It's The Bullet!
Even the finest gun in the world -- with the best optics, a perfect stalk, a precise hold, and a perfect let-off -- must still rely on the placement and performance of the most important link in the chain... the bullet. That little projectile -- hammered by 50,000 psi plus, squeezed down a rifled bore, and then slammed into the atmosphere -- is a marvel of functional design.
Ever since the dawn of firearms; there has been a constant and continuing search for a superior projectile. And when it comes to big game, the essential qualities of the ideal bullet are deep penetration, reliable expansion, and maximum weight retention. Whatever the angle of the shot -- regardless of bone and heavy muscle encountered -- the bullet must successfully penetrate and disrupt vital organs in order to deliver a quick and humane kill.
Until the widespread adoption of high-velocity magnum-type cartridges by the hunting fraternity, bullet structure was not particularly critical. At modest muzzle velocities below 3000 fps, a simple soft-point jacketed bullet performed quite well. Many design techniques have been applied to the jacketed soft point to increase its effectiveness.
Jackets are generally drawn to be thin at the nose (to initiate expansion) and thick at the base (in order to support the core and ensure weight retention). Jackets can be mechanically locked into the lead core, and the Remington. Core-Lokt, Hornady InterLock and Speer African Grand Slams are classic examples of this design.
The development of what we term premium bullets today has been the result of a long progression of interesting attempts to improve the hunting bullet.
To achieve controlled expansion, the Germans developed the RWS H-Mantle bullet in which a two-piece core is separated by a portion of the folded jacket in between the two cores -- a precursor of the Nosler Partition. Another early design was the Peters Belted soft point in which a separate band (belt) of gilding metal was positioned around and swaged into the shank of the bullet to stiffen it at midsection. Remington introduced their famous Bronze Point, a true hollowpointed soft point, capped with a bronze wedge that initiated core expansion upon contact -- a concept that is more often seen today in the Nosler Ballistic Tip, Hornady A-Max and V-Max, and the Swift Scirocco. Winchester developed its own capped, expansion-controlled, hollowpoint hunting bullet -- the famous aluminum-nosed Silvertip.
Another parallel line of hunting-bullet development has been the expanding solid, which is composed entirely of a copper or bronze alloy. One of the first commercial hunting bullets offered along these lines was made in the '60s by renowned gunsmith and experimenter, P.O. Ackley. The Ackley-controlled expansion bullet was composed of solid copper with a tiny lead core inserted in the tip. At the time, I was shooting the .257 Ackley Improved cartridge. I obtained a supply of Ackley's 100-grain, solid-copper bullets believing that they would be ideal for black bear and mule deer. Unfortunately, they proved to be inaccurate in my rifle and were never used on game. Today, the excellent Barnes X-Bullet line dominates the solid-alloy bullet market.
When Winchester and Remington introduced the benefits of the .264, 7mm and .300 Magnums to thousands of everyday hunters, the push began for better game bullets that could perform at velocities in excess of 3,000 fps, and at hunting distances ranging from pointblank to in excess of 300 yards. Handloaders using premium bullets from independent bullet makers lead the way. It took time for the ammunition industry to embrace the premium-class hunting bullets and make them available to the general shooting public.
Currently, the most successful premium hunting bullets that provide deep penetration, reliable expansion, and maximum weight retention can be categorized into four groups: the Partition, the Bonded Core, the Expanding Solid, and the Polymer-Tipped Hollow Point.
The legendary Nosier Partition is the standard by which all premium bullets are judged. It's been around the longest and taken the most game. Wonderfully accurate, widely available and economical, it does everything a premium bullet should. Whether the game is at 30 or 500 yards, the Partition never fails to create an ample entry wound and penetrate bone, muscle and hide. If I were limited to one bullet for all hunting, the Nosier Partition would be my choice.
Under the Combined Technology program of Nosler and Winchester, a steel reinforcing cup and stronger heel crimp have been added to the rear core of the standard Partition to eliminate any possibility of core slippage and deformation, and to increase penetration. The result is the Partition Gold bullet loaded by Winchester.
Another product of this cooperative arrangement is the Winchester Fail Safe bullet, which features a homogenous hollow-point nose and a rear core that is encased in two steel cups and sealed with a heel closure disk. The Fail Safe is a very tough bullet that exhibits tremendous penetration and is best reserved for large big game -- elk, moose, grizzly, and African-plains game. On smaller bodied game species, it doesn't expand quickly or violently enough compared to a standard Partition.
