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Thread: The optimum bullet weight for the cartridge

  1. #1

    Default The optimum bullet weight for the cartridge

    I remember when I was a young man, reading any hunting, reloading or shooting article or magazine, so as to know what bullet weight and construction was best for the cartridge I was going to use for a certain hunt and game to be taken during the hunt. I made a lot of mistakes, choosing the wrong bullet construction or weight bullet and sometimes both.

    I remember one time as I was in the mountains in east Oklahoma, hunting whitetail deer and I found a place that looked great and only had about a 50yd shot to the trail the deer were using. I was there about an hour and here he came a fine eight point indeed. I lifted my rifle and in doing so with my gloves I had to much pressure on the trigger when I shouldered the rifle and the rifle discharged and the bullet hit the dirt right under his stomach and he leaped in the air and was gone. It is the only time I found myself weeping like a child for about ten minutes. Fortunately I even embarrassed myself and promised I would never cry like that again.

    I have had a bunch of failures through the years but many more successes. I remember using a bullet that was not constructed properly for a shoulder shot and lost a big one in the delta area of Mississippi. I lost a fine buck on a gas line when I used to heavy of a bullet for the distance I needed that day and did not compensate correctly for the shot and the bullet hit under the deer. I did not cry over this one.

    I think that the optimum bullet in weight and construction should be used with a cartridge for best results and less disappointments in the field. Now I know if you only have an 06 or 270 or just one rifle to use because of budget or that is how you prefer it, then the optimum bullet weight for the specific cartridge is not always possible. You might use a 165gr on whitetail deer and a 220gr on a brown bear and these will do the job but you would probably not want to use these two bullet weights in reverse. I understand that and thatís certainly reasonable to use different bullet weights for a given cartridge and it not be the optimum bullet that gives the best velocities, energy or momentum.

    What I am getting at is that every cartridge has a bullet weight that is itís optimum weight. Like the 165gr in the 06 for velocity and energy or the 180gr for the 300Wby or the 225gr for the 358win and every cartridge has one bullet weight that performs the best for the cartridge. If a person has more than one rifle then he has the luxury to choose a rifle for the specific hunt he is going on and can use the optimum bullet weight for that cartridge and get the most out of his rifle on that certain hunt.

    By choosing a specific cartridge for your hunt with the optimum bullet weight for that cartridge you minimize the failure in drop, bullet placement, energy, momentum and terminal results. If my 22-250 will not do the job due to bullet weight or any other factor for the game I am hunting, then it is time to step up to a more powerful cartridge instead of adding bullet weight and then minimizing your down range capability. Now if the 22-250 is all I have I would have to step up in bullet weight. I all so might need to forget the hunt considering the fact that the game might be just to big for my 22-250.

    Everyone over the years develops a battery of rifles to do specific jobs. Mine is now limited to the 22-250, 30-06, 300Wby and 358Win. This satisfies me at the present and I could hunt anything in North America using these rifles to fit my game and hunting conditions. I could use each cartridgeís optimum weight bullet using the right construction and get the job done with less opportunity for failure.

    If one would discipline their self to use a cartridge and itís optimum bullet weight and good bullet construction to meet the hunting situation, I believe the experience will be a positive one, many more times than it would be a negative experience. This is something I have over the years learned to do and my hunting success has been for the last 15yrs, about 98 percent success rate. This involved reloading, practice and good hunting techniques, but more than anything, when all these have been put together, the optimum bullet weight and construction has been the key to my success in taking game at various distances, conditions and game size. Yes, the optimum bullet weight and construction for a given cartridge and game hunted does increase the chance of success.
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  2. #2
    Supporting Member Amigo Will's Avatar
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    When a round was invented in the past there was always the bullet weight that worked best.Now days we have so many bullet designs and weights and powders to use to move those bullets its harder to say one weight is best.Even in factory ammo today we can find the same round with the same weight bullet by different makers that will have say 300fps difference in speed.Basicly you still need to find what round works best for each of you guns to do the job you want it to do and stick with it.

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    Default different point of view

    I agree with everything said here but I think you left out plan B. You could always just try to get closer to the animal and make your bullet more effective. I have never been in a hunting situation with a rifle that I couldnt have gotten closer if I really needed too. If you cant, well I say just pass on the shot and hope for another day.

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    Member gunbugs's Avatar
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    The best, if there is such a thing, is usually the weight the cartridge was originally introduced with. The guys at the factory already did tens of thousands of dollars of work to figure that out.

