View Full Version : Nosler Ballistic Tips fail on elk

Bottom Gun
October 16, 2001, 02:18 PM
We had an excellent elk hunt this year. My partner and I both filled our cow tags.
I filled mine in the afternoon of opening day with one shot at 150 yd using my new Sako in .338 Win Mag, which I was VERY pleased with. It certainly does a much better job on elk than my 30/06 did last year. I used a 210 gr Nosler Partition bullet in front of 73.0 gr of IMR4831. It put the animal down immediately.

My hunting partner collected his cow on the third day using his Browning 7MM Mag at 300 yd. He was using factory ammo loaded with 150 gr Nosler Ballistic Tips and he needed several shots to anchor his animal even though his bullet placement was adequate. Those bullets did not seem to perform as well as was expected. All his shots exited and but not appear to do much damage on their way through. We suspected his bullets weren’t expanding properly.

We spent the remaining three days of the season hunting coyotes. We took several at various ranges and were further disappointed in the performance of Paul’s ballistic tips. He center punched a coyote at approx 400 yd. Instead of dropping however, the dog ran full bore for about 100 yd, then dropped over dead. When we examined the carcass, we found the bullet had exited, but there was no evidence of any expansion.
In contrast, every coyote hit with my .338 was totally devastated by each shot, even out at 350 yd which was my longest shot.

Has anyone else had experience with the Nosler Ballistic Tips slugs? Did they work well for you? The reason I’m asking is because I have several boxes of these Nosler Ballistic Tip slugs at home in both .30 and .33 caliber. I was planning to load them later, but now I’m not so sure after witnessing their poor performance in 7MM caliber. I’d appreciate any input on these slugs since I don’t want to load up a bunch of ammo which won’t work properly.

October 16, 2001, 03:30 PM
Interesting that your buddy's Ballistic Tips didn't expand. I've tried 180 BT's in my .30/06 and found that they expand too much for larger game, and if you don't shoot deer-sized game broadside through the lungs, the extremely rapid expansion will ruin lot of meat.

They sure are accurate, though!

October 16, 2001, 04:20 PM
The last time I shot something with them, it practically exploded out of the opposite side. Same thing for a small black bear I saw shot. Are you sure they were ballistic tips? That is the only problem I can think of. IIRC 7mm NBT have a red teflon tip.

October 16, 2001, 09:43 PM
Ballistic Tips are for Deer and Varmits not Elk.

October 17, 2001, 01:13 AM
I have heard the regular Ballsitic Tips are different in construction (thinner jackets) from the Combined Technology Ballistic Silvertips. I shoot the 140gr Silvertips out of my 7mm STW at 3500 fps and they pass right through both shoulders of a whitetail with only a 2 inch exit wound. Could it be he was using Silvertips? I have heard of regular ballistic tips overexpanding, but I have never used them.


October 17, 2001, 07:06 AM
Couple of questions: Is your friend using handloads, and if so, how fast/slow is he loading them? Are they standard BT's or the Combined Tech model?
I've been using BT's on Texas deer for a dozen years, mainly because of their accuracy in my 308. The 150 and 165 grain BT's will group .5 MOA with any respectable powder I drive them with, and because they do so well, I take head shots whenever I can. Last year, I had a nice 8 point walk up to within 50 yards of the stand, and just to see what the 165 grain load would do, I fired into his chest broadside. Got a pretty nice exit wound, and it blew the lower part of his heart and both lungs to shreds. The buck did not take so much as a step on impact-just went over dead. Granted, it was no elk, and I have heard stories that you should not use BT's on the big stuff as they are supposed to be quick openers, but it certainly did the job as well as I could have hoped, and broke a rib on entry and exit too.

October 17, 2001, 07:12 AM
I use 165 gr BTs in my 30-'06 for southern whitetails, always get expansion and sometimes too much. When deer are shot a close range (woods are dense here) the bullet jacket is often caught in the off side hide, only the bullet core exits. Lots of damage inside the boiler room. The BTs even show signs of expansion with neck shots.

For varmits to whitetail the BTs work very well for me. For bigger/tougher game I would use a tougher jacketed bullet for better penetration.

