View Full Version : What style bullets [or caliber] create the best blood trails?

December 30, 2000, 01:57 AM
Are the Swift bullets good for this? Assuming you get an exit that is.

Art Eatman
December 30, 2000, 11:28 AM
Generally, whatever makes the biggest exit wound will leave the "best" blood trail, if by best you mean quantity of blood on the ground.

First, then, have an exit wound. Secondly, use whatever bullet has a reputation for not blowing up inside the animal and has some 70% to 80% of its weight remaining.

Howsomever, if you break the neck, it doesn't matter.

:), Art

December 30, 2000, 01:28 PM
So Art what specific types of bullets tend to give large exit holes?

Noslers often exit but often after shedding the front of the bullet so they only make a small hole.

I am curious if the Trophy bonded and Swift bullets do a better job with their bonded cores. Since I haven't been able to test them myself yet.

December 30, 2000, 03:05 PM
any of the premium bullets should work well, inc trophy bonded and swift.
some of the earlier ballistic tips would frag but some changes in design had solved this from what I understand.
I've not had any noslers fail as you describe. ballistic tip or partition?

Art Eatman
December 30, 2000, 06:07 PM
I've only used Sierras for the last 25 years or so. Looking back, either the 150/165-grain flatbase or the boattails go on through central Texas whitetails of the 120-pound (dressed weight) variety. The 150-grain boattails haven't exited on a couple of mule deer.

Wuz I guessing about what Sierra to use on deer of 150 pounds or more, I'd go with 165- or 180-grains. I'd probably still use the boattails, but I'd not be huffy about it...

I had hellacious exit holes in cenTex deer with the Remington 150-grain Bronze Points, even out at 350 yards.

My father was always partial to the Hornady 150-grain Spire Point, but since he mostly shot his deer in the neck, it's hard to judge about exit wounds for a body shot. (He usually shot offhand. He'd pop the white spot at 200-300 yards, look over with a bit of a smirk...Sumbitch...)

All these bullets grouped within one MOA.


December 31, 2000, 02:19 AM
I think the deer here in the Midwest get a bit bigger than down there Art. But I was thinking bigger game, more on the order of Elk or Moose.

And the Nosler Bullet I was talking about was the partition.

Couple of my friends that work in a gunshop, one is a gunsmith, have had customers go elk hunting with failsafes with less than desired results. But I think that may have been a question of shot placement.

Funny thing is they have one regular customer that does go to Africa to hunt frequently and he has never complained about bullets. Course that guy gets to shoot as much as a lot of us wish we could! He pays the gunshop to clean his guns for him, and usually brings in 6 or more at a time.

December 31, 2000, 06:48 AM
I have taken big deer and elk with the Nosler Partition and have never had a bullet problem. Only bullet frag I ever had was a sierra game-king and was my own fault for pushing it thru a .300mag and a big northern Minnesota whitetail (honest 230lb field dressed after 2 days hanging). He went down instantly and couldn't have been more dead, but the bullet seperated at that velocity.
After that I switched to Noslers for bigger stuff. Not that there aren't great bullets out there with other names on them, but I'm the type that finds a combination I like and stays loyal. I only experiment when forced by other circumstances.

Hot Core
December 31, 2000, 02:29 PM
Hey Glamdring, Good question which each hunter would do well to consider "before" going afield.

I prefer Exits on all my Game too. Definitely doubles the chance of having a blood trail. But, I'd suggest that you would do well to think of one specific Game animal, the terrain where it will be hunted and your ability to place that bullet into just a couple of spots on that animal. Then pick a bullet based on those requirements. Each of them can cause the answer to your question to be slightly different and still be correct or totally wrong.

For example, a larger diameter bullet "typically" makes a "larger" Exit, but not always. The confusing part is that it depends upon the bullet design envelope. Some bullets are designed to maintain a "smaller" diameter (after expansion) than others. A FailSafe or a Partition come to mind as doing just that. Their ability to maintain a good portion of their initial weight coupled with the small expanded front keeps the Sectional Density high thereby ensuring good deep penetration, but creating typically a smaller Exit.

