Bullets For Big Game Hunting
By Chuck Hawks
The bullet is the object that delivers the power of a modern firearm to the target. In the vernacular, it is where the rubber meets the road. This small, exquisitely formed bit of metal has been the focus of endless study, design and research. Although bullets of one sort or another have been in use for several centuries, modern hunting bullets are the best ever.
The typical hunting bullet has a lead core inside of a gilding metal jacket. The jacket covers all but the nose of the bullet, where some lead is left exposed to initiate expansion. Some rifle bullets have a "hollow point" instead of exposed lead at the front and some have a plastic or bronze tip that acts as a wedge to split the jacket and initiate expansion upon impact. All of these approaches work about equally well if executed properly. In most cases, the forward edge of the bullet jacket is scalloped or cut in several places to help it start to peel back.
Lead is used for the core because it is heavy, relatively inexpensive, extremely stable and easy to mold. The lead used in bullet cores is usually alloyed with a small amount (1% to 3%) of antimony to make it slightly harder than pure lead. Lead is a natural element. It is one of the most stable of all elements, completely safe to animals (including birds, fish, and people) unless it is somehow taken into the system (eaten, for example, or vaporized and inhaled). That is why it is commonly used in aquariums to hold plants in place--it doesn't dissolve in water and won't harm even the extremely fragile tropical fish. Because of its great weight for its volume, a small lead bullet can strike a fearsome blow when accelerated to high speed by a firearm.
Gilding metal is an alloy of about 90% copper and 5%-10% zinc. Bullet jackets made of gilding metal are designed to contain the lead core during its journey down the barrel and its flight to the target, while leaving a minimum of residue in the bore of the rifle. Some hunting bullets use pure copper jackets, which are softer than gilding metal and typically leave more fouling in the bore. After the bullet hits the target, the jacket is designed to peel back from the core, allowing the lead core of the bullet to expand or "mushroom."
The jacket not only protects the lead core; it is also designed to control expansion to enable adequate penetration. As you might imagine, this delicate balance between expansion and penetration requires careful design. Usually the goal is to allow the front part of the bullet to rapidly expand to about twice the bullet's original diameter (to cause as much tissue damage as possible), while keeping the rear portion of the bullet intact to retain as much weight as possible (to aid penetration). If the design works perfectly, a bullet recovered from a game animal has a perfect mushroom shape after having penetrated deep into the animal's vitals.
As a general guide, the following SD's are recommended small bore rifles (.17-.32 caliber) for hunting bullets of suitable construction. For small game and varmints weighing up to about 10 pounds a SD of .100-113 should be sufficient. (A higher SD won't hurt, though.) For the small predators, such as fox, coyote and other animals in the 15-30 pound range, a SD of .130 or better is appropriate. For animals in the 30-70 pound range, choose a SD of at least .163. For the smaller species of medium game weighing 70-125 pounds, which includes the smaller goat, deer and antelope species, choose a SD of .190 or higher. (A SD of .200 would give a bit of latitude in case an exceptionally large specimen is encountered.) For medium size medium game weighing 125-250 pounds, which includes most sheep, deer and mountain goats, a SD of .224 or better is good. For the largest Class 2 game, such as caribou and mature male black bears that might weigh 250-400 pounds, a SD of at least .242 would be nice. For large game (Class 3) up to 700 pounds, such as elk, zebra, alg and kudu, a SD of .270 or higher is appropriate.
For the largest thin-skinned game, weighing over 700 pounds, and the dangerous predators, powerful medium bore rifles are strongly recommended. The SD of a 270 grain .375 bullet is .274, the SD of a 270 grain 9.3mm (.366") bullet is .288, the SD of a 250 grain .358 bullet is .279 and the SD or a 225 grain .338 bullet is .281; these are reasonable minimums for the medium bores.
For thick-skinned dangerous game a powerful medium bore is the minimum and a big bore is even better. In either, a SD of .300 or better is recommended.
Ballistic coefficient (BC) is a measure of how well a bullet flies through the air. It is the ratio of a bullet's sectional density to its coefficient of form. For comparison purposes, the higher the number the better the BC and the less air drag the bullet has. For example, a Hornady 180 grain round nosed .30 caliber bullet has a BC of .239, a Hornady 180 grain spire point bullet has a BC of .431 and a 180 grain Speer boat tail spitzer bullet has a BC of .540. The more streamlined the bullet, the higher the ballistic coefficient.
