Federal Premium Terminal Ascent Ammunition: A Range-to-Field Review


Federal Premium Terminal Ascent Ammunition: A Range-to-Field Review

New for 2020 is the Terminal Ascent hunting line from Federal Premium Ammunition. Recently I had the unique opportunity to test it, both on the practice range and on big game.

The calling card of Terminal Ascent is the promise of an effective wound channel sustained from any distance relative to the caliber. Terminal Ascent employs updated, technologically advanced bullets based on the company’s Trophy Bonded Tip bullets. Retained is the tapered jacket, bonded lead core, and long, solid copper rear shank that provide knockdown power. Also still present is a secant ogive and AccuChannel groove technology for long-range effectiveness. The boat-tail angle and length are optimized for peak ballistic coefficient and stability.

Terminal Ascent kept the small, flat meplat design of its predecessor, under a new synthetic tip. Meplat is the term for a flat or open tip on the nose of a bullet. Its shape is important in determining how the bullet moves through the air. This meplat helps deliver excellent ballistics and accuracy.

Groovy, man

A major advancement in the Terminal Ascent bullet is its groove cut(s). Three grooves cut into the shank has been a standard. Grooves reduce barrel wear and improve accuracy, yet pull down ballistic coefficients (BC) by adding wind drag.

Federal Premium ballisticians discovered that one or two grooves, instead of three, retained the accuracy advantage without compromising BC. Furthermore, wind drag was addressed by reducing the slope of the groove from the customary 90 degrees to a gentle slope.

This photo from Federal shows expansion of a Terminal Ascent round at ranges from 10 (right) to 1,350 yards (left).

Slipstream tip lets you reach way out there

Polymer bullet tips are common, but the Slipstream tip on Terminal Ascent is a standout. A thin meplat on the dark blue polymer tip helps reduce wind drag in flight as compared to a hollow tip. In normal circumstances, as the bullet slows down at distances beyond a few hundred yards, the expansion required to effect sufficient tissue disruption on big game is lacking. With its radically different hollow-core, yet polymer-covered tip, Terminal Ascent maintains a high BC and accuracy over distance. Entry into the target clears the protective tip off the bullet, whether the target is met at close or longer ranges. This exposes the hollow core which can then begin expansion through the tip and into the lead aspects of the heavy-for-caliber bullet.

This combination of feature makes Terminal Ascent much more than a match bullet and a real standout in the hunting field.

A pleasing range test

This clean-looking ammo fed without fail in the Savage Ridge Warrior .308 Winchester rifle I had on hand for review and hunting. Sub-MOA, three-shot groups were almost too easy. With no wind and no operator error on the part of this writer’s index finger, I have no doubt this ammo/rifle combo would drill a single hole. One group of three rounds featured two rounds touching. On a cold bore at 100 yards, the first shot landed about an inch south of my determined zero—a typical and acceptable result.Terminal-Ascent-target

But the real proof would happen off-range, in more ways than one. Good fortune allowed me to draw one of New Mexico’s oryx, AKA gemsbok, tags for the lands surrounding, but not on, the animals’ primary habitat of White Sands Missile Range.

Terminal Ascent vs. Gemsbok

In the hunt field, I got to fire one round of Terminal Ascent broadside into a very nice, approximately 450-pound female, from a vantage point 310 yards from where she walked. With me doing slight holdover for the distance, forgetting about cold bore status, the round hit just behind the right shoulder. The animal stopped, shuddered, and ran approximately 60 yards before dropping.Gemsbok

On close inspection, the bullet had penetrated a lung and done apparently significant damage inside to stop the cow. As we field dressed her, the slug was discovered, and recovered, from just in front of her left flank, about 10 inches higher than the entry point. It had traveled more than a yard inside the animal. The deviation off a straight path is likely due to hitting a rib, not to mention that this Africa-native species is notoriously tough.

I feel blessed to have had the opportunity to use this factory sample of Terminal Ascent to bag the one game animal I’ve long coveted. This ammunition is offered in 11 mid- to long-range chamberings. MSRPs for the 20-round box vary from $47.99 to 65.99.

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Eve Flanigan is a defensive shooting and armed security practitioner/instructor who lives in the American Southwest. She is the author of "Ready to Defend: Tips for Living the Armed Lifestyle," and is a contributor to numerous gun-related blogs and print publications.

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