Okay, we all have a favourite bullet and we all have an idea what we want that bullet to do when it hits the quarry, but what happens when something unusual happens, do we question the bullet or do we question ourselves? During the past year we have tested a range of bullets extensively, this meant shooting a lot of deer until we could find the bullet or at least parts of it, often we found nothing, but when we did it made for some enlightening results.
The above picture shows five bullets or parts thereof that were retrieved from animals, three resulted in rapid extinction of life, 2 required a lengthy follow-up, any clues which were which?
Bullet number 1, top left, Swift Scirocco 2, 130 Gn Polymer tip bonded. Excellent expansion with good retained weight.
Bullet number 2, top middle, Hornady SST, 129 Gn Polymer tip. Phenomenal expansion, poor retained weight, jacket/core separation.
Bullet number 3, top right, Sierra Gameking,140 Gn Soft point. Phenomenal expansion, poor retained weight, jacket/core separation.
Bullet number 4, bottom left, Nosler Partition 140 Gn Soft point. Good expansion (upto the partition), high retained weight.
Bullet number 5, bottom right, Privi Partisan factory ammunition. Terrible expansion. Obviously high retained weight.
Three of these bullets were retrieved from animals shot whilst quartering towards me which necessitated a front shoulder shot, all three bullets tracked along the spine and finished in the haunch, those were bullets 1,4 and 5. Bullets 2 and 3 were straightforward broadside heart/lung shots and both bullets failed with jacket and core separation.
Now, which animals ran?
Well, bullet number 2 went in behind the shoulder, separated on impact and left two exit holes, one in the lower neck and one through the diaphragm. Luckily an artery in the neck must have been severed but this animal ran over 200 yards from a textbook shot. Bullet number 5, the ‘much loved’ Privi Partisan failed to expand and the animal again ran over 200 yards, on closer examination the bullet had missed nearly every vital organ but had pencilled through the left hand lung eventually causing enough blood pressure drop for the animal to expire. Bullet number 2 was perhaps unfortunate, bullet number 5 is just plain awful and not to be recommended for game, it is cheap for a reason!
Bullets 1,3 and 4 all resulted in textbook reactions from the animals with number 1 the most impressive. As can be seen, bullet number 3 also separated but did enough damage on the way through to do its job. Bullet number 4 retained an excellent weight despite hitting heavy bone on the way through.
What does all this tell us?
For a start, don’t use cheap, bargain ammunition for a noble quarry such as the deer we all love. Not everyone reloads ammunition so some faith has to be put in the