In correspondence with one of my readers who has become a friend, he suggested that I write something about my favorite bullets. So I’m taking up that cause, er.. challenge, but not only MY preferences, but those that are favored by a significant number of other handloading hunters as well.
(“Handloading” or “handloader” are coined words not recognized (or is that “recognised”, Eng. sp.?) in a dictionary. Therefore, many write this as “hand loads”, “hand load”, or “hand loader”, probably using a spellcheck (is that “spell check” or perhaps “spell-check”?). You are intelligent, so I’m sure you get the point, eh? I had to get that “eh?” in there to identify myself as Canadian. By times my spelling is Brit-English, sometimes American, and at other times pure Canadian — a mixture of British-American and French. But Americans invented everything, including “handloading”, or “hand loading”, at least that’s the impression of Canadians who “handload”. So when I started the process of “handloading” four decades ago, that’s how the American writers spelled it — so I blame them for being on the horns of the proverbial dilemma for not getting “handloading” into the New World Dictionary of The AMERICAN LANGUAGE – that being the well worn “Second College Edition” of my one and only two-and-a-half inch thick dictionary. Slightly more than 50% of my readership is American, so I tend to defer to their spelling in most things.)
Sorry for all that, but I had to explain this quandry — not even to mention the strange expressions of those who live on The Island Continent!
Now back to the main topic: Today we have an overabundance of “super” projectiles for any conceivable purpose from diminutive .17-calibers to the great Big Bores still in use for hunting the largest and most dangerous game on Earth. Then, on the other hand, there is still a good supply of “regular”, or standard bullets for most needs, though sadly diminishing due to a majority of hunters/shooters having “deeper pockets” and buying into the idea that “modern is better”.
While I like and use some of the “premiums”, yet I’m increasingly turning to ancient concepts of cast bullets for many applications. When done right they work wonderfully on anything, including DG. While lead is now considered hazardous material to one’s health, a large number of hunters and shooters make their own from a variety of “molds”- Eng. Sp. American? “moulds”. (My dilemma again — sometimes I type “molds”, at others, “moulds”. Both are acceptable. Most fast readers will never notice!)
These blogs are mostly oriented toward Big Bores, and secondly Mid-Bores, as you may already be aware. But my experience in actual hunting, and producing handloads for the same, isn’t limited to big game. I’ve actually shot far more small game than large, and hunted predators (fox, coyote and wolf) with several small and sub-medium calibers. So I have preferences in cartridges and bullets for those activities as well.
All of those went hunting with handloads I’d made for them. In all cases multiple bullets, powders and primers were tried to attain best results for hunting purposes. Then there were at times different rifles involved for a particular cartridge. Also, I made handloads for friends and family that were used in actual hunting.
When I began making my own loads, the likes of Nosler Partitions were scarce and expensive compared to Speer, Hornady and Sierra products. But Noslers eventually became my preference for bear and moose. They simply got the job done without complaints.
<(A 500gr, .458 cal, Woodleigh PP) Today there is a “super abundance” of so-called “super premiums”. All manufacturers of small arm projectiles have had to join that band or be left behind. And relatively small, novice companies have appeared on the scene with their own copies of the “best”, lacking anything that would make them superior to their predecessors. We have of course, bonded pure lead cores to pure copper jackets, bonded alloy-lead to gilding metal jackets, all alloy metal bullets, all copper bullets, some with cavities filled with lead, others with cavities with no lead, others with no cavities and flat tips while some have no cavities with round noses. Many having pointed plastic tips for better aerodynamics and protection from battering in magazine rifles. The latter has to be proven, as any high-powered rifle cartridge that causes fast and heavy recoil will damage the points of polycarbonite tips in a magazine rifle.
And on and on it goes with more being added with all possible configurations and structure. But the hype from manufacturers, and gun writers who promote them, would have us all believe that their’s is the “best” and absolutely indispensable for success in the hunting fields. “Everyone” seems to have their favorites.
So how do we make our choices? In my case it was a slow process over time. Forty or more years ago there was one “premium” choice with several trying to contend. That choice was Nosler Partitions that was actually started by John Nosler in the late 1940s. He made his own with a semi-partition after a failure of a “standard” bullet on moose. News got out and the Nosler bullet company was born. And the Nosler Partition bullet became the darling of gun writers who promoted them in magazines. After the WW 2, wealthy Americans bought and used them on their safaris AND on heavy North American game.
Back then I was dreaming of getting through high school and having a girl friend!
