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Federal Terminal Ascent Ammunition

Terminal Ascent Bullet Performance at 1000 yards

Announced in time for the 2020 SHOT Show, Federal Premium unveiled a new line of hunting ammunition called Terminal Ascent.

In simple terms, this is a new line of ammo that claims:

  • match-grade accuracy,
  • deep-penetration at all ranges,
  • reliable expansion at low velocity,
  • high weight retention and
  • lethal terminal performance at all ranges.

While this ammo might be considered long-range hunting ammunition because of its great performance at distance, the reality is it is an “all-range, all-velocity” line that is said to perform no matter where your target is.

Let’s jump into some of the features of this new line.

General Construction

Federal designed these loads to blend the best characteristics of expanding big game ammunition with the exceptional accuracy of match-grade rounds. While compromise loads can leave the user unsatisfied with all aspects of a round, Federal Premium believes the Terminal Ascent line successfully combines all of the best attributes.

How did the company manage this?

Bonded Design

Many hunters want high weight retention as this is a good indicator that the bullet will stay in one piece and penetrate deeply. When taking a game animal, a shoulder shot is common meaning the bullet has to penetrate heavy bone to reach the heart and lungs for a humane kill.

Federal Terminal Ascent Long Range Hunting Ammunition

Hitting an animal at close distances means the bullet velocity will be high, which can cause over expansion and fragmentation in some bullet designs. A bonded round means that the jacket and core have been joined during the manufacturing process and will not separate when hitting a target.

In other words, bonded bullets are unlikely to shed weight and are likely to penetrate deeply enough to hit vital organs.

Terminal Ascent bullets have a solid shank: a thick copper base that supports the lead core. Combined with the bonding process, the shank helps ensure the bullet has high weight retention after hitting the target.

Slipstream Tip

Polymer tipped bullets were once seen to be a gimmick by some in the industry. Performance in the field tells a different story. It now seems that nearly every manufacturer has at least one bullet line with a polymer tip.

Slipstream Tip on Terminal Ascent Bullet Ammo

While the Terminal Ascent bullet has a polymer tip, it is not a common plastic point. Rather, it is a patented hollow core tip that initiates the expansion of the bullet at lower velocities.

During the testing of other polymer tipped bullets, Federal engineers determined that the expansion of bullets was inconsistent once the range reached 600 yards. This was due to the velocity loss at those ranges.

Initial experimentation showed that drilling a hole in the very tip of the bullet allowed for expansion at lower velocities which extended the useful range of the bullet by several hundred yards. With a hollow polymer tip, target media would enter and cause expansion – very similar to how the hollow point bullet works.

However, the hole at the front of the tip degraded the bullet’s flight characteristics. It almost seemed to circle back to square one. Would you need a polymer tip for your polymer tip?

The solution was a hollow polymer tip that did not have a hole in the exposed end. Through experimentation, the Federal design team discovered that the point of the hollow tip would break off on impact with the target. That would allow target media to enter the polymer tip’s hollow core and initiate expansion.

Federal Premium Terminal Ascent Hunting Ammunition

This design – called the Slipstream Tip – greatly improved the expansion of the bullet at lower velocities while maintaining the ballistic characteristics of the standard polymer tipped rifle bullet.

Another aspect of the Slipstream Tip that enhances performance is the choice of material. Federal uses the same polymer as it uses in its Trophy Bonded Tip which puts the softening temperature at 434Ëš F.

Terminal Ascent vs Precision Hunter Tips

It appears to me that the Terminal Ascent line is a direct competitor to the Hornady Precision Hunter line. In that line, Hornady uses a Heat Shield tip to prevent tip softening and to improve expansion at distances beyond 400 yards.

Is the Terminal Ascent better than the Precision Hunter? I have no way of even guessing at how the two match up in the field. And the bullet weights used by each company are different in each caliber. So, there is no direct comparison of the G1 BC either.

Except for two cartridges: the 300 Win Mag and the 300 WSM. Both companies selected 200-grain bullets for these cartridges. Here is how the factory specs match up:

 

Terminal Ascent Velocity

Precision Hunter Velocity

Terminal Ascent G1 BC

Precision Hunter G1 BC

300 Win Mag - 200 grains

2,810 fps

2,850 fps

.608

.597

300 WSM - 200 grains

2,810 fps

2,820 fps

.608

.597

I’d argue we can’t make any definitive statements about the two based on this information alone. However, it would seem the two lines are going to be in the same ballpark of performance. I’m looking forward to seeing field results.

AccuChannel Grooving

Federal developed a new process for adding grooves to a bullet shank to improve accuracy and reduce barrel wear and fouling.

For many people, the engineering for the new AccuChannel Grooving is getting into the weeds a bit. So, I’ll keep it simple.

Essentially, engineers performed a series of experiments and learned how to reduce the number of grooves needed on a bullet shank to achieve the same level of performance. By reducing the number of grooves, you can improve the ballistic coefficient (BC) of the bullet.

Likewise, the team found a way to improve the groove geometry to further reduce drag on the bullet.

