View Full Version : Poor performance of Ballistic Silvertips

November 29, 2004, 10:56 AM
Thanksgiving weekend was the close of modern gun season in Kentucky, and my brothers and I capped it off with a 4 day hunting camp with a few friends. Last year's hunting camp showed a wide variety of calibers and ammunition, ranging from a .243 to a 30.06, and even a 12 guage slug. This year the camp was full of .270's and my 7mm mag., with the majority shooting Winchester's Ballistic Silvertips. One night over drinks and a fire, a discussion came about over the performance of the bullet, or in this case, the lack there of. Of the 10 deer taken by those present with the BST, in only two cases did the bullet go clean through. There were also complants that the bullet did not hold togather well, leaving copper shreads in the wound channel and body cavity. My personal experience with the bullet was less than impressive. Of the four deer a took with my 7mm mag., only one shot went clean through ( the shot was high and cut the spine). Of the other three deer, the farthest shot was right at about 100 yards, with the other two shots within 30 yards. In all three cases, the bullet was retreived while cleaning the deer, and every time, the lead core had been complete ripped out of the copper jacket. The most extreme case, a 150 lbs. doe ran 80 yards over a mountain side after being shot directly in the chest from 20 yards. When field dressed, her heart and right lung were cut to shreds, but the bullet seemed to lack the energy needed to knock her down. I've shot nearly 20 deer since buying the 7mag, and never have I had one run more than 20 yards. The "cannon" nearly always drops them in there tracks.
Everyone in the deer camp seemed to have similar experiences with the bullet. I was curious if anyone else had problems with it, or had some explanation of the results we've seen.

November 29, 2004, 02:56 PM
There are many factors that determine if a bullet will go all the way through or if the deer will drop right there.I've yet to see a load do it all EVERY time.The only part of your results that would bother me is the bullet falling apart.

November 29, 2004, 03:55 PM
.50cal Ballistic tip "Powerbelt" BP round has gone through with just about every deer my brother and I have shot over the years. A few have left behind copper jacket material, though generally only when the round encounters bone. Though most of the time the deer is shot within 75 yards.

Most of the time bullets will leave behind jacket material as the copper really doesn't have a way to bond with the lead alloy. Some rounds that use a copper jacket that has the lead partitioned into sections tend to hold together better, though not deform as much.

In reality you will always probably find some jacket material with any softpoint round. Just the way they are made to work.

Long Path
November 29, 2004, 06:15 PM
The most extreme case, a 150 lbs. doe ran 80 yards over a mountain side after being shot directly in the chest from 20 yards. When field dressed, her heart and right lung were cut to shreds, but the bullet seemed to lack the energy needed to knock her down.

Sounds like the bullet performed well. It penetrated to destroy the heart, and the dear only ran 80 yards. Um-- that happens.

As for "knocking them down", I know we all use this as a figure of speech, but you realize that this is a physical imposibility, right? Newton sez that to have the energy to knock the 150 lb deer down, it would have to recoil with enough energy to knock a 150 lb shooter down, as well.

Four or five years ago, I shot two does in 10 minutes with my .300 Win Mag. shooting the same 180gr load at 3100fps. Both shot were broadside shots that took out both lungs on each deer. Both does ran off into the brush and collapsed 40 yards later. (Interestingly, they collapsed within 10 feet of each other.) Does this mean that my handload lacked the power necessary? No. It just means that a deer with both lungs blown out can make it 40 yards before it piles up.

It's hard to design a bullet that will expand reliably at hundreds of yards and still hold together completely at under a hundred yards in a hot cartridge. I like the Ballistic Silvertip's ability to buck the wind and it's excellent ballistic coefficient, but one has to keep in mind that they're a little softer than a bonded bullet or a multi-core bullet or a solid.

November 29, 2004, 08:37 PM
Weird. Are you shooting "Silver Tips" or the Combined Technology Ballistic Silvertips?

The new ballistic tips have thicker jackets than the old. The new CT Ballistic Tips seem to be indestructable out of my 7STW. I push 140gr bullets to 3450fps and they carry through whitetails with quarter sized exit holes. I shot one today with a 150 CT silvertip at 3300fps and had the same results. I have never had these bullets fail, yet have had 160gr Partitions absolutely GRENADE on whitetails (and have the pic to prove it).

Is it possible you are using an older batch of bullets. The CT Ballistic Silvertips have been my favorite hunting round for serval years.

December 2, 2004, 08:04 PM
Sounds like the bullet performed perfectly,all the energy was imparted to the deer.
I have used WW Ballistic silvertips for several years, all the deer were dropped in their tracks,some of the darned things just don't know they're dead.

December 2, 2004, 08:40 PM
Just to clarify.......

Are some of you talking about the WW Silvertips or are you talking about the Combined Technology Ballistic Silvertips. The Combined Tech bullets are Nosler bullets with a Winchester Coating. The bullets differ greatly.

December 5, 2004, 04:42 AM
Of the 10 deer taken by those present with the BST, in only two cases did the bullet go clean through.