Round nose and flat point bullets
The original form for jacketed bullets was the round nose (RN) or flat point. The pointed bullet came later; it was developed for aerodynamic reasons. The traditional flat or round nosed bullet still has many adherents, and some real advantages.
For one, with much more lead exposed at the nose of the bullet, it is easier to initiate expansion and expansion is more reliable (compared to pointed bullets). For another, blunt bullets are more likely to get to the target if they encounter obstructions like leaves, brush, or twigs en route. They also tend to follow a straight path inside an animal on their way to the vitals, which is why they are preferred for hunting extremely large, tough game.
Some popular rifles have tubular magazines, in which the nose of each bullet rests on the primer of the cartridge in front of it. These rifles, such as the Winchester 94 and Marlin 336, require flat point bullets to avoid the danger of a chain fire in the magazine due to recoil when the rifle is fired.
Bullets of the same caliber and weight will have identical sectional densities, regardless of their shape. However, pointed bullets have a higher ballistic coefficient than round nose bullets. For example, a Hornady round nose 150 grain .270 bullet has a BC of .259. The Hornady pointed bullet of the same weight and caliber has a BC of .443. Both bullets have a SD of .279.
Pointed bullets are commonly referred to as spitzer bullets. The word "spitzer" is derived from the German term for pointed, as this style of bullet was developed in Germany. A spitzer bullet has a more aerodynamic shape than a round nose or flat point bullet. In other words, it has a higher ballistic coefficient. This enables it to retain more velocity and energy at long range and gives it a flatter trajectory. Spitzer bullets come into their own at ranges in excess of 250 yards.
The spitzer form has no advantage once it hits the target. In fact, because less lead is exposed at the front of a pointed bullet, it is more difficult to initiate expansion upon impact with the target. After impact, a spitzer bullet that doesn't expand may veer off course or tumble inside the animal. It is also widely supposed that spitzer bullets are more easily deflected off course by twigs, brush and the like, which makes them less satisfactory for woods hunting than round or flat nosed bullets.
Boat-tail bullets have an inward taper at the back of the bullet shank that ends in a reduced caliber base. In other words, the back of the bullet ends in a short truncated cone. This reduces aerodynamic drag, and improves ballistic coefficient. Somewhat flatter trajectory and slightly higher retained velocity and energy at extreme long range are the benefits of the boat-tail bullet. They are also nice for the handloader, as they slip easily into resized case necks.
Conventional jacketed expanding hunting bullets
Bullet makers use various strategies to attain the desired bullet performance. Soft point, hollow point and plastic point hunting bullets of conventional design are constructed with a gilding metal (or occasionally pure copper) jacket enclosing a lead core. Many have a tapered jacket that gets thicker toward the base of the bullet. This is intended to control expansion by making it increasingly difficult to peel open the jacket as expansion moves down the length of the bullet.
Some bullets, such as the Winchester Power Point and Speer Grand Slam, also use a cannelure (crimp in the jacket) to help keep the jacket from peeling back beyond that point and keep jacket and core together. The cannelure also allows the bullet to be crimped into the case. The Remington Core-Lokt bullet uses a thickened belt inside the jacket to help keep the rear part of its lead core in the jacket after expansion. The Hornady Interlock bullet uses an internal ring inside the rear part of the jacket, as well as a cannelure, for the same purpose.
The Barnes Original, Federal Soft Point, Hornady Interlock, Norma Soft Point, Nosler Solid Base, Remington Core-Lokt, Speer Hot-Core, Winchester Power Point, Sierra Pro-Hunter and GameKing bullets are all jacketed, lead core, soft point bullets of basically conventional construction. The Hornady SST, Nosler Ballistic Tip, Winchester/CT Ballistic Silvertip, Remington Bronze Point and AccuTip are similar, but use a bronze or plastic tip to increase BC and initiate expansion. These are usually very accurate bullets. It is probably easier to assure good concentricity and uniformity during production than with bullets of more complicated design.
Bonded core bullets
Some modern bullets are essentially soft points with the lead core bonded or fused to the jacket, so that it cannot separate as the bullet expands. The idea here is to have good expansion (similar to a standard soft point bullet) and high weight retention for deep penetration. Bonded core bullet are available from Federal/Fusion, Hornady, Norma, Nosler, Remington, Speer, Swift, Woodleigh and Winchester, among others.
