View Full Version : Are Heavy Bullets Really Necessary?

James H.
07-31-2003, 10:18 PM
I have been reading the essays on this site and have enjoyed them tremendously. I like the idea of loading a given cartridge to cover all the various niches but I question, in this time of super bullets, if a one-gun hunter bent on protecting life and limb from socially maladapted bears really needs a heavy for caliber (SD .300+) bullet.

Has anyone actually tried a penetration test in, say, saturated newprint/phonebooks at close range to see if a 220gr Nosler Partition at 2250fps will out penetrate a 165gr Barnes X bullet at 2700fps? I haven't, yet, but I bet there isn't enough difference to be worth the bother.

Just curious to know if anyone has actually done an experiment.

"What people say I can not do I try and find I can." Henry David Thoreau

08-01-2003, 07:15 AM
Hi James, and welcome to the Board. Excellent observation; since the advent of the Barnes X bullet penetration discussions have become more complicated. The Barnes company claims 28% deeper penetration. Deeper than what has never been answered that I know of. To wit: deeper than a standard jacketed bullet, or deeper than, say, a Nosler Partition?

In any event I personally have never performed a newsprint test. But I have a good deal of experience with the two bullets you cite on big game. Anecdotally, the 220 penetrates deeper. And here's the clincher for me: the Partition also leaves some "shrapnel" along the way. I like that--more "stuff" in there to compound injury. I have always liked that about Partitions in any weight. In addition, I have seen tests, in the literature, that indicate deeper penetration at slower speed. Down closer to 2000fps is better than above 2500fps, and so forth, for any bullet. So. The big 220gr. Nosler, at modest velocity, is the one for me if the objective is defense against a bear having a bad hair day. In bear country I just keep three 220's in the magazine underneath either the small game or normal big game round(s). No problem. I even throttle these bear stoppers down to 2400fps in my .300 Weatherby. They CAN be launched at over 2800fps.

Again, excellent comment.

William Clunie
08-01-2003, 08:20 AM
A fellow board member here sent me an email message with a site to visit. (www.fs.fed.us/pnw/pubs/gtr152)
It is an extensive piece on penetration results of various rounds from rifles, shotguns, and handguns. It is quite revealing. Look at the info for the 45/70. Big hard-cast slow moving slugs penetrate deeper that fast expanding speedy bullets. I would think that a top-rated round for huge bears would be something like a Garrett round in 45/70. I would also think that round would be great for penetration on an elk as long as you kept shots under 150 yards?
I will be doing some wet newsprint testing soon. Hopefully I will also have some more "test results" from hunting exploits this season.

08-01-2003, 08:45 AM
Hello James.
I like to shoot the heavier bullets for any given caliber, because the sectional density of the bullet is higer.

John "Pondoro" Taylor made an ecuation on KO values, and it shows that the heavier bullets results in better KO values, the quality of the bullets is better today, but the principles are the same.

I like the idea of Patrick that the heavier bullets have more material to share inside the animal body, and I never think of it in that way, thank you.

Best regards & great hunting.
Sorry for my faulty english.

08-01-2003, 03:48 PM
William, The publication you are looking at is dated. It was completed in the early 80's and the bullet revolution has happened since that time. I do agree with you, however, a 45/70 with a large bullet at moderate velocity will hammer almost anything. Several hunters have taken the Big 5 in Africa with the Garret Sledgehammer bullets. They have reported impressive results. I routinely carry a .375 at work (requirement) but carry either my 338 or 45/70 when in brown bear country on my own time. I think my 480 ruger with hard cast bullets (375 grain @ 1350 fps) will thump a big brown furry thing just fine. Jim

08-01-2003, 05:37 PM
Go to the library and get Game Loads and Practical Ballistics for the American Hunter by Bob Hagel. It's a little old, but a marvelous book on this topic.

