I’ve just finished reading some wounding studies in the use of bullets. These involved both handguns and rifles used in warfare and in policing. Very interesting, though about the umpteenth time I’ve reviewed such material.
Also, a current September/October issue of Rifle Shooter contains an article by Craig Boddington on “Use Enough Gun”, to quote Ruark. It’s beneficial to have a quick analytical mind, and enough years of experience, to cut to the chase on any article, statement or view on politics, religion or rifle ballistics. In my analysis of Boddington’s piece, with all due respect, I think he “missed the boat” by quite a bit. While he discussed trends in rifles and their ballistics, he failed to come to any firm convictions on what’s “best” for a given situation, but, just like politicians he tried to justify and satisfy one and all in their choices. Maybe that’s not giving him due credit as there is, in my view, too much unnecessary duplication in bullets and cartridges today, not even to mention sameness in rifle offerings! But there obviously is a huge disparity in the cost of rifles that basically do the same things without a justification of why a particular brand of a 7-08 Remington might be offered for $400 while another version of the same brand in 7-08 might be 4x as much! But that’s off topic… mostly.
The title of this piece is reminiscent of another article I wrote a few years ago, also suggested by the title of articles appearing in the 1951 Gun Digest by Roy Weatherby and Elmer Keith.
Of course, “we all know” by now that it’s not wholly one side or the other that’s the final answer, but perhaps some combination of the two. At one time in my hunting history it was “fast” but NOT “light”! Intuitively, I sensed that faster was better than “slower” but not in the use of light bullets per caliber. Though I thought myself a “hunter” as a youngster — certain activities resembling that, such as setting snares for rabbits — I didn’t begin big game (BG) hunting until I had a job and was a married man. That involved a 12ga shotgun and a couple of borrowed BG rifles in which “store bought ammo” was used. Years later, in 1979, I handloaded my first rifle, a German M98 military rifle converted to .30-06. Shortly thereafter came my second .30-06 in a Winchester M70. From the beginning I believed 180 grain projectiles were “normal” weight bullets for the honourable .30-06. They were not lightweights nor heavyweights, though I did play around with some 165s for deer. Then losing a huge whitetail buck to one of those 165s, I switched to 175s in a 7mm Rem Mag BAR, which had a serious fault in the chamber. Not having a reputable “smith” available in that region of Nova Scotia, the BAR was returned to the dealer for a new M70 .300 Win Mag. Again, my choice of projectile was in 180gr. I tried several 180s before venturing above and below that. Shortly thereafter I had the unique opportunity of trading that rifle — even before it was used in hunting — for a beautiful Sako FS in .338 Win Mag, in which bullet weights from 200gr to 275gr were tried in handloads.
< With the exception of the bullet on the far left (a 140gr, 6.5 cal) all are sectioned .338-cal. I did that to understand the physical structure of each which helped in making a call on what bullets were most suitable for bear and moose. In this lineup of .338s are: (left to right) a 275gr Speer, a 250gr Sierra, 210gr NP, 250gr NP, 250gr Speer GS, 250gr Hornady SP, and a 225gr Hornady.
Do you see the trend there? Yes, of course, more power from heavier bullets, not just more speed! In fact, the .30-06s were as fast! The .338 could attain 3000 fps (from the 20″ barrel) in shooting 200gr bullets… And the .30-06 could attain the same speed from 150s from a 22″ tube. So is there any advantage of a 200gr over a 150gr when both leave the muzzle at 3000 fps? That depends on a number of factors, of course: The intended game, and at what range. Though I didn’t choose Nosler Partitions back when I had a .30-06, due to costs and not feeling Partitions were needed, I did after owning the .338. But in comparing a 150gr NP from a .30-06 at 3000 fps MV with a 210gr NP at 3000 fps MV from the .338, what advantage would the .338 have for whitetails? Yup, I agree: None! But as an all-purpose load, the 210gr NP has merit for the largest game of North America with a BC of .400 and SD of .263! Then there are “premium” bullets to 275grs. And a 200gr “ordinary”, non-premium bullet is useful for medium game to as far as we could honestly use it!
So went my thinking! While a 220gr in a .30-06 is useful as a special purpose bullet at relatively close range, a 225gr at 2850 fps from a .338 Win Mag has merit as an all-purpose projectile. With an SD of .281 and BC of .550 for the AccuBond, it meets all qualifications for anything you need or want on this continent at extreme range as well as in your face! And recoil is significantly less than a 250gr or 275gr, which I might choose for big African fauna at closer ranges if it were not the old 275gr Speer sectioned above, but a premium which is available from a couple of sources.