Some bullet designs use two part cores with jacket material partitions in-between them to ensure adequate weight retention for deep penetration. Nosler's Partition was the first such bullet of which I am aware. The other well known bullet of this type is the Swift A-Frame. Such bullets are more expensive to make than normal cup and draw bullets jacketed bullets.
In the case of the Nosler Partition, the internal partition is integral with the jacket and formed from a gilding metal slug of the appropriate diameter and size by impact extrusion. Lead alloy cores are then inserted into both ends of the jacket and the bullet is shaped to its final dimensions. I have seen this process at the Nosler plant in Bend, Oregon.
I have not visited Swift, but I would assume their process is similar, except they start with pure copper, rather than gilding metal. They also bond the lead core to the bullet jacket, even though a heavy partition prevents rear core expansion in their A-Frame bullet.
Partition bullets are, in a sense, the best of both worlds for mixed Class 2 and Class 3 game hunts. They are also widely used for hunting Class 4 dangerous predators, such as Alaskan brown bear. The front half of the bullet can be designed to expand nicely in medium size animals, while the partition positively prevents the back half of the bullet from expanding at all, assuring good penetration in large animals.
Homogenous copper bullets
Homogeneous bullets made from solid copper or gilding metal are becoming more popular and are legally mandated in some anti-hunting states. (There is no scientific reason for lead bullet bans, it is just political harassment.) The Barnes X-Bullet was the first popular copper bullet and it used a deep hollow point to peel back the nose of the bullet in four "petals" to simulate terminal expansion. Since the bullet cannot over expand or lose its core, the X-bullet quickly gained a reputation for very deep penetration and high weight retention.
The advantage is, being monolithic--either solid copper, as in the Barnes line, or gilding metal, as in the Winchester, Nosler and Hornady lines--they penetrate very deeply with limited expansion (other things being equal). This is why they are excellent for very large game, including Class 4 thick-skinned animals, such as bison and buffalo.
However, there are several disadvantages, the first being that they don't expand as readily or as much as conventional jacketed, lead core bullets. Thus, on medium game they tend to expand less than conventional lead core bullets and shoot right through the animal on broadside heart/lung shots, wasting a good bit of their energy and killing power on the scenery behind the animal and leaving a narrower wound channel.
Since copper is not as heavy as lead, a copper bullet of equal weight in a given caliber is longer than a lead core bullet and must be seated deeper in the case, reducing powder capacity. It also puts the neck of the case farther up the bullet and possibly onto the ogive, where it cannot be crimped, in rifles with short magazines or chambers.
Pure copper bullets leave copper residue in the bore when fired and this not only degrades accuracy, it is difficult to remove. Solid copper bullets are somewhat worse in this respect than the slightly harder gilding metal bullets. If you use a copper solvent to remove this residue, the solvent will attack your brass cleaning brush or the copper bristles in your Bore Snake. Barnes began coating the outside of second generation X-Bullets with a dry blue lubricant to reduce this problem. The next improvement (third generation) was to cut three wide bands in the bullet shank to reduce the bearing surface and give the copper displaced by the lands somewhere to go, besides the grooves in the rifle barrel. This became the TSX-Bullet, which is the standard Barnes copper bullet as I write these words. There is also a plastic tipped version of the TSX designed to improve BC and more positively initiate expansion.
Most of the other major bullet manufacturers have followed Barnes' lead and added homogeneous bullets to their lines, either pure copper or gilding metal. Most copy the TSX style bands in the bullet shank and have a hollow point or plastic tip to peel open the bullet's nose on impact.
I will now briefly cover some of the bullets offered by the major bullet manufacturers.
The A-Square Company offera a "Triad" of premium round nose bullets that are identical in SD and BC in any given caliber and weight. This allows all three to be used as required in the same rifle without a change in the point of impact. One bullet is a homogenious solid for elephant, rhino and buffalo. Another is the "Lion Load" bullet, designed to penetrate and then fragment for great stopping power on the big cats. The third is a sophisticated all-around design called the "Dead Tough." The latter is designed for deep penetration and controlled expansion in big, tough animals. The Dead Tough has earned an excellent repuation as a general purpose bullet for large African game
The Triple Shock (TSX) is an improved version of the earlier X-Bullet and is easily identified by the three wide grooves around the shank of the bullet. These are designed to reduce the bullet's friction during its trip down the barrel and also reduce copper fouling. The Triple Shock is a pure copper, hollow point projectile. Its basic form is a spitzer flat base, although some examples have a boat-tail.