William Clunie
08-02-2003, 02:00 AM
I recently traded a Marlin Guide gun for the 1895 CB (both 45/70). I just had to have the CB when I saw it. It holds TEN rounds! It's a pound or two heavier and a little longer than the Guide model, but I like the extra weight in the octagonal barrel; a second shot comes quicker. I think it would make a fine brown bear gun, or like you mentioned - Africa.
As far a reading about bullet penetration, a writer for one of the shooting magazines (Finn Aagard or Ross Segfreid?) always was big on the hard-cast, LBT bullets. I remember one wet-newsprint test that had him driving a .45 Colt from his Ruger into the newprint deeper than a .375 H&H. The hard-cast bullets didn't mushroom one bit, of course, and I'm sure the H&H would transfer quite a bit more energy into whatever it hit, but . . .they do drop alot of big game in Africa with solid bullets that don't expand. I would always go with results from the field, rather than what works on paper. I've only shot a moose with the .375. It was broadside at 70 yards. At the first shot, it did an "about face" in one huge leap. I put one more into the same area for insurance and it dropped at the shot. There was a fist-sized whole that went through the chest cavity that took out the aorta and some of the lungs. He weighed about 900 lbs. His rack didn't make any record book, but everytime I look at his mount, I think of his last leaping dance and the many (MANY) meals he provided (and I give thanks).
Does anyone hunt with the .45 Colt or 45/70?

08-02-2003, 09:26 AM
William, I don't use the hard cast in my Marlin, it is one of the older ones and does not really like the cast bullets. I use 350 grain Kodiak core bonded bullets at 2150 fps. They are devistating on caribou. I use the cast bullets in my Sharps. These are the LBT style but not real hard cast. They shoot like a dream, under 1 inch at 100 when I do my part. Have not taken anything with this bullet yet but will sometime soon. I opens up on muskeg so I think it will work well on animals too. Not pushing it to fast, around 1400 fps. Enjoy the new Marlin. Jim

William Clunie
08-03-2003, 04:55 AM
Found this great site on what heavy, hard-cast bullets can do.

Yukon Hunter
08-03-2003, 08:43 AM
I was fairly surprised at the reaction from the Caribou I took this weekend. I took him at about 100 yards, using my .375 H&H, with 270 grain Hornady Interlocks. He was quartering towards me at the shot. The bullet entered his left front shoulder, blowing bone fragments through his lungs, passed through both lungs and made an exit hole at the rear of the right rib cage about 2" in diameter. None of this surprised me- I expect great performance from the gun/load. What amazed me was that the 'bou turned and ran about 40 yards before falling. He wasn't a large bull (maybe 350lbs.), and I would have expected that impact and that bullet placement to flatten him.

08-03-2003, 11:55 AM
The old marlins like mine have micro groove and need a larger bullet diameter. I could not get lyman molds to throw one to size to .459, so got an Old West mold. Been pushing 340 flat nosed @ 1830 fps. Mostly ww with some pure lead. Get some mushroom, and find slugs under skin opposite side of lung shot on Elk. Saco hardness #4 mesured on slugs. Now need to alloy another batch of lead, as hunting rounds getting low.

08-04-2003, 08:17 AM
Yea Don I knew that but just have not got around to working with the cast bullets for the Marlin yet. I did try some from Cast Performance bullets but they would not feed. I think the upper receiver of my rifle is a little rough and they seem to get hung up. I'll just keep working with the Kodiak bullets for the Marlin and use the cast bullets in my Sharps. It's fun having more than one 45/70 to play with!

Yukon Hunter, I have had a similar experience with caribou and my 338. Put a 250 grains Nosler through the chest of a nice dry cow at about 40 yards. The bullet went clean through and you could see air coming out of each side as she tried to breath. She ran around in a circle and finally fell down. I thought I'd done something wrong at the time. Since then, I've come to the realization that caribou are tough animals and while they are not hard to kill, they are sometimes hard to put on the ground. Jim

Yukon Hunter
08-04-2003, 01:31 PM
Man, jdb-
Between this and the bino's post, it appears we're on the same wavelength- shame we can't hunt together.

