View Full Version : Brush Gun???

December 14, 2004, 11:14 PM
I know what the term is supposed to mean, but has any one ever had a true brush gun that worked? I shoot a 6mm that won't handle high grass in the way, but I also shoot a .444 Marlin that isn't far behind it. It's been my experience no bullet will cut brush and still stay on track or not come apart when hitting anything.

December 15, 2004, 12:07 AM
I'm not sure what you are asking here. It is my understanding that the term "brush gun" refers to a rugged weapon that can handle stressful field conditions such as thickets and dense woods. They tend to have short barrels for getting through tight areas and iron sights for reliable and fast aiming without the concern of a scope getting bumped. Usually they are intended for ranges less than 200 yds.

Any bullet fired through brush will experience deflection because its energy is being expended on every intervening object. I haven't heard anything to the effect of a caliber/gun combination intended to fire through brush and scrub.

Did I hit your question right? You are looking for a gun that fires reliably through brush.

December 15, 2004, 12:09 AM
12 gauge slug.

Followed by .50 BMG

Other than that, don't shoot brush.

December 15, 2004, 12:58 AM
.22LR... Seriously, those things look cool going through tall grass. You can watch the bullet crossing a field.

Don't expect to kill anything with it, though.

Long Path
December 15, 2004, 06:38 PM
madmurdoc is precisely right, but I'll expand on his well-stated post:

A "brush gun" (BG) is a gun to be used in the brush for the pursuit of game. All well and good. The best characteristics of a BG are that it have a short barrel, quick sights (often iron, with either ghost ring or open sight style), quick-handling, usually (but not always) a repeater, and has a heavy caliber. The sights are best regulated for as heavy a bullet/load combination as is offered in that caliber.

Now, because of the name and the fact that BG's are often heavy caliber and carry heavier bullet loads, some have mistakenly taken up the assumption that the tactic is to fire through brush at game. They believe that the heavier bullets (for some reason, the blunt tip bullets are thought better for this) will "bull their way through" the brush and weeds and limbs better. There are even some that manage to do so successfully, on occasion. This is, ballistically, nothing short of a stunt, and is ill-advised.

The reason you want your BG to be of a heavy load is simply that, in the brush, you are likely to have only a snap shot available to you, and you want a load that will anchor your prey quickly before it disappears into the thicket. You want a heavy bullet that can penetrate the length of your game animal, as you might have a hindquarter shot presented. It's nice to have a fast follow-up shot before the animal disappears into the timber, too. Some of the best BG's are big bore lever actions, like the Guide Guns.

It's amazing how the accuracy of a well-fired shot will deteriorate by a bullet hitting even the tiniest twig. My father experimented on this years ago with .308 168g loads fired at a target 100 yards away. The target had a thin screen of mesquite brush about 15 feet in front of it, with no twigs bigger than your little finger, and most under pencil thickness. The shots routinely missed the target after striking a twig. Consider that, next time you see that nice buck through a lot of brush and grass in your scope. It's time to stalk to a better clear shot. The last thing you want to do is wound a noble game animal.

December 16, 2004, 07:00 PM
I'm no expert, but I think that ALL bullets change direction at least slightly when they hit anything, including anything as light as a blade of grass. However, generally speaking, the heavier the bullet, the less deflection, regardless of velocity. Having said that, if the "brush" in question is actually a stick or twig(s) of more than just 1/10th to 1/8th of an inch thick (not much at all), then shooting is unethical IMO, because the bullet will deflect pretty significantly, unless your target is immediately behind the obstacle. If, OTOH, the obstacle is just grass only, and no twigs/branches, then I think it's ethical to take a shot with a heavy bullet, depending on how far your target is located on past the obstacle.