At what time of the death of these animals did you consider the bullet a failure? :D

Long Path
December 5, 2004, 03:38 PM
I have to admit that I prefer the bullet to go all the way through. Two holes means more blood on the ground and less blood in the deer. :) Ideally, the bullet would get maximum expansion, hold all of its weight, and penetrate entirely through the animal, from all ranges! ;)

December 5, 2004, 04:42 PM
A bullet performs correctly when it dumps all of its energy inside the deer. Any time a bullet exits, it has wasted energy. In many cases, nimrods do not know what kind of bullet style (or for that matter, what caliber/cartridge) they should be using for the game they are hunting. Sometimes I just shake my head when I see some yahoo at the gun store buying ammo that just the opposite of what they should be buying, for the animal they say they are going to hunt. What makes it worse, is the gun guru behind the counter not helping them.

gordo b.
December 5, 2004, 09:10 PM
"Silver Tips " almost always blew shards of jacket material along the pulped wound channel-from 190 grain .303 Savages all the way up. They killed well though! ;) When you get to cleaning and butchering a silvertip or Nosler Ballistic Tip or Sierra non Game king bullets wound channel, you start wondering if you shouldn't have used something else! ;)

December 5, 2004, 10:08 PM
Have you guys used Nosler Ballistic Tips lately? There's a reason they label a difference between the "hunting" ballistic tips and the "varmint" these days. I am cranking 140's nearly to 3500fps and they will not grenade. These bullets got a bad rap due to early thin jackets (which I actually liked).

If you want some major fragmentation, try some 139gr Hornady in .284 and throw them fast. The Nosler Partition is another one that can't take heat. Below is a link to a doe I shot with a 160gr Partition at 3250fps. It's graphic. That's an entrance hole. No exit.

Partition grenade (http://members.bellatlantic.net/~jefwolfe/partition.JPG)

gordo b.
December 6, 2004, 12:46 AM
Funny I was gonna say Nosler Partition but I didn't because the shank DOES penetrate all the way. I haven't used Ballistic Tip in years, because they grenaded (but killed well) funny Hornady Bullets always seemed to work pretty well, even their 250 grain at 2800fps on elk in my .358 Norma. HOWEVER these days I shoot X bullets or Trophy Bonded pretty exclusively on game(and Partitions still!). A premimium bullet on meat is cheap! :)

December 6, 2004, 08:23 AM
Which I think may bring up another point that certain bullet types can react much differently when fired out of varying calibers at varying speeds. Sectional density is just another variable we can throw into the mix.

Rich Lucibella
December 6, 2004, 11:17 AM
A bullet performs correctly when it dumps all of its energy inside the deer. Any time a bullet exits, it has wasted energy.
Agreed, but only when the round you're using is marginal to the task. Use enough gun and you'll get enough internal damage plus a very helpful exit wound for those times when you're hunting stuff that doesn't readily recognize its own demise.

Hardly "wasted energy", if you ask me. YMMV.

December 6, 2004, 12:13 PM
Sidebar - read an interesting article on "knockdown power" - seemed to have credibility. Author is experienced hunter. Has seen cape buff go down instantly from a .44 mag handgun. Has also seen small deer run a long ways after being shot with .300 wundermag dead in the vitals, and the deer was just browsing, not alerted (no adrenaline rush in the deer). So this is very strange. He agrees of course that there's no such thing as knockdown power as such, but if defined as a game animal dropping DRT, he now believes in the theory which had been espoused some time earlier, and that's this....some scientists had been commissioned apparently to do thorough autopsies on game animals. Their conclusion was that the animals that had dropped instantly had burst blood vessels in their brains, and those that had run awhile did not. The theory put forward from this is that if the bullet hits the game at the precise moment when the animal's heart beats, then so much of a "power surge" is generated by the combination of the heartbeat and the bullet impacting blood vessels, that the blood vessels in the brain burst and the animal is immediately incapacitated. If not shot during heartbeat, then there's no such effect. Dunno if this theory will hold water, but the author of the article was inclined to believe it. If true, then since you can't time your shot to the heartbeat, then it's just plain ol luck.

Rich Lucibella
December 6, 2004, 01:23 PM
I fully ascribe to the concept that a heart shot on a full Left Ventricle is far more "explosive" than one where the heart is at rest. As to the Brain Vessel Explosion concept, I'm highly critical of the stated mechanism.

To my knowledge, all mammals have an instant defense against high blood pressures in the brain. Because the brain-box is the only part of the body that can't expand in response to pressure, the result of high pressures is crushing of the gray matter....very bad. As a result, we developed the Carotid Sinus, special pressure receptors in the main artery to the brain that instantaneously shut down blood flow to that organ in the instance of excessive pressure. (Witness the Carotid or "Sleeper" choke.....the mechanism here is not deprivation of oxygen, but application of pressure to the Carotid Sinus resulting in shutdown of cranial blood flow.)

Now, if they were to argue that explosive force on the heart can result in quick pulse to the Carotid Sinus, I might buy it. However, liquids like blood, are pretty incompressible. Therefore, I'm had pressed to believe that pressure transmission of that nature is likely.....then again, my fluid mechanics is even more rusty than my physiology!

