Just How Tough Does a Bullet Have to Be?
I don't know if anyone else on this board saw the program, but I was channel surfing last week and I ran across an episode of Myth Busters and they had the guns out. They were testing the theory that by getting under water you could protect yourself from bullets. To make a long story short, except for low velocity lead bullets everything fragmented in the water, including 50 BMG armor piercing, before getting to the ballistic gel. The lead from a muzzle loader did not travel in a straight line and missed the gel target.
I'm not totally surprised by the results because water doesn't compress and something had to give. The ability of slow moving large bullets to penetrate is pretty well documented.
What I concluded from watching this was that a big bullet traveling at moderate to what we would consider low velocities is more likely to give deep or complete pentetration, but don't expect it to be in a straight line even if no bones are encountered. With high velocities one can expect that even tough bullets will sometimes fragment unless they are of monolithic construction.
In any case, after some reflection I think the program gives some insight into the causes of bullet behaviors that get labeled as failures even when the animal dies.
How tough does a bullet have to be?
We hunted carp in flood waters many years ago and my 6.5 X 54 Mannlicher carbine with 160 gr. RN Kynochs seemed to do the best job. We had to hold low to hit the target because of light refraction. The high velocity jobs like the .270 with 130 gr. were terrible.
I am not sure this is a fair or representative comparison to shooting animals, but there are similarities. Throughout my life I have found that long, heavy bullets, for caliber, did the best job on heavy game. Sectional density is very important to penetration and tissue destruction, all things being equal. No surprise. I don't hunt elephants or rhino (though my son is offering to take me to Africa) so my experience is limited to big bears and moose. The new TSX and other, equally tough bullets, good, heavy ones at speeds of 2200 to 2800 fps. seem to do a good job on most anything. The older, conventional, lead core, copper alloy bullets, long and heavy, killed game well at moderate velocities, but did often deviate in their course through game, especially if they hit heavy bones. But dead is dead, as they say. Not to bore anyone who has read this before from me, but my .458 Win. with Barnes 400 gr. X bullets just hammers big animals at 2350-2400 fps. Bullet recovery is unusual, and tissue destruction is massive. The 285 gr. Grand Slam from Speer has worked well for me in the .375 H&H. Friends tell me that at higher velocities it self-destructs. ??? Big, long, tough bullets work for me. Big bore (.40 and bigger) hard-cast bullets, long and heavy, with a wide meplat, at around 1700 to 2200 fps., have proven their effectiveness on heavy game beyond argument. I'll choose them over a small or medium bore bullet at higher velocity when the range is short and life is dear.
Many years ago I worked in a popular gun shop (where we had a lot of hangers on from opening to closing....the place was always full of experts) and arguments raged on about small and fast vs big and slow. O'Conner vs Keith. One day, my mentor, a big, old, German gunsmith got tired of listening to it, and walked out of the back room, wiping his hands on his brown apron. He stared down at the experts over his glasses, and finally told them they were all dummies. He said, "If you want to kill everything with one gun, big and fast is the answer, and if you can't shoot it, quit hunting and shut up." He returned to his lair in the back room and the argument stopped for several days. He was the Guru. Gordon, the gunsmith, hunted everything with a .458 Win., having many appropriate loads, and mostly made his own bullets. He bagged a lot of game. At 6'6" and 280 lbs., an 11 lb. rifle was a toy for him. He killed sheep and goats with it. So, what's the problem? Now, let the howling from the light bullet, high velocity fans begin!!!!!!!!!!! May the ghost of Jack O'Conner appear!
An old argument , for sure . Jack was a professor from the desert . Elmer lived what all the rest wrote about .I build handcrafted log homes and twice I've headed Outside for the big dollar . 4 years ago I worked in Missoula and had a chance to run down the road to pay hommage to Elmer in Salmon , Idaho , quite a few tough old timers hanging around he coffee shop much like I imagine Elmer would've been . I just don't think anyone should mention those two guys in the same breath . Elmer said shoot the biggest you can , period , which to me is " the word " . Too bad but that mutates to shoot the biggest you can carry as you get older . I've shot whitetail with a .458 and .375 H&H before I headed up here and it worked , a shot behind the shoulder doesn't ruin meat . Elmer was about 5'5" and I´ll bet he was a wirey old coot and handled the recoil which doesn't give the rest of us ány excuse for being recoil sensitive , it's all in your head . There's alot of .338 fans up here but I'm not one . I lived on Kodiak for quite a few years and always carried a 98 .458 in a Brown fiberglass stock and had a close scrape busting brush up Red Cloud drainage , that .458 felt like a .22 . You shoot the biggest gun you can handle , God bless Elmer Keith wherever he is .
Tons of stuff was put on the ground before the "super bullets" showed up. But, the "super bullets" showed up because more hunters wanted consistent bullet performance no matter what the velocity or shot angle. So for me the bullet needs to hold together, retain it's weight, not roll back like a pumpkin ball and provide straight line penetration. I want it to do this no matter how heavy a bone it hits and at the top velocity the load is capable of. I also want it to expand at the range most of my animals are taken at. That is asking a lot of a bullet. There are so many variables and almost every one of us will have very limited experience to reach a conclusion that can be set in stone. Even if we hunt for 50 years. The opportunity to punch or observe holes in thousands of critters is long gone except for a few that live in Africa or Australia. But we can all provide honest bullet reports on this forum and with all that data it gives us a starting point. I do believe if 10 of us hunted with the same thing and each shot a dozen of the same animals we would be surprised a how different the results were. This bullet talk is my favorite thing and it will be discussed long after I am gone.
Saw the same show. What it proved to me was that at very close range almost anything is going to come apart. But I already knew that.
"How tough" depends on how far, how fast and what it's hitting. I've had a lot more trouble with heavy built premiums not opening up when they should. That's either due to very long range or use at lower velocities in handguns. For those uses you'll find yourself swimming upstream against the current fad of premiums, but get used to it. The premiums are a religious issue with lots of dogma for many folks.
For my uses there's one variety of bullet that is the best compromise for all ranges. It generally opens up well at long range while holding together reasonably well at near point blank. It's the Nosler partition, and for my needs it's kinda like Mama Bear's porridge.
When I'm using single shot handguns in rifle calibers I much prefer the bullets specially built lightly built softer specifically for that use. Sierras shoot well in my guns, so that's what I use. For very long range use in rifles (any hunting which is likely to require shots over 300 yards and especially shots over 400 yards) I'll take Sierra, Hornady or Speer over any of the premiums including partitions- Any game, any day of the week. They hold together well at those lower velocities, expand well into classic mushrooms, and put the game down quickly. More heavily built bullets are too prone to needling right through without expanding at all. I've tracked enough game wounded at long range by premiums to never use them for long range. BTW- Between the three I mentioned, I don't care about the brand. They're all good, and I pick the one that shoots best in a particular gun. But if circumstances dictate I use any of them at close range, I know I've got a bomb on my hands not much different than what you saw on the show.
Originally Posted by [B
Your opinions written above are like poetry, and in my book "spot on".
Except, it was Baby bear's prorridge that was perfect (Mama's was too cold). I expected more from you, ya know... being a Bear & all.