Recoil for a “normal” weight .338 Win Mag (my former Sako) of 8.7 lbs, ready to shoot something with the 225gr AB at 2850 fps, would be about 36 ft-lbs (about on a par with a .300 Win Mag firing a 200gr at 2950 fps) which most can learn to shoot accurately without undue trauma.
The ballistics of a 225gr AB/ .338″ at 2850 fps:
MV = 2850 fps/4058 ft-lbs
100= 2690 fps/ 3614 ft-lbs
200= 2536 fps/ 3212 ft-lbs
300= 2387 fps/ 2845 ft-lbs
400= 2242 fps/ 2512 ft-lbs
500= 2103 fps/ 2209 ft-lbs
600= 1969 fps/ 1936 ft-lbs
Ballistics like this can be intoxicating! You or I might never need it, but what if? One gun one planet!
The natural progression of this line of thinking is “bigger IS better”!
And the natural progression of this line of thinking is .458-caliber IS best because of its overall capabilities and versatility through the use of a score of bullets at various muzzle velocities! While some can handle a relatively “light” .458, and that’s trendy today, I wouldn’t recommend it! 9.5 – 10.5 lbs is about “right” when ready to shoot. And recoil can be dampened or managed in a variety of ways. Then, while not popular with the dedicated “long-range” shooter, a .45-70 is no joke in shooting anything that walks on four legs, and at unbelievable ranges for those who, like myself in earlier years, think speed is the cure-all for any hunt-worthy species!
And the natural progression of that line of thinking is: http://www.bigbores.ca
“Slow and steady wins the race” – but not often, just sometimes in shooting an “in your face” black bear with a .45 ACP!
In warfare, multiple shots from a rifle are often required to bring down or incapacitate an enemy infantry man! That’s not my idea, but statistics. So rather than choosing a .338 Lapua for every soldier, automatic fire from a more portable rifle is used for multiple hits. The .338 Lapua is reserved for sniping at long range. For that reason it was created giving more consistent and better results than a 7.62 NATO or .300 Win Mag.
In designing or suggesting a ballistic formula to that end, there is significant disagreement even among scientists, physicists, ballistic engineers, military officials, police commanders and hunters. Some favor kinetic energy (KE) and others momentum plus caliber as in the TKO formula. Another created by the late John Wootters, called Lethality Index (LI) was similar to mine. So what I’ve tried (about a dozen different combinations trying to intergrate KE with Momentum) has always come somewhat short of my own expectations/desires even with multiple qualifications.
< This 200gr fired Core Lokt from a .35 Remington hit and killed a 300lb class bear at just under 2100 fps. It had a momentum of 200 x 2090 = 418000, and a TKO factor at impact of 21.38. Using the TE formula it would be: 1940 ft-lbs x .223 (SD) x .101 (CSA) =43.7 TE. That’s plenty for a big bull moose at that range if the TE formula is close enough. But if Kinetic Energy (KE) means anything by itself, nearly 2000 ft-lbs ,in the right place with the right bullet, surely would kill a +1000 lb moose — and I suspect the .35 Rem has done in many of the moose population within its range.
The TE (Terminal Effect) formula amounts to mass x velocity at impact, and I’ve known that for some time, but I still feel that KE is a factor, other matters the same as in bullet design, structure, impact velocity and placement. So those matters are assumed; you don’t pit a frangible bullet against a solid, for one point in the discussion.
My intent was to come up with a formula that intergrates KE, momentum and Caliber without any one part cancelling another. Though it appears that any formula that attempts to do so will result in a comparison of momentum effect (ME). As in:
KEI + ME/ 1000 = MTE. The following as a potential example: A 500gr/.458″ at 1431 fps impact = 2273 ft-lbs. A momentum characterisation could look like this: 1431 x 500 x .341 (SD) x .165 (CSA)/300 = 134.
KEI = 1431 x 1431/450400 = 4.55 x 500 =2273 ft-lbs at impact. 2273 x 134 = 304582 which is way too much for easy manageability, but in dividing that by 1000 we have an MTE of 304.6, or call it 305 MTE. That is at an impact range of 200 yards when the 500gr (.300 BC) is started from the muzzle at 1850. I’d consider (after considerable reflection and calculation) that 305 MTE (Mitchell Terminal Effect) to be optimal for a 3000 lb soft-skinned animal. So that works out to MTE x 10 as optimal (good bullet in the right place), and 7.5 X MTE as adequate for a 1/4 on shot into vitals for an approximately 2000 – 2300 lb soft-skinned animal. For soft-skinned DG, I’d use 5. “A good bullet” = the right bullet, and there are many choices from FT solids to monolithic HPs with polycarbonite tips. We DON’T USE thin copper alloy jackets on soft lead cores for animals that can weigh a ton or more!
