View Full Version : BEst game bullets?

Covert Mission
December 17, 2001, 09:21 PM
In the last two years hunting medium/big game (4 deer, one antelope, and one elk), I've tried several bullets: Nosler Partition and Ballistic Tips, and Trophy Bonded Bear Claws, with mixed results. In studying those results, and doing some extensive post-season reading this year on the subject, I've learned some things about bullet selection. I'd like to hear some opinions from veterans out there, too.

First, there's no magic or universal bullet, it seems. You have to choose the bullet for the application, though some seem to be far more versatile than others. I have an acquaintance who uses the Ballistic Tips in his 7mm-08 for everything from deer and antelope to elk... not a good decision, imo, but it's hard to argue with the 15 elk he's killed!

I have found that at closer ranges/higher impact velocities, that the Ballistic Tip nearly explodes, losing much of its jacket and core, and can do a lot of meat damage. At longer distances (200+) in my .270, it performs ok on deer/antelope, expanding well even with dimished terminal velocity. At 500 yards in something like .300WM/WSM or Ultra, or 7mmSTW, it might be great due to its excellent accuracy, but I just don't shoot at those ranges. I would not attempt to take a heavy boned animal like elk with the B'Tip, though.

The Partition performs ok. It was the best in its day I guess, but the competition has closed the gap or even pulled ahead. Its weight retention isn't anything close to what I experienced with the bullet I used for the first time on my 1st elk. I used Winchester Premium Hi-Vel ammo, with the 140gr TROPHY BONDED Bear Claw, and it performed superbly. The bullet I recovered (one was through and through the ribs/lungs) entered the ribs, went through the lungs, and lodged in the opposite shoulder inside. It formed a perfect mushroom to about 2x caliber, and retained 137 of its 140 grains. Hard to beat that, even if they are $1 apiece :( A friend of mine stopped a charging Cape Buffalo at about 40yds with a Bear Claw in his .375 H&H. It retained 295 of its 300 grains, even after bouncing off the spine and traveling 5 feet down the critter.

Ross Seyfried recently called the Winchester Fail Safe the best hunting bullet ever. Good articles in Gun Tests.com rate bullets 1) for the .300 WinMag and also 2)Premium Bullets, and the Swift A-Frame (which i have no experience with) rated #1 and the Bear Claw #2 (article #1). They also rated highly as a 'best buy' the Winchester Power Point 180gr soft point. Read it at: www.gun-tests.com/performance/oct97gggwinmags.html

Any thoughts here on bullet performance based on experience, especially the premiums vs the budget models, for a varielty of medium & big game? Of course, central to any bullet's performance is shot placement... I don't expect an A-Frame or Bear Claw to do the job with a poorly-placed shot, even from a WunderMagnum. Cheers

December 17, 2001, 11:08 PM

Take a look at a TFL posting about Sierra's Game Kings here (http://www.thefiringline.com/forums/showthread.php?s=&threadid=85951&highlight=Sierra) ... some decent info.

We've had excellent results using the 180 at .30-06 velocities on elk. I would probably switch to 165s for anything smaller & many in CO use the 165s for elk with good result. Still, nothing the matter with shooting deer/antelope with a 180

I'm currently using a 165 Barnes XBT in a .308 at moderate
velocities & have yet to recover a bullet from three elk so far. Switch due to the rifle, not for lack of the Sierra's performance.

I've never seen the Sierra GKs listed as a premium bullet, but they have done everything we could ask & provide excellent accuracy - bit less pricey than the "better" bullets as well.

What's not to like?

December 18, 2001, 09:46 AM
Covert: In my opinion, the Nosler Partition has not exactly been de-throned. It will still do almost anything you need a bullet to do, and it costs less than nearly all its premium competitors.

I have used Swift Bonded A-frame 200 grain bullets on elk with complete satisfaction. They hold together even with a 50 yard shot from a .300 Weatherby, which is the ultimate test for a bullet. But the Swifts cost $1 each and I like to shoot a lot, so I am using good old Nosler Partitions again.
Good Shooting,

December 18, 2001, 03:14 PM
I have just about settled on the 150 Nosler Partition on top of a hefty charge of H870 (or IMR7828) in my 7MM Rem Mag, and the Speer 150 grain Hotcore in my ought-6.