The opposite of that would be any of the "Tipped" (synthetic or brass) or "Hollow Point" bullets which by design open to a very wide front, and even if they retain a good portion of their weight, the effective Sectional Density is reduced, so the bullets ability to penetrate is also reduced and may not Exit at all.

Depending on what Game the hunter is after, one type of bullet is just better than the other. And, in most cases, there are good old, Standard Grade bullets which will work to perfection. But, in some situations, a Premium bullet will certainly work better. Here is where gleaning the knowledge from experienced hunters, that have hunted specific terrain, with specific calibers, at specific distances and specific Points of Impact on that Game, can be invaluable information. "BUT", for the information to be useful, you need all the details you can pry out of that more experienced hunter to help you make the right choice for "your" situation.

Shot location is critical. It is much better to hit in the "lower-and-forward" 1/4 - 1/3 of the animal. Picture a large-wide telephone dial pad imposed on the side of a Whitetail, standing broadside and facing to your left. Here #7 would be the "key" spot to focus on.

This is because when the animal is hit "high", the blood often begins filling the body cavity prior to reaching a level where a significant amount of it can be "blown out". So, the "lower" the Exit is, the better the chance is of a useful amount of blood coming out.

Also, if the Exit is too far back, the guts can shift around as the animal moves and effectively "Plug the Exit" resulting in no blood trail. So, having the bullet path through the Game "forward" of the guts is a significant advantage.

I hope this did not end up confusing the thought process for you. Just remember when a person recommends something that it worked for him under a specific set of circumstances and you need to know as many of the specific factors as possible.

Good hunting and clean kills, Hot Core

Ron Ankeny
December 31, 2000, 10:51 PM
And I am one of those guys who experiments. I also know a couple of taxidermists real well as well as some meat cutters. For what it is worth, the very worst bullet on the market for large critters as got to be the Nosler Ballistic Tip at magnum velocities. They just blow up on contact. I use the Nosler Partition and the front half usually explodes while the back half goes right on through.

There are lots of great bullets out there, but the one with the best track record is probably the Sierra. I like the 150 in .270, the 165 and 180 in my '06, and the 180 and 200 in my 30 caliber magnums.

Art Eatman
January 1, 2001, 01:28 AM
Ahright, Glam: NOW you mention elk and moose! Grumble, grumble...:) Of course, that's why I said what I said, first time around.

(And it's why I tie size of animal to bullet behavior; does nobody any good to rave about something which wipes out a 150-pound deer, but might not work worth a hoot on an 800-lb elk.)

Ron: In your Sierras for your '06, have you been using the flat based, or the boat tailed?

Happy New Year,


Keith J
January 1, 2001, 01:44 PM
Looking at this from a different perspective, a broadhead tipped arrow leaves the best bloodtrail, especially when shot down into the deer from a treestand. Hitting the heart and exiting low, there is no time delay from impact to blood trail. There is a definite spray pattern from the breathing and the deer usually collapses within 30 yards.

On rifles, there is considerable blunt force trauma which makes the blood loss from tissue minimal. Major blood loss is from vascular damage and with most shots, the blood is trapped in the chest cavity.

The best caliber/bullet choice? High sectional density coupled with high velocity. You need to maintain velocity through the animal in order to hit significant vessels and create a large exit wound.

January 1, 2001, 07:34 PM

I have a bunch of faith in the Trophy bonded Bear Claw 140 gr in my 270's for elk. I know some of you are going to scream but I can put it where it needs to go and then it does the job.

You like .338's.... Try the Nosler Ballistic tip in the 200 gr. I saw the post from the gentelman that does not like them but I have had good luck with the 200 gr and even the 180 gr ballistic tip. This bullet is designed to "explode" and expend energy inside the body cavty. If the bullet goes out the other side it did not do that.