The hollowed-out tip of the bullet splits along four lines and peels back to create a mushroom effect, while the solid body of the bullet insures deep penetration. The tip is designed to mushroom at impact velocities over 1,600 fps, and to roughly double its original diameter at impact velocities of at least 1,800 fps. The TSX has proven suitable for CXP2 class game (deer, antelope, black bear), CXP3 class animals (elk, kudu, moose) and even for Class 4 (thick-skinned dangerous) game in appropriate calibers. The Triple Shock X-Bullet seems to be accurate and provides very deep penetration, good expansion and retains 70-100% of its original weight. TSX-Bullets are available in various styles for nearly all calibers from .22 to .45.
There is also a plastic tipped version of the TSX bullet, the Tipped TSX. This provides a somewhat higher BC and somewhat faster expansion than the hollow point TSX.
The Barnes LRX is similar to the Tipped TSX, but with a further improved BC. These are long bullets with a substantial boat-tail. The terminal performance is similar to the Tipped TSX.
Federal Ammunition offers proprietary bullets. The Trophy Bonded Bear Claw, designed by Jack Carter, is perhaps the best known. It is designed for deep penetration and for use on Class 2 to Class 4 class game. The front approximately 55% of the bullet resembles a normal soft point bullet with a bonded lead core; the shank of the bullet is solid hard copper. In cross section it looks like the front half of a Nosler Partition married to the shank of a Barnes X-Bullet. It is intended to perform in a manner similar to the Nosler Partition and Swift A-Frame. The Trophy Bonded Tip is similar, but adds a plastic tip to initiate expansion.
The Trophy Copper is a solid copper alloy (gilding metal?) bullet with four shank bands instead of the three bands seen on the Barnes TSX. It is useful for a similar range of animals.
The Soft Point is Federal's conventional jacketed bullet with an exposed lead tip. It is loaded in the popularly priced Power-Shok ammunition line. Also available in a few calibers in the Power-Shok line is a jacketed Hollow Point bullet. These conventional bullets are suitable for hunting Class 2 game and, in appropriate calibers with the heavier weight bullets, for Class 3 game.
The Fusion is Federal's latest popular priced bullet, loaded only in Fusion brand ammunition. Its core is fused (bonded) to the plated jacket by electro-chemical means. Fusion bullets are intended to perform much like other bonded core bullets of the same caliber and weight. There is also a Fusion Safari line that is specifically intended for the largest animals.
Hornady InterLock bullets are of conventional jacketed soft point design with a cannelure and the addition of a small raised edge on the inside of the jacket near the base of the bullet (the InterLock) to help prevent core slippage during expansion. This is a well proven bullet design suitable for all Class 2 and Class 3 animals in appropriate calibers and bullet weights. InterLock bullets come in round nose, flat point and pointed (Spire Point) styles in most calibers.
A variation of the InterLock is the SP-RP (spire point - recoil proof), designed for use in hard recoiling, medium bore rifles and on heavy game. This tough, lead core, InterLock type, spire point bullet lacks an exposed lead tip to prevent its being battered in the magazine. It is made only in .338, .358, 9.3mm (.366) and .375 calibers.
The SST is an Interlock type bullet with a red plastic tip and a boat tail base. It features an extremely high BC and faster expansion than the standard, lead tipped, InterLock bullet. It is available in most calibers.
Hornady InterBond bullets are visually similar to Hornady's plastic tipped SST bullets, but lack a cannelure. Internally they are constructed more like a Remington Core-Lokt Ultra. They have a red plastic tip, tapered jacket with a very heavy midsection and a lead core bonded to the jacket. They feature high ballistic coefficients combined with good weight retention. They are a good choice for high velocity calibers and mixed bag Class 2 and Class 3 hunts.
The GMX is a homogeneous gilding metal bullet with a red plastic tip and two bands in its shank. It is intended to compete with the Barnes TSX and other homogeneous copper or gilding metal bullets. The Mono-Flex is a variation of the GMX with a soft plastic tip suitable for use in rifles with tubular magazines. These bullets feature deep penetration.