Bottom Gun
October 17, 2001, 09:08 AM
My friend was shooting factory ammo. I believe it was made by Federal. The box said the cartridges were loaded with 150 gr Nosler Ballistic Tips. They weren't moly coated, just copper jacketed with the plastic tip.

Art Eatman
October 17, 2001, 10:07 AM
Bottom Gun, I suggest you communicate with Nosler on this. Your friend's experience is obviously different than scouter27's.

Generalizing, I've had faster and/or more expansion with boat-tailed bullets than with spitzers in my '06. This is for 150- and 165-grain weights.

At close range, the Sierra 165-grain HPBT seems to explode. I've not had occasion to try it at longer distances. I'm sorta going off of the Sierra 150-grain SPBT because of no exit wound on the last two mulies I collected--and one was a neck shot at 30 yards.

At 500 yards, there is a very significant difference in damage to a steel plate, with the Sierra 180-grain SPBT being obviously superior to either the 150- or 165-grain bullets.

I've heard complaints from hunters in Georgia against the Winchester Fail Safe bullets, as they don't expand...



Cain R
October 17, 2001, 10:42 AM
Been using Ballistic Tips for a number of years, probably gone through about 5,000rds assorted .308, .243, and .22 and have never had one NOT handgrenade within a few inches of penetrating. Having said that the biggest game I'll even consider shooting with them are Coyotes. Not having them expand, well, thats really wierd. A call to Nosler would be in order. I've talked to their tech people on a number of occasions and they've always been super helpful.

Bottom Gun
October 17, 2001, 10:53 AM

I've decided to forget about the new-fangled ballistic tips and just stick with the partition bullets for serious hunting and plain old Sierras for general purpose use.

I agree with your choice of the .30 cal Sierra 165 gr HPBT for deer. I've used that very bullet almost exclusively in my '06 for deer for many years and it has performed very well for me at all ranges.
I also like the .33 cal Sierra 215 gr SPBT in my .338.
The Sierras are some of the most accurate bullets I've shot and I've never had one fail.

Maybe newer is not always better?

Mad Max
October 17, 2001, 04:38 PM
I have used 150 gr Noslers for the past few years on deer with my 7mm Mag., and they have worked perfectly. Last year, I shot a spike that was facing me with his head down feeding. The round entered between his shoulders and traversed the entire length of the deer, with the jacket stopping in his abdominal skin and the core punching through into his rear leg. Needless to say, he dropped. Any shot I have made into the ribcage blows a 2 or 3 inch hole out the other side, and they are the most accurate bullets I've found for my Sendero.

Art Eatman
October 17, 2001, 06:38 PM
Well, I allus figgered if a deer drops DRT, a different gun, cartridge or bullet ain't gonna make him any deader...

:), Art

Bud Helms
October 19, 2001, 04:36 AM
It may have been mentioned and I may have missed it from reading this thread kinda fast, but Nosler is making at least two designs of the Ballistic Tip, one for varmints and one for larger game.

I have never heard of a Ballistic Tip under-expanding before.

Ballistic Tip Varmint (http://www.nosler.com/balltipvarmint.html)

Ballistic Tip Hunting (http://www.nosler.com/balltiphunt.html)

October 19, 2001, 05:35 AM
i shot a 7 pointer (SE whitetail) wed. w/ a 7mm STW and a handloaded 150 gr. nosler BT at 3200 fps. the distance was about 65 yards. the rd. struck the 4th right rib breaking the 3rd and 5th ribs at the spine then exited between the 2nd and 3rd left rib. the lungs poured out when he was dressed like red oatmeal. the liver was split into 2 halves and the heart was splayed open like a greeting card. the exit hole was only about 1.5" and the buck went from standing to flat.
the BT's are the most accurate rd. in my #1 i have found.

Bottom Gun
October 19, 2001, 10:13 AM

I looked at the Nosler site you listed, but didn't see any varmint bullets in 7MM, so I'm assuming the slugs had to be the hunting variety for larger game.
At this point, however, I'd be hesitant to use them on anything larger than small deer after seeing their dismal performance firsthand.
That's too bad because I must have a couple hundred of the darned things sitting on my loading bench. Guess I'll just load them for plinking, varmints, etc and stick with the Partitions and Sierras for hunting.