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    What if you have a cartridge that you have to reload for because you can't buy ammo for it. I have a 350 Griffin & Howe that I use hunting alot but you can not hardly find any info on the cartridge. What would be the best grain bullet for that round? I have been loading 250grn Swift-A-Frames but have been thinking about trying the 225grn Barnes TSX. Is their a better bullet/grain that I should try because I'm always open for suggestions.

  6. #6

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    Quote Originally Posted by ARKY View Post
    I agree with everything said here but I think you left out plan B. You could always just try to get closer to the animal and make your bullet more effective. I have never been in a hunting situation with a rifle that I couldnt have gotten closer if I really needed too. If you cant, well I say just pass on the shot and hope for another day.
    I have been in many situatins where I couldn't get closer. Infact all 4 animals I took this year were as close as I could get. 300, 200, 200 and 180 yds. If you have ever hunted antelope, you would know, that depending on the vegitation cover and lay of the land, there is a point where you can not get any closer without being detected and sometimes that distance can be up to a mile or more. Also, if you come up on a heard, antelope, deer or elk, they will have lookouts posted around the perimeter of the heard. You can only get so close before giving yourslf away.

    As for passing on the shot, you need to know your own limitations and the limitations of your rifle. I passed on several this year due to a poorly performing rifle. If you can shoot and kill a game animal at 600 yds or more, do it. If not, dont.

  7. #7

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    IMO, the best bullet for the cartridge depends on many things. The game to be hunted, the distances to be shot, bullet construction and in long distance shooting, BC.

    Game at longer ranges would require a smaller, faster, flatter shooting bullet than would large dangerous game at closer ranges. Bullets that retain most or all their mass don't need to be as large as ones that loose 50 - 30% of their mass. When shooting at more extreme long range distance, larger bullets with higher BC are required and bullet integrity becomes less important as velocity drops at the longer range.

    In my 300 WSM, a 130 gr TSX with an MV of 3500 fps would easily do the trick for a wide range of game up to elk size, out to 400 yds. I wouldn't hesitate to use it on 500 bears inside 100 yds, and 300 lb bears inside 200 yds. Add a range finder and a LR scope, and my optimum bullet becomes a heavier high BC bullet in the 180 gr class that doubles my effective range to 800 yds or more. Without the rangefinder and LR scope, where I am estimating distance, flat trajectory with a lighter, faster bullet is critical.

  8. #8

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    For me the optimum bullet is determined by the target and guesses about likely range. Too tuff a bullet and it isn't as likely to expand well on soft game at longer ranges, if that's what you need. Too soft, and it's likely to come apart on tough game at closer range.

    I still remember my first scoped rifle back in the early 1960's. After cutting my teeth on open sights, I was all set for some long range shooting. Circumstances dictated that the rifle was a Model 70 Featherweight in 308. I wanted to stretch the range, so as a new reloader I cranked out a bunch of 125 grain spitzer loads at max. Killed deer like lightning out at 200-300 yards, even if it was a little violent on eating meat inside 200.

    Fortunately the first close shot I took was a coyote running right to left at about 30-35 yards. I swung through and rolled him, making me real proud of my shooting. Trotted over to look him over and take the hide. Didn't bother. The right foreleg and lots of hide around it were gone. Not just shot up, but MIA. Foot and all. And we never found it! Either vaporized or launched into the next county or some distant treetop.

    Thank goodness that wasn't a deer, even if the load was a monster performer on deer at long range.

    My very next reloading session featured my introduction to Nosler Partitions. Been shooting them for the nearly 50 years since without so much as a failure or hickup- near or far. Gotta be loyal to a product like that. Hundreds of successful shots on game builds lots of confidence.

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    Member Eastwoods's Avatar
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    In my younger years, with little experience, I was most concerned with velocity and bullet trajectory, hence, light for cartridge bullets. I'm sure this was the product of reading ballistic charts as a means of finding the "perfect cartridge and bullet weight". As time and experience has grown, I favor heavier bullets for caliber, and bigger calibers for game. This may be partly due to that I have little experience in hunts where long range shots are much more than a rarity.

    Even though I have a few dozen big game animals under my belt, I would say that my selection of bullets is still guided more by the experience of others than of my own.

    In general it seems that sectional density plays the biggest role for optimum bullet weight to cartridge. That is, the heavier and/or tougher an animal is the higher the sectional density should be.

  10. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by Eastwoods View Post
    In general it seems that sectional density plays the biggest role for optimum bullet weight to cartridge. That is, the heavier and/or tougher an animal is the higher the sectional density should be.
    Bingo.

    Right on the nose, along with suitable construction for the velocity.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Eastwoods View Post
    ....In general it seems that sectional density plays the biggest role for optimum bullet weight to cartridge. That is, the heavier and/or tougher an animal is the higher the sectional density should be.
    Absolutely! along with appropriate construction for the animal.