FTX is the bullet factory loaded in Hornady LeverEvolution ammunition. It is a jacketed, lead core, InterLock type bullet with a flexible elastomer tip that allows use in rifles with tubular magazines (Winchester 94, Marlin 336, etc.). Most have boat-tails to maximize BC and look like SST bullets. Performance on Class 2 and Class 3 game has proven to be excellent.
MonoFlex is a combination of the GMX and FTX bullets. It is a solid gilding metal bullet with a Flex Tip for use in tubular magazine rifles.
The DGX (dangerous game expanding) bullets were developed specifically for Class 4 game. They use the copper clad steel jackets and hard lead cores of the Hornady DGS (solid, non-expanding) bullets, but have an exposed lead flat point intended to expand on initial impact. The result is controlled expansion and deep penetration.
Norma of Sweden is now offering a bonded core bullet to reloaders and in some of its factory loads. This is the Oryx, a flat point design that looks like a spitzer bullet with the usual lead point eliminated, much like the old Speer Mag-Tip. This bullet expands rapidly, so penetration is similar to a conventional soft point bullet, but the Oryx retains around 80-100% of its initial weight, depending on the impact velocity.
Norma also offers conventional Soft Point bullets and the Vulkan, a design that folds the jacket into the core at the front of the bullet to delay expansion. This bullet's jacket also incorporates a crimping cannelure plus a crimp in the shank of the jacket to retain the antimony hardened lead core. Norma claims 2x expansion for this bullet.
Nosler pioneered a premium bullet design with a jacket that has an internal partition that completely separates the front part of the core from the rear part. The front of the bullet (roughly 60%) is designed for rapid expansion, like a soft point, while the shank of the bullet below the partition is not intended to expand at all. The Nosler Partition bullet has proven to be the best of both worlds, combining quick expansion for good stopping power with deep penetration over a wide range of velocities. Partition bullets recovered from game animals typically retain about 65% of their original weight. The Nosler Partition is suitable for CXP2 and CXP3 class game at a wide range of velocities.
CIL's defunct Saber Tip bullets were the first to use a plastic tip to streamline the nose of a spitzer bullet and help initiate expansion. Nosler adopted the idea for their very successful Ballistic Tip bullets. Ballistic Tip bullets are otherwise of conventional tapered jacket construction and do not have an internal partition. They are, in my experience, generally more accurate than the Partition bullets and have a high BC. The plastic tip caught on and has since been copied by many other bullet makers. Most Ballistic Tips expand rapidly and are primarily intended for hunting Class 2 game. The color of the plastic tip varies by caliber.
Nosler AccuBond bullets look like Ballistic Tip bullets, but have a white plastic tip. Their core is bonded to a jacket that thickens internally for superior weight retention, typically 60-70%, over a wide range of velocities. Nosler advertises that the AccuBond is equivalent to the famous Partition in performance and application.
AccuBond Long Range (LR) bullets perform like other AccuBond bullets upon impact, but feature higher BC's due to a long boat-tail and a tangent ogive. They are identified by a grey plastic tip.
E-Tip is Nosler's homogeneous gilding metal tipped bullet. It is equivalent to the Hornady GMX or Barnes TSX-Tipped bullets and features very deep penetration. All E-Tips are boat-tail designs that perform best when driven at high velocity. Here is an interesting comment about the E-Tip from a Guns and Shooting Online reader:
"I have used the 180 grain Nosler Partition in .300 Weatherby and it is a good bullet. I now use the 180 Nosler E-Tip in .300 WSM. The E-Tip knocks elk and deer down with more authority then any rifle bullet combination I have ever seen or been around. More energy into the animal and I have yet to recover a bullet, as all have passed through. I have hit bone in the shoulder at 225 yards and found 6 to 8 inch shards of bone in a radial shotgun pattern coming out of the animal on the far side. To say that I have been impressed is an understatement. Guides on two occasions have commented on the fact that it is an incredible Elk bullet. I used the original Barnes-X and had mixed experiences. It is hard to believe the difference in performance based on my experience between the Barnes-X and the Nosler E-Tip. We are not talking about simple improvements, but bullets that come from different worlds."
Nosler's Solid Dangerous Game bullet is a homogeneous, flat point, non-expanding design. It features a concentric design with a precision cut band to prevent bullet setback from heavy recoil. The Solid is designed to match the ballistic performance of equivalent Partition bullets in the same caliber and weight to achieve near identical points of impact at the same velocity.
