View Full Version : Testing monolithic bullets in Africa

Roman Knoll
October 20, 2004, 10:36 AM
I have just returned from a hunt in South Africa. One of purposes of my trip was to test several newly invented bullets. All these bullets had one thing in common – they were monolithic and made of brass or copper alloys. The reason why I in the first place bothered to use bullets of this kind was planned ban on projectiles containing lead. This ban will be probably imposed in Sweden and in other EU countries soon. All “environmental” gibberish about danger of lead is just a smoke screen to hide intention of curtailing shooting and hunting.

Nevertheless, I was curious about terminal ballistic of these bullets. Manufactures write all kinds of stories regarding their miraculous performance in game. I decided to conduct my test in South Africa since there I would have more chances to shoot something.

I planned to test five different bullets but ended up in trying only three, even though I managed to take six different animals. The results were quite interesting

I hunted with .30-06 bolt action and used only my reloads. Velocities of all my reloads were bit above average factory loads with same bullet weights.

I started with South African made Impala bullet. These are strange bullets intentionally designed NOT TO EXPAND. According to manufacturer (www.impalabullets.co.za), this has been done to reduce meat damage. The issue of meat damage is important to me, because we mainly hunt for venison not for trophies in Sweden.

Impala bullets are light. In .30 caliber there is only one 130 grains bullet to choose. The shape is weird, with sharp conical nose of about 1/3 of bullets length. The bearing part has several driving bands and has bigger diameter than the base of the nose. My load gave 3064 f/s with perfect accuracy.

I was rather afraid of using this bullet on some bigger game and decided to shoot a grey duiker with it. Duiker makes good eating, but is rather small. When hit with conventional bullet from .30-06, the damage to the body is extensive. As it happened, the first game I taken with Impala was a bushbuck. After the shot he jumped one stride and stood there dying (which I did not know at that moment so I finished him with neck shot using another bullet). The first bullet hit slightly farther back than I liked but punctured both lungs. He was not going anywhere, though with bushbuck you never know. Entry and exit holes were caliber size as expected. Autopsy revealed both lungs severely shattered and practically no meat damage.

Following day, I shot Impala ram with this bullet. The ram fell on impact with both shoulders pierced and never moved. Here again – in spite of hit in the bones – the meat damage was nil and lungs trashed. I finally took a duiker and results were similar.

The next bullet I had chance to try was Ferrobull, a Swedish made 180 grains moly-coated bullet, which reminds somewhat of Barnes Triple-Shock. There is slight difference in shape between those two. Ferrobull has blunter nose and is not a boat tail. With Ferrobull (2765 f /s), I managed to take enormous Eland bull with extraordinary effect. Eland is the biggest antelope, weighting about 1500 pounds, and many PHs consider .30-06 rather to small. Nevertheless, my bull run only 35 yards and fell. Ferrobull is designed to expand according to manufacturer, and I expected to recover the bullet. To my surprise, the bullet exited after breaking both shoulders. Both holes were caliber size indicating that there was practically no expansion. This explains why the bullet went through. Total penetration through both shoulders on Eland with expanding bullet from .30-06 is unheard of. What is rather less clear is extent of damage to lungs. Bullet hit slightly above the heart, smashing lungs and arteries. The meat damage was again negligible.

With the third bullet, 180 grains Lapua Naturalis I took two blesbuck rams. The bullet has a thin channel drilled from the point down to 1/3 of bullet length. The entry to the channel is covered by plastic tip. According to manufacturer, this bullet is supposed to expand no sooner than after entering chest cavity, due to hydrodynamic pressure that builds up in the channel. This pressure can build only when bullet reaches tissues full of fluids and hence no premature expansion when passing through bones.

If my experience of taking two animals (mule deer size I should think) is sufficient to judge then I have to admit that Naturalis (2752 f/s) performs as advertised. First blesbuck was hit broadside behind the shoulders. He went down immediately. The bullet expanded and penetrated totally, but amazingly only few ounces of meat was lost on the exit side.

The other blesbuck was deliberately taken with quartering shot from the left rear, which destroyed the heart and right lung. I could recover perfectly mushroomed (albeit slightly bent) bullet from under the skin over smashed shoulder blade.

The perfect performance of Naturalis could be easily explained. This bullet does expand after all. That it expands after penetrating into cavity explains little meat damage on entry side. However, amount of damage to internal organs caused by non-expanding Impala and Ferrobull cannot be explained any other way but that it happened because of driving bands.

I could not try Barnes Triple-Shock on this trip (it has driving bands too). I would be very grateful if someone could share some experience with this bullet.


Rich Lucibella
October 21, 2004, 10:53 AM
Great report and impressive shooting.....I expect no less from guys who hunt to put food on the table.