08-05-2003, 06:50 AM
If your rounds are hanging up, the overall length is too long. Second major problem I had was high primers. Just a little too much, the lever doesnt close all the way, and you get a misfire. Some of my cases seem to have a shallow primer pocket, as I marked the cases and had same problem next loading. 3rd problem was the ejector stop catching on the forward edge, and trying to eject before the case had clearance. That was on an early model

08-05-2003, 08:32 AM
Don, Thanks, the LBT bullets are a little long and I wondered if that might be the problem. I have not had the problem with the primers. I've been shooting my Marlin since the very early 80's. I started with the 400 grain Speer, what a wonderfully accurate bullet, and thought I would never change. I tried the 300 grain bullets from Nosler and Barnes, both killed caribou well. However, the Kodiak 350 grain bulllet holds together well and I can launch it at 2150 fps and I shoots very well. It is also better brown bear medicine when the need arises. So I think I will stay with it, until it gets too expensive. Thanks.

Yukon, maybe I will run into you up around Lake Clark some day. We are out there somewhere every year chasing caribou and moose. Hope you have more luck with the caribou this year. Jim

James H.
08-06-2003, 06:20 PM
For all you big bore buffs (and shooters in general) check out Beartooth Bullets at


Aside from being a provider of what is reported to be some of the best cast bullets out there, they also have a very interesting reference section and message board.

08-06-2003, 07:27 PM
Hey men--

Have any of you noticed that we correspondents on this thread represent Norte America muy bien? Cool.

Yukon Hunter
08-07-2003, 08:44 AM
Si. Oui. Yep. I'm a member of a couple of other hunting forums, but I prefer this one. While I muck-rake on the others (they actually think I'm too liberal-geeesh), it's nice to come here for an intelligent discussion with like-minded folks. It's a shame we can't all get together up here or Alaska for a nice 'bou hunt, head down to Colorado or Montana for Elk, over to Maine for them puny little Moose (sorry, WC), NB for Whitetails, then all head down to Mexico for some muy grande Mulies.

08-07-2003, 09:14 AM
JAmes H.,

There are a few factors to consider.

First, black bear arent very big. A 400 lb black bear doesnt need 5 feet of penetration. Ive killed a number of 300 to 400 lb black bear and 2.5 to 3 feet of pentrations is plenty from any angle. So on smaller bear like black bear, I prefer a rapidly to moderately expanding bullet--it kills them quicker than a bullet that does not expand and over penetrates and kills the trees behind the bear. Haveing said that, the much bigger coastal Alaskan browns will need much more penetration. So, match your bullet to the chore at hand.

Bullet construction is perhaps every bit as important as bullet weight or bullet velocity. Your point about the X bullet is well taken. Those X bullets pentrate deeply for thier wieght. In comparison, a Nosler balistic tip is so fragile that it wont penetrate worth a darn, unless you slow them down. Different types of bullets at differnt velocities all act differently, SO MATCH YOUR BULLET/VELOCITY TO YOUR NEED AT HAND. It is great to have options and choices, but the problem is gaining enough knowledge to properly choose.

08-07-2003, 12:58 PM
Good thread, guys. FYI, Tim produces Buffalo Bore ammo, so pay attention. And if you have ANY big bore questions he's the guy to ask. I use his 410gr. hard bodies in my .480.

Yukon-- Mercy, what a Ramble that would be! If only we were all Trust Funders and could make such a sojourn. I wonder if a slightly lesser get-together might be possible. Suppose Kifaru "hosted" a Rendezvous in South Park, Colorado at some agreed-upon date. Big (or small) Tipi camp. 800yd. shooting range. Hiking opportunities everywhere. A few days of...just having a good time. And face-to-face with each other. Drive in or make your way via Denver International Airport. Or hike, ride a horse or wing in driving a Super Cub (plenty of room to land/take off at my "spot"). Thoughts, gentlemen?


William Clunie
08-07-2003, 05:46 PM
What a great thread. I just have been so busy lately I haven't been on.
Sounds like you got some penetration on the caribou. We must continue this discussion after I do some penetration test of my own. I'm going to try to put together some wet newsprint and bust it with several different loads, bullets and calibers.
I'll share the information here when I'm finished.
There are bear to be baited now, so I'll get back to it.

Ed C
08-08-2003, 05:44 PM
OK Patrick lets do it just set the date.