Moving quickly into the late ’50s, I had finished college, then worked for a month on my dad’s 70-foot dragger to have money enough to get married. Within a week of our wedding I had a job as pastor of three country churches. That was in mid-summer of 1957. And again nearly penniless! But my ownership of anything were my clothes and a single-shot .22 LR. Noslers were not even on the horizon! I borrowed bank money for a $600 Chev that had more miles on it than ten taxis combined! Having to travel 185 miles/300 k per week just to cover the territory twice weekly, the Chev made it through the first winter and then died from exhaustion! “Winters”! I’d never experienced anything like them, nor since! In one snow storm, after the LeTourneau earth mover cleared our driveway and the church parking lot, I had to use a shovel to let light into the church through its windows! And it was just under the house porch’s eves! And all that meant more “borrowed money” for another car. And so on…
Thoughts of hunting only returned sometime after our first son was born and some stability to our lives.
That came about when two brothers from the community invited me to go hunting deer with them. Noslers were still not on the horizon, nor Speers, Hornadies or Sierras. In fact I didn’t know of their existence.
The brothers were members of our main church, next door to the parsonage, or manse — as some denominations refer to the house provided for the pastor and his family. So also were their sister and parents. They looked like twins — but were not. Both over 6′, blond wavy hair and blue-eyed, they were handsome and athletic, and also very intelligent. Both were students at The University of New Brunswick at Fredericton (Provincial Capital) 30 miles away. They entered the Electrical Engineering course of studies, and years later graduated with PhDs. I went hunting with them after two years of pastoral work. The University of N.B. gave any students who wanted to hunt during the deer season, a week off to do so. After a week they had to return to their studies. I shot no deer, nor did they. But I’d caught the “fever”.
After their departure, their father showed up with his trusty .30-30 M94 Winchester in hand, inviting me to hunt with him. He had been a woodsman from young adulthood, and knew deer as well as he knew the forests from which he made his living. But his intent was that I should shoot a deer with his M94 with him acting as my guide. He took me to the forest where he would hunt and where he knew there were whitetails.
I loved hunting, especially grouse as I shot scores if not hundreds — and that helped with the food budget, plus rainbows from the local Cross Creek which lent it’s name to our town. My wife loved the trout and birds so there was no objection to my recreation.
My four years as pastor of those churches, scattered over an area of 1500 sq-miles/4000 sq-klm, was akin to a four-year intense post-graduate course with all of the above circumstances imposed!
We’d been married for one week when I received a call to candidate as pastor in those churches. During our three days away to fulfil that, my wife’s father fell seriously ill. When we returned, he was in such pain that I had to drive him to the ferry that would take us into Maine where the doctor would meet us at 1 o’clock A.M. Except the ferry wasn’t running at that hour of the morning! By phone, we had to awaken one of the ferry’s assistants to row us across very fast moving water (like a wide river at flood time) as the tide was moving out in the Bay of Fundy, and the Narrows between Campobello and Lubec, Maine caused the Atlantic tides to be squished like water from the nozzle of a hose. But this man was capable for the conditions and landed me and my father-in-law safely on the Maine shore where we met the doctor who took us to his clinic. (The Roosevelt International Bridge, connecting Campobello with Maine was built since those events.)
That all resulted in an emergency ride back into New Brunswick at the Calais/St. Stephen border where the patient went immediately into surgery at the St Stephen hospital. Three weeks later he died at age 53. That left my wife (age 20) and her mother (age 51) without a father and husband! My wife was an only child! And I had just been elected as pastor of three scattered country churches (actually a forth that I visited once every month as it was so isolated to the north, and a railroad town). So it was a rough start to married life for a young couple who still looked like teenagers!
Consequently, guns and hunting were not on the horizon either, at least for a few years. And my wife became pregnant a month after we were married — and her mom wanted her home with her.
Two months later, we both came down with the infamous Asiatic flu! Very sick with high fevers we went to bed! That felt like a year-and-a half, though it was about ten days before we could begin to function in a semi-normal fashion.
Then, I received a visit from neighbors telling us that a 3-year old girl that lived with her family on the farm directly adjacent to the church property had died of the flu — I’d been requested to conduct the funeral in our church next door!
This was to be my first funeral, and the church was packed as was normal for such a grievous situation. I’d visited the family in their home (a farm house) and saw this beautiful blond-haired 3-year old little girl in the open casket prior to the funeral the day following.
So what does all of that kind of life and work have to do with “favorite bullets”?
As far as the Heaven is above the Earth, so far removed are thoughts of hunting from such life and death realities.
I conducted many funerals during that four-year period. That, along with witnessing the aftermath of a horrendous motor accident involving the deaths of two male teenagers who had been drinking and returning from a party, and hours in counselling other teens and working with them, was mentally, spiritually and physically exhausting! I was also speaking, preaching and teaching over a dozen times per week! Hours of driving over treacherous roads, and by times “plowing” through high drifts of snow in winter, and ice when the snow started to melt in the spring. And dealing weekly with complaints that more needed to be done…
Hunting became my “break” time! But who made the bullets, and handloading as a past time, was still not on the horizon.
The saga continues…