October 19, 2001, 09:03 PM
Bottom Gun: I would suggest gettiing ahold of the box of ammo your friend had trouble with and contacting Federal or whoever loaded that box, the box should have a lot number and other info on it so the factory can track down some details. Like if other people have called or emailed about problems with that lot of ammo.

I am very curious to hear what Federal &/or Nosler have to say about this. I live close to the Federal Ammo plant in Anoka, MN and know a few people that have worked there over the years.

BTW What bullet/load did you use in your '06 prior to switching to the 338/210 Nosler? Have you run your 338 load over a chronograph?

Bottom Gun
October 22, 2001, 10:19 AM

My .338 WM load is a Nosler 210 gr Partition with 73.0 gr IMR4831 and a Winchester standard primer.
It goes through the screens at 2980 fps. It's not a smoking hot load, but rather a good mid-range load.
I load the 250 gr partitions with 70.0 gr IMR4831 and std Win primer but haven't chronoed them yet. I would expect approx 2500-2600 fps for that load.
These two loads impact vertically within 3/4 inch of one another at 100 yd out of my Finnbear so I don't really have to adjust my zero when going from one load to the other.

Last year I used 200 gr Nosler Partitions in my 30/06 with IMR4064 powder. I don't recall the exact charge, but it was one grain under the max load specified in my Lyman manual. It chronoed about 2560 out of my Sako.
This 30/06 load worked OK, but the .338 load puts elk down with a lot more authority. I feel better hunting with the .338. Guess I feel I have a little larger margin for error just in case I screw up.

I'll mention sending that 7MM lot # in to Nosler, but I kinda doubt my friend will want to bother with it. I suspect he'll just start using something else. Think I've got him talked into using partitions next time.

October 22, 2001, 01:20 PM
Bottom Gun, if you knew the people at Nosler as I have you would at least give them a chance to see if there product was/is defective. Their number is: Customer Service: 1 (800) 285-3701
John and Bob Nosler are fine people. I have first hand knowledge on fine six and four point elk that I shot with 150gr. Ballistic Tip using 4064. one shot kills both with moderate size exit holes thru the lower neck as it attaches to the shoulder. I used 150 gr Protected Point Partitions for a long time but they were not a good seller and were discontinued. My old 721 likes to smash lead bullet noses so I went to the 150gr BT and have had real good luck with Mule deer so I started using them for elk. I have never found a mule deer or elk hit broad side or even quartering away that has not been holed using partitions. So, if it gives more confidence using Partitions go for it. If you buy enough of their bullets maybe they will have us build them another building. MWT

Bottom Gun
October 22, 2001, 03:12 PM

Like I said, I'll mention it to Paul and see if he wants to send them in to Nosler or call/email them, etc.
The decision is his since they are his cartridges.
Personally, I won't use the ballistic tips after this so it's a moot point as far as I'm concerned.

Long Path
October 22, 2001, 08:35 PM
A hunting buddy of mine used to love to load and shoot deer with the Nosler BT's in .30-06. They were quite accurate, and he made some amazing shots with them. We kept noticing that the exit wound was consistantly big enough to drop a quarter through without getting it bloody. That said, they tended to be a bit unstable through shoulders. We noticed that they over-expanded a tad. Numerous gunzines corroborrated this. This was about 10 years ago, and I stuck to Sierra bullets, for the most part. (GameKings never let me down!)

From what I've read, however, Nosler took all of this into account back in about '96 or so, and began producing a "harder" Ballistic Tip bullet. Still the reputation for overexpansion persisted. Nosler released further data about their B.T.'s being harder .

I wonder if this wasn't a batch in which Nosler over-compensated, to prove once and for all that B.T.'s are by-Gawd controlled-expansion bullets? :confused:

October 23, 2001, 02:07 AM
Bottom Gun: Thanks for the info, I have wondered how the 210 Partition would work on light game...sounds like a winner to me based on how it worked on Elk & coyotes.

Did you ever use 180 partitions in your '06?

Bottom Gun
October 23, 2001, 11:16 AM

The Nosler 210 gr Partition is an excellent bullet. I'm going to use it as my standard hunting bullet from now on. (This year was the first time I've used them)

No, I haven't used the 180 gr partitions in .30 cal, only the 200 gr partition.

A fine varmint bullet for the .30 cal is the Speer 125 gr TNT. They are both accurate and quite explosive when they land.