Remington has shown a good deal of creativity in bullet design. With their famous Core-Lokt bullet they pioneered a soft point bullet with an internal belt, or thickening, of the jacket about midway between the tip and base. This has proved to be an excellent design, allowing good expansion of the front part of the bullet, but usually retaining the core below the belt for decent penetration. The Core-Lokt comes in a wide variety of bullet styles, including flat point, round nose and Pointed Soft Point (spitzer) types for practically all calibers. It is suitable for use on Class 2 and Class 3 game in appropriate calibers and with appropriate weight bullets. The regular Core-Lokt bullet will give better expansion and faster kills on Class 2 game than the bonded core Core-Lokt Ultra, particularly at lower impact velocities.
Remington also offers the tougher Core-Lokt Ultra premium bullet, which combines an inner-belted Core-Lokt type jacket with a bonded core to insure high weight retention (Remington claims up to 90%) with 1.8x expansion. The Core-Lokt Ultra jacket is 20% thicker than a regular Core-Lokt jacket and the inner belt is 50% thicker. This new Ultra bullet is intended for high velocity applications and Class 3 game, while still providing adequate expansion on medium size (Class 2) game at normal velocities.
Long ago Remington pioneered the use of a hard tip to further streamline certain spitzer bullets and act as a wedge to initiate expansion on impact. This is the Bronze Point bullet and it is still being made today in a few calibers. The Bronze Point does not have the Core-Lokt's inner belted jacket and is generally recommended for Class 2 game.
A newer tipped bullet from Remington is the Accu-Tip, which uses a gold color polymer tip and a boat tail in most calibers. It looks like the Hornady SST bullet, cannelure and all. Like other tipped bullets, the Accu-Tip is a quick opening design generally most suitable for Class 2 animals.
Remington's proprietary homogeneous (lead free) bullet is the Copper Solid. This is a polymer tipped, boat-tail bullet with two bands in the shank, like the Hornady GMX. Like others of the type, it delivers very deep penetration and up to 1.8x expansion at high impact velocities.
Sierra Pro-Hunter bullets are the best selling bullets on the market. They are conventional soft point bullets with tapered jackets and flat bases. They are known for accuracy and fast expansion, which leads to quick kills on Class 2 game. Pro-Hunters come in flat point, semi-pointed, hollow point, round nose and spitzer form, depending on caliber and intended use. In appropriate calibers, the heavy Pro-Hunters have harder cores, thicker jackets and are suitable for Class 3 animals.
Sierra GameKing bullets are conventional soft point or hollow point spitzers with tapered jackets and feature high ballistic coefficients. All are boat tail designs. Their terminal performance and application is similar to Pro-Hunter bullets, producing quick kills on Class 2 game. GameKing bullets intended for larger game have heavier jackets and harder cores (lead alloyed with a higher percentage of antimony). The .375 caliber, 300 grain spitzer boat-tail, for example, has an extra-heavy, double-taper jacket and a core of 3% antimony lead alloy. Sierra bullets have a reputation for extreme accuracy, which I have found is deserved. When I receive letters from readers with accuracy problems, often my first suggestion is to try a Sierra bullet.
Speer Boat-Tail bullets are conventional jacketed, lead core bullets with soft points. They are designed with high BC's for long range shooting. They expand more easily than the other Speer big game bullets and are intended for use on Class 2 game, especially whitetail deer and pronghorn antelope.
Speer Hot-Cor bullets are made by pouring a molten lead core into a gilding metal jacket, rather than swaging the jacket cup around a solid lead core. This process is supposed to eliminate voids and make for an accurate bullet. The Hot-Cor is a conventional soft point bullet, not a bonded core design. This is Speer's standard big game bullet. It is suitable for a wide variety of Class 2 and Class 3 game, depending on caliber and bullet weight.
The DeepCurl features a jacket electro-chemically bonded to a lead core at the molecular level. These are flat base bullets. Most are spitzers without an exposed lead tip. They are suitable for Class 2 and Class 3 game in appropriate calibers and bullet weights. DeepCurl appears to be the equivalent of Federal Fusion bullets for reloaders.
