In our previous articles we’ve discussed a bullet’s CONSTRUCTION in P1, then CALIBER and SHAPE in P2. A bullet’s WEIGHT was also mentioned in reference to caliber but not dealt with in a specific manner. So today we’ll be considering the final two elements that determine a Bullet’s Killing Power in P3: WEIGHT and IMPACT VELOCITY.
Weight: A bullet’s weight is constrained to a great extent by its caliber. There are rifles whose caliber permits wide variances in this regard. For some examples: 7mm, .308, .338 and .458 are perhaps the most common calibers with a seemingly endless array of projectiles in construction, shape and weight; and I have considerable experience with all four in multiple handloads for various purposes, including hunting, testing and target shooting. The question being: what is best for effectively killing/stopping a big-game animal under the expected hunting conditions?
For the past thirty years or so (1/2 of my hunting career) I’ve used “Mediums” and “Big Bores” for about 90% of my medium and big game hunting. So it would seem suitable to make use of medium-caliber and large-caliber rifles for those chores.
In medium-caliber rifles I’ve fired I don’t know exactly how many in .338″ — but surely into the thousands, including 200s, 210s, 225s, 250s and 275s. They were shot in .338 Winchester Magnums and a .340 Weatherby Magnum. I settled on 250s for hunting big game because they were constructed for that purpose, and sectional density was excellent at .313, and ballistic coefficient was also excellent at between 473 BC for the Nosler Partition and 587 BC for the Sierra (see P2). That meant excellent potential down-range performance. In addition, those bullets could be driven at +/- 2700 fps from the .338 Win Mag with only a 20″ barrel to 2840 fps from my 26″. From the 26″ .340 Weatherby an average of +/- 3000 fps was usual from the 250gr NP. Both the .338s and .340 were very efficient in the use of powder, and accuracy was more than acceptable. I thought recoil from the .340 might become a concern at 54 ft-lbs, but it never was. I shot a bull moose with that load from the .340, and the bull,1000 – 1100 lbs, (but estimated by the manager of a meat packing plant in Toronto, that deals mainly in beef, at 1300 lbs from the amount of boned-out meat from the moose. BTW, I didn’t agree with that estimate.) took a total of one step before it went down on the second shot. It got to its feet again when my son arrived and spooked it, but it couldn’t have made one more step without falling. In any case I gave it another in its rump and it went down to stay.
In my opinion (and I dislike most opinions), a well-constructed 250gr in .338″ is the ideal weight for large and potentially dangerous game.
Similarly, in .358″ caliber, I’ve handloaded 200gr Hornady SP and 250gr Hornady SP, 200gr Barnes X (original), 225gr – X, 300gr Barnes RN, 250gr Nosler Partition and 250gr Speer GS and SP. These involved two .350 Rem Mags and a .35 Whelen. I did also own a single-shot .35 Whelen that was not kept for a couple of reasons that I’ll not go into here, so I’m not including it in this summary. Hundreds of handloads were fired through the Whelen and hundreds more through the two .350 Rem Mags. 2600 fps was easy for the Whelen from both the Hornady 250 and Speer 250 SP, but not from the 250 Nosler. My last 350 Rem Mag had a serious chamber problem from the Remington factory — it was roughed-out only and never finished. It went to my world-class gun smith, Edwin von Atzigen (now retired), and he corrected the problem. After that it had better ballistics than the Whelen from its 22″ tube (The Whelen also was 22″). And it had better accuracy at three in 3/8″ at 100 yards from the 250gr Speer GS leaving the muzzle at 2700+ fps! Remington brass was used in each (the .350 Rem and Whelen), WLRM primers and RL-15. (Left click on pics for a better view)
The .350 Rem would have been kept except it was way too heavy and had the cosmetic rib on the barrel made of steel. It served no purpose other than some nostalgic person at Remington “felt” it would bring back some nostalgic customers… Duh! Anyway, Remington later ditched it and came out with the CDL version with a 22″ barrel and walnut stock. But this isn’t about the weight of the rifle — but of the bullets.
Again, while there is a use for 200gr and 225gr projectiles in .35 caliber, and even a 310gr and 280gr, I believe that if someone wants to use their 350 Rem or .35 Whelen for a mixed bag of deer and moose (elk?), they’re better off with a quality 250gr. A 250gr will have a better SD at .279, and generally a better BC for superior down-range results on larger game, including African PG.
Next up is the 9.3 x 62 (the 9.3 x 74R is similar but really a different entity as it’s reserved for single-shots or doubles): I’ve written a lot on this one over the last eight years so will try to avoid too much repetition. But it’s about 9.3 bullets, and their weights which are not as prolific as in the American calibers or the .375s. The reason for this situation is quite simple to understand — it’s not an American caliber or cartridge, and has only come to the fore in North American hunters thinking over the last decade or so. And, there is resistance to anything metric. Nonetheless, it has become a favorite of many including myself.
I may not yet be aware of all bullets available since many are made in Europe, but there are more than enough quality ones produced in America (and some in Canada) for most chores for which this world-famous cartridge is renowned. I’m aware of one that’s produced in Australia, I believe, by GS Custom that weighs a mere 195gr with a boat-tail. But they are very difficult to locate anywhere in Canada. They also have a decent SD and BC for medium game, but even with an MV of 3000 fps from my rifle it would still come short of the excellent 250gr Nosler AccuBond in effect on large or medium game at longish distances. The 250 AccuBond has persuasively been used on PG African fauna as well as the likes of grizzly on our side of the ocean.
