*** The following theme was partly written prior to the present crisis in the Ukraine, which is fast developing into a potential world crisis… So, I considered to NOT post it as it seems trivial in comparison. Yet the rest of the world must go on with it’s usual activities while still freely giving aid and encouragement to the Ukrainians… AND heaping condemnation on Putin and his regime through every means available without sparking a nuclear world war!
So, I’ve decided to publish it anyway as it may give some temporary relief from the present crisis for those who read these blogs. It’s important from a psychological standpoint to not spend hours on end focused on the current crisis over which we have no control.
This blog is about twice the length of my average blogs, so will take from about 15 to 20 minutes to read unless you are a speed reader. Then time spent on the photos and descriptions may lengthen into an hour. So you may want to take a break here.
A lot of my life’s work has involved getting to know and understand people, and spending endless hours in counselling some of them. I’m intrigued by what’s on the inside of a person — not their physical “guts” but their thinking, moods, reactions, hopes, dreams, fears, goals, etc. And especially how they perform under life’s variable stresses: relationships and work environments, sickness, loss and a multitude of other causes that affect their psychological, emotional and spiritual self. I’ve had to be professional in that while still recognizing that many factors are involved in a person’s makeup physically, mentally and spiritually. And these are so entwined that one “part” can dramatically affect the others! A prolonged sickness, for example, will often negatively affect a person’s psychological state. Being deprived of normal social interaction during the Covid-19 pandemic has caused serious depression even among many who otherwise would be of a more “upbeat” personality type.
I cite those matters as a reminder that just “living” in a world of potential trouble at any moment is not a simple matter with simple solutions, like “Get with it!”, or “Change your attitude!” Much of the world’s population is crippled by circumstances they didn’t ask for or even want! So to understand what’s going on and why requires a willing to learn attitude, some humility, and a generous spirit.
Parts of the following have been previously presented, but they form an historical background for additional material that together provides a better understanding of why and how we should become students of the bullet we select for a particular hunt. And the fact that bullets by times seem to mock us, or laugh at OUR antics should cause a smile in return.
While a bullet doesn’t have “a mind of it’s own”, though by times it would seem so, it’s construction (“genes”) and circumstances (that it didn’t ask for) will determine it’s future. It’s predetermined for either failure or success by destruction (which it knows nothing about and surely didn’t ask for).
So while the exterior may tell us some things of importance (just like in humans), it’s what’s “under the skin” that ultimately will determine it’s future. And the future of any bullet is determined both by the mind and experience of man.
So this dissertation is concerning modern projectiles, known to us as “bullets” for hunting purposes. Some are referred to as “frangible”, that is they loose their shape and sometimes they lose “parts” or even “blow up”! Others are called “solids”- meaning, the intent isn’t to “blow up” but retain their weight and shape while giving “deep penetration” even after plowing through tough tissue and stomach matter, and even smashing heavy bone, then exiting thick hide with a triumphant shout of “Hallelujah!” (“Praise God!” – after all, no bullet would even exist if God didn’t!)
But due to the fact that in 2022 “we” have available (IF we can find some) more and better bullets (somewhere in the universe) than ever since Cain slew his brother Able with a “Barnes Original”. No? Must have been an invention by Joyce Hornady then… No? Well somebuddy did something bad to his brother that started all this thousands of “premium” stuff that nobuddy can find in super markets anymore… well… anyway, at least since Barnes and Hornady came up with them “originals” somewhere!
So this week we’re gonna discuss them big-bore bullets that do a terrific job wherever on whatever….
Some are “frangible” and others are… well… “non-frangible”, er, solids? My plan is to do more testing of each.
From this point on I’ll try to be less frivolous about something that’s as serious as “Your life might depend on it!”
Really, really Big Bores originally fired lead balls larger than a 12-ga slug! With stronger metals due to war experiences, and the invention of smokeless powder used in self-contained cartridges, it was learned that lead bullets contained in copper-alloy jackets could be safely driven much faster when fired from much smaller calibers. So by the early 20th Century, calibers as small as 6.5mm to .30-caliber were plenty potent in military “small arms”, to be toted by infantry men who were fighting men, but not primarily for “thick-skinned” machines or animals.
Of course, this isn’t about killing “thick-skinned machines”, but big, dangerous and thick-skinned beasts! Or those that can stomp, chew, hook, maim and/or kill the man-hunter! < From “Ted” in the Yukon… a retired pastor and savant of the mighty 9.3 x 62 effectively used on this Yukon grizzly! The bullet was a 270gr “custom”. One and done!