Long Path
October 24, 2001, 12:13 PM
Bottom Gun-- What kind of accuracy are you getting with your Partitions? I have great respect for the construction and down-range performance of the Partitions, but alsom some concerns about the accuracy potential of a bullet that has, essentially, two bullets tied together. Nosler admits that it's impossible to get their cores precisely centered to each other, and this is why they can't get the same accuracy with their Partitions as they can with their Ballistic Tips.

But if we're talking about 2" at 100 yds instead of 1.5", then, no big deal.


Bottom Gun
October 25, 2001, 12:47 PM
Long Path,

I'm getting minute of angle with the Nosler 210 gr Partitions and about 2'' groups with the 250 gr Partitions out of my Sako Finnbear.
I might be able to close up the 250 gr group a bit with a different load, but I doubt that I'll bother since I'll be using the 210 gr for most of my hunting and should I want to use the 250's, a 2" group is accurate enough for my purposes.

October 26, 2001, 10:16 PM
Well I've got a different take on this problem, It ain't the Bullet it's the 7MM. (Sorry 7MM fans) I am not alone when I say this as I've had many other Elk hunting guides and hunters have the sme problem with any Bullet they shoot out of a 7MM on ELK or other game for that matter. It's the ELK woundingest round in the woods! In fact I've talked to several outfitters who won't allow A 7MM in Elk camp. My experience with the 7MM is that it's a very accurate round and a great target round but if your comming out west to hunt leave it at home. There is something about it that makes it penetrate like the devil but it just won't open up and tranfers very little energy. Maybe it's that long slender bullet and high S.D. And now I know I'll get a bunch of 7MM kill stories but it's been my experence that it's not one of the better game rifles out there.

Long Path
October 28, 2001, 11:50 AM
Bottom Gun--

That which will not die to a 250g .338 that holds 2moa is that which I have no desire to shoot. I think I'll give the Nosler 225 Partition (http://www.nosler.com/data358NorMag225g.html) a try out of my .35 Whelen.


October 29, 2001, 10:04 AM
I hunt southern whitetail with 165g NBT's in a 30-06AI. Performance has be exceptional. Distances from 30-220 yards. I find that their rapid expansion increase the likelyhood of damaging the CNS or major blood vessels. HOWEVER, if I were going for BIG game, I'd opt for a more solidly constructed bullet. A Ballistic tip in a 338mag might have enough mass for Elk, but a 150g in a 7mag might be pushing it.


Bottom Gun
October 31, 2001, 11:22 AM

I'm inclined to agree with you on the 7MM. I think it's too light for elk.
I learned the hard way that velocity is no substitute for a big old heavy bullet on large critters like elk.

Long Path,

Those 225 gr Partitions should be just the ticket in your .35 Whelen. Looks like they should be a good combination of velocity and mass and the accuracy may surprise you.
Let us know how they work out for you.

October 31, 2001, 11:44 AM
The 7Mag may not be an all aspect killer on big elk, but this seems like a bullet failure rather than caliber. Much lesser calibers have been used on the big guys who know the limitations of their rifle. . I'm not certain how Nosler constructs the Ballistic Tip-whether the hollowpoint is pre-fractured or its a simple hollowpoint with the plastic tip driven back at impact to start the mushrooming (which I suspect)? I've had some 165 grain 308's which went through without hitting bone on these smaller Texas white tails and did not show much expansion-maybe to .50 diameter, but if bone is hit, the bullet flattens out and really makes a mess of the chest area. Head shots (which I like best) will typically leave a 1" or bigger exit wound from 60-300 yards.

Bottom Gun
October 31, 2001, 02:51 PM
I’ve thought about this a bit and have started wondering if BOTH the caliber and the bullet are to blame for the poor performance.
I’ve hunted with this guy and his 7MM for a couple of seasons now and as I recall, he had a problem putting a whitetail down with it last year when he was using factory Winchester Power Points.

I think the problem may be range.
My friend will regularly take shots I would normally pass up due to the distance. Each of the shots I mentioned earlier was taken in excess of 350 yards, including the one on the deer last year.

I examined the numerous holes in Paul’s elk this year after we skinned it and was surprised to see very little evidence of expansion where the bullets exited. None appeared to have hit bone.
Could it be that after these 7MM slugs have traveled 400 yards or more that they lack the necessary velocity for proper expansion? After all, they are only 150 grain slugs.