Long Path
December 7, 2004, 01:10 PM
Interesting concept. I don't think I buy it, but it's interesting.

But then, who among us crack open the craniums (crania?) on their animals during the post mortem examination?!? Not me-- I've got too many scars on my hands already to be cranking a knife against bone, and half the time that cranium is supporting a rack that I'd either like to keep or have to keep for proof of sex.

Three main things seem to put deer down:
mechanical loss of function, as with broken legs and joints,
loss of blood pressure, resulting in oxygen deprivation to the muscles and brain, and
central nervous system (CNS) damage, resulting in either instant death or inability to transmit the flight response to the muscles.

Of the three, the most dramatic stop is always the CNS stop. This of course is something of a cheat for ascertaining "knockdown factor", as a .223 AP round would be as good as any for a one-shot-stop with a CNS hit.

I've seen shots that resulted in instantaneous BP loss (guarenteed, as the heart was blown out the other side), in which the deer ran some yards before piling up.

I've seen shots where the spine wasn't even approached, but where the deer just fell right there. Interestingly, high chest shots from the front accounted for a high percentage of these (and I don't often seem to get high chest shots).

I've seen a combination of the three fail to kill the deer for several seconds (shoulder hit that threw fragments into both lungs, the pulmonary artery, and the spine, and yet the deer bleated for several seconds and tried to get up with the off foreleg before bleeding out.).

I've seen CNS shots that completely incapacitated the deer, but left it alive until a coup de grace could be administered.

I've never seen a shot that would push so much pressure toward the brain that an embolism could result, but which didn't cause so much trauma at the site of the strike that the cause of incapacitation wouldn't have been immediately assumed to be the near-instantaneous loss of B.P. and shock to the overall system.

December 7, 2004, 07:26 PM
Rich Quote:Agreed, but only when the round you're using is marginal to the task. Use enough gun and you'll get enough internal damage plus a very helpful exit wound for those times when you're hunting stuff that doesn't readily recognize its own demise.

I thought I was clear that matching the bullet/cartridge to the terrain and the game animal you are hunting results in better performance. Yes, you sometimes run into something else you can shoot, and the load you have might not be ideal. For me, the idea is to use enough gun, but not more than necessary. I hunt the same game, deer and hogs, in the same places, year after year, and have had more than a modest amount of success in doing so. I have not lost an animal, nor have I had one run off more than about 10 yards after the first, and only, shot. I don't need a 'blood trail' to follow.

Rich Lucibella
December 7, 2004, 08:50 PM
I wasn't being argumentative....only qualifying a statement you made that I happened to agree with. I'm hardly a world class hunter and suspect you can lay claim to a lot more kills than me.

I'm more than a little impressed that you've never had a deer or a hog run more than 10 yards after your first shot. I know of no other hunter who can make either claim: all one-shot kills; and all dropped on the spot. You clearly know your game and your guns better than most and far better than me.

My experience is different. Half the dead animals I've met have run in that state for much more than a few yards....often at dusk; often taking more than one hit (If they didn't know they were dead, I'm not about to argue the point) ;). But most of us here are average shooters, in which case blood trails are a good thing....especially when it comes to our respect and duty to an animal we've put lead on.

ps: Lemme ask you one question. Exactly what is meant by "For me, the idea is to use enough gun, but not more than necessary."? These kinds of statements always baffle me, especially in light of your advice that exit wounds are somehow a bad thing.

December 8, 2004, 09:57 PM

Not a hint of argument here. I wish I could give you some magic answer on why I have not had to track animals. In part, I think this is due to how I hunt, and what I used.
I like to still hunt, or stalk. I do not shoot animals that are spooked, or running. My woodscraft is fairly good, and knowing the animal, and the area I hunt, I am often able to come pretty close to an animal that is browsing.
The last 7 deer I have taken, were all with a Marlin 1894 in 44Mag. I first used factory Speer 270 grain GDSP, but have been loading my own for the past few years. The heavy, fairly slow bullet performs well. I have taken other deer at longer ranges with a 7 X 57 Mauser Ackley Improved. I use the Sierra Game King 140 grain bullet. Again, quick kills, good bullet performance.

The statement "enough gun, but not more than necessary", just means that I know from experience about what it takes to harvest the game I am hunting, in the terrain I am in. I have hunted for many years, in the same areas, about 50 years. I am better at this now, than I was as a lad.
I know that if I were to head out West, or to the open fields of Iowa, I would have to change my strategy. I do not know the area, and I have not hunted Deer in open areas. Frankly, I do not know what caliber, or load might be best there. I know that in those circumstances, I would have to follow the advise of those that hunt there regularly.

In all honesty, I am sure I have had a deer or hog travel further than 10 yard, but it has not been often, and I have not had to track one, just watch where they fall down, and go to it.

December 9, 2004, 10:22 AM
Try the Nosler partition or the Trophy Bonded Bear Claw. You will see much better penetration. I had the same problem with my 25-06, but worse. The bullet would hit and just disentegrate. Never lost an animal, but it would run farther than I thought it should with little to no blood trail. The two above mentioned bullets are not as accurate(1 to 2 inch groups instead of 1 inch) The knock down power more than makes up for it.