot.
Here's the aspect of the packaging that I was most impressed with. Ammo manufacturers seem to delight in hiding lot numbers in obscure hard to identify places. Not DTM. It's prominently displayed on the end of each box of ammo along with the rest of the important information you would be looking for. Cartridge, bullet weight and type, velocity, G1 and G7 BC's, quantity of rounds, and lot number. Notice the lot number is easily identifiable and easy to read! Then on that same label on a different side of the box, you will find a basic drop chart indicated in MOA AND mils instead of inches, with a 100yd zero set. This is very refreshing, and is yet another indicator of the pedigree of shooter DTM is going after with this ammo.
I'm not entirely sure what powder and primer they are using, but I do know that the bullet is a 175gr Sierra Match King. The brass is Winchester, and the completed rounds themselves are very clean. Much more so than most FGMM I see. I was going to break out the tools and measure bullet runout and length to ogive on a bunch of these rounds, but there is hardly any point. They will either shoot well, or they won't!
Let's get some testing parameters out of the way. I had a limited number of rounds, so I needed to find out as much as I could with what was available. We had to shoot it through at least 2 rifles, and we needed at least 2 shooters to help get rid of "shooter error." Given the fact that the manufacturer of the SRS rifles is manufacturing the ammo, I kind of figured it would run good out of my 22" SRS barrel. I wanted to see how it would do in a standard run-of-the-mill 308 also. Just so happens I have a few rifles like that around. We wanted to eliminate environmental concerns, so the testing was performed at 100yds. All shots were fired through a PVM-21 chronograph and recorded. Any issues during firing were noted in the log book, with velocities being tracked in the log book as well as on the individual targets for each bullet hole.
Testing Conditions -
Date: 11-18-2012 1pm - 6pm
Wind: 7-10mph @ 2 O'clock
Test Rifle #1 -
DTA SRS 22" 308 (1865rnds at time of testing)
DTA 40moa mount
Test Rifle #2 -
Remington 700 SPS Tactical 20" 308 (approx. 3000rnds at time of testing)
Seekins 20moa base
U.S. Optics 5-17x44
Timney Trigger @ 2.5lbs
Ammo to be tested:
(all 175gr loads)
PVM-21 - This chronograph has proven itself extremely accurate over the last year or more I've been using it. By far the most accurate that I've ever used.
Greg Dykstra: That's me. Most of you already know who I am.
Travis Stevens: Travis owns and operates TS Custom gunsmithing in Miller, SD. He's been a friend of mine for many years and does all of my machining, bedding, true'ing, building, and random gunsmithing work. His work is fantastic. Oddly enough, he also knows his way around a trigger. I knew I could trust him to get it done behind the rifles so I asked him to come help with the testing.
Each rifle was cleaned prior to testing. The rifles would not be cleaned when switching brands. We just didn't have enough ammo available at the time of testing to do this. Also, the other brands are pretty well established... it's DTM that has to be proven. We would zero each ammo brand with 5 shots before shooting a string to record. Each rifle would be fired 5 times, and then we would switch to the other rifle to ensure we weren't heating up the barrels. I would shoot five with one rifle, then switch rifles and shoot another five. Then Travis would do the same, and we would keep switching back and forth to ensure both shooters got rounds on target with both rifles.
We started off with the DTM ammo and began testing.
Here are the targets. First up is the Remington 700 with DTM. Scored 2 hits. This rifle has always been around a 3/4 moa rifle, and it shot the DTM as well as it has anything.
Next up was the DTA with DTM ammo. Scored 9 hits with a few very close calls. Shot half MOA average I'd say.
Next up was the Rem700 with Black Hills Ammo. We were idiots and forgot we only had 2 boxes of BHA and FGMM, and we shot the rem700 more than we should have on the first rifle. Scored 2 solid hits and a couple very close nicks.
The DTA shot the BHA ammo very well. Five solid hits with some others right in there. Travis out-shot me with my own rifle too. I blame the ammo!
Rem700 with FGMM on the top, with the DTA and FGMM on the bottom. One little nick is all we could pull off with the 700, while the DTA held quite a bit tighter.
Finally we had another full box of DTM ammo left, so we ran it through the chrono. Only 5 hits, but after about 5 hours of laying around juggling rifles and ammo we were fairly fatigued and the rifle was no doubt starting to get fouled a bit since we were not cleaning between different types of ammo. It's a virtual certainty that if we would have cleaned the bore the accuracy would have been at least twice that good as we saw on the first DTA DTM target.
I've compiled all of the velocities in the chart above. The DTM ammo is shaded tan, the BHA red, and the FGMM gold. To the left is the DTA test rifle strings with the Rem700 on the right. You'll notice some things that might be out of whack, so we'll go through it column by column.
In the left column you'll see the DTA with DTM ammo. Pretty straight forward here. All shots recorded properly with an average velocity of 2657. That is very close to the 2660fps velocity that is printed on the DTM box. In the next column you'll see DTA with BHA ammo. We only fired 10 shots for accuracy, with 5 shots fired before that for zeroing. So the first five in that column are during zeroing with the last 10 being recorded on target. That will be the case for each column you see with 5 shots recorded at the top, and then a space before another ten.
The BHA ammo was considerably slower out of the DTA than the DTM and FGMM offering. A full hundred feet per second slower actually. The FGMM was the fastest of the three and had the lowest ES which was less than half that of the DTM. Another 3 numbers lower and we'd have seen a single-digit standard deviation out of the FGMM. Despite this fact, all three brands shot virtually identical in the DTA in terms of accuracy. It's unknown if this would have remained true if the distance were increased.
To the right is the Rem700 with each type of ammo. Again the DTM and FGMM were the fastest, with the slight edge going to the FGMM. The first five shots of the BHA weren't recorded due to us not clearing the shots from the previous string from the chronograph. Consequently the BHA performed the worst in the Rem700 while the DTM and FGMM were about dead even with each other. Also, on the 7th shot of BHA, we had a failure to fire. Had to wait a few minutes, cock the bolt, and hit it again to get it to fire. That is the very first malfunction of any kind I have ever had with that rifle. This automatically gave BHA a black eye. This isn't the first time I've had issues with BHA ammo either. Some of their batches of 308 are so far over-pressure that you don't dare run the stuff in a gas gun.
All of the ammo did more poorly out of the factory 20" barrel on the Remington as compared to the DTA. This is to be expected, considering the outstanding barrels that DTA puts out. We could have used another custom 308 to do the testing, but we wanted to see how the DTM would shoot in a factory tube. Turns out it shoots as good or better than the others do! In the far right column is the last target where we ran another 20 rounds of DTM through the chrono.
I want to acknowledge that accuracy testing at 100yds is nearly pointless, as you can hide an elephant at that distance. However, given the quantities of ammo we had and given the conditions, it was a test that needed to get done. With a case of each brand of ammo and a good calm day we could stretch this testing out to 300yds or better for a more concise look at how it would perform at range. Also, sticking with one rifle that is known to produce one-hole groups would certainly tell a lot about the ammo as well. However, as I said, we felt it important to show some results through a factory barrel, given that there are so many people using them.
There you have it folks. The numbers and the accuracy results speak for themselves. Desert Tactical Munitions is putting out an affordable match grade ammo that can run with the big dogs. You can't learn a whole lot about an ammo with only a hundred rounds to test with, but there is one thing that is certain: If you are thinking of ordering some ammo for your rifle, DTM deserves a look. We hope to do some more involved testing with the DTM ammo in the future.
EDITED TO ADD:
The people at DTM are obviously ready to pay for your consideration