Bullets, bullets bullets and more bullets! The Varmint Nightmare 55 grain hollowpoint from Midsouth Shooter Supply is sold in a minumum 500 bullet bulk pack. If you shoot a lot and want to save some money, they are an extremely good quality and consistent bullet for about half price.
Midsouth send us a box of these bullets, and as you can see, they are no frills from a packaging perspective, but they performed like a name brand bullet. This Hornady virgin brass and Hodgdon CFE 223, for “Copper Fouling Eraser,” proved to be a great combination.
You have to respect a bullet that consistently shoots into an inch through an off the shelf Rock River AR with no special bells and whistles.
Each charge was individually weighed at 27.5 grains by the Hornady Auto Charge. If you click to make this photo bigger, you will see that it uses an electric powder trickler to reach the target charge. First it goes fast, then it slows down.
CFE 223 is specifically made for drop powder measures, but we used the Auto Charge for the article to make sure. Most drops from this Hornady measure of CFE 223 were exact, and never more than 2/10ths off.
These CCI NATO primers are inexpensive through Midsouth, and because they are to military specs, probably as consistent as any match primer.
We came up with this measurement for this bullet using the Hodgdon website data for 53 and 55 grain bullets. Remember, RELOAD AT YOUR OWN RISK WE DO NOT GIVE RELOADING ADVICE.
This bullet does not have a crimping groove in it, and we reloaded them in this single stage Hornady Lock N’ Load with New Dimension .223 dies.
It is tough to measure things like jacket thickness and density from one bullet to the next, but the weights were nearly all perfect at exactly 55 grains.
Midsouth Varmint Nightmare Bullets
Half price bullets for an AR-15 is a dream come true for many shooters. But is cheaper inferior? That is exactly our question as we take a look at the half priced bulk purchase .223 “Varmint Nightmare” bullets from Midsouth Shooters Supply. In the interest of full disclosure, Midsouth is an advertiser here on GunsAmerica, but most of the gun industry advertises here over the course of the year, and we try to be objective as possible when it comes to products that our people plan to go out and buy. If these bullets weren’t every bit as good as bullets twice their cost, we simply wouldn’t have written about them.
If you look at the prices of “name brand” bullets for the AR-15, they run about $130-170 per thousand. Varmint Nightmare bullets go for as low as $157 per two thousand, and even in the lowest quantity of 500 bullets, that box costs only $46.59 at Midsouth. And note that Midsouth is a complete shooters supply house, so they sell bullets from Hornady, Barnes, Speer, Sierra and others, and their prices are usually the lowest online. We haven’t been able to test these half price bullets on game, but the accuracy is great and they seem to be extremely consistent. For popping crows or prairie dogs for an afternoon, clanging steel for 3 gun, or just heading out to the range with your handy dandy SlideFire for some blasting, half price is always welcome. These bullets seem to be a great buy.
How is it possible that Midsouth could sell the same .224 diameter 55 grain bullet for half price? One is probably that they don’t spend any real money on advertising them. You also can’t buy small boxes. They come in a bulk plastic sleeve inside a plain cardboard box with a sticker label in a minimum quantity of that 500 box, and there aren’t a lot of options for bullet choices. Few options means you can get the most out of long production runs of one type, and I’m sure they buy these bullets in huge quantities from one of the big bullet makers, then re-package them to save you money .
We tested the 55 grain hollowpoint with no cannelure, the last product listed on the linked page of all the Varmint Nightmare bullets. If you plan to re-load your brass several times you are better off with bullets without the cannalure for a heavy crimp. Heavy crimps are to keep the bullet in one place under heavy recoil, but they chew up your brass quicker. In an AR mag with the light recoil of the .223 cartridge, I have never seen bullets pushing back into the case to be an issue. As with all of the reloading/handloading articles here, we do not give reloading advice, so please follow only what it says in your reloading manual.
As you can see from the pictures, for this article I made careful handloads, not high volume progressive press reloads. There is a difference, but the difference should not be that significant with modern equipment. Nonetheless, this shouldn’t be considered the best these bullets can do, because there is always something you can change to make a load potentially better.
These tests were made with virgin Hornady .223 brass, military CCI 5.56 primers, 27.5 grains of Hodgdon CFE .223 (the new “Copper Fouling Eraser” powder for .223 and .308), and I used the Hornady Lock N’ Load Auto Charge Powder Scale, that has a built in trickler, to make sure that the powder charge was 100% consistent.
It is slow going with the big Hornady Auto Charge machine. But since I loaded with a single stage press, I was able to go back and forth between the 30 seconds or so that the Auto Charge takes to do its thing. The CFE .223 powder is made so that it mostly fills the case, so double charging is impossible, because it over-runs, like a lot. So if you are loading .223 single stage, and you have plenty of loading trays, you could theoretically load up your powder with a funnel while occupied with something else, like watching Idol. Fortunately though, if you are progressive reloading .223, the CFE .223 generally threw within 2/10ths of a grain every time using the Hornady measure. Since this article was about the bullets, and how consistent they shoot, I thought it was worth the time to use the Auto Charge, but in bulk loading myself I would use the measure.
Did it make a difference? I don’t know, but what I can say is that Ben Becker, our resident US Army Sniper, shot the bullets consistently into about an inch at 100 yards. The rifle is a Rock River LAR-15 A4 24″ varmint gun and the scope is the Vortex Viper PST. This rifle is generally about a 1 inch/1 MOA gun, so these bullets shot side by side the same accuracy as any name brand factory ammo we have shot in it. I also weighed dozens of the bullets and they were exactly 55 grains, nearly every one, and there was not one bullet I tried that was more than 1/10th of a grain off. There are other factors to bullet consistency besides overall weight of course, but if the weight is any indication, these bullets are crazy consistent for the cost of them, and I wouldn’t hesitate to use them for any AR-15 application, at, don’t forget, half price.
Now, I have to share with you something that was a huge surprise while testing these bullets. If you look at the reloading data on the Hodgdon website, they of course don’t have Varmint Nightmare bullets in their loads, but if you look at the 53 and 55 grain data for CFE.223, it gives you a range of 26 to at least 27.8, or even 28.5 grains. We used 27.5 grains, checked on the Hornady Auto Charge, which was checked for calibration before testing. We should be well within safety limits for these bullets, and shooting them, they showed no signs of excess pressure, but, hold on to your hats, we clocked these rounds at 3350 feet per second out of the Rock River 24″ rifle.
Just to check, I clocked Hornady Superformance and Superformance Varmint on the same day with the same Chrony chronograph (Ben, in his infinite wisdom that only US Army Snipers must endure, shot up my PACT). The Superformance clocked at 3370, and the Superformance Varmint clocked at 3552. Not all of the Varmint Nightmare bullets have a ballistic coefficient listed, but some say .220, which is fairly efficient for a .223 bullet. . Downrange there is really no comparison to Superformance Varmint, but this an expensive factory load you have buy 20 at a time. For simple no frills handloads, this is great performance out of CFE 223 and Varmint Nightmare. You can’t really do much better. Great velocity, great accuracy, no offense to name brand bullets, but who needs anything else? Bullets are by far the most expensive component in reloads, and I’ll take half price any day.