But to answer your question (I think), people use the term "brush gun" in BOTH capacities - probably 80% of the time they mean a gun handy to carry around in the brush (short, light), and the other 20% of the time they mean a gun that fires a big, heavy bullet that cuts through brush, staying more or less true to course. Sometimes they may mean BOTH. So you'd need more information to find out what someone meant when using the term brush gun. I call my Marlin 1895 in .45/70 gov't a brush gun, meaning both. But I've never experimented with just how much the bullet deflects upon hitting obstacles x,y, or z. But the critical factor are the amount/thickness of the obstacle, the distance between the obtacle and the target, and the bullet weight. Maybe someone more knowledgeable than me can tell us whether velocity is also a factor, and if it is, whether higher velocity is good for brush busting (because the target is reached faster, giving the deflected bullet less time to go off course), or bad for brush-busting (because unlike a slower bullet, being slow, is not so radically disrupted to a more extreme vector by the impact with the obstacle). I'd guess the former - I'd guess that physics will tell you that heavier is better, and that faster is better, so a big, fast, magnum bullet will probably be your best brush buster (like a .375 mag for example)

December 16, 2004, 09:27 PM
Some shooters have said they use a big gun cause the bullet will "cut thru the brush" to the target. I say no bullet will cut brush and hit anything except by luck, and then only pieces of the bullet. These shooters for the most part have been customers in my bar, and had a few drinks while telling hunting lies.

December 16, 2004, 11:23 PM
I've had 44mag and 45-70 deflect, they all can.That's why I use a scope even though ranges are usually within 50 yds. I can then find an opening in the bush.

December 16, 2004, 11:41 PM
Yup, all here are making good points the only brush I'll fire through at game is of the relatively thin variety which sits no more than a few yards in front of my target, and that is only done with a slug out of a shotgun.

December 19, 2004, 01:13 AM
I don't have any quantitative data to back this up, but I believe the slower heavier bullet will deflect less. Opening Day this year my dad took a buck after his bullet deflected off a small twig. He was shooting his scoped .300 win mag and took the clearest shot possible after the deer walked just past a branch that was in his line of sight. He took what he thought was a clear shot and it would have went through the vitals had it not clipped a twig too small to see in the scope. The bullet deflected in just a few yards from the vitals to shattering the left hip. I am guessing here but I think a heavier slower bullet would tumble more than radically deflect. Like I said I can't back this up with evidence.

The rest of the story:
The buck spooked when one of our partners came in to put him down. The only place he could go was into the pond and he did after our partner got a shot off to put him down. They had to get a boat to bring him out. The retrieval was a funny site from my blind on the edge of the woods, I may have scared a few deer away with my snickers. :)

December 19, 2004, 02:06 PM
Whenever a moving object interacts with ANYTHING, it will be deflected somehow. Perhaps it will be slowed by a direct (i.e. square) hit, or perhaps it will be deflected to a tangent. Still, even air causes a certain amount of deflection. A larger, heavier, and faster bullet will deflect less, actually, but because of it's speed, the deflection will seem greater. A heavy, slow bullet will seem to deflect least of all, but you will lose significant range. Don't even consider anything smaller than a .30 caliber, because you might as well throw a bullet at your target. I have made exactly one brush shot, a 12 gauge slug through grass, the grass was about 10 yards from my target, I was about 50 yards away. I killed the buck, but it wasn't clean. BTW, the blunter the tip, the less deflection, but the more speed loss, because a blunt tip will cut, rather than pushing out of the way, and for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Therefore, if you were using, for example, .30-06 FMJ rounds, you would find a shot through brush significantly less accurate than if you were using wadcutters. (Setting aside all other factors)

December 19, 2004, 02:21 PM
you are right. Nothing short of a 105mm field gun will 'buck brush'.

Now if you are looking for a good gun to hunt in heavy cover, thats another question. I am trying out a new one, a Springfield SOCOM. The short 16 inch barrel, good sights (tritium insert up front for low light), and .308 caliber, may make this little rifle a great heavy cover rifle.

Long Path
December 19, 2004, 03:34 PM
I've twice shot at deer and seen my shot go wild when I hit an unexpected twig. Well, one was a bleedin' BUSH, but it was a follow-up shot on a running deer running away from me through the low oak scrub. All I could clearly see of the deer was the back of her head, and I could see the flash of her white tail bouncing though the scrub. I threw a Remington 165 SP '06 at the back of the tail from about 40 yards in hopes of dropping what I thought was an already wounded deer. (Actually, she was still unscathed, but I didn't know that then. [But we just won't talk about that now, will we? ;) ]) The scrub shook, and the deer never faltered. I racked in another round and held on the only thing I could clearly see: her head. At about 60 yards she dropped from the round going through her head. Moral: better to shoot at the smaller clear target than the bigger obscured target.