And, obviously, that’s with due respect to Africa’s dangerous fauna, and Alaska’s… but NOT reserved to those that immediately spring to mind… What about a big-bad 3/4 ton bull moose in rutting season? Or a 1200 lb momma moose protecting her calf? And there are others, are there not? Many a citizen has been chased by an irate elk in national parks like Yellowstone and Banff!
Then… if I may again mention my own passion for hunting the American Black Bear…. There is the potential for serious hurt – even death to anyone – who stumbles into the path of one that is hungry and mad, or hurt and vengeful, or generally having a bad day! Or, you might have an encounter with one that is a “sniper” – from long distance he smells you and plans an unseen stalk…!
As I’ve written more than a couple of times, if you have such an encounter it might already be too late, as in the case of two young women working alone in a clear cut for a remote mining company in North America. The one who got killed by a medium to large black bear never saw it happening until the bear was on her! Bear spray from her co-worker didn’t help as it only made the bear angry that then attacked her! She managed to get away for help, but by the time that arrived it was too late. Her partner was dead and partially consumed, and the bear was gone and never caught up with!
People who have a gambling habit know they’re taking a very slim chance of actually winning more than they lose, but they do it anyway because of lying to themselves (Do you know of any casinos going out of business because of losing money?). And humans who hunt, fish or hike in remote North American wildernesses without some form of personal protection are gambling with their welfare and lives!
<At 90 miles from home in this remote area my only companion was the CZ550 in .458 Win Mag. An approximate 600 lb black bear was an attendant to this bear bait-site. It was seen by a cottager travelling by auto over the dirt road about 75 yards downhill from this ridge. He said it was five feet to the top of its shoulders standing on all fours. Then it was seen approaching the bait site by my partner (while I was at my primary site 3.5 miles away) who squeezed the trigger on his .270 Win that resulted in a misfire that spooked the bear! Another friend was with him at the time and a witness to all that transpired.
In this pic, sometime later, I was alone, hoping for that bear to show up again… It didn’t happen, but just in case it did my rifle was that CZ in .458 WM. That bear would be close to the size of the grizzly shot by Ted according to three witnesses.
I’ve said it before, and will say it again: I’ll not go into any of our nearby or remote wildernesses, or even semi-wildernesses, alone or with another companion, without some form of ADEQUATE protection! My closest firearm to a big-bore revolver was my Ruger 96/44 carbine in .44 Remington Magnum loaded with heavy bullets that I personally handloaded. In many lonely wilderness walks, this was my faithful companion. I chose it over my 1895 Marlin in .45-70 because it was much faster in handling and getting off multiple shots with the short-slick 45* opening of the action (rather than 90*) to rechamber another round from the rotory clip. And the recoil was much less than from a handgun, allowing faster followup shots if needed. And it was plenty potent for black bear at close quarters with 300-grainers from Speer or Hornady leaving the muzzle at over 1600 fps. Then Federal made a DG load of a 300gr hardcast at 1550 fps. Those were all accurate loads.
Since were’re talking close encounters, a 300gr/.430″ leaving the muzzle at 1600 fps, inside 15 yards is still hitting at about 1550 fps/ 1600 ft-lbs/ that’s adequate for a pretty good-size bull moose from a .430-caliber/ 300gr if one can shoot! The momentum alone is equal to a 150gr at 3100 fps impact! But there’s also a bullet frontal area of twice that of a .30-cal 150gr. Penetration, of course, would depend on the profile and structure of each. The much higher velocity (2x that of the 300gr) of the 150gr is no guarantee of greater penetration — it might be less! So that’s where what’s “under the skin” of a bullet counts!
I’ve “tested” bullets in live game and in “test media”. Each bullet would have a story to tell if it could talk. But through testing we “hear” much of their stories anyway.
No plans to purchase another box of 400gr/ .458″ Speer bullets is on my agenda. At the time of its use on my first ever black bear, it was one of very few available for my 1895 Marlin in .45-70 that, according to SPEER, was suitable for not only a black bear hunt but elk and moose as well! I’m surprised they didn’t suggest it for Cape buffalo as it was the only bullet they made available for the redoubtable .458 Winchester Magnum with a top load at 2410 fps!
It worked well enough on my bear with an impact speed of over 1500 fps. Even then the entrance behind the right shoulder was 3-inches in diameter revealing dramatic over-expansion!
