Precision Rifle "Dead Center" Bullets

By Randy Wakeman

Dead Center
Photo by Randy Wakeman.

I first became of relative newcomer to the muzzleloading bullet making industry, "PR Bullet" through the writings of Ian McMurchy. Cecil Epp, a Canadian who runs his home based bullet outfit from Manitoba, came to the bullet business from a background as a real estate salesman. Over the last couple of years I've tested more muzzleloading rifles with "Dead Center" bullets, and harvested more game with them than most, so I'll do my best to describe what they are and what they are not.

Fundamentally they are swaged, pure lead, saboted bullets. Being pure lead, their composition is not fundamentally different from other swaged bullets. The PR Bullet line is essentially similar to the Buffalo SSB augmented by a polymer tip. One of the advantages of pure lead is that it expands easily, even at moderate velocities. The addition of a polymer tip makes them look sexier and improves the ballistic coefficient somewhat, but in a lead bullet it has little to do with terminal performance.

Unfortunately, I have found the stated ballistic coefficients of Dead Center bullets to be inflated by 40 to 50% over verified chrono-to-chrono results. Tests out of a Thompson Omega revealed a .217 BC for a Hornady .40 caliber 200 grain SST, but only .192 BC for the 220 grain Dead Center. Astonishingly, PR Bullet claims a BC of .325 for this bullet! Anyone who can get this BC out of a 220 grain Dead Center bullet must be doing their chronograph work on the moon.

Lead saboted bullets clock universally slower muzzle velocities than their jacketed counterparts. The claim has been made that the Dead Centers are "designed for pass-through performance." Well, that has certainly not been the case for me. They have almost always stayed in the animal. I have, however, found Dead Centers to be accurate bullets. They are extremely well made and uniform in weight that sometimes my Lyman scale does not move at all from bullet to bullet.

There is a ballistic advantage in using smaller caliber bullets, but there are drawbacks as well. The orange "PR Bullet" sabot is getting a bit long in the tooth, some three years old by now. The newer MMP blue sabot out shoots it in my battery of test guns, dramatically so in hot weather or with hotter or three pellet charges. The time for an upgrade is long overdue. As it is, those looking for top performance are forced to buy their sabots twice.

One Dead Center, their "duplex" sabot in a sabot .35/50 concoction, has distinguished itself by being able to group satisfactorily in no rifle I've ever tested. The theoretical gain in ballistic coefficient is offset by the increased plastic weight, and it is very hard to kill animals with plastic--doubly so when it doesn't shoot accurately.

PR Bullets have excellent packaging and they come with a little 1/2 cent bullet pusher that keeps the easily scored soft lead from being damaged. Perhaps the best thing about them is their packaging.

For medium game with moderate powder charges, the .40/50 220 and 240 grain bullets do well. I've also had great luck with the .429/.50 green saboted 300 grain Dead Centers with two pellet loads and my Austin & Hallecks love the .45/50 340 DC with the Buffalo SSB sabot. My Savage 10ML-II's shoot the .40/50 260's well if you keep the powder charge light, and do better when the Blue MMP sabots are switched in.

In the end, it is a mixed bag. After this prolonged and extensive testing, I would say that the 340 Dead Center is their best offering. If your style is "double-lung and let them run" you might find favor with the lighter Dead Centers pushed at moderate velocities.

Back to the Muzzleloader Information Page

Copyright 2005 by Randy Wakeman. All rights reserved.