A 250gr NP with a .473 BC from a .340 Wby at 2960 fps MV, could only attain a 305 MTE at 51 yards impact. At 200 yards (to compare with the 500gr at 1431 fps impact) the 250gr from the .340 Wby has 2588 fps and 3717 ft-lbs at impact. (In promotion of the .340 Wby Mag, Ross Seyfried contended that it was more than adequate for a 3000 lb animal at 300 yards, without qualifications. So my method is conservative by comparison.) At 300 yards, the 250 NP would be arriving at 2413 fps/3102 ft-lbs — based on the ambient conditions previously used. The MTE would be 175.7 ot call it 176 x 10 = 1760, a little more than half of what Seyfried contended! Has anyone had experience in killing a 2000 lb eland at 300 yards using a .340 Wby Mag – one shot and done? If so, I defer to them and will replace 10 with a 17! Yes, I know “It’s where you hit ’em!”
Solids change “the rules”, according to Pondoro Taylor, and a TKO of 40 at the muzzle of a DG rifle is adequate for ALL DG according to him! No range is specified, but it’s assumed it won’t be long! The .375 H&H barely makes the cut of 40 TKO from a 300gr at 2500 fps. But at 300 yards it only makes about 1930 fps from a 300gr NP when started at 2500 fps. That’s a TKO of 38, and an MTE of (2481 ft-lbs x 64.75)= 160.6 x 10 =1606, or a bit less than the .340 Wby. But the worthy .375 H&H can do more than 2500 fps from a 300gr. In truth it can do 2600 to 2700 fps with best handloads and barrels up to 26″. Or, in using the “new” 300gr AB with a terrific BC of .485 compared to the very modest BC of .398 for the 300gr NP. So, yeah, the choice of bullets and best handloads can change the game completely, as in this pic previously presented.
< That’s a 500gr Hornady at a corrected 2210 fps/5422 ft-lbs from my former Ruger #1 in .45-70 LT.
So again, the 250gr Wby Mag load: KEI x M/1000 = MTE, or: 2588 x (M = 2588 x 250 x .313 x .09/300 = 60.75 Momentum Effect) x 3717 = 225.8, or 226 MTE at 200 yards compared to 305 MTE at 200 yds from the 500gr when started at 1850 fps. That’s an advantage of 35% at 200 yards for the .458-cal when the 500gr bullet is started at 1850 fps, and the 340 Wby (or any .338-cal) starts the 250gr NP at 2960 fps.
That formula is much more complicated than the former TE model, but the comparative results are the same. The reason for that is the constants used for each of dividing by 300 and then 1000 for convenience sake.
This is a ballistic profile of my current bear load from a Ruger #1 in .458 Win Mag. It is to simulate a .45-70 load I used successfully on bear many years ago.
I was told by one gentleman that he thought the (former) TE formula was “great” in that momentum was squared rather than velocity!
No, please don’t tell me: “It’s where you hit ’em, not what you hit ’em with!”, or “It’s the bullet, you dummy!”, or…… your take on the wounding studies and research, which covers every possible aspect of this subject. No, not in wet paper but in human flesh and bone. Penetration, cavitation, flat tips expanding and non-expanding, RNs, spitzers, monolithics, cup-and-core, KE and momentum, yes where hit, etc. Nothing is missed, so one might come away with the idea that “shoot the bullet of choice and pray” might be the best answer! While I believe in the only God, and prayer to Him with the right worshipful attitude of humility and faith, I also believe in the physics He has created for the Universe! But, really, how much do we know about the physics of lethal ballistics? I fully expect the debate to continue…
But Boddington did finish his piece with: “Hunters seem to be accepting more recoil to gain performance. I hope that becomes a trend”. And that statement made in reference to long range shooting of big game such as elk and moose.
So do I, because it’s inevitable, that despite improved ballistics from all rifle cartridges due to better powders and bullets, it still requires enough “punch” from a bullet to get the job done when it gets there – and at long (or short) range, a heavier bullet per caliber is better than a lighter one on large game. It will give better penetration, all else equal. Define that as you will… but KE and momentum are both involved, plus a bunch of other stuff such as where the animal is hit and penetration to or through vitals.