I have also shot a good bunch of the Federal Safari Grade Trophy Bonded Bear Claw in 225 gr in the 338. These damn things are devistating. I think I told Art about one shot that I was acting the smart ass on a south Texas hog and wanted to shoot this 300+ lb sow in the head. She was looking almost straight at me at about 150 yards. I guess my trigger "squeeze" was a bit sharp and the damn thing almost took her left rear quater totaly off. Not pretty, I did dispatch her quickly with a second shot.

I would add one IMHO comment; I don't know if an exit hole is needed if the right bullet is put in the right place.

Bruce A. Hering
"Single shot shooters oly shoot once"

January 2, 2001, 12:20 PM
First thank you all for good constructive comments!

Art: I guess I tend to think of big game smaller than elk as not to demanding in bullet/caliber selection. The other thing is I tend to view most hunting as just practice for the two types of hunting I really want to do but can't afford just yet [or even if I could afford it, I don't think my skill level is where I want it to be yet for that type of hunting].

I strongly prefer to have an exit wound for various reasons. One reason that I haven't seen mentioned in hunting related print is that an exit wound is almost always bigger than an entry wound. The exceptions usually involve a bullet that fragments.

I really want to hunt Mt Game, sheep and goats, and I really want to take what I consider to be dangerous game, African Lion & the big bears. With either Mt game or dangerous game you won't always be able to wait for the desired target angle, you may have to take the shot that is offered or go home empty handed. I don't want to argue hunting ethics but to me a hunt to be fully sucessful must include taking the game. It is a challenge. If I don't want to shoot an animal I would stalk them with a camera [something I am working on also].

So Hot Core you raised several good points, but part of my dilemia is that I would like to find a caliber/load that would work well on Mt Game and one that would work well on Dangerous Game and use that set up for most of my hunting. Or as close to that as possible so that I know my gun/caliber/load combination as well as I can from frequent use.

Art Eatman
January 2, 2001, 05:56 PM
Glamdring: I'm in accord with your comment about less-than-elk. (Now, if you get into the "pipsqueak" guns of less than, roughly, .30-'06, bullet styles become somewhat important.)

Weasel words: Based on posts at TFL from folks who say they've hunted Africa :), the .375 H&H seems like a good "compromise" cartridge. (I'll stay away from "what bullet", cause I ain't dunnit.)

It's flatter shooting than the .416 stuff, so it oughta work in your mountain hunting. People keep saying that it works on Mr. Buffalo in Africa, with appropriate solids. Capstick, et al, have approved of it for lions and leopards.

And that's a capsule summary of decades of reading and dreaming.

:), Art

Hot Core
January 2, 2001, 07:04 PM
Hey Glamdring, I think I understand your requirements a bit better now. Please correct me if these are wrong. And lets start with the "worst case" scenario which is the big critters that might look at you as something to chew on.

1) Bigger is better up to a point. Some parts of Africa require the 375H&H as a minimum for certain Game, so you have no choice on that unless you go larger.

2) You lead me to believe you are willing to take whatever shot angle the animal provides. That will certainly make the Guides happy and definitely requires the Super Premium bullets for a better chance of clean kills.

3) Getting an "Exit" through the Lions, or at least deep penetration, should be perfect for the Swift A-Frames and the Trophy Bonded bullets.

The good news is that you do not have to use those HIGH $$$ bullets for all the Game you will be after, nor do you need that expense level for practice at the Range. You can get the trajectories of a Standard Grade bullet to be close enough to those Super Premium jobs that the groups would overlap.

Now, if you want to use that same rifle in the mountains, then the 375H&H or 375RUM makes better sense than the various 416s "unless" you buy bullets for the 416s from a Custom Shop like Northern Precision. Most standard grade 416s are pretty blunt, but Northern will make you some sleek ones with any jacket thickness you desire.

But, if it was me, I'd get one of the various 7mmMags or 300Mags for the mountain hunting. Then I'd search for a deal on one of the BIG Bores for the African Dream Hunt(s).