I feel certain that there are better bullets to be had but the way I feel is if something ain't broke I don't fix it. These 2 bullets have worked fine on all size whitetails (up to 250# live weight), and 2 large Mulies about 16 years ago.

The first deer I shot with the 7MM and a Nosler Partition was looking at me at the mighty distance of 50-60 yards from on top of a ridge. I shot dead square in the center of the brisket and the bullet traveled through him lengthwise, and exited at the very base of his tail on the top (spine) side. I do not know how much weight retention the Partition had because it exited. I was lucky in a way. It rode high through the abominal cavity so there was not too much of a mess. It kept chewing up the bottom of the spine, but did not damage the backstaps (whew!). It did chew the cat eyes all to hell though. It made coarse ground meat out of the top of the heart and jelly out of the lungs. He weighted in the neighborhood of 160-170 live weight and at the shot his feet kinda went out from under him and his belly hit the ground. He did not move. I guess this is what is called "knocking his **** in the dirt". It's hard to beat performance like this.

December 18, 2001, 04:16 PM
I have been wondering the same thing recently as I prepare to begin handloading for a sporterized 6.5x55 swedish mauser that is tack driver accurate. I really want to find the ultimate bullet in case I decide to take on elk and moose with the scandinavian dynamo!

List of manufactures I have been pondering, Barnes, Hawk, Swift, Sierra, Hornady, Remington, and nosler.

Hope you get some good replies!

December 18, 2001, 05:18 PM
No question that the "buck apiece" bullets are wonders of modern technology, but those "non-premium" bullets have certainly killed their share of game (& big game at that).

As with the modern whiz-bang newest & brightest magnums, a bunch of that is to sell new rifles - same goes for bullets (& much else in any business venture).

A non-magnum/non-premium bullet that shoots through an elk & shows great internal damage & expansion isn't going to be bested by one that shoots "more" through the critter. May extend the range a bit & give a tad better overall performance, but how dead you gotta kill the thing? ;)

I sure have my own preferences & will stick with them, but I'd not cry if I had to use somebody else' "inferior" product to get my game.

Compared to today's equipment, the old cast bullets in .45-70s, etc. (& slower, are nothing to write home about. Sure put a dent in the buffs though & buffs is big.

Art Eatman
December 18, 2001, 06:06 PM
My father was pretty much a whitetail hunter, with some muleys. He got invited to a lot of leases because he would take the hangover-guys out and shoot a deer for them to take home to mama. His high year was 32 deer. From 1946 through 1974, let us just say his total take was "high".

He used the Hornady 150-grain Spire Point, exclusively, in his .30-'06. The vast majority of his shots were one-shot kills--but that's mostly because he usually broke their necks.

I've used the Hornady, the Sierra flat-base and boat-tail, and the Remington Bronze Points. On deer with live weights not much over 200 pounds, they've all worked well. I've almost always had one-shot "anchors", if not outright kills; a very few needed a coup-de-grace at the site where they were hit. I've killed maybe 25 whitetails with my '06, and a half-dozen muleys. (My other whitetails were mostly with the .243; a few with a .270.)


Covert Mission
December 18, 2001, 09:11 PM
It kept chewing up the bottom of the spine, but did not damage the backstaps (whew!)

God Save the Backstraps! :) My hunting buddy and I just cooked dinner for 7 of us... whitetail backstraps (marinated briefly and then grilled) with a peppercorn-cream sauce. WOW! I hadn't had them in a year, and had forgotten what an incredible meal that is. Some of the best meat... period, imho. I'm gonna concentrate on whitetails and elk next year... we can usually get one or more 'B' tags for antlerless whitetail, in addition to my 'A' tag. If a trophy buck steps into my sights I'll take him, but those does are good eatin'. Can't wait to eat some elk loin from this year's hunt, too.