October 31, 2001, 03:01 PM
Good Point, Bottom Gun.
Range is a really important deal, especially if the loads or especially the handloads are on the light side. 7 Mags are great for retained velocity, but you have to start them out pretty warm in order for them to hit with any kind of authority. I've seen elk hit at 200 yards with 7 mags and they seem to do okay at that range. Have not seen any taken with that particular caliber past that distance, but Nosler's literature does not really recomend BT's for large animals because they supposedly open quick. I would not see that as so much of a handicap at long range because the velocity is down.

November 2, 2001, 07:42 PM
A rough, very rough, rule of thumb for soft point rifle bullet expansion is that impact velocity has to be at or above 2000 fps.

Does your friend's 7mm have a 22" or 24" barrel? Has he run any of these loads over a chrony?

Still think there is something strange going on. From what you said your 338/210 Nosler was showing a LOT more expansion on coyotes at 350+ yards than your friend's 7mm with 150 ballistic tips. Which isn't what most people would expect IMHO.

Might suggest he try Nosler Partitons next time, they might not have the gee whiz BC but they will probably perform much better on game.

November 2, 2001, 07:57 PM
Nosler's BTs always seemed very frangible in any shooting I've done with them which lead me to them at the start when working up loads for a Contender - figuring about 2400fps for a .30 cal rifle bullet. That they are very accurate was a definite plus.

When shooting 2 litre water-filled water bottles, I'd often find jacket parts in front of 'em - seemed very "explosive." Have heard that Nosler's boosted their design somewhat. I certainly wouldn't expect 'em not to expand.

Settled on the Barnes XBT in 165 grains, spec'd to still expand at 1600 fps. These bullets have a great BC, may not shoot well out of all rifles (longer bullet may not stabilize) & are way pricey.

Not necessary for most applications, I'd say, but for a particular niche = superb.

November 4, 2001, 12:59 AM
.......but.........Elk with a 150 grain Anything????? Let alone, the Ballistic Tip????????

Bottom Gun
November 5, 2001, 10:53 AM

I don’t know how long his barrel is. He shoots a Browning A-Bolt. Maybe someone else here knows the length of their barrels.
His ammo was a Federal factory load with 150 gr Nosler Ballistic Tips. A poor choice for elk as it turned out. Wish I’d known what he was using beforehand. I probably would have tried to talk him into using something else.
In Paul’s defense though, he’s a pretty good hunter and very safe gun handler but he sometimes listens to the wrong “gun experts” and follows their advice. I don’t think he’s hunted elk with this 7MM before and I think he expected too much from it, especially with those Ballistic Tips.
I’m sure he’ll use premium bullets next time. He learned a valuable lesson this year.

Yes, my .338 with 210 partitions was expanding MUCH better than the 7MM with the 150 Ballistic Tips which is just the reverse of what I expected. This is why I suspect those 150’s were flawed or may need more velocity at longer ranges to expand reliably.

I hope it’s just those particular 7MM bullets not working properly because I have several hundred of the darned things in .30 and .33 caliber. I shot some out of my 30/06 this weekend and was VERY pleased with the accuracy. In fact, I should post a thread in the reloading forum here. Think I will.

August 10, 2010, 06:24 PM
I'd have to recommend the Hornady SST's. Alot of people that I'm around see the results from my kills and say "I dont know about those, some dont go complety through", no some dont. But you should be there when you open the animal up too! I will not shoot animals in the shoulders are neck for wasting too much meat. And the ones do exit look like a grenade was inside. I wont my bullet to be the MOST accurate bullet I have found #1 and #2 I wont it to dump the most energy into that animal and be the most devastating round I have ever seen. And thats what I have found the SST's to be. If you'll look you'll find I've only posted in this area about 3-4 times, I always stay on the reloading side. I just explored here early this morning but thats all I do is test, test and more testing with different bullets and the final test shows on the kills. Just my two cents!