Speer Grand Slam premium bullets are designed for high impact velocities and controlled expansion. They typically show a weight retention of about 55-85%. Grand Slam bullets have a heavy tapered jacket with a thick shank and a "heel lock" to aid in core retention. They also have internal fluting at the mouth of the jacket to initiate expansion. The bullet's proprietary ternary lead alloy core is injected into the jacket at 900 degrees F using Speer's Hot-Core process. There is also a cannelure to help retain the core during penetration. The Grand Slam is a flat base spitzer without an exposed lead tip, rather like the discontinued Mag-Tip. It may not kill light framed animals as quickly as a Hot-Cor bullet, or penetrate as deep as a Federal Trophy Bonded Bear Claw bullet in heavy game, but it is a good, general purpose premium bullet.
Swift bonds the lead core of their second generation Scirocco II bullet to a heavy, tapered, pure copper jacket. This prevents separation of the jacket and core to insure good weight retention (84%+) for deep penetration and up to 2.5x caliber expansion. The Sirocco II uses a polymer tip and a boat tail base to achieve rapid expansion and a very high BC. Reliable expansion occurs from impact velocities of 1750 fps to 3000+ fps. The idea of a bonded core, plastic tip bullet has been copied by other bullet manufacturers.
Swift's premium A-Frame bullet combines a heavy jacket bonded to a pure lead core with a Nosler-like partition in the middle of the bullet that positively stops expansion at that point. The jacket is crimped over the heel of the bullet. This bullet is particularly recommended for use on tough game at magnum velocities and usually retains an extremely high percentage (90%+) of its original weight. It is also supposed to perform satisfactorily at lower impact velocities.
Swift also offers "Lever Action Series" A-Frame bullets, designed for use in rifles with tubular magazines. These have thinner front jackets at the bullet's flat point to aid expansion at impact velocities as low as 1250 fps to initiate expansion and about 1800 fps for a decent mushroom. Swift claims they will function properly at impact velocities up to approximately 2700 fps and are suitable for animals from deer to dangerous game, depending on caliber. Available in calibers .30-30, .348, .45-70, .475 and .509
The Power Point is Winchester's conventional soft point bullet with a contoured gilding metal jacket and a notched jacket nose for uniform expansion. It is appropriate for Class 2 and Class 3 game, depending on the specific caliber and bullet weight, especially at medium range.
Power Max Bonded is like a Power Point with the addition of a bonded core for superior weight retention. It has a soft lead core bonded to a gilding metal jacket. It shares the Power Point's notched jacket nose, but eliminates the exposed lead tip in favor of a very shallow hollow point tip. The result looks rather like a Speer Mag-Tip bullet. Winchester particularly recommends this bullet for relatively close range shooting.
Winchester offers the Ballistic Silvertip bullet, which is made by Nosler as part of the Combined Technologies arrangement. between Nosler and Winchester. This is basically a Nosler Ballistic Tip bullet with a silver-gray colored polycarbonate tip and a black oxide (Lubalox) coating. Its BC, SD and usage are identical to the equivalent Nosler Ballistic Tip bullets. The Ballistic Silvertip has replaced the old Silvertip bullet (a soft point type) in Winchester ammunition and it is Winchester's recommended long range bullet.
The AccuBond CT (Combined Technologies) is a black oxide "Lubalox" coated version of the Nosler AccuBond. It is a tipped, bonded lead core bullet identical in performance to the Nosler AccuBond.
Power Core is homogeneous gilding metal (95% copper, 5% zinc) bullet with a protected hollow point tip and a small boat-tail base. Like other solid copper-alloy bullets, typical weight retention is near 100%. It is offered in calibers and bullet weights most suitable for Class 2 game, such as .243/90, .270/130, 7mm/140 and .30/150. Externally and in cross-section, the Power Core looks much like an original Barnes X-Bullet.
Winchester's XP3 is sort of the reverse of Federal's Trophy Bonded Tip bullet, in that it is a plastic tipped bullet with a lead core in the base of the bullet and a solid gilding metal front half. Imagine a Barnes Tipped TSX front half (sans grooves) with a Nosler Partition back half. The intended application is similar to the Trophy Bonded Tip, Class 2 and Class 3 animals depending on caliber and bullet weight. XP3 is a high BC boat-tail bullet with Lubalox coating.