ART: You can't argue with success like you and your dad have had... which points to my comment that a well-placed shot is important above all else. The new premium bullets can improve on things at times, giving you a bit more range, more expansion and quicker bleeding, more accuracy in some cases esp at longer ranges, more weight retention, etc. They can't salvage a piss-poor shot though... something most of us are guilty of at one time or another, I'd bet (mea culpa). BTW, I have a Browning .243 single shot on lawaway, and I'm thinking it will become a whitetail and antelope rifle par excellence. My guess is that except for brush-bucking, the .243 will put down a whitetail as well as my .270 with a good shot. Sounds like you've had success with the .243 cal.

Art Eatman
December 18, 2001, 11:25 PM
I discovered, quite happily, that my .243 could get 5-shot, 5/8" groups with the Sierra 85-grain HPBT. I guess that helped the confidence level about taking neck shots.

(Been trying to remember any body shots; no luck...)

I always had a "usually" limit of around 200 yards on my shots, though. I guess if I were going to go after deer dressing much over 120 pounds or so, and anything beyond 200 yards, I'd go with a 100-grain bullet.

That 85-grain is really rough on feral cats and on coyotes.

:), Art

December 18, 2001, 11:41 PM

I have always preferred, and will probably always choose, the Nosler Partition. There is one main reason.....it works!! I have killed game from prarie dogs to 2000 lb. eland with the 175 gr. partition in my 7mm Rem Mag.

The Hornady interlock is also a great bullet, as are many others, but I'll stick with the partition every time.

Joel Slate
Slate & Associates, LLC
The Safari Specialists

7mm Rem Mag Page www.slatesafaris.com/7mm.htm

December 21, 2001, 09:14 PM
For an all around do every thing bullet I love the performance of Barnes-X. They are, however a pain in the a** when it comes to cleaning. They copper foul like a big dog. I have also had really good luck with the Nosler partitions and trophy bonded. The main load I use in my .375H&H is a 270 barnes at about 2600 fps They are very flighty (B.C. of .505) and they don't disform tips in the magazine which is the primary reason I use them.

I use the Noslers in my 30's and I've had real good luck with 180 ballistic tips out of my .308 they seem to do an fine job at lower velocities. If I'm going up in velocity I'd go with the Partition or a Barnes. As a general rule the faster I'm pushing a bullet the stouter the bullet I'll use.

December 22, 2001, 10:14 AM
You already know the answer. It's a very individual thing...The hunter, the gun, the game, the style...I always opt for the bullet that will work the best in a worst case scenario...worst range, worst angle, worst weather...worst whatever...For the 300 WinMag, I do like the Winchester Black bullets...Extremely accurate and hard hitting and seem to even feed nicely in my rifles. I DO have a desire to try some Hornady rds from the light magnum series. Aside from that, I'll continue with the Winchesters. I think I have enough to last the rest of my life and as everything is sighted in with them, it only requires one shot a year to check the zero...At this rate, including the hunt, the hundred I have, will probably be mostly there for my son to use ;)
I still like to load some Noslers in a 200 weight for some extras and a few "practice rds" each year...In variably, I use the Ballistic points for that purpose and the light rifles I choose to "play" with...For the big trips and the ones I have to use lots of "resources" to take...I'll stick to the Winchesters ;)

Cain R
December 23, 2001, 01:03 AM
If the Partition can't get it done. Then a Fail Safe. Last 20 years, it's been all Partition for anything serious. Ballistic Tip or Hornady Interlocks for everything else. Nothings gotten away and nothings needed more than one shot.

Johnny Guest
December 24, 2001, 10:21 PM
I began handloading rifle ctgs in the late sixties, using 150 Remington CoreLokt 150 gr in .30-06, over IMR 4895 powder. You know, that's still a pretty good combo.

I pretty well settled on Sierra Game King bullets some years ago, except for occasional excursions back to CokeLokts for economy's sake. Also tried 165 Nosler Ballistic Tips in .30, and 100 in .257.

The strange thing is, the consistent one-shot putter-downer has always been the .257 Sierra 100 gr GK. Perhaps 15 deer and three feral hogs for self, family and friends, and none has taken a second shot. Heck, I can't even say that for .30-06 or son's l300 WinMag. this is really more a matter of carefully choosing one's shots than basic deadliness, but the .257 sure shoots nice!

I've also shot a goodly number of deer, and one black bear with the '06, too.