<Here the bear had been hanging overnight in a rainstorm with its guts out. When I found it in the alders at about ten yards from where it was shot, its whole right side from shoulder to rump was saturated with blood! The rain had cleaned that up. The Speer bullet was found in the offside armpit. It was taken down from hanging and skinned by “the crew” who found the bullet. It would have been that “perfect mushroom” except for the fact of a collision with a heavy bone…. likely the offside shoulder bone that spoiled the “mushroom”, giving a very distinct .55″ perfectly round and flat surface on the opposite side of what had been a 1″ diameter “mushroom” of pure lead.
I’d suggest MV should be limited to not more than about 1800 fps for the 400gr Speer, and reserved for WT deer. But because of the presence of bull moose and bear in those environs, I’ll never load that bullet again, even for bambi! Speer has made a very good lighter but tougher 350gr in .458″ that they proclaim is better than their 400gr (that is still produced in their facility) for larger and tough game — in fact they claim it was made for the .458 Win Mag. I’ve shot one bear with it and was impressed, so I purchased a couple more boxes of 50 each for my .458 Win Mag.
Another bullet I can recommend in .458″ without reservation for larger-tougher and potentially dangerous game is the 480gr DGX that was made by Hornady for the 450-400 NE. I’ve been testing it in my Ruger #1 in .458 Win Mag for velocity. In initial tests, it made 2353 fps/ 5900 ft-lbs. Prior to that I tried it in my former Ruger #1 in .45-70 LT for penetration in tough media along with several others. Impact into the media was about 1700 fps and it passed completely through 15.5 inches of two boxes of hard cover books and dry glossy magazines, plus two 2″ planks as though it were passing through air, and impacted a granite ledge behind leaving a .458″ imprint! It was never found.
That was prior to Hornady bonding the core and jacket. I still have a few of those left, and went looking for more ending up with a box of the 500gr DGX with the bonded core. I couldn’t find any more of the 480s. For anything this side of the world, I doubt the bonding process is needed. I’m convinced that whether it’s the 480 or 500 DGX, they’d be bad news for bears or moose even if they never expanded with that 1/4″ flat tip. And the velocity matter is a non-issue – only for range purposes.
God willing, I intend to do some testing of the 500 DGXs for comparative purposes with the 550gr Woodleigh Weldcore and 600gr Barnes Original. Actually, I’ve already started that process by a stress test using a vise (which I’ve also done in the past). This is primarily done this time to help with a decision over which bullet to load in my .458 Winchester Magnum for a possible bear hunt in May, 2022.
<From left to right: 500gr DGX; 550gr Woodleigh Weldcore; 600gr Barnes Original; 405gr Remington; 405gr Remington; 250gr Hornady MonoFlex and 400gr Speer.
This test was done on Tuesday (March 1). The amount of pressure on each bullet was all that my vise (and I) was capable of by extending the handle of the vise by twice it’s normal length. So each bullet experienced the same pressure.
The 500gr DGX experienced no deformation and lost no weight.
The 550gr Woodleigh lost a very tiny piece of lead from the tip that would weight less than 1gr. The case mouth was slightly bulged. Had more pressure been possible the copper jacket at that point would have begun expansion. It was obvious that the jacket was more ductile than either the DGX or Barnes O.
The 600gr Barnes O. experienced a complete flattening of the rounded lead tip so much that the case mouth ridge is visible, loosing no lead but came close to a “donut” of lead falling off. Otherwise it proved itself to be very tough without a glimmer of the copper jacket expanding.
The 405gr Remington acted similarly to a previous test. It stood up very well compared to the others with much heavier jackets. It lost no weight, was bulged at the mouth without splitting the case or collapsing the walls. Several years ago in a bear hunt on Crown Land, a 405gr Remington impacted a bear at about 1845 fps, hitting it in the left flank as it was walking away, and made exit in the opposite side just behind the right shoulder. That bear was DRT! This 405 Rem (4th from left in the pic) was shinny and new compared to the one following.
The second 405 Rem (5th in the lineup from L to R), on March 1, 2022, was quite old and badly discoloured due to exposure to the elements, and had a damaged nose (don’t know from what). It started to split on one side but did not collapse like the 400gr Speer, retaining about 100% of its weight.
