The Climb To The Top

Share on Social Share on Facebook Share on Twitter

female hunter looking down a rifle scope on the top of a hill

Since hitting the scene, Federal Premium Terminal Ascent has reigned as the world’s best all-range hunting bullet—a projectile that does what once seemed impossible, providing match-grade accuracy, consistent expansion at extreme long-range, and high-weight retention and deep penetration at any distance.

But its story didn’t actually begin with its introduction in 2020. Rather, Terminal Ascent is the result of a pedigree that goes back decades, the progeny of landmark Federal bullets that came before it.

It Began With A Buffalo

In the early 1980s, entrepreneur Jack Carter headed to Africa and tangled with a seemingly immortal Cape buffalo that took seven hits with conventional cup-and-core bullets fired from a 375 H&H and several others from a 458 Win. Magnum before finally admitting death.

It made a profound impression on Carter. Back home, he went to work on a tougher, deep-penetrating expanding bullet design. His creation, proved in action a few years later when he returned to Africa in 1988, featured a rear half made of pure copper, with a lead-filled cavity in the front half.

TBBC family of bullets; TBBC, TBT, Edge TLR, Terminal Ascent

This bullet lineup shows the Trophy Bonded Bear Claw and its extended family. From left, in order of evolution: .416-caliber 400-grain Trophy Bonded Bear Claw; .308-caliber 180-grain Trophy Bonded Tip; .308-caliber 200-grain Edge TLR; .284-caliber 155-grain Terminal Ascent. All expanded bullets were recovered from game animals.

The bonded lead frontal core ensured immediate expansion. Because of the bonding, it couldn’t separate from the copper shank; as a result, weight retention averaged 90 percent or more. Combined with the all-metal shank, these features meant the aptly named “Bear Claw” couldn’t fragment, couldn’t pancake on impact, and always drove deep. Purchased not long after by Federal, the design went on to become one of the best dangerous game projectiles of all time.

The Evolution Continues

In the years that followed came another breakthrough that built on the Trophy Bonded Bear Claw concept: Trophy Bonded Tip, a superb polymer-tipped bullet that performs in stellar fashion on impact and is very accurate. Available in a vast spectrum of big-game cartridges, the Trophy Bonded Tip is one of history’s all-time great hunting bullets. However, by modern standards, it’s not extremely aerodynamic. This fact became impossible to ignore as times changed and extended-range hunting became popular, creating a whole new class of shooters who craved higher ballistic coefficients.

Federal engineers responded in kind, streamlining the Trophy Bonded Tip to push its ballistic coefficient to an industry high for a hunting bullet. They changed the nickel coat from natural silver to black, and introduced it as the Edge TLR. An initial foray into the long-range world, it was darned good, if not yet perfect.

The Final Leap

With Edge TLR’s accuracy spec at “just” 1 minute of angle (MOA), far-shooting hunters still wanted more. Federal’s R&D wizards massaged and finessed the Edge TLR, and in 2020, the result was finally ready: Terminal Ascent, a descendant of the Trophy Bonded Bear Claw that posted 10-shot groups of .6 MOA or less in factory test tunnels. Computer engineering and Doppler testing perfected the Terminal Ascent’s profile, resulting in excellent ballistic coefficients and match-grade accuracy. Grooves around the shank and nickel plating reduce chamber pressure and enable greater speed.

Terminal Ascent cartridge laying on a target

Federal’s Trophy Bonded Bear Claw bullet and its descendants are typically very accurate. Shown is a 100-yard group fired with the 280 Ackley Improved load, which pushes a 155-grain Terminal Ascent projectile.

Terminal Ascent maintains the solid metal shank and bonded lead frontal core that made Carter’s original bullet such a success, while a cutting-edge composite tip aids aerodynamics and resists erosion from in-flight air friction and heat.

Traditional cartridge favorites such as the 270 Win. and 30-06 Sprg. occupy the Terminal Ascent realm, but the line is focused on top-performing modern cartridges such as the 6.5 PRC, 280 Ackley Improved and so forth.

Performance is never in question. Terminal Ascent is, after all, the descendant of the great Trophy Bonded Bear Claw.