I've bought several other types of bullets and tried 'em out on the range, but they've never shown me any reason to change.

Glad you''re happy with your bullets. I've got mine.


December 25, 2001, 12:38 AM
It is kinda "funny" in a way .... every shot I've made on big game, would have been taken cleanly with an FMJ ... every one!

May be that the game would have run/walked another 50 yards or so, if that, but there is no doubt that they all were DRT - only a matter of how many steps to fall down & they just didn't quite yet get the message.

I too started loading for my fave catridge (.243 Win) in the mid-60s & that with Hornady's 87gr SpirePoint. Dad did his same-same, but with 130s for a .270 Everything shot died right there - or so close as to not matter.

Very much to be said about bullet placement.

The reason I did switch (just in the last coupla years) to the "premium" (my wallet says so anyways ;) ) Barnes XBT in my short-barreled .308 was that Barnes was the only bullet manufacturer that stated their bullets would still expand at 1600 fps - not to mention their touted 25% increase in penetration per their claimed "cuts, rather than mushrooms." With my less-than-optimum velocities/that short barrel thing, I did want a penetrative/expansive bullet at these velocities. By all accounts, the Barnes do the trick - for what I am shooting. YMMV - of course & I'd never attempt to persuade another against what works for him/her.

(& BTW, my switch to Barnes, was due to a switch in a very much-so more compact rifle rather than my standard-length barreled .30-06 w/180 Sierra GameKings which has done elk, & everything else, very well.)

It is interesting to me though, that "we" "must have" that hyper-velocity, premium bullet design to cleanly kill game these days.

I'm shooting a 165 gr .308 bullet at (a chrono measured) 2400 fps which kills elk all day long. #s work out to better than 1700 ft lbs at 300 yards & with just a tad of scope subtension, drops 'em right into the boilroom.

So far, I've only had the opportunity to try these on 4X elk (~400-450 lb animals) @25-100 yards. All were shot through & I've yet to recover a bullet. Oh, that's right, & an ~150lb muley deer at about 30 yards - another no-recovery of bullet. All game DRT - w/in 40 yards. One elk was at about 15 yds & a Texas heart shot went completely through the critter = over 5 feet of penetration ... not too shabby for a "slow" bullet, all-in-all.

My only summation in 35+ years of shooting deer, etc, is just put a bullet in the right place & it will fall down dead (& humanely).

I used to do whitetails at 350+ yards with my .243 .... I've gotten better & now do elk/deer at an average of <35 yards, & it is now more "personal" & intimate. Much better hunting, not necessarily, a shooting, experience. I have grown .... ;)

Hunting skills make up more than 1/2 of the equation. Take the animal unawares & broadside & it doesn't matter what bullet you use. (Obviously, "expanding point bullets" are a norm for legal game-getting in most states.)

A "premium" bullet may allow a less than great shot punch through to the vitals where a "lesser" bullet may not.

All told though & everything equal, I'd bet it doesn't matter all that much.

Your skill at getting up close & personal, & putting the bullet where it needs to go decides more the difference between a hunter & a shooter .....

Merry Christmas, folks.

Please forgive the wordyness .... The Wife's tucked in & Santa's up late .....


December 27, 2001, 04:27 PM
I've fired a lot of 180 Spitzer Partitions from my .30/06, on everything from varmints to larger game like kudu and zebra. Works fine, everytime - no surprises, just a good balance of penetration and expansion. I really don't see a need for anything better in this caliber; if a 180 NP's terminal performance won't get the job done, I'm moving up in caliber.

IMHO not all of the new super whiz-bang bullets are what they're cracked up to be. I gave up on Barnes X-Bullets when my .30/06 would put 3 or 4 into a tight cluster with unpredictable, uncalled fliers opening up the group to 3 or 4 inches . . . or worse. These "fliers" could show up ANYWHERE in the string. I've never encountered anything near this level of unpredictability with any other bullet.

On the other hand, in my .375, I use Swift A-Frames, because they're just a tad more accurate than Noslers. The one I recovered from a lion - after hitting just about every bone it was possible to hit from that angle - retained 86% of its weight, with a mushroom that almost could have been a Swift publicity photo.