As a new hunter it's a challenge deciding which of the many, confusing
cartridges and calibers to buy. It's even more confusing when we're asked to
It's not just brands, but bullet types, weights and shapes. Is all this
really necessary? Does it really matter if we choose a 150-grain bullet over a
165-grain or 180-grain? A boat tail over a flat base? A Core-Lokt over a Ballistic Silvertip?
Yes! And no. Well, maybe.
Here's a quick breakdown:
Which Bullet Is Best?
So, in the real world how do you determine which bullet is
best? Choose long, narrow, sharply tipped bullets with boat tails to
maximize velocity and downrange energy, but don't sacrifice accuracy to get it.
The differences in performance between a flat-based spire point and a boat
tail, Very Low Drag (extremely long, pointed nose) bullet of the same
caliber/weight don't amount to an inch or two at 300 or 400 yards.
For more penetration on bigger game (elk, giant boars caked in mud) use a
tougher, controlled-expansion bullet that's all copper or copper/lead with
a thicker jacket, bonded lead core or mechanically locked core. For greater
expansion on smaller, thinner skinned game (whitetails, mule deer, antelope) a
thinner jacket swaged around a soft lead core can provide more tissue
destruction and adequate penetration. These are ideal for "behind the shoulder
broadside" shots. But, if you like to "shoot through" to enhance potential for
blood trailing, go with tougher, deeper penetrating bullets. If you anticipate
shooting through shoulders or any major bones/muscle groups, use the tougher
bullets. Soft bullets can stop or come apart without reaching the vitals.
For impact velocities at or above around 2,800 fps (magnum cartridges) use a
controlled expansion bullet.
While bullet choice is important, placement trumps it. Better to hit game in
the heart or spine with the "wrong" bullet than in the paunch with the "right"
bullet. Practice. A lot. It
makes no sense to save $200 on practice ammo and waste a week of hunting, that
one chance at the big buck and the cost of your tag by missing.
Shop The Sportsman's Guide great selection of Rifle Ammunition!
Ron Spomer has been photographing and writing
about the outdoors for nearly four decades. He's written seven books, hunted on
six continents and been published in more than 120 magazines. He's currently rifles'
editor at "Sporting Classics," Travel columnist at "Sports Afield," Field
Editor at "American Hunter" and "Guns & Ammo" -- Optics Columnist at "North American
Hunter," Contributing Editor at "Successful Hunter," Senior Writer at "Gun
Hunter," and TV host of "Winchester World of Whitetail." He will write on Shooting Tips weekly for sportsmansguide.com. You can read his
blogs and catch some of his YouTube videos at www.Ronspomeroutdoors.com.