Proposition #1 has to do with this controversy that is still ongoing, perhaps more in the past than today, but there are still many proponents on each side. Just go to any forum that has a section on Big Bores, Single-shots and/or 1895 Marlins for confirmation. Then there are the web pages of Garrett Ammo and Buffalo Bore, to name a few.
In Proposition #2 the question will be raised, and a reasoned attempt made to answer it: How has today’s “premium bullets” changed the need for “heavy and slow bullets ?”, especially from Big Bores, if at all.
Proposition #3 will present some practical conclusions.
In my possession is a copy of The GUN DIGEST, 5th Edition, 1951. The original publisher’s cost of $6.95 was printed in bold black on the upper right corner of the cover when the cover was printed. I know that because apart from the title of the publication, everything else printed on the faded red cover is in the same bold black. (Left click on pics for enlargement.)
I purchased it sometime in the early 1980’s from COLES’ book store in Toronto for the hefty sum of $1.99. Above that tiny yellow sticker is a larger one that declares “Now Only 2.99”. That appears just below the original publisher’s printed price of $6.95! After a very long stay at COLES of about thirty years they finally unloaded it for $1.99! And I was the smiling recipient of their generosity! To this day, I turn its very tanned pages to 12 and 13, where two very different articles appear by Roy Weatherby and Elmer Keith under the composite heading of High Velocity vs. Heavy Bullets: Killing Power by Roy, and Pumpkin Rolling by Elmer. Hence, my title.
I’ve also just finished reading (again) an extensive article by P.O. Ackley on the same theme. Anyone familiar with Ackley in his volumns on Handloads for Shooters and Reloaders, are already aware of his bias toward speed, should that be in .22-caliber or .458. He quotes at length a fellow author who expounds vociferously on the killing power of kinetic energy — assuming the bullets had controlled expansion, which back in that day was mostly wishful thinking.
In contrast, we are nearly overwhelmed with “premiums” and “super premium” bullets for just about any caliber and application in our time. The downside is, of course, their premium costs — we don’t shoot as much as when Speer and Hornady bullets were mere pennies by comparison. As I write this, I’m looking at the cost of a box of 50 Nosler Partitions in 180 grain/.30-caliber. The sticker on the end of the box says $24.95. That’s fifty cents per! Today, they would be close to three or four times that amount! One thing is certain: I won’t be buying Nosler Partitions (or any others that cost $3.00 to $4.00 each) for punching holes in targets! But then, to purchase a 20-count box of so-called “premium” cartridges for game hunting, we are looking at a minimal cost of $50 to $65, plus tax, in Canada. In a big box outdoor store, just to the south of us, they are getting out of reloading components as they’re not moving! A box of 50/.458 Hornady Interloc were going (a joke — they weren’t going anywhere!) for about $90! The last time I looked they were marked down to $52 for “quick” sale. Not too many calls for 500 grain bullets anyway… but at that elevation… no calls! Myself? I look for bargains. And in that caliber I have a good stash anyway, including a few hundred hardcast in 465s and 470s. So you already know at least something of my personal biases. I really have no intention of getting out of a rifle/cartridge/caliber in which I already have a heavy investment in reloading components that could fulfill any needs, desires or wishes for the next 1/4 century!! But I’ll be packing it in long before I reach 107, so what I already have will outlast me by several years!
This is still a controversy today — Little and Fast vs. Heavy and Slow. Still, I wasn’t always inclined toward larger calibers and heavier bullets. In fact, it was just the opposite. My first handloads were for a .30-06, and they were mostly 165s for whitetails at a modest 2800 fps. Anyway, that was what the “book” said they should have been making in MV. And I chose BTs to insure they lost as little speed as possible in their fast flight to impact. After the .30-06, it was a 7mm Rem Mag, and then a .300 Win Mag (and several other .300 magnums). Yup, I was into speed!
And in a strange sort of way, I still am! For example: I’ve never owned a rifle, after becoming a “handloader”, in which I didn’t attempt to safely attain maximum velocity from bullets intended for hunting. That was in any metal cartridge from the tiny .22 Hornet that made a mere 675 ft-lbs at the muzzle to the mighty .458 Winchester Magnum making 5875 ft-lbs at the muzzle. That’s correct… 5875 from the 350 grain TSX at 2750 fps, when seated long and crimped in the bottom groove of that bullet, from a 25-inch barrel. That’s .30-06 speed from a 180 grain making a puny (by comparison) 3022 ft-lbs!
(This was recorded at 12 feet from the muzzle of my Tikka T3 Lite in 9.3 x 62 Mauser. The bullet was a 286 Nosler Partition. Corrected to muzzle = 2642 fps/4432 ft-lbs. No, I’m not mistaken and that wasn’t a false reading, despite what the “experts” might think or proclaim!)
So, I’m not a “slow and steady wins the race” kind of guy, by any misguided speculation. I arrived at BIG because it seemed logical that would be better than LITTLE (by comparison) at relatively close range on BIG game. And to this juncture, I’ve not been disillusioned or merely dreaming on clouds of fantasy.
Yet, where range might become an issue, as in mountains, plains or mixed terrain that includes mostly wide open areas, as in the West, I want speed and plenty of it. I used a .340 Weatherby firing a 250-grain Nosler Partition at +/-3000 fps/5000 ft-lbs to kill a bull moose in Northern Ontario because there were many clear-cuts that had the potential of a 600 yard shot where moose were crossing open areas. In times past, I’ve also carried .300 magnums, a .338 Win Mag and a .375 H&H for moose in the same area. They were all loaded with heavy-for-caliber bullets that were leaving the muzzles of rifles as fast as safely possible while also permitting descent accuracy. So I’m no stranger to speed. Speed does kill when certain appropriate qualifications are applied, such as bullet construction, SD and velocity at impact.
Here’s a quote from Phil Shoemaker, a renowned Alaskan Master Guide/Outfitter for big game, and author: “And it should come as no surprise to anyone on this forum that bullet construction, sectional density and velocity are all major factors in penetration.”
But Roy Weatherby, in the above mentioned article, went on and on to make this proclamation that he wanted a bullet to “blow up” inside the animal! That meant (by his own explanation) that on impact the velocity and structure of the bullet must be “just right” to insure that event… which also implied the exact distance! Too far and the bullet might penetrate but not “blow up” due to too little velocity. Hence, he recommended “magnum velocity” to reach out as far as possible insuring this magic of “blow up”! He added that he’d never seen a bullet “blow up” on the outside hide of an animal that was too close!! Yet he also claimed to have killed hundreds of big game in Africa as well as the USA and Canada.
That was then, in the late ’40’s. This is now… seventy years later! A lot has happened since the “bad” forties, including advanced technologies in just about every physical realm. And that also pertains to bullet technology. That will be up-coming in Proposition #2.
(A 250gr Nosler AccuBond from my 9.3 x 62, at 2715 fps/4090 ft-lbs, cleanly killed this bruin with one shot through lungs and heart at 85 yards.)
In spite of all advancements in bullet design and technology — some very good and some not so good — velocity and sectional density are still major players according to Mr. Shoemaker and several others including myself. The “best bullet” ever made still resting at the top of the cartridge in a rifle chamber has zero effect on anything. But once the trigger is squeezed a series of events are going to take place that depend on construction, caliber, SD and velocity of the bullet at impact on a game animal. YES! I KNOW! Bullet placement is also critical. (I had to say that lest I get jumped on!)