A couple of years later, I was hunting with my Sendero, which is about the most accurate rifle I've ever owned. I was in a windmill blind and was just about to unload my rifle and climb down when I saw a doe come into the clearing at just about sunset. I checked the area around the clearing, and sure enough saw a BIG buck, watching her behind a bush. Actually, it seemed he was watching me, now; he was looking up at me from behind her, about 100 yards away. His whole body was lined up facing me, with his head looking straight ahead at me at an upward angle. With the slight downward angle view I had of him and the dense but denuded bush in front of him, all I could get a clear shot of was his head from the muzzle up, a flash of white under his chin, and his shoulders. I really couldn't see the top of his back. Knowing that I had the rifle sighted in for 2.5" high at one hundred yards, I held slightly below my strike zone, actually putting the crosshairs just barely on the bush's top. I definitely didn't want the bullet to strike the muzzle... talk about deflection! I also prefer not to take head shots at 100 because the head can move about too much atop that snake-like neck, before my brain can react and change aim. (Also the head was looking right at me, giving me a higher chance of deflection.) When I cut loose my 180 Game King, it threaded the needle nicely, traveling through the chest, nicking the spine, and exiting the back (there seemed to have been some upward deflection). Without a highly accurate rifle, I might well have let that shot go. As it was, I got my biggest buck.

December 19, 2004, 04:29 PM
I always envisioned a brush gun as a gun that had good "handling" and large caliber. As for shooting through "brush" the overriding factor is momentum. Momentum = mass x velocity, the more of either, the more momentum. The round with a heavier bullet that hits flesh, the greater time for a bullet to slow, a lighter bullet at greater speed can have the same effect. This helps explains the reason why some slow heavy rounds, and fast light bullets work well. The best would be big and fast, I am sure momentum, and the fact that it should be considered in ammo selection, has been mentioned in other threads.

Like LP said brush will have momentum also, as a bullet strikes brush, especially woody brush, the round will try to accelerate the brush the springy twig, if it doesn't break, will transfer energy to the branch it is on, making it's mass much greater than most bullets, it usually strikes the branch at an angle, altering the bullets course radically. I am reasonably sure that most shoulder fired arms do not have the momentum to penetrate woody brush, with accuracy like LP said. A 168gr .308 at 2800 fps= 470400 units of momentum?, a 12ga slug at 437gr 1600fps= 699200, 45/70 305gr 2182fps=665510. The numbers are not any units I know of, but if using the same unit for weight/mass, and the same units for velocity, I think it can be used to compare ammo. I could be wrong.

I am betting that a heavy round for a "brush gun" is going to work better, for the reasons LP said, and the fact it may get you a more humane shot on game, instead of a wounding shot, it also seems that using a seperate, long range gun, and a gun to track a wounded animal in brush, is recommended.

You coulds also use 1 gun, and a long range round, and a heavy "brush" round, if you find a signigicant diff in momentum btw the 2.

Long Path
December 19, 2004, 10:35 PM
Back when I hunted pretty much exclusively with a long heavy-barreled .257 Rbts, my backup brush gun to go into the brush after a wounded deer was an 1100 riot gun with iron sights. :) My thought was that it was short and fast, shot a heavy load (#1 Buck followed by 4 rds of slug) that would drop a wounded deer at short range, and could salvage a poor shot. The only time I ever got it, I ended up finding my buck piled up in a bush only a few feet from where I had last seen it disappear. ;)

Honestly, in heavy brush, an iron-sighted auto shotgun with slug would be a pretty good "Brush Gun."

Art Eatman
December 19, 2004, 10:51 PM
The crew at The American Rifleman, every ten years or so, would do a re-run of various tests. There's the usual "cut off one inch at a time and see what happens on the chronograph" test of rifle barrels.

And, "Brush guns". The usual deal is to collect a fair representation of small and large calibers; slow and fast cartridges. Targets would be placed at various distances behind some brush. Deflections from the targets' centers would be measured.

The only uniform factor was that the farther behind the brush was the target, the greater was the deflection. Doesn't matter if it's pointed or round nose. Doesn't matter if it's a .270 or a .45-70.