08-08-2003, 07:48 PM
Rafael, for want of knowing what each bullet could do in my calibre I find the Taylor KO value interesting. I had an 8X57 Mauser and now I have a 30-06. I was using 220 grain Woodleigh for Sambar and 196 gn. for Red Deer with the Mauser. The 220gn according to KO value was enough for Elk. Presently I'm using Winchester Super X 180gn. for Red Deer. I got a Red earlier this year with one shot, it left a big hole. I have to get a heavy bullet for the Sambar, thin skinned but big animals. In Australia lots of hunters chase them using a magnum, but they use to get them with .303's when that was what mostly was available.

William Clunie
08-09-2003, 03:52 AM
PS: I'm in on the rendezvous. I have been thinking the same thing. Wouldn't it be a great get together. What should it be called. . . The 2004 Kifaru Packers Hunting and Shooting Convention, The 2004 Kifaru Shootin' the Bull Exposition, or just Tipi-stock 2004.

Rusty Hook
08-09-2003, 09:21 AM
The X bullets penetrate great, farther than partitions but don't leave as big a wound channel as the partitions do. For all of you Rambling Rifle fans, handgun hunters have learned that heavy bullets and slow powders provide the least velocity penality with short barrels....Rusty.

08-15-2003, 08:01 AM
Hello to All.
After some days out Im back.
Macawber, I never been in Australia and Never hunt a sambar, so I dont know a lot about this animal, the bullets today are much better than what Taylor had, maybe you can bring down the sambar with the 30.06 in 180gn, as is thin skkined, if you hit it in the boiler room it has to come down, remember the real state motto "LOCATION LOCATION LOCATION" if you hit it in the rigth spot its going to die, maybe the retrival is going to come after some tracking. If you can put your hands in something heavier do that, its better safe than sorry.

Patrick I love the idea of the get together.

Best regards & great Hunting.

08-16-2003, 08:57 AM
Hello again, after some homeworking I find some data about the Sambar, From what I read I think you shouldnt have any problem with your 30.06 and 180gn bullets, at 300kg and soft skined the sambar should die without a problem.

I prefer to use tropy bonded bear claw bullets, for all my hunting.
Best regards & great hunting.

kotzebue kid
08-21-2003, 02:42 AM
here's some input from the field not highly technical just some small practical experience killing caribou. I use both a 308. and a 375 h&h. Depending on how I feel that day. The 375 is a bit heavier to carry so it gets used less sometimes. I've noticed that a 150gr sp 308 does significantly more meat damage than the 375 300gr sp on a caribou from similar ranges. I like the 375 cause it does give a margin of security if you tangle with a brown bear. I saw five bears tonight while fishing. I beat feet when I saw that I was downwind of a sow and two cubs. I only had a 44 mag revolver with me. Anyway I had a 45-70 But I coul'nt deal with the the recoil and the parabolic trajectory. My buddies all have different ideas too. One uses a 270 on everything another an 8mm mag and another a 338. And there are plenty of people just using 30-06. and three who use the 375. Alot of the natives just use mini-14's on caribou. and alot of people just use whatever garden variety 762x39 happens to be available. A 762x39 will kill a caribou just as effectively as 338 if you hit him right. bullet placement seems key. The natives I speak of with the 762x39's and the 223's are exellent shots. I think taking the time to shoot well is probably more important than what kind of bullet you shoot.
salut, alex

08-21-2003, 03:29 AM
Kotzebue kid,

I think taking the time to shoot well is probably more important than what kind of bullet you shoot.

I couldn't agree more. 22-250, and 6mm Rem have worked well for me on muleys. I've never shot a mule deer with anything larger than an 85gr 6mm (80gr Rem core-loc are my favorite, but I've used 75 gr HP's). 55 gr sp's in the 22-250 do a great job. All have been one shot kills except my 1st ... punched him twice, in the chest, 3" apart. He was dead, he just didn't know it ... nor did I.

I've got a friend who uses a 222 Rem. Truth be known, a well placed 22 mag, at reasonable range, will bring down a muley. I save the 222 (50 gr sx) for varmit.