It’s accuracy at 2760 fps from my rifle shoots into MOA and one grain less at +/-2700 fps shoots consistently into less than 1/2″ when I’m on my game. It’s also a capable bear “getter” at extreme range — for those capable of taking a 350 lb whitetail at 400 yards — and where permitted or appropriate — i.e. without an outfitter.
Let’s see… At 400 yards that bullet leaving MY rifle at 2700 fps hits at 2047 fps/2325 ft-lbs. Based on my Terminal Effect formula, with a good hit through lungs with an exit, the TE should be 65 — plenty for any 800 lb bear!
Am I recommending that? No! But that’s to illustrate a point depending on the ability of that bullet at that impact velocity! That’s a premium 250gr, .366-cal bonded-core bullet hitting a vital area with over 2300 ft-lbs. It’s BC = 493 and SD @ .267. If you were standing a mere ten yards from that 800 lb moose or bear, and shot it through the heart/lung area with that bullet so it impacted with 2325 ft-lbs of kinetic energy remaining at 2047 fps, what do you think would be the result? What other cartridge could we compare it with: a 250gr at 2047 fps impact from ten yards? Would you feel safe with a big-bore handgun in the .454 Casull shooting a 250gr? According to Nosler, their 260gr can make up to 1983 fps/2270 ft-lbs starting out from a single-shot TC Encore, and with a BC of only .174 it’s making 1941fps/2174 fp-lbs at impact! With an SD of .182 that’s a TE of 56.5, good for a big bear but still behind the 250 Accubond/.366″ (9.3mm) from 400 yards distant! So bullet weight and construction are meaningful, but it’s effect is determined by IMPACT velocity which is determined by shape and muzzle velocity. And the 286gr NP is even better for larger game. Leaving the 22.5″ barrel of my Tikka at over 2600 fps it’s still making over 2000 ft-lbs at 500 yards! (A recently fired 286gr NP from my 9.3 x 62 recorded this)>
And I’ve fired hundreds more from .375 H&Hs, as well as thousands in .458-caliber from ten .45-70s and three .458 Winchester Magnums.
Depending on several other important factors, impact velocity will determine if a particular bullet gets the job done as intended for it.
What are those other important factors?
1> Bullet design and construction.
2> Bullet placement. (Upcoming topic: Offhand shooting of big game)
3> Bullet energy and/or momentum.
4> Bullet caliber.
In essence, that is a summary of what previously has been presented, with the exception of placement and impact velocity.
<(A 500gr Hornady RNSP recorded this in May, 2019. Temp. @ +13C/+59*F. Chrony at 15 ft from muzzle) In terms of velocity, it should be obvious, I think, that a 500gr/.458″ needs far less velocity at the muzzle than say a .338 Lapua shooting a 250gr for equal kinetic energy. And the .338 Lapua is incapable of equal momentum, or the same permanent wound cavity volume even if each start out with 5000 ft-lbs at the muzzle. It’s forté is as a long-range sniper rifle, or harvesting big game at long range, much like the .340 Weatherby I owned for ten years. The .458″/500gr has a different purpose — the taking of large DG at relatively close range, or large thin-skinned non-dangerous game at longer ranges, but the right bullet must be chosen for each. A 500gr/.458″ for elephant should be a solid that will not deform, rivet, bend, veer off course or malfunction in any manner. But a 450 – 500gr soft-point expanding must start expanding at impact and perform much the same as a quality solid thereafter — that is holding onto most of its unfired weight while still penetrating in a straight line. Those would be the ideals for a large bore bullet. For a lesser caliber in the medium range, the goals are much the same as for a large-bore SP bullet: adequate penetration with the bullet retaining 75% to 95% initial weight.
There are premium bullets out there for medium and large bores equal to those tasks.
Yet there remains several important factors to be kept in mind:
>knowing the SD and BC of any bullet that will be used to harvest game.
>knowing the necessary MV that will assure adequate expansion within the parameters designated for that bullet — example, for most of Nosler’s soft-points that would be a minimum of 1800 fps. Woodleighs have a range for each of their calibers and types; example: a minimum of 1900 fps for their PPs (Protected Points).
Of course, a lot of that depends on bullet construction, shape and bullet placement on the animal. Hitting heavy bone will give a distinctly different result than soft tissue only.
For big bores a relatively flat meplat will expand more readily than a pointed bullet if both have hollow points or soft lead tips. On the other hand, a very effective bullet in large bores is a flat tip of hard lead or full metal jacket. They will penetrate “forever” and yet cause immense destruction along their path to a likely exit. That’s why large-bore BP cartridges are such effective killers of large game despite relatively low MVs and impact velocities around 1100 – 1200 fps. Consider the ancient .45-70 of the 19th century shooting 500gr cast bullets at merely 1200 fps. Even considering their rainbow trajectory, they were very effective killers of the enemy beyond a mile! And consider that even today an 1895 lever-action Marlin can launch a 465gr semi-hardcast at over 1900 fps into MOA using a smokeless propellant! I’ve done it many times, and let me tell you that the impact on a 6-foot black bear at 70 yards was such that he dropped so fast in tall grass that I lost temporary sight of him… he went not 2 inches from where he was shot frontally. That bullet was never found!
So bullet construction, caliber, weight, shape and impact velocity should ALL be taken into account before leaving home for the hunting fields.