I guess this is as good a time as any for my own deflection story. I call it "The Prickly Pear BucK".

I'd jumped a nice buck at very close range. Trouble was, the scope was on 7X instead of 2X. All I could see was mostly brown; occasionally an ear or a tine--and then nothing but brush. I had my .243, using the Sierra 85-grain HPBT bullets.

I figured the buck would circle around and head upwind and uphill toward a saddle in the ridge behind me. I cut across the circle and waited cross-wind to see if he'd show up.

Yup. I mentally patted myself on the back for smarts and got ready to shoot. He ambled along, and then stopped, about 40 yards away. Don't aske me why I was bound and determined to take a heart shot. Maybe because I had to shoot offhand, I guess. There was a prickly pear leaf in the way. "Oh, well," I sez, "here goes."

Bang-whop-plop. DRT, I thought. I walked up to gut him. I looked for the bullet hole. No hole. I searched that danged deer for two or three minutes, and finally found a little drop of blood--and then a hole--right under his ear!

I looked back through the prickly pear, and I hadn't shot through just one leaf. No! FIVE! No three holes lined up in a straight line. The bullet had curved up and to the right, veering from an aiming point at the heart and hitting under the ear! The deer was maybe five+ yards behind the fifth leaf.

I'll take luck over skill, any day! :D


December 20, 2004, 12:17 AM
I believe you. It matters what the momentum of the brush is, and the 45/70, I am not saying to just pick a different gun for shots through cover. I am just advocating if you are hunting in brush, try to calculate the best gun, for the job. If you walk slowly through a hanging branch off a tree, slowly, it doesn't seem to pull at you as much, then run through it, it will probably scratch your skin. A 12ga with heavier slugs, might be better, it might not be enough of a difference in cartridges to matter. I do not advocate shooting through woody brush, or grass, because you have an animal in your sights, but if you have to track a wounded animal, it might help. I think the physics are correct, but the difference in rounds might not be enough, I am not sure. I thought it was interesting.

To see if the theory works you would probably need, a plastic rod, hanging from a spring to simulate brush, shoot it with a .22lr at close range, and measure deflection with a target behind, then do the same thing with a shot gun slug.

It is like a lot of things, it might work much better on papper than in real life. Is there significant diff in a .30-06 with a 165gr bullet with a max load, and a 220gr with a max load, maybe not, I think most agree that a 230gr .45acp at 850 is a good self defese round, and so is a .357 at 1450fps, ability to shoot, accuracy, bullet selection, aside. A brush gun, or Guide Gun, just might be a tactic to sell big-bore lever action 18 1/2".

Long Path
December 20, 2004, 01:21 PM
To me, the main reason to choose a short gun with a big heavy bullet in the brush is because a high-velocity load that shoots flat is of little worth in the short ranges of heavy brush. Shoot, if we knew that we'd only ever take shots under 100 yards, even .270 owners would load 170g bullets, and most of us would hunt with .45-70's with 405 grainers or '06's with 220g loads. ;)

Art's story is mighty instructive-- points to the fact that you just don't know which direction that bullet is going to zig or zag. Consider: if your first itty bitty twig deflects your bullet 3 minutes of angle, and your next twig deflects it 3 minutes of angle, you've now got 6 minutes' angle deflection (or is it 9? does it square? Come to think of it, I believe it does). Always figure that there's a twig you don't see. If you're planning on hitting one, consider the effects of it combined with the effects of the one you didn't plan on hitting.

December 20, 2004, 04:35 PM
LP I understand, the #'s in my calculation could be compared, to dropping a 100 gr bullet a foot, and a 1000gr bullet a foot, onto your hand, they both don't really hurt you at all, or are spectacularly different.

As to the deflection, I think you use vector math, and calculate using straight lines, the first deflection can be compared to a line .003" to the right, of the original path, now it hits something else, and is deflected another .003" of an inch in exactly the same direction they add. I think in bushnell's website they have a guide for shimming scope bases, and at 100 yards, a .001" = 1MOA.

100 .001 1.0

Once again shot selection, is paramount.

December 20, 2004, 07:30 PM
Marlin lever action is a brush gun. Really good for sweet briers and blackberries so thick that you measure your progress through them by inches. :D