The 400gr Speer acted the same as in a much earlier vise test. As seen, it flattened into a 1″ disc, much like the photo in Speer’s Manual #11, but retained nearly 100% of its weight, except for the small half-ring that fell off. In the following pic it is compared to the one that was shot from my 1895 Marlin at ~1865 fps into my first black bear (a trophy) at an impact velocity of about 1565 fps.
< From Speer’s Manual #11
The 250gr Hornady MonoFlex is a very tough bullet – don’t let anyone try to fool you on that point! It lost a small ring of plastic from the nose, but the red tip showing is very hard and the alloy sharp points of the case mouth were blunted and slightly expanded there from .243″ (Yup, same as a .243-cal) to .312″ by all the pressure applied! My Ruger #1H in .458 is already sighted for that bullet and it may very well be my no.1 choice. If the bait-site is ~ 80 yards (approx. 73 m) then impact velocity should be about: 2247 fps/ 2802 ft-lbs/ 52 TE. With bullet well placed that should be a dead bear right there! Hornady claims that expansion begins at about 1400 fps in media, so I’m assuming that the pressure applied by the vise was similar to an impact of nearly 1400 fps in big game or media. Starting at 2610 fps, 1400 fps would happen at just past 300 yards.
< This pic shows the bulge beginning at the mouth of the 550gr Woodleigh. In some ways I’m encouraged by the bulge as that’s an indication of expansion starting.
The main reason for testing the 400gr Speer (last on right) is that it provides an estimate of velocity at impact based on observed results in comparison with the one fired into a bear and Speer’s photo of the same bullet in their #11 manual fired into test media. The velocity of that test isn’t given but it resembles the two I’ve tested using a vise. And since the pressure was apparently similar for all bullets, by extrapolation (and some fancy math) I can make calculations as to approximate impact velocities of the others. The pressure applied is an independent factor. Resistance to that factor is a variable depending on the material under pressure, it’s duration and the area of resistance.
So, I’ll assume – both by the shape and retained weight of the 400gr Speers tested in a vise, and the one retrieved from the bear, plus Speer’s test and photo – that the flattened approximate 1″ discs that remained were all approximately equivalent to an impact velocity of the one retrieved from the bear = 1565 fps/ 2176 ft-lbs.
While it’s not possible to extrapolate all the potential variables, yet I think it is possible to get a “ballpark” estimate.
In making some inquiries concerning that 550gr, and reading all that I could find on results from its use in Africa, I think it will give some expansion well below the recommended minimum of 1800 fps for expansion on big game. In planning to start that bullet from the muzzle at 1800, impact velocity at 80 yards (to bear bait) should be about 1650 fps/ 3326 ft-lbs and if momentum means anything, that’s equivalent to a 400gr at 2269 fps… which is far more than the 400gr Speer into that bear at 1565 fps – about 700 fps more!
At the same pressure as the others, and the duration of the pressure being approximately the same, the 400gr Speer was “pancaked”. That resistant “pressure” was greatest at maximum expansion that appeared to have happened immediately in the bear – and when it contacted bone it was flattened on one side of the mushroom. Even then it retained 374 grains (93.5%) of its original weight.
In 2017 a test involved eight .458″ bullets (I’ve written about that test a few times) two of which were a 500gr Speer African GS and a 480gr DGX (No’s 1 and 2 on the left of the photo.) In the same media at the same distance and time, the African GS was defeated at 6.5 inches into the media and lost the softer front core leaving 310 grains intact (62%). The 480 DGX at approximately the same impact momentum penetrated the full 15.5 inches of a very tough media, impacting a granite ledge behind, leaving a .458″ impression – as mentioned, the bullet was never found. I think it went off into the atmosphere, or at an angle that took it outside the search area. It wasn’t bonded and it was very apparent that it didn’t need bonding.
In the above pics of the recent vise test, the 500gr DGX (bonded) as it is after the vise test could be fired from my rifle. There was no loss of weight and the nose remained totally unchanged like a solid. I’ve no doubt it would sail through the biggest bear the world could offer from rump to snout, or visa-versa given about 1600 fps impact. That bullet is not going to expand until it meets with very heavy bone.
The 550 Woodleigh should give some expansion at around 1600 fps impact, but it too should give complete penetration from any angle on moose, elk or bear.
I’m hopeful of more tests in media when the snow has departed and spring arrives with its promise of better times!
Some parts of this are repetitive of former blogs, but there are those who will read it for the first time.
“But I trust in you, LORD; I say my times are in your hands…” -Psalm 31: 14 – 15