I'm curious. Given the shoulder and lung shots you were getting, do you really think an expanding bullet would have resulted in that much more lost meat? Also interested in the gun, scope, conditions, rests and terrain. That's all interesting...at least to me.

Thanks for the report.

Roman Knoll
October 21, 2004, 12:01 PM

In my hunting club in Sweden, we do everything ourselves – field dressing, skinning, cleaning, quartering and cutting for freezing. We hunt moose mostly. I have quite extensive “autopsy” experience. Most of the guys use rifles in .30 caliber (.308 Win and .30-06) with sprinkle of 6.5x55 and 7mm. No one uses magnum calibers although I have taken several moose with .375 H&H (Trophy Bonded). Bullets we use are Norma Oryx, Norma Alaska, Norma Vulkan and Nosler Partition. Some colleagues are partial to Lapua Mega. I use only reloads but other chaps shoot with factory ammunition.

Usually, shot through ribs only is considered most “kitchen friendly”, but even with hit behind the shoulder we notice severe bruising with expanding bullets. Not much good meat is lost although the bruises look sometimes rather nasty. Broken shoulder means more meat lost especially on entry side. In most cases front leg is just mincemeat as those parts that we could use for stews and roast are usually gone.

That is why performance of bullets I wrote about in my report surprised me so much. I am going to shoot those bullets into gelatin to see more, even though the field test (with all its limitations) was satisfactory.

During my hunt I used my custom takedown .30-06, build on FN Mauser action. The rifle was equipped with Redfield 4-9x40 scope. As usual in South Africa, I shot from the sticks even though the distances weren’t that long – never exceeding 100 yards (this was unusual). For all loads with 180 grains bullets, I use Vihtavuori N550 powder. Light Impala load called for faster propellant, which in this case was Norma 202. I never tried US manufactured powders since they are virtually unobtainable in Sweden.

The preserves I hunt in South Africa are located in Eastern Cape Province. I hunt there regularly almost every year. What nice about Eastern Cape is that you have all kinds of landscape there, ranging from bushveld to open plains. Population of game is enormous and trophy quality excellent. I don’t care for this that .much but most of heads I took during all these years qualify for SCI or Rowland Ward. I was lucky, I guess.


Rich Lucibella
October 21, 2004, 02:29 PM
Well done...I now understand the meat issue, thanks.

That 4X9 seems like an awful lot of glass, if you need to take a running shot. However, I'd bet you're well much up to the task.

Again, great report. Bring us more.

Roman Knoll
October 22, 2004, 03:56 AM

My scopes are variables (3 to 9 or 4 to 9 mostly) so when I expect running shots I usually set them down to lowest magnification. In Africa, shooting game in motion is seldom a case. PHs do lot of shooting at running game to fix up clients’ screw-ups.

In Sweden, we shoot at running game quite often. I never do this when game is further than 80-90 yards away. We have shooting ranges equipped with running targets – moose silhouette in natural size, 80-meter distance.

Every year we qualify (in some clubs it is mandatory) according to following scenario. You load your rifle with four cartridges. Initially, the target is stationary. You shoot one shot. The target starts to run immediately after your first shot. Now you have to reload and shot it once again while it is running. The target is “double headed” so you do this routine twice – once when it is moving from left to right and repeat the same when it is running from right to left. Only hits in lung – heart area count. If you miss one shot, the whole 4-shot string does not count. To qualify, you need to shoot at least three approved strings.

Of course, scenario like this conditions you for shooting game running through open spaces. In dense forest like in the place where I hunt, this target leading method can get you in trouble. It is impossible to lead and figure out deflection when target disappears behind the trees and then pops up again in some gap. What you have to do is to identify possible gap that game is likely to pass through and be ready with you rifle pointing there. You shoot when you see the target entering the gap, allowing for necessary deflection. You can shoot like this with scoped rifle, but I prefer red dot sights. The reason is that you may aim with both eyes opened and see movement of the target better. When distance is below 100 yards, you do not need magnification of a scope.


Rich Lucibella
October 22, 2004, 09:01 AM
That's why I asked about the glass. The alternative, as far as I was once concerned, is the Scout scope....enough magnification for the shot out past 200 yds, but very quick on the close runner also.

I've since gotten away from the Scout scopes....my last trip to Tanzania demonstrated that they simply do not provide enough light at the most important times: dusk and dawn.

Am now a fan of the Leupold 1.75 X 6. Like you, I always keep it cranked down to the lowest power, as I've found that when I need magnification there's inevitably time to crank up as I get into position.

Roman Knoll
October 23, 2004, 01:31 AM

I could not agree more.

Once I took “Scout” like scope with me to Africa. It was excellent Svarovski 1- 4x, with illuminated reticule. I had no problems using it in full daylight even when taking shots above 200 yards.

