The Column, No. 9:

The Most Important Factor

By C. William Drum

Aren't you just tired of it? What is more important: shot placement, caliber, bullet weight, ballistic coefficient, sectional density, velocity, or what? I'll tell you what: hunting in an area that has the game you are seeking, that's what! Trust me, if there is nothing to shoot at, the rest does not matter.

Seriously, I get tired of the big bullet versus high velocity debate. One person mandates that bullet placement is the most important factor in making a clean one shot kill. A shot through the vital organs is a guaranteed kill. Another devises his "Technical Formula" to demonstrate how you don't have to pick one caliber, you just have to arrive at the magical number. His number. And of course the high velocity gurus measure success in the shortness of barrel life, absolute in their belief that super high velocity kills merely by its presence.

Combine that velocity with a big bullet and you have yet another school of thought on how to effectively take big game--only you've gotta be a direct descendent of Hercules to take the recoil. Let's not even try and discuss the definition of "Big Game." We will leave that for another day.

Now let's take that big bullet, give it the "proper" shape and construction and drive it at, well, some say at just about any velocity, and it is a killer for sure. Touch any game animal anywhere on its body with such a bullet (no need to worry about shot placement--that's for sissies with smaller caliber rifles) and it will shiver and die on the spot.

By now you are getting the picture, so here is my view on the subject. I think there are several items that are indeed critical to clean effective game kills. One is not more important than the other. They must all be in place for the results to be positive. Arguing that the most important part of a rifle is the barrel will not take you far if you remove the firing pin.

The combination of events that takes place when we effectively harvest game animals is one that has become so efficient that we now not only take them for granted, we argue that one is better than another. Let us have a look. Rather than go into tedious detail about the technicalities of each specific quality, I will look at the extremes to make my point.

Caliber? Does caliber matter? Well, shoot a charging Cape buffalo with a .22 short and you may form an opinion on this one. Yes sir, it matters. Some states even legislate the minimum caliber you can use on deer or other "big game." (Maybe I should have defined it. OK, let's say deer/antelope class animals weighing more than 100 pounds on the hoof.)

Sectional Density? Does sectional density matter? Shoot a bullet with a sectional density of .002 or some such, and chances are it will be lighter than air. I do not think you are going to hit what you aimed at.

Ballistic Coefficient? Design a square bullet and let me know how effective it is down range.

Velocity? How does 175 feet per second sound? Just think how long the barrel will last. That is, if the bullet makes it out.

Bullet Construction - How about play dough? Picture the Cape buffalo again.

Functional Rifle? Remember the part about removing the firing pin?

Shot Placement? Can you miss fast enough to kill anything? I hope that by now you get the picture.

I think that all of the component parts are important. Now, the inevitable response, "But I want the best big game cartridge." Sorry, dead is dead. There is no such thing as deader or deaderer. My dad killed many deer with a 30-30, and it remains a superb deer cartridge.

New cartridges come and some fade away, but all of them have one thing in common. OK. Not one thing, they all have several things in common and that is why they work.

But like I said in the beginning, the most important factor is . . . there's has to be something to shoot!

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Copyright 2004 by C. William Drum and/or All rights reserved.