August 10, 2010, 07:12 PM
I've loaded 150 gr. NBT's in my 3006, every deer that I did the proper job on, died instantly! I'have collected three pills from just under the off-side skin,reflecting full mushrooming and at the very least 95% retained weight. I've heard people complain about NBT's exploding on bone, Its' never happened to me. They're accurate and they kill.:) theres nothing I can add to that..Ivekilled maybe twenty-five or so deer, anywhere from 50lbs to 250lbs, and that bullet has always seemed to surpass all my expectations!!:D In 1997 or there abouts I shot a large doe at 250yds, this rifle is sighted in 3 inches high at 100, I held just in her back bone thinking she was further, the round went through her backstraps and right through the spine and out the other side, there was a golfball sized hole halfway through her. Broke her down like a dirty sparkplug. I can see a problem with maybe a certain lot# of product but don't judge every NBT just from a couple stories.:p The Partition bullet was designed for deep penatration the ballistic tip for accuracy and shock.

August 10, 2010, 08:44 PM
I loaded and shot the .270/130 for a few years in a Rem ADL w/ 22" bbl. Never screened the load, but suspect 2800 fps +. Killed exactly 3 deer w/ it, 1 at 30 yds , 1 at 160 paces and another at 212 paces.

None of the wounds, exits or damage were particularly dramatic. All 3 deer acted like other rifle hit deer, sprinting a short distance before going down. The bullet at 160 did not exit, it was a raking shot and the bullet fragmented while passing forward from just ahead of the the diaphragm to the opposite shoulder.

I was surprised, as my shooting buddy was loading 140 B-tips in his 7mm Mag and they were like small bombs. He's disabled, a back injury, and occasionally calls for me to help recover the deer and help hoist and butcher. The wounds he was getting with his 7mm/140 loads were devastating, and I was expecting same from my .270/130, but it didn't happen on the 3 I shot, not even the close (30 yd one).

My .270 experience is contrary to what others say, and 3 deer is not much of a sample, granted.

August 11, 2010, 12:03 AM
I think the velocity has alot to do with how a bullet works, If a bullet is made to open up and retain weight at 2800 fps and your pushing it at 3000 its going to not perform as advertised, same way with under driving it, like a far shot would do, look at the velocity drop off at 400 yard vrs the muzzel. I shoot 130 NBT out of my 270, hand loads with 4350, near max, and its a deer thumping machine, Ive taken deer from 50 yards out to 340 with it, If I had to take a guess, 85% or more of the deer ive shot were DRT, and the rest never made it 50 yards pry. Some of the wounds were pretty nasty, some not so terrable, but the bottem line is the animals were down pretty fast, this combo seems to work for me for deer size game, for elk I would choose the partion or accubond, or even a Barnes tsx. and also for elk I would prefure a 30 cal or bigger.

August 11, 2010, 01:02 AM
BT's were designed to work at velocities more associated with long range. They can come apart a close range velocities.

I loaded a bunch for a friend who likes them (150 gr.) in '06 and they worked fine. However, they were loaded to a MV of about 2850 fps, and at 100 yds and out they peformed fined on antelope, and deer and weren't too destructive.

Don't know what happend to a 150 gr. from a 7mm Mag. An autopsy report would have been helpful in analyzing the problem.

While BT's have been known to expand too quickly on big game, having the bullet exit a coyote is how I'd want it. Pretty tough to design a bullet that expands quickly in coyotes and stops them in their tracks while, at the same time, giving deep penetration a a critter the size of an elk.

Your Noslers that were designed so the front part expands moderately even at long range, while the back part drives it deep, would be expected to perform well on game of different sizes and at different ranges.

The Nosler BT simply wasn't so designed, and going thru the coyote-- without much expansion-- is a good thing for an elk bullet.

Without a little "post mortum" report, we still don't know why they didn't work tht well on elk. And just because the elk didn't immediately drop with the first shot doesn't mean he wasn't done for or that all those shots were necessary.

August 11, 2010, 03:44 AM
I really like BT's.Accurate,good BC,and,for me,a great lung shot bullet.I wonder if someone at the ammo factory substituted Accubonds.FWIW,I use .115 BTs in my .257 AI,it kills very well.
Same time,a BT in small calibers would not be my first choice for elk.The Accubond would be a better choice,and in a 7 mm,a 160 partition is good.

Art Eatman
August 11, 2010, 08:11 AM
Nuthin' like resurrecting a nine-year-old thread with an off-topic comment...