Tim Sundles is what we here in the hills call a “big ol’ boy.” You would not want to knock his hat off, insult his wife or spill your martini on his flannel shirt. Broad shoulders and big rough hands tell you this fellow works for a living. But, his wide smile will tell you he is as much a good ol’ boy as he is a big-un. Sundles founded Buffalo Bore Ammunition in 1997.
Buffalo Bore’s first commercial loads were for the .475 and .500 Linebaugh—hardly plinking cartridges. I first became acquainted with Sundles in 2002, when I phoned in an order for a box of what he called “Heavy” .35 Rem. loads. Heavy was a good name for the stuff. Out of my Marlin lever gun, this ammo pushed a 220-grain Speer bullet to a shade more than 2,200 fps. You can’t buy ammo like this anywhere else, and good luck finding loading data to duplicate it.
Sundles likes to hunt griz in Alaska and spends most of his spare time hiking, hunting, camping and fishing in bear country. He saw a need for packable-sized revolvers capable of delivering a wicked payload. He also recognized the need for common-sense, innovative defensive ammo for all types of handguns and rifles, and Buffalo Bore methodically adds new loads that fit this description. With more than 200 offerings now, Sundles has aspirations to design and produce specialty ammo for almost every cartridge. Buffalo Bore is not mass-producing ammo that just goes bang, it makes a uniquely tailored product designed to be ultra-effective for critical applications.
Buffalo Bore is best known for its Heavy or +P ammunition, like a 9 mm +P+ load that pushes a 124-grain JHP to more than 1,350 fps from a 5-inch barrel. Ammunition loaded like this—often leaving barrels at speeds sure to make you drool on your chronograph—is what has made Buffalo Bore famous. When many folks first look at the advertised external ballistics of these Heavy or +P loads, they generally have one of two responses: “Those loads can’t be safe,” or “That has to be advertising hype.” Neither suspicion is correct.
You see, Sundles does a number of things to ensure his ammo is indeed safe. For the Heavy and +P stuff he utilizes ballistic-test labs to confirm pressures, and makes sure it is loaded with consistency, ensuring there are no wide pressure swings. He’s careful to post warnings on packaging telling consumers which firearms are safe for the cartridges in the box. Some Buffalo Bore loads may exceed SAAMI specs, but you can rest assured they have been exposed to extensive testing and actual firing in a variety of firearms. And, Sundles prints the actual—not a hyped-up—velocity on the box.
Sundles recognizes not all shooters are handloaders, and this means they are limited to what they find on the shelf. But, sometimes shooters need ammunition not found in the contemporary array of factory offerings available from the big manufacturers. For example, Buffalo Bore’s +P .38 Spl. Outdoorsman load blows a 158-grain Keith-Style hard-cast bullet out of a 4.5-inch barrel at 1,200 fps. You can expect it to shoot through a grizzly’s skull or a parade of bad guys.
Sundles is a big believer in flat-nose, hard-cast bullets for hunting and self-defense, and Buffalo Bore offers them in a number of handgun cartridges. While some Jell-O junkies—those who think ordnance gelatin is the ultimate predictor of a load’s lethality—scoff at non-expanding, hard-cast bullets, Sundles sees things a bit different.
Maybe this is partly due to success in the field. Like the off-duty Montana State Highway Patrolman who was fishing the Clark Fork River when a black bear decided it wanted to give the officer a hug. As the bear rushed, the patrolman drew his Smith & Wesson Model 65 and shot it in the left shoulder. The Buffalo Bore 180-grain hard-cast bullet broke the shoulder and right hip and might still be going. No hugging occurred that day.
Then there were the Marines clearing buildings in Iraq. They were assaulted, and one Marine ran his rifle empty. During the resulting hand-to-hand combat, the Marine was knocked to the ground by the butt of an insurgent’s rifle. Lying on his back, the Marine drew a .380 semi-automatic from his cargo pocket and while the insurgent was trying to bash in his skull, our hero got off one shot. The pistol was loaded with Buffalo Bore’s 100-grain hard-cast +P ammunition. The bullet struck the insurgent just above his hip, angled up diagonally through his torso, pierced his opposite scapula and stopped under the skin, instantly incapacitating the bad guy.
Buffalo Bore loads other bullets, too. Speer Gold Dot bullets are listed as common JHPs on the box at the request of Speer. Some loads—like the Heavy .32 H&R Mag. load that will drive a 100-grain bullet almost 20 inches deep in 10-percent gelatin—use Hornady’s deep-penetrating XTP bullets. Buffalo Bore also utilizes a lot of Barnes TAC-XP handgun bullets in its Buffalo Barnes line. Rifle loads are also available for a variety of cartridges, mostly for lever guns, but you’ll find a few for hunting and even two Sniper loads.
You may not need to shoot through a hippo with a handgun, and you may not routinely fight it out with grizzlies. However, if you want ammunition up for that sort of thing, Buffalo Bore has that kind of stuff. Just don’t call Sundles or me if the recoil is too much for your delicate little hands to handle. Man up! This is serious stuff.