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Bullet types and anticipated performances.

Through the years that my mother willingly cooked venison, she never once asked what kind of bullet I used to stop the ol' grey buck. To her, a bullet was a bullet. The only things that mattered were that the venison was tender and that it came to the table with a tangy, but civilized flavor.

There are, unfortunately, a lot of hunters hereabouts who also take a very casual, indifferent attitude to bullet selection, and many will buy any ammo that is cheap. But the fact is that various types of bullets have definite purposes, and the purposes dictate certain types of performances. These performances could be in the barrel, in flight and on the target or beyond it. Thus, let me use this month's column to point out the desired performances of various types of projectiles. Perhaps it'll help you or some of your clerks understand the complexities of bullet design and construction better, and in turn, better advise your customers.

Controlled expansion bullets are big-game designs built for the purpose of expanding gradually as the bullet impacts and penetrates. There is a certain toughness about them, and the means to keep the lead core and metal jacket intact during penetration. Controlled expansion bullets come into their own on massive game such as elk, moose and bear; for on these species, a less-sturdy bullet could easily mushroom and/or fragment on contact with the dense coat, strong hide and heavy bones.

The best controlled expansion bullets are also known as "premium" bullets by today's gun writers, and they include such items as the Nosier Partition, Speer Grand Slam, Hornady Interlock, Winchester Supreme, Remington Core-Lokt, Federal Premium and the Brenneke TIG/TUG entries. There are other independent American makers who turn out tough bullets that shoot accurately and hang together well for deep penetration, among them being Barnes X-Bullets, Colorado Custom Bullets, Jensen Bullets, NAK Custom Bullets and Trophy Bonded Bullets, just to name a few.

Boattailed bullets have been coming into vogue, and practically every bullet-maker has had to provide them to remain competitive. For a typical hunter who is shooting inside 300 yards, however, there is nothing essential about boattailed bullets. Despite its rakish, streamlined shape, a boattailed projectile is mainly important for very long range where its improved aerodynamic shape reduces the amount of air drag that acts on its fanny. When the drag factor is lessened, the bullet retains more of its velocity/energy for a flatter trajectory and more terminal (on target) energy. Most match-type bullets have a boattail to help flatten trajectory and to make hitting easier beyond 300 yards.

Under normal big-game hunting conditions, the ranges are normally shorter and the targets are bigger so that flat-based bullets can still do the job. For a typical deer hunter who shoots inside 200 yards, the boattailed concept is overrated. However, where boattails can come in handy are with .22-caliber pills for flat-trajectory varminting; ditto for 6mms and .257s when employed for varmints. Some of the heavier big-game slugs scaling 180-grains or more can make good use of a boattailed effect for flattening the trajectories of these loads.

"Blitz" and "SX" bullets are made with weak jackets so that they fragment on impact. This not only dynamites varmints, but it also serves the more important purpose of self-destruction when the bullet hits ground or vegetation after a miss, eliminating a dangerous ricochet. These are mainly .22-caliber bullets but Sierra also makes some thin-jacketed 6mms.

Spitzer is a German word meaning "pointed," and the Germans were the first to employ spitzers in military arms, namely, the M1898 Mauser. The purpose of a spitzer bullet is akin to that of a boattail having a better aerodynamic shape than a flat or a round nose.

Round-nosed or flat-nosed bullets were primarily considered to be top close-range designs, because they expose plenty of lead up front and thus hasten and insure positive expansion on thin-skinned game such as whitetails in the brush. The idea isn't ill-founded and is still subject to the actual jacket strength of the individual bullet. Moreover, the hardness of the up-front lead is also a factor as high antimony lead in the nose won't mushroom the same as pure lead. Bullets like the Speer Grand Slam and the Brenneke TlG/YUG items have two different types of lead in them to help control expansion.

Bronze-pointed Remington and plastic-tipped Nosier bullets tend to have dual purposes. One is to keep a sharp, aerodynamically-efficient point on a spitzer-type projectile despite: (a) the tendency for recoil to batter and flatten points on bullets in a magazine and (b) for air resistance and setback to damage a lead point. The second is to enhance positive expansion on impact by driving the bronze or plastic point backward into the lead core and thus causing the jacket to expand and the core to mushroom.

Wadcutters are handgun bullets that are basically cylindrical. Both bevel-base and hollow-base wadcutters are available. Both can be superbly accurate from handguns, as they have substantial bearing surface to engrave the rifling securely. If there is a consideration, it is that hollow-based wadcutters have upon occasion suffered from "skirting," meaning that the bullet separated sometime during its travel from the case/chamber on its way to the muzzle. This separation normally occurs at the juncture of the hollow base and the solid forward segment. It can leave the lead skirt sticking in the bore acting as an obstruction to the next bullet. The caveat has normally been to reload hollow-based wadcutters to mild target-load velocities so that the gas pressure and the friction bullet-pull and bore travel won't combine to wrench the bullet apart. Bevel-based wadcutters aren't subject to these problems.

Match bullets for rifles are made for optimum accuracy and exterior ballistics. The accuracy factors are reached by achieving perfect balance, which means that the center of weight matches the center of form so that the projectile will spin on one perfect axis in flight and not take on a wobble. The exterior ballistics are reached by teaming an ultra-streamlined ogive with a boattail to minimize drag. Match bullets have traditionally worn hollow points, most of them with very small openings, so that the points will remain perfect and not be subject to deformation as lead-tipped bullets are.

Match bullets aren't made for any kind of controlled expansion; they are designed to punch a hole in paper, nothing more. As a result, match bullets are rather fragile and easily fragment on contact. However, some hunters have been using match bullets on thin-skinned game such as deer and antelope, because the match types can give an explosive performance once inside an animal's rib cage, thus delivering a clean kill through shock via massive tissue (lung) destruction. I seriously doubt that this practice should extend into the elk, moose and bear hunts, but it seems to work when a hunter can place his bullet accurately into a thin-skinned animal's heart/lung area.

Despite the commonplace word "bullet," there are reasons behind each type and each individual design. Manufacturers carry their subtleties even further by adding certain notches, tapers and lead alloys to individual numbers. Thus, a bullet shouldn't be just another bullet to hand-loaders. Take a scientific look at each one and read the maker's literature to find the one that fits your customers' needs. My mother got away with being so casual because the stew and burger and venison chili tasted pretty darn good.
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Title Annotation:selecting bullets for the right target
Author:Zutz, Don
Publication:Shooting Industry
Article Type:column
Date:Feb 1, 1990
Words:1248
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