One evening, while waiting for bushpigs over bait, we discovered magnificent bushbuck (16” plus) in dense cover on the other side of the gorge, about 250 yards away. I could hardly see it with naked eye and even through the scope, I could not make it out against the background. Fortunately, I could borrow my friend’s rifle with bigger scope and take this magnificent trophy.

All this is connected to my idea of universal rifle. I know that “one rifle to hunt everything” is anathema for American hunters but makes lot of sense for us Europeans, especially those who travel a lot.

Imagine following. In countries like Germany or Poland (where I hunt from time to time) daylight hunt are usually driven (dogs and beaters). You have to shoot at game, which moves fast but on very close distances. Scope is useless and people shoot with open sights. I cannot use open sights because I do not see that well nowadays so I opt for Aimpoint.

Most of individual hunting is conducted during moonlight nights. You need scope with magnification and high light transfer capability to see anything. Duplex reticule, which is ok during daylight, would be practically useless in the night. That is why some high-class European scopes have those thick three post reticules, sometimes called “German One”. For good light transfer you need huge diameter lenses. Most commonly used combination is 8 times magnification with 56 mm objective.

To be prepared for all such eventualities, I have built myself a custom, takedown .30-06. I consider this cartridge fully adequate for all game that does not fight back, which I can shoot on manageable for me distances. To make this rifle truly versatile I equipped it with sight system based on several detachable mounts, especially designed to hold zero no matter what. I have detachable butt comb to adjust stock to the height of different mounts.

Therefore, for daylight driven hunts and dense cover job I have Aimpont red dot sights. For shooting in the night I can switch to Svarovski 8x56 with thick reticule. When I go to Africa, where I expect long distance shot, I mount Redfield variable 3-9x40. I even have reserve peep sights – the only kind of open sights I can still use. Besides, detachable mounts (that hold zero) make much sense when you travel by air. You may take you scopes in hand luggage and avoid them being clobbered in the rifle case.


Rich Lucibella
October 23, 2004, 08:46 AM
I think I WANT that gun! I'm in your camp on the one rifle idea. Though I hunt with a Scout concept Winchester Model 70 in .308, a traditional glassed Kimber in .308, and iron sighted 45-70 and .50 Alaskans...if I had to be limited to just one rifle it would be my Blaser .338.

The reason I own no 30.06 rifles is because of the long action. I find modern +P .308's can do everything the traditional commercial 30.06 can. (No comparison to 30.06 hand loads.) I agree that the 30.06 is an outstanding caliber and I certainly wouldn't feel "deprived" if sent into the field with one.

But, for me to move to a long action, I'd prefer a quantum leap in energy. For me, that's the .338. The Blaser is light enough for all day field carry; hits hard enough for Cape Buff and the loading selection is varied enough even for small game. (Last year's deer, taken with custom loaded Barnes X bullets, showed far less internal damage than my hunting partner's animal, hit with the outstanding .257 Roberts Ackley Improved.) Incidently, the same Barnes X from that rifle handily put away the world's 2nd largest Eland, expanding in classic fashion.

As to sights and comb to sight height, you are, in fact, where I'd like to be. The Blaser does sport a custom Scout scope mount in addition to the factory scope mount. I can easily switch from one to the other and have yet to see the zero change. Still, I'd give up that Scout alternative for a good set of iron ghost rings in a heartbeat. As I said before, the normal scope is a Leupold 1.75X6. Other than viewing/identifying game through the scope (a "no-no" that we ALL do), I can't imagine requiring upwards of 6 power for any range that I can hit at. By comparison to you, these are more "preferences" than differences in our thinking.

The one thing that you point out which gets me more blank stares than anything is the importance of matching comb height to sight line. People just don't believe that, other than a crisp trigger, this counts more toward quick and accurate shooting than any single factor. Even the manufacturers seem to have forgotten this...it's just amazing how many rifles sport an iron sight comb but are set up predominantly for scopes. I include Blaser in this, unfortunately, and the major benefit of the Scout Scope on it is that it sits so very low.

Image here: http://thefiringline.com/Misc/tanzania/blaser_scout.jpg
Closeups of mount here: http://thefiringline.com/Misc/tanzania/blaser_mount1.jpg
and here:


Roman Knoll
October 24, 2004, 02:22 AM

Yes, detachable (or adjustable) comb spoils looks of a rifle and that is probably the reason. My gunsmith is fanatic for fitting rifles to shooter’s body. He considers this as much important as fitting a shotgun. I never thought about this until I got a rifle build especially for me. It fits like glove and handles well in spite of rather heavy weight due to laminated stock.

I jumped on .30-06 wagon not that long ago. My preferred .30 caliber was always .308W, mainly because I had access to free surplus military ammo for practice. I am not natural talent and have to practice a lot in order to get into decent shape. Besides, I like to shoot.