Loads and Specs

 

Bullet Weight

Velocity

Energy

G1 BC

6.5 PRC

130 gr

3,000 fps

2,598 ft-lbs

.532

6.5 Creedmoor

130 gr

2,825 fps

2,304 ft-lbs

.532

.270 Win

130 gr

3,000 fps

2,598 ft-lbs

.493

.270 WSM

136 gr

3,240 fps

3,171 ft-lbs

.493

.280 Ackley Improved

155 gr

2,930 fps

2,955 ft-lbs

.586

.28 Nosler

155 gr

3,200 fps

3,525 ft-lbs

.586

7mm Rem Mag

155 gr

3,000 fps

3,098 ft-lbs

.586

.30-06 Sprg

175 gr

2,730 fps

2,897 ft-lbs

.520

.308 Win

175 gr

2,600 fps

2,627 ft-lbs

.520

.300 Win Mag

200 gr

2,810 fps

3,507 ft-lbs

.608

.300 WSM

200 gr

2,810

3,507 ft-lbs

.608

Ammo will be sold in 20-round boxes. Suggested retail pricing will start at $42.95 for a box and go up from there. Actual pricing is set by the dealer, and I expect to see many of these loads closer to the $30-35 range.

Final Thoughts

Terminal Ascent Ammo from Federal at 2020 SHOT Show

The final word on these new loads will be offered once they make it into the field. But for now, this line looks impressive. I am eager to see what they can do.

If you get some on the range or out on a hunting trip, how about leaving your observations in the comments below. I’ve got a lot of readers who appreciate hearing how these loads perform in real-world conditions.

By Richard Johnson

Richard Johnson is a gun writer, amateur historian and - most importantly - a dad. He's done a lot of silly things in his life, but quitting police work to follow his passion of writing about guns was one of the smartest things he ever did. He founded this site and continues to manage its operation.

8 replies on “Federal Terminal Ascent Ammunition”

Huh. I never would have thought about making a hollow point out of the tip that fills the hollow point. Then to reverse the tip so that the open part is not exposed… well, color me impressed.

Hornady impressed a lot of people with its ELD line (used in the Precision Hunter.) I wonder if anyone will notice that Federal just introduced something that may be better.

The re-branding adventures in the ammo industry just refuse to stop. All this load is, is the Federal Tactical bonded tipped load with new packaging. The Tactical Bonded Tip loads themselves were just a rebranding of the TBBC-tipped loads which had a yellow tip. So now they are just releasing some new calibers using the Tactical bonded tip with blue tip as part of this Ascent line. This is like when Hornady came out with the “Outfitter” load, which was nothing more than the FullBoar line with nickeled cases instead of regular brass. Hype, Hype, Hype. Save some money and just purchase the Tactical bonded tip if .308 is your caliber since they price less than what these “Terminal Ascent” (how much brainstorming was done on that name?) are figured to price.

Hi Matt,

Thanks for reading the article and taking the time to write your response.

I agree that marketers do hype new products. That’s what they get paid to do. Beyond that, help me out with some information.

It was my understanding – and I recognize I may be wrong – that the Tactical Bonded Tip ammo used a solid tip not the hollow tip as is used in the Terminal Ascent line. Was my understanding inaccurate?

Of course, even if they are identical in generalized construction, I believe the Tactical Bonded Tip is only available as a 168 grain load in .308 Win. The Terminal Ascent offers a total of 11 different loads – none of which duplicate the Tactical Bonded Tip load. (The Terminal Ascent .308 load uses a 175 gr bullet at 2,600 fps with a G1 BC of .520 compared to the Tactical Bonded Tip load with a 168 grain bullet at 2,400 fps with a G1 BC of .452.)

-Richard

I have some “real life” experience with the Federal Edge TLR bullet, the predecessor to the Ascent. I shoot a .300 WSM and in the last two years, I have taken elk at 500 and 570 yds. Both were 1 shot kills and neither went more than 10 yds after being hit. The terminal performance was outstanding. Additionally, it is the most accurate bullet I have ever used. I am now testing the Terminal Ascent, so far accuracy is equal to the Edge TLR, and I have no doubt about the performance on game. I haven’t chronographed the loads yet, but I suspect that by adding the second cannerule to the Ascent, it may get a little more speed with the same powder charge. Federal is definitely not overstating the performance of this bullet. It does everything they say it will do, if not better!!

This isn’t re-branded ammo; this is something new entirely. I look forward to getting it ont he range/

No one has followed up for a couple of weeks, so I thought I’d add what I’ve learned from Federal.

This new Terminal Ascent (TA) bullet is closest in construction to the Edge TLR, not to the Trophy Bonded Tip (TBT). The TA bullet is essentially the same as a TLR except for one feature, an extra groove in the shank. Although this addition appears insignificant, the result is a measurable improvement in accuracy. Some of the new TA cartridges are seeing a halving in group size, over the equivalent TLR loads. I have been told by Federal, they will continue to make the TLR until sales drop to the point that it is no longer profitable. Otherwise, they indicate that the new TA is the “Cat’s A**”.
There are many significant differences between the TA and the TBT. The TA has a far more heat resistant tip and the tip is designed to break predictably to aid in more substantial and reliable expansion. The void around the tip has also increased in size, to aid to expansion. The weight balance in the shank has moved. The bullet grain weights have generally increased. And probably most significantly, the alloy recipes have changed, allowing the TA to expand down to 1350 fps, whereas the TBT expands down to 1600 fps. Pretty significant changes if you ask me!

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