Yukon Hunter
08-21-2003, 03:50 AM
No one can argue that a well-placed shot is 99% of the equation. Heck, you can take a polar bear with a high-power pellet gun, if you hit him in the eye just right...
My problem is accuracy. While I was the only marksman out of 275 guys on board my ship in the Navy, I'm not so foolish as to think I'm always going to have the perfect sight picture, I'll always account properly for wind, my range estimates are bang on, or there is no chance of nicking a small, unseen twig. This is where the .375 shines. I can pretty well rest assured that if something unforseen happens and (God forbid) I don't get a killing shot in right off, as long as I hit him reasonably well, he isn't going far. I should have a chance for a second shot.

08-21-2003, 06:13 AM

Agreed. I prefer the smaller calibers primarily for recoil resasons ... and they're usually lighter to pack around. Knowing the limitations of the lighter bullets, I've passed up a lot of unsure shots. For me, passing up a shot is better than a wounded animal.

When I was younger, I used to tune up a lot on rabbits in the west desert. 100+ rounds of centerfire on rabbits every other weekend gives a guy a pretty good idea of what shots he can and can't make. Rule was; anything under 100 yards had to be running full tilt ... unless you were using a pistol /images/%%GRAEMLIN_URL%%/smile.gif


08-21-2003, 06:16 AM
When the 220 swift was first introduced, there was alot of sportsmen trying it out on all sizes of game. After all it had respectable muzzle energy. There were even reports of it on animals as large as moose. Now it is obscure, and never mentioned on large game.
There was a time when my shooting irons were a 22-250 that was a tack driver, and a 44 revolver. My shot out 06, just was not worth carrying.
A well placed in the neck 55gr on mulies was spectacular. Likewise a head shot on antelope. However a little low frontal head shot that exploded on the front teeth, was sickening.
For meat hunters the slower 45/70 does the job without all the bloodshot waste, even if one is off center on a spineal shot on a northbound elk.

08-21-2003, 09:07 AM
I agree completely with YUKON, you can do a lot with any bullet in the rigth spot, but some calibers are definitely marginal.

As the caliber go down the hunters capacity and judgment most go up, just to be sure that the animal is going to be retrived and not left wounded.

To tell you the truth Im not a very good tracker, and hate to follow up the wounded animal, Im not a bad shoot but i dont drive nails every time. I also hate Mr Murphy.

If any hunter is able and confident of his/her skills, use what ever youre confortable. Im just not confortable enougth with something smaller than a 270, and leave the small stuff for the range.

Best Regards & great Hunting.

Brian in WY
08-27-2003, 02:11 PM
Hello all.
This is a great thread ya got going here. I've been out of the loop for a while, since my boy was born two months ago.

I shoot a 300 weath. mag. and find it to be a good balance for me and my game. This last November I got a chance to hunt wild bison in NW Wyo. I used a speer factory loaded 180 gr. grand slamm bullet. The great big buffalo took one through the lungs @ 125 yards. It ran for the elk refuge (smart little bugger) and slid to a hault 30 yards from were i shot her. Upon inspection I had a clean pass through. The bullet did a good amount of internal damage and had an exit wound the size of a nickel (measured on the tanned hide). I would like to load a heavier bullet, but if time keeps me from the loading bench (as always) I feel confident with factory load I have chosen. Any "pet loads" someone would be willing to share? /images/%%GRAEMLIN_URL%%/smile.gif

Good hunting.
Brian R.

Patrick I think a Kifaru Tipi gathering would be grand. Keep us all posted.

08-27-2003, 06:19 PM
Hi Brian--

Pet 300 Weath loads:

Big game: (all Remington Brass)
---85 gr. IMR 7828, 165gr. Partition, 215 Pr.
---83 1/2gr. IMR 7828, 165gr. XBT, 215 Pr.

Small game:
---20gr. IMR 4227, 125gr. Sierra, 250 Pr.

Dangerous game:
---76gr. IMR 7828, 220gr. Partition, 215 Pr. (2850fps.)
---68gr. IMR 7828, 220gr. Partition, 215 Pr. (2400fps.)

Hey, you're real close for the Rendezvous! We'll look for you.