Decision to chamber my takedown for .30-06 was forced by circumstances. Initially, I wanted .308W, but I got this excellent FN Mauser long action. I was afraid of possible feeding problems so the obvious choice was .30-06. I have no reason to regret and longer bolt stroke never bothers me. Of course Mauser action will never be that smooth than push-feed, but I wanted something classic.

I do not have much use for medium magnums since I do not subscribe to all that bull about “energy transfer”. After all, you cannot hunt other game with .300 WM or WSM that you may hunt with .308, .30-06 or even 6.5x55. I was bit surprised learning that you took buffalo with .338. Then again, South Africans consider even 9.3x62 as adequate for buffalo too. Problem here is that calibers below .375 are not legal for buffs in some places.

I am fan of .375 H&H because it can be used for everything that moves. If you roll your own ammo this cartridge is extremely versatile, especially now when bullets in weights ranging from 235 grains to 400 grains are available. With the latter, you may get almost the same performance as .416 Remington. The lightest bullet can be easily driven over 3000 f/s if you are into long-range antelope shooting.

Regarding your Blaser – this is one of few real “go anywhere and hunt anything” rifles in the market. With its exchangeable barrel system and QD mounts that really work, there is no game or hunting scenario that this rifle cannot tackle. Downside is that you need lot of cash.

Incidentally, this summer I reviewed another rifle from the same stable, the new Mauser M03. As you probably know, Mauser-Werke in Oberndorf is no more and rights to Mauser name have been acquired by the same concern that owns Blaser, Swiss Arms and Sauer. New Mauser is manufactured in the same factory as Blaser, in Isny, southwest Germany.

Unlike Blaser, M03 is a conventional bolt action. You can buy exchangeable barrel in most popular calibers ranging from 222 Rem to 375 H&H, including couple of WSMs. The QD mounts are designed for fastening on receiver. I always believed that QD mount on receiver and exchangeable barrel is poor solution for holding zero, but in case of M03 this combination really works. M03 is slightly less expensive than Blaser and looks better (to me). According to company policy about hunting firearms, it can be cocked and de-cocked manually.

I liked M03 very much and in unlikely event of coming to some extra cash, I would rather buy Mauser than Blaser. Besides, straight pull action never impressed me that much. I have shot with all straight pull action rifles currently on the market in scenario described in my previous post. There is of course slight advantage over bolt action (Blaser is the best there is) but I do not think it is worth paying extra money just for it.


Rich Lucibella
October 24, 2004, 03:31 PM
No, I've not taken Buff with the .338, only the 45-70. However you'll find that, second only to the .375, the .338 is probably the most popular PH caliber on the Africa continent. Doing Buff with it is hardly suicide. Similar to the 30-06 vs .308, there's nothing that the .375 can do that can't be done with the .338, though I'll agree that the .375, like the 30-06 do each of their tasks a significant step better.

Also, I am not a fan of the "highppeed wonder" calibers such as the .300 WinMag or dreaded 7MM Mag for general hunting. Do not assume the .338 falls into that category....it's quite a venerable and respected cartridge by comparison.

Byron Quick
November 3, 2004, 09:55 PM
Has either of you guys used a rifle with the European 'hogsback' buttstock?

I've got a BRNO 602ZKK in .458 Winchester Magnum that has the felt recoil of a 12 gauge shooting full recoil slugs. Al Thompson says it's a ***** cat compared to the Ruger he had in the same caliber.

Rich, you missed out, guy. Last season turned out to be the last season on the home place. One of my cousins sold the land. He didn't own the hunt camp. We stripped it of fixtures and burned it to the ground. You seriously need to make time to visit Art in Terlingua. Believe me, you'll thank me for the advice. Want a dollar value? Personally, I'd put it at at least 35K. It's a darn wonderland.

Roman Knoll
November 4, 2004, 03:24 AM

My Brno 602ZKK in .375 H&H has also “hogsback” buttstock. Most German rifles, drillings and over-and-under combos have stocks of this kind . Czechs exported mainly to this market, which I think is the reason while Brno offered “hogsback”.

Why is “hogsback” so popular in Germany? Stock like this – according to some people – is more all round. During daylight driven hunts with beaters and dogs, people remove scopes and use open sights. In the night, they would need scopes of high magnification and huge lense diameter. Hogsback stock is a compromise allowing for relatively comfortable shooting with either detachable scope sight or open sight using the same rifle. It would not work that well with Monte Carlo stock.


Rich Lucibella
November 4, 2004, 07:13 PM
Hunting ANYWHERE with Art would be a real treat for me. Currently, my hunts are real limited....staying tonight in Dodge City and heading for Western CO tomorrow to hunt elk with a bunch of industry people. It'll be a great time, but it's the way I can justify the time off.

Believe me, you'll thank me for the advice. Want a dollar value? Personally, I'd put it at at least 35K. It's a darn wonderland.
I'm lost.