    The problem here is two separate issues; One of terminal ballistics and one of external ballistics. I believe that what works best for one, works worst for the other and vice versa.

    Terminal ballistics for hunting pushes the needs for structural integrity and nose shape to give the greatest wound cavity. Specifically a blunt nose and construction to expand yet not fragment at impact velocity, high sectional density to give penetration with expansion.

    For the best external ballistics we want a spitzer boattail design with a high Ballistic Coefficient (BC). The best flight characteristics come from a hollow nose covered by pointed jacket, hardly the construction of a hunting bullet. If we could magically transform our bullet into the blunt object we need at the moment of impact, from this most streamlined of projectiles, we'd have the perfect bullet for hunting. About a half dozen bullet companies claim to have just such a bullet.

    Obviously we can be more practical about this. If we hunt the wide open plains of Wyoming or the Orange Free State, we would put more emphasis on the external ballistic needs, especially since the antelope in these regions are somewhat small and lightly built. If we hunt thick cover of Kodiak or the jess of Zimbabwe, where shots will be short at big ugly animals, the terminal performance will be much more important. There could be just one rifle to cover all this but not just one bullet.

    The high BC needs for the long shot and the high SD needs for the deepest penetration are kindred spirits. BC is the same as SD with a sharp point. A heavier for caliber bullet will have higher SD, therefore a higher BC therefore the best choice for long hunting shots for all considerations. We still need some magic but not as much this time since we applied the laws of physics.

    To comment on what Gunbugs posted. True indeed but some calibers were developed with certain applications in mind and it may not be the same as what we want for the caliber.

    The Winchester development of the 45-90 was meant to be a light bullet speed demon 45 caliber and they loaded 325 grain bullets to boost velocity. The rifle had a slow twist and wouldn't handle the 450 to 500grain bullets of the 45-70 caliber.

    Also a thirty caliber is an example of every extreme of case capacity. The 30 carbine is very limited in usable bullet weights and design, no 180 grain spitzer in its future. The 300 RUM should be the heavy bullet king but was designed to just give the highest velocity to standard weight 165-180 grain spitzers. The 30-06 was a well tested and well thought design to give optimum performance with the 165-173 grain spitzer bullets. Going either way a little with bullet weight still makes it a great performer. There are several other examples of calibers designed for specific bullets of the time but the transition from round nose to spitzer at the turn of the 19th/20th century give examples and the changes in guns. Those folks were doing their homework.
    Last edited by Murphy; 02-03-2009 at 14:24.
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  12. #12

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    Quote Originally Posted by Murphy View Post
    There are several other examples of calibers designed for specific bullets of the time but the transition from round nose to spitzer at the turn of the 19th/20th century give examples and the changes in guns. Those folks were doing their homework.
    There's a more modern example of such an attempt, along with a change in course or "course correction" after the fact. The 244 Remington. Started out life with Remington thinking it was a varmint-only round and they issued rifles with a barrel twist too slow for 100 grain spitzers. Winchester beat the snot out of them with the 243 Winchester and rifles with a faster twist. The 243 shot the same bullets to similar velocities, and pospered in spite of its ****ably short neck and minor reloading challenges.

    Remington backtracked and re-released the same cartridge with a new name, along with rifles having faster twist barrels. The "new" 6mm Remington never caught up with the better-conceived 243 rival, in spite of marginally better ballistics. If they had started off on the right foot, there still might be 6mm Remingtons rather than 243's rolling off today's assembly lines.

  13. #13

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    Murphy, good post, and in my novice opinion, spot on. I will say, that in the LR world, for the 300 RUM, I'm seeing the preferred bullet to be in the 200 - 210 gr range, depending on velocity/BC formula. The LR guys as you probably know, are number crunching adicts, like myself, and velocity and BC with acceptable but demanding accuracy, is their world.

    In the 300 RUM, I personally find the 180 gr E-Tip and the 177 GR GS HV very intirguing.

    In the case of the E-tip, it will open to diameters a little greater than standard mushrooming bullets or TSX's, with an MV around 3300 fps, give or take. It will likely retain all it's mass and cause a catastrophic wound channel.

    In the case of a 177 GS HV, it will likely reach 3400-3500 fps out of the RUM, and being a *softer* bullet will likely shed its petals at higher velocoities, but, designed to mushroom slightly, creating a fatal wound channel.

