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Review: Federal Terminal Ascent Hunting Ammo

By blending elements of both match and hunting bullet projectiles, the new Federal Terminal Ascent series may be the ultimate big-game ammo.

Review: Federal Terminal Ascent Hunting Ammo

Many hunters assume their hunting bullet will perform well at any range and any velocity, but that simply isn’t the case. Growing interest in long-range hunting has prompted ammunition companies to develop new bullets capable of expanding at long distances and low velocities.

The short video below shows a hunter taking a Texas aoudad at 600 yards with Federal Custom Shop Rifle Ammo loaded with a Terminal Ascent bullet. Other equipment used: Mesa Precision Arms Rifle, Swarovski Z8 Scope, Silencer Central Banish 30 Suppressor.

The problem, however, is those long-range hunting bullets oftentimes over expand, break up, or fail to penetrate at close to moderate ranges. Conversely, tough monolithic or bonded bullets hold up at high velocities and short ranges but don’t expand properly at greater distances. A single bullet that performed at all velocities and all ranges simply didn’t exist.

Until now.


Federal, the world’s largest ammunition manufacturer, has unveiled the new Terminal Ascent series of hunting ammo. It’s been almost a century since Federal Ammunition opened their doors in Anoka, Minnesota, and Terminal Ascent is the most sophisticated hunting ammo series, including the projectile, the company has ever developed.

“Since Terminal Ascent’s bullet design is the best Federal has ever made, a ton of attention to detail and consideration was given to bullet design by the engineers, more than any other bullet,” says Justin Carbone, Federal’s rifle ammunition product engineer.

Terminal Ascent is poised to change big game hunting forever. Here’s how.

More Than a Name

Terminal Ascent isn’t just a catchy brand name developed by Federal’s marketing team, it’s a mission statement. From the outset of the bullet’s design, the engineers at Federal were tasked with accomplishing one very difficult assignment: to develop a bullet that offered excellent terminal performance at any range. That meant regardless of whether the hunter was shooting a pronghorn at 500 yards or a bull elk at 50, the bullet must provide consistent, reliable expansion and penetration, and shed energy effectively.

Terminal Ascent shares some of the same DNA as Federal’s most successful and reliable bullet designs including Trophy Bonded Bear Claw, Edge TLR, and Trophy Bonded Tip. Like these other bullets, Terminal Ascent is bonded, which means the jacket and core are electrochemically fused to virtually eliminate any chance of separation, and the copper shank at the base of the lead core prevents overexpansion. That means Terminal Ascent will perform at close-range on large, heavy animals like moose, bear and elk.


The challenge, then, was to make that same bonded bullet expand reliably at much greater distances and much lower velocities.

To accomplish this, Federal redesigned the bullet’s profile to more closely mimic that of high ballistic coefficient (BC) match bullets. Terminal Ascent bullets have a streamlined profile and a Slipstream polymer tip, and that results in improved ballistic coefficients compared to other hunting bullets; especially bonded bullets. The 130-grain 6.5 Creedmoor bullet I tested had a G1 BC of .532, and the 200-grain .30-caliber Terminal Ascent bullet boasts a G1 BC of .608, which is very impressive for a bonded hunting bullet. They’re also equipped with AccuGroove channels around the shank of the bullet which improve accuracy and, reduce drag and fouling.


To further help initiate expansion at reduced velocities Federal developed the patent-pending Slipstream tip, which is comprised of a special heat-resistant polymer and features a hollow core. Upon impact, the Slipstream tip breaks up and fluid enters the cavity that runs into the core of the bullet. This hollow nose design and skives cut into the copper jacket initiate expansion at as little as 1,400 feet per second. That means that Terminal Ascent bullets will appeal to long-range hunters as well as those who pursue game with a shorter-barreled hunting rifles and even handguns.

“Terminal Ascent incorporates the external bullet geometries of modern match bullets but maintains the internal construction of the toughest bonded bullets available,” says Justin Carbone, Federal’s rifle ammunition product engineer. “Essentially, Terminal Ascent is a high-BC version of the tried-and-true Trophy Bonded Tip, but with improved low-velocity expansion.” According to Carbone, Terminal Ascent bullets will expand at velocities 200 fps slower than competing bullets.

In-the-Field Performance

I had the opportunity to test Federal Premium Terminal Ascent ammo on a Coues deer hunt in Mexico. Hunting Coues deer can be very difficult; these deer are small, they blend in perfectly with the surrounding cover, and the terrain in which they thrive oftentimes demands long shots. The rifle I was carrying was chambered in 6.5 Creedmoor, and the 130-grain Terminal Ascent load was an ideal choice because shots could be anywhere from 50 to 600 yards.

As it turned out, my deer was shot at 200 yards, which is quite close when hunting the mountains of northern Mexico. Upon impact, the bullet expanded to roughly twice the original diameter before it exited and broke the off-side shoulder, putting the deer down instantly. The Terminal Ascent ammunition proved to be equally effective at shots from 80 yards out to nearly a quarter mile, and accuracy was as good as I’ve ever encountered in a bonded hunting load.


What’s more, Federal loads Terminal Ascent bullets in nickel-coated brass cases, and while the silver-colored case and bullet with the bright blue polymer tip look striking, the nickel plating is about more than simple aesthetics. As part of their no-stone-unturned design philosophy, the engineers at Federal wanted to load the world’s best hunting ammo with the world’s best components and features. That’s why the cases and bullets are nickel plated (to reduce friction for worry-free cycling), and that’s also why Federal uses the very quality propellants and primers.

Federal currently offers 11 different Terminal Ascent loads including 6.5 Creedmoor (130-grain, 2,825 fps), 6.5 PRC (130-grain, 3,000 fps), .270 Win (136-grain, 3,000 fps), .270 WSM (136-grain, 3,240 fps), .280 Ackley Improved (155-grain, 2,930 fps), 28 Nosler (155-grain, 3,200 fps), 7mm Rem Mag (155-grain, 3,000 fps), .308 Win (175-grain, 2,600 fps), .30-06 (175-grain, 2,730 fps), .300 Win Mag (200-grain, 2,810 fps) and .300 WSM (200-grain, 2,810 fps).

Federal will offer Terminal Ascent component bullets for reloaders, and the company’s Custom Shop can create a custom hunting load for each individual shooter, which is something very few cartridge companies offer.

Federal engineers have developed some of the most-trusted hunting ammo of all time, so for the company to call this new hunting ammo series their best-ever is a bold statement. But the new Terminal Ascent lineup can perform at a wider range of velocities than other hunting ammo on the market, and their bonded interior and match bullet profile make them extraordinarily versatile.

No matter the game, the conditions, or the range, Terminal Ascent hunting ammo was designed and built to perform. Why settle for anything less?

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