I see a good many "used - excellent condition" BIG Bores here in the Carolinas at our Gun Shops and at our Gun Shows. The BIG Bores just don't seem to get near the amount of shooting that the smaller bores get (imagine that HA).

I think you are on the right track and it appears that you have the situation well thought out.

Good hunting and clean 1-shot kills, Hot Core

January 3, 2001, 11:57 AM
I want something that will do it all. But perhaps I am asking to much. I suspect a 378 Weatherby would do everything I want but at a very high price in recoil!

I have looked long and hard at the 340 Weatherby since it offers the trajectory of a 300 Win with ~ 50 grains more bullet. And the rational part of my brain knows a 338 is more than enough to hunt bears with the non rational part still wants to use a 416!

Part of my dilemma is that while I know how the various types of bullets are "supposed" to perform I haven't been able to field test many. But I am hoping to go on an Elk hunt in 2 to 3 years and would like to have my mind made up on what loads that I want to test anyway.

BTW I am not concerned about the 375 minimum requirement that some places in Africa have. A lion is a LOT smaller than a Brown Bear though probably faster. The Bears are the only game, that I want to hunt, were I feel the irrational "need" to use a heavy.

The simple answer to my problem would be to use a 300 mag for almost everything [just match bullet construction to the animal being hunted] and a 416 on the bears. I just can't seem to accept that for some reason :D

BTW I don't understand why the big bores don't get shot much ;)

One idea I have toyed with is to get a matching pair of Rem's or Rugers in 7STW/300 Weatherby & 416 rem [if I go with rem's] or 416 Rigby [if I go with Rugers] so that when I used the 7STW/300WBY the controls [including how far the bolt has to be worked] would be the same when I used the 416.

Or I might go with the Dakota action. I do know I will have Brown Precision put their stocks on the guns and do most of the work. I even know what I want for Scopes [Leopolds] & mounts [Talley's QD mounts with a QD peep that stores in the pistol grip trap and mounts on the rear scope mount, in case scope is useless].

January 3, 2001, 04:08 PM
A lion is a LOT smaller than a Brown Bear though probably faster.

I wouldn't bet on it. Those Grizzlies go something like 35mph for short bursts??? anyways, it's fast!! Either way, if one charges, you aint out running it, so you might as well start throwin lead.

Ron Ankeny
January 3, 2001, 05:38 PM

I have been using the boat tail because of the better BC. As for the virtues of an arrow, I have killed 3 elk in the last 4 seasons with my bow and an arrow just isn't as efficient at laying down blood as a hole through the chest the size of your fist created by a 180 grainer at 3100 fps.

January 3, 2001, 06:50 PM

I am going to step out here and make a comment because I was, and to some extent may still be, guilty of it.

Your profile says you like and I would think, perhaps, have a 338. Before you get the "new best gun" for a special need bug listen up.

I own several 338's and as of just recently (two weeks ago) a .416 Rigby.

I have shot the 338's for a good bit now as well as several other 33-35 cal rounds. As far back as Jack O'Connor's book "Hunting Big Game in North America" Mr. O'Connor, whom I personally consider the dean of gun writers, suggested that the 338 was an excellent all around gun, as was the 375 if the shooter could stand to carry the weight. Much has changed since 1967 when that book was published. We now have a host of "high energy" loads. You mentioned the STW7, and the 300/338 Ultra mags but one thing has not changed, bad bullet placement on any sized game is still bad.

I have taken my share of big game and most have gone down with one shot. I shoot practice a bunch as any hunter should within his/her means.

I know that this may bring a bit of heat but get a 338. Buy some bear claw or swift "A" frames for your heavy work and have some one load you some lighter stuff for your "mountian game".

I dropped a good bull elk this year with one shot at about 225 yds with the Federal Premium Safari 225 gr Bear claw. (I get 1/2 groups with this round at 100 yds from a ruger #1s.) It did an excellent job as would be expected. This same round has done brown bear out of that gun but not shot by me. One shot at 125 yds and dead brownie. I watched this from an off angle and wished I had had a tape of it. It litterally knocked Mr. bear sidways about four feet. I could see the chest expand on impact and the bear went flat.