    I've read a lot of very interestign *stuff* on the GS site, including... a black Wildebeest taken @ 345m with a 22-250, 40 gr bullet, shot through the boilerroom. They have a very interesting approach to external and terminal ballistics. However, their approach goes to 500-600 yds. Most of their bullets are designed to operate up to that range.

    Just a little food for thought in our changing world

  14. #14

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    Quote Originally Posted by MontanaRifleman View Post
    Murphy, good post, and in my novice opinion, spot on. I will say, that in the LR world, for the 300 RUM, I'm seeing the preferred bullet to be in the 200 - 210 gr range, depending on velocity/BC formula. The LR guys as you probably know, are number crunching adicts, like myself, and velocity and BC with acceptable but demanding accuracy, is their world.

    In the 300 RUM, I personally find the 180 gr E-Tip and the 177 GR GS HV very intirguing.

    In the case of the E-tip, it will open to diameters a little greater than standard mushrooming bullets or TSX's, with an MV around 3300 fps, give or take. It will likely retain all it's mass and cause a catastrophic wound channel.

    In the case of a 177 GS HV, it will likely reach 3400-3500 fps out of the RUM, and being a *softer* bullet will likely shed its petals at higher velocoities, but, designed to mushroom slightly, creating a fatal wound channel.

    I've read a lot of very interestign *stuff* on the GS site, including... a black Wildebeest taken @ 345m with a 22-250, 40 gr bullet, shot through the boilerroom. They have a very interesting approach to external and terminal ballistics. However, their approach goes to 500-600 yds. Most of their bullets are designed to operate up to that range.

    Just a little food for thought in our changing world
    You will be lucky to get close 3300fps with the E-Tip but you will be over 3300fps with the TSX.
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  15. #15

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    Quote Originally Posted by beartooth View Post
    You will be lucky to get close 3300fps with the E-Tip but you will be over 3300fps with the TSX.
    BT, you are probably right. But my experience in the 300 WSM with 180 E-Tips and the 168 TTSX's surprised me. The E-Tips were getting about 3020 fps with 66 gr of H4350 at max and the TTSX's were getting only about 3050 with 65.5 gr of H4350. This would suggest to me that the 180 TTSX's might not get the velocity that the E-Tips were getting or be very close? This is out of an 11 twist barrel also. With a dffierent rifle and cartridge it could be a whole different story.

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    All these technicalities weigh me down...makes my head hurt. If I can't kill it with my .375 Weatherby, my .500 A-Square will. That's all I need to know.
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  17. #17

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    Quote Originally Posted by MontanaRifleman View Post
    BT, you are probably right. But my experience in the 300 WSM with 180 E-Tips and the 168 TTSX's surprised me. The E-Tips were getting about 3020 fps with 66 gr of H4350 at max and the TTSX's were getting only about 3050 with 65.5 gr of H4350. This would suggest to me that the 180 TTSX's might not get the velocity that the E-Tips were getting or be very close? This is out of an 11 twist barrel also. With a dffierent rifle and cartridge it could be a whole different story.
    I get 3007fps with 168gr TSX out of my 06, 3060fps using IMR4350 with 165gr GK HPBT out of my 06 and 3127fps with a 150gr GS HV out of an 06. A 300WSM should do a lot more and the E-Tip will never due to bearing surface with the hard metal and lack of driving bands or grooves designed to relieve friction, give velocities that any cartridge you use them in usually gets.
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  18. #18

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    Quote Originally Posted by Nitroman View Post
    All these technicalities weigh me down...makes my head hurt. If I can't kill it with my .375 Weatherby, my .500 A-Square will. That's all I need to know.
    Thanks for the simple perspective and the truth revealed. AMEN!!!!! Keep us straight Nitroman
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  19. #19

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    Quote Originally Posted by beartooth View Post
    I get 3007fps with 168gr TSX out of my 06, 3060fps using IMR4350 with 165gr GK HPBT out of my 06 and 3127fps with a 150gr GS HV out of an 06. A 300WSM should do a lot more and the E-Tip will never due to bearing surface with the hard metal and lack of driving bands or grooves designed to relieve friction, give velocities that any cartridge you use them in usually gets.
    The velociteis i'm getting in my 300 WSM are consistant with published darta and charts. Your .06 is exceptional. The velocities you are getting are way above normal.

    I agree, the E-tip should not get more velocity than the TSX, but in my rifle it does. Go figure????

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nitroman View Post
    All these technicalities weigh me down...makes my head hurt. If I can't kill it with my .375 Weatherby, my .500 A-Square will. That's all I need to know.

    I love the technicalities of rifles, ballistics etc. It relaxes me to pour over reloading manuals.

    I have friends that are like you Nitroman, and I have a great respect for the practicality. If it works use it.

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