The Swift A-Frame shares the same basic design of the Partition with the addition of a bonded core, resulting in maximum weight retention and expansion.
The Bonded Core
Fusing the lead core to the bullet jacket has proved to be an ideal method of insuring weight retention and deep penetration. The Bitterroot Bullet Company of Lewiston, Idaho, did much of the pioneer work on this design, which is now common in the Swift, Trophy Bonded, Woodleigh Weldcore, CorBon, Norma Oryx, Northern Precision And North Fork Technologies brands. Because of the production techniques involved in their manufacture, bonded-core bullets are the most expensive of all premium bullets. They tend to be favored by hunters pursuing large-boned and heavy-muscled big game. I've used a number of bonded-core designs made by Northern Precision and featuring their J4 jackets with complete success on deer and elk.
The Expanding Solid
Barnes has perfected this design over the last decade, and the quality of their X-Bullets keeps getting better. The new XLC dry film lubricated X-Bullets considerably reduced complaints of copper fouling. What I like about the X-Bullet is that it's possible to slightly reduce normal-grain weights in any caliber, and thus provide increased velocity without sacrificing premium-bullet performance. For example, the typical big-game load in the .338 Win Mag. features a 225- to 250-grain bullet at velocities between 2,700 to 2,800 fps. With the X-Bullet, it's entirely possible to drop the bullet weight down to 175 to 185 grain and achieve velocities between 3,000 to 3,200 fps. The only caveat I would offer about the X-Bullet is that some barrels shoot it well and some don't. The homogenous bullet does not have the elasticity of a lead-core bullet and, as a result, is less forgiving if the diameter of the bullet and the internal dimensions of the bore are not an ideal match. Having said that, the X-Bullet is a real performer, especially when driven at top velocities. Similar in concept to the X-Bullet is a new line of expanding solids marketed by Lost River Ballistic Technologies.
The Polymer-Tipped Hollow Point
Pioneered by Nosler as the Ballistic Tip -- and introduced later by Hornady as the A-Max, V-Max and SST; by Sierra as the BlitzKing; and by Winchester as the Ballistic Silvertip -- the polymer-tipped hollow-point has established itself as one of the most accurate and aerodynamic bullet designs ever created. Providing target grade accuracy, the design is ideal for long range varminting and for light to medium big-game species. While the original designs were somewhat too frangible on big-game, this is no longer true with excellent big-game bullets being offered across the board from 6mm through 9.3mm. I've used the 200-grain Ballistic Tip in a .338 Win. Mag. on elk with complete success, although I do feel more confident shooting the 210-grain and 250-grain Partitions.
Why use premium bullets?
Because they give you that critical bit of edge in performance that may spell the difference between a successful and unsuccessful hunt. Given the job they have to do and the cost of hunting today, ammunition featuring a premium bullet is a bargain at any price.
FACTORY LOADS FEATURING PREMIUM BULLETS
Winchester and Nosler, working together under the Combined Technology label, have developed the Ballistic Silvertip, the Partition Gold and Fail Safe designs, which Winchester loads across its lines, including Partition Gold 12-gauge and 20-gauge slugs.
Federal is loading the Trophy-Bonded Sledgehammer and Bear Claw; Woodleigh Weldcore; Nosler Partition and Ballistic Tip; Sierra GameKing; and the Barnes XLC coated X-Bullet.
Remington is loading the Swift A-Frame and Scirocco; Hornady V-Max and HP; and Nosler Partition and Ballistic Tip.
PMC is employing the Barnes-X; Sierra BlitzKing and GameKing; and its own Starfire, a hollow point, solid copper alloy bullet similar to the Barnes-X.
Speer loads its own line of premium bullets consisting of the Grand Slam; the African Grand Slam; the Big Game Tungsten Solid and Gold Dot.
Hornady is loading its own A-Max, V-Max, InterLock, SST and XTP bullets.
Weatherby supplies its premium ammunition with Nosler Partition and Ballistic Tip; Barnes X-Bullet; Hornady Interlock; and A-Square Monolithic Solids.
CorBon offers a complete line of bonded core handgun and rifle ammunition. Norma loads a bonded-core rifle bullet called the Oryx. Lazzeroni loads the Nosler Partition and the Barnes X-Bullet. Black Hills loads the Nosler Ballistic Tip, Sierra MatchKing, and Hornady A-and V-Max
And the list goes on and on.
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|Date:||Nov 1, 2001|
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