I am not going to put down the 375. You would need one of the major leauge sports arenas to stack all the game in that round has taken, but the 338 is a winner.

The bonded bullets are also winners. The do what they are designed to do in my experience.

The "heavy" new rounds are a bit over touted I think. If you need a heavy gun get one. The gentelman from SC may be on to something. I just saw a used 416 Remngton in Ruger #1 Tropical in a shop in Columbia SC last week. Price was good, about $500.00+- as I remember. (I would prefer the Rigby)

Don't worry about exit holes.

"Single shot shooters only shoot once"

January 3, 2001, 07:29 PM
bad bullet placement on any sized game is still bad.

Not always, but most the time. My dad shot a blacktail while on a beer hunt with his .338. He was using nosler partitions, safari grade, the nickel plated ones. Shot the deer running at 100yards, and saw it tuble just as it went over a hill. The deer was dead by the time he got to it, and he had hit it thru the rear hip. The bullet literelly made hamburger out of the entire hip. Bullet didn't even enter the body cavity, the deer died of shock/trauma/loss of blood.

I also can vouch for the awesome foot/pounds sent by the .338. I shot a coyote in the spring that nearly turned inside out, and the force sent him about 4 feet up the hill he was standing on. I have a .375 now, and it sends 300gr bullets at about the same ballistics as the .338 sends 250grainers. I can't wait to shoot something live with it. Plan on doing a walk-in black bear hunt with it this spring.

You also mentioned "for anyone who can stand the weight." My .375 is a remington 700 with synthetic stock, and stainless barrel, and it weighs less than my dads .338 (winchester 77) and my brothers .338 (ruger 70.) They both have walnut stocks, and my gun is quite a bit lighter. I pay for it in kick though:D

Hot Core
January 3, 2001, 09:50 PM
Hey Glamdring, OK, OK, you got me with the original question. I thought you had not thought this through all that far.

Now, let me say I see no problem at all with what you are considering. One thing to keep in mind is if you did happen to decide to try the 7mmSTW, it takes a real l-o-n-g barrel (28" is not too long) to get a "significant" advantage over the good old 7mmRemMag in a 24" barrel. That does not seem to be the situation with the other rounds you mentioned.

As a follow-up on the kinds of "used Big Bores" I've seen at some of the Gun Shows, here is one example that still sticks in my mind:

I was at a Gun Show in Charlotte, NC about 8-10 years ago that had 5000 tables of rifles and goodies for us to drool over. Went cutting around the end of a table and there was one of those HIGH $,$$$.oo Weatherby's. It had the Myrtle wood stock with all the fancy inlays and the blueing on it looked so deep that it looked like you could "reach into" the blueing.

I almost kept going, but all of a sudden it finally sunk in that it had a HUGE barrel on it with a muzzle brake that was so well fit, that it did not appear to be removeable (but it was removeable). Backed up just to see what the caliber was and the guy who owned it told me to pick it up. Well, come to find out it was a 460Wby.

It caught me a bit off guard and I said something about it being so beautiful. I was thinking about the Ballistics on this thing and asked if it was new. He said no, it was used and he only wanted $900 for it. I could not see a single wear indication, no scratches in the stock finish, no stain in the blueing nor a speck of rust on it anywhere. He then told me it looked so new because it had only been fired 3 times and handed me a box of cartridges with only 3 spent rounds. Then I asked why he was selling it at such an apparently low price. He said, he never intended to fire it again since the 3rd shot had broken his collar bone.

So, there are some real bargains out there occasionally.

I completely agree with your idea of getting both rifles from the same manufacturer. Especially if you do intend to hunt some dangerous Game.

Looks like you are on the right track to me. I do like the list of "Custom Options" you have listed.