The Extreme Point, used in Winchester Deer Season XP ammunition, is a lead core, gilding metal jacketed spitzer bullet with a flat base and an extra large polymer tip. It is designed for use on thin-skinned Class 2 game (specifically North American deer), opening quickly against light resistance and causing a wide wound cavity for quick kills. Available calibers include .243, .270, 7mm and .30.
The Woodleigh Weldcore is a premium, bonded core, soft nose bullet made in Australia. It uses a 1.6mm thick gilding metal jacket to which a 100% lead core is bonded. 80-85% weight retention is claimed. It is designed primarily for use on heavy game. The Weldcore is made in the most common small and medium bore diameters from .270 to .375 and a great variety of big bore calibers from .411 to .700. Woodleigh also offers an extensive line of solid (FMJ) bullets.
Bullets for medium size big game
A good bullet for Class 2 game, such as deer, goats, antelope and sheep, should ideally expand to about twice its original diameter and create a wide wound channel that destroys the maximum amount of tissue on its way through the animal's lungs. A bullet that fragments inside the vitals and scatters bits of lead and jacket material all through the animal's heart/lung area will kill quicker than one which creates a long, narrow wound channel through the lungs and exits the far side. However, the bullet must not fragment before reaching the vitals, which is why varmint bullets are not suitable for shooting even the smaller species of big game. For light framed Class 2 animals, a quick expanding bullet that dumps the maximum amount of energy into the heart/lung area usually gives the quickest kills.
The Federal Soft Point and Fusion, Hornady SST and Interlock, Norma Soft Point, Nosler Ballistic Tip, Remington AccuTip and Core-Lokt, Sierra Pro-Hunter and Game King, Speer Hot-Core and DeepCurl, Winchester Power Point and Ballistic Silvertip are all examples of popular bullets that deliver the rapid expansion necessary for quick kills on medium size animals. These bullets are a particularly good choice for a standard velocity rifles and are suitable for magnum rifles in the heavier weights, particularly at long range. They also kill large Class 3 game quite well with broadside lung shots, but are less effective than bonded or partitioned bullets if they hit heavy bones or must penetrate the paunch on their way to the vitals.
The Federal Fusion, Hornady InterLock and Remington Core-Lokt enjoy a reputation for deeper penetration than most conventional bullets and are considered a particularly good choice for the tougher species of Class 2 game, such as black bear and wild hogs. They are also often used on mixed bag hunts that may include Class 3 game. Ballistic gelatin tests have indicated that conventional soft point bullets offer good penetration and expansion, about on a par with most of the premium bullets, at moderate impact velocities around 2,000 fps.
General purpose bullets for high velocities and mixed bag hunts
Bullets that offer good weight retention combined with good expansion are appropriate for both Class 2 and Class 3 class game. The new generation of bonded core bullets, such as the Federal Fusion, Hornady InterBond, Norma Oryx, Nosler AccuBond, Remington Core-Lokt Ultra, Speer DeepCurl and Swift Scirocco, are examples of such bullets.
The Nosler Partition, Speer Grand Slam and Norma Vulkan are also in this same general category, although they lack a bonded core. The Nosler Partition is particularly versatile and has long been considered top performing, general purpose bullet.
The Nosler Partition, Federal Trophy Bonded and Swift A-Frame bullets are expensive, but have earned an enviable reputation on all sorts of game worldwide, including dangerous game. They produce a deep wound channel, as well as a reasonably large expansion cavity. These and other bullets of complicated design (the discontinued dual-core Grand Slam, Winchester XP3, etc.) are, however, often not quite as accurate as more conventional bullets.
Bullets for heavy game
For the deep penetration required to reach the vitals of the most heavily built animals, premium bullets like the A-Square Dead Tough, Barnes TSX (and similar homogeneous bullets), Federal Trophy Bonded, Hornady DGX and SP-RP, Nosler Partition and E-Tip, Swift A-Frame and Woodleigh Weldcore come into their own. These bullets are excellent for use on large and heavy animals worldwide. They will kill medium size game like deer and antelope, but usually not as quickly as conventional soft point or plastic tipped bullets. For more on killing power, see my article The Killing Power of Big Game Bullets.
Fortunately, modern bullets from the major American bullet makers generally perform very well for their intended purpose. Choose a bullet intended for the type of game you are hunting and it will probably do its job, if you do yours.
Copyright 2001, 2018 by Chuck Hawks. All rights reserved.