Good luck with the project, Hot Core

January 3, 2001, 10:06 PM
You tell us a story, lead us up to the climax, AND THEN LEAVE US HANGIN???? did ya buy it or not, i gotta know????:D

January 3, 2001, 11:48 PM
Hot Core: Which question got you? The thread starting one? Sorry, I wasn't trying to fool anyone. I have done a lot of research but because till just recently I have lived in Shotgun zone for hunting here in MN there was no practical way for me to try rifle bullets on deer. And like I was going to say [before computer ate one post] I don't think the performance of a bullet on a deer is worth much even for testing an elk bullet.

Huntschool: I agree about the 338. I think you can hunt anything short of Elephant with the proper bullet and a 338 Win [I just wish I would have got some of the Speer 275 Solids before they stopped making them! Woodleighs will work but I prefer the blunt tips to the FMJ's].

Hot Core
January 4, 2001, 03:46 AM
Hey BadMedicine, Didn't mean to leave you hanging there, I got to drifting off thinking about that great blueing job. (And I'm a Stainless and Synthetic kind of guy!)

Didn't have that much extra money on me at that time so I had to hand it back with the drool running into everything. Not sure I would have had a real use for it, but at that price, it sure would have made some great "Tradin' Bait".

By the way, I completely agree with your post about not being able to out run the Bear. Also agree it would be a good idea to have something capable of sending large chunks of Lead, accurately, in the Bears direction.

Our Carolina Black Bears seem to respond well to good old 358Wins and 200gr Hornadys. And, I do have a 350RemMag along with some old Fred Barnes copper tubing bullets I'd be happy to poke holes in one of those HUGE Brown Bears with. But, the 350 sure is loud. Absolutely, positively, for sure, have to wear Sonic Ear Valves when toting it. I know a fellow who screwed up and shot it twice, in a dense woods, a long time ago without the Sonics and his ears still ring today. (Don't bother to ask who, cause I don't want to embarrass myself. HA)

Hey Glamdring, Yes the thread start. I just did not understand your experience level. Nothing at all wrong with your question, just a wrong assumption on my part.

I do agree with your idea that testing Big Game bullets on Deer could lead a person to a wrong conclusion about the bullets performance. Plus, it would take too many years to get enough data for it to be statistically relevant.

As a recommendation, let me suggest you locate someone with a June 1998 "Handloader" magazine. If you don't know anyone with one, backorder it directly from "Handloader". In it is an article called "The Best Hunting Bullet" by Gary Sciuchetti. It is the very best comparative article I've ever seen on the subject. He compares the impact performance of 38 different kinds of 180gr 30cal bullets.

That in itself would be enough, but he tests each type 3 times at Impact velocities from 1400fps - 3100fps in 100fps increases. The report shows pictures of the 3 bullets after Impact at each speed level increase. Basically, 1600 bullets are shown after impacting the test medium which is wet phone books. (Some did not exhibit any expansion at all at the lower velocities, so he only shows them where they first begin to open.) He also gives the average depth of penetration and average retained weight for the bullets at each speed.

A whole lot of work and a whole lot of excellent comparative info. It would be a big step in giving you solid information for your original question.

Good hunting and clean 1-shot kills, Hot Core

January 4, 2001, 11:07 AM
Hot Core: I will check thru my pile of Handloader to see if I have that issue. I didn't start buying it regular till about 99. With the initial post I was trying to leave the question open enough to get responses. I don't know anyone personally [yet] that has shot enough "big" big game to have seen a statistically significant number of cases with any bullet.

BTW if you read Handloader & Rifle then you have probably seen Ross Seyfreid's work. I would say for the most part I am more or less a follower of Ross's philosophy when it comes to hunting calibers and such. I disagree with him on some stuff, like the difference between a 44 mag and a 45 LC when loaded with similar bullets. I think he hasn't ever used a 44 mag that has similar power level & heavy wt LBT bullet as his 5 shot 45 LC's. I have noticed that JD Jones shoots 44 mags in a modified Super Redhawk to similar ballistics as the 454 CAsul/5 shot Long colts and claims to see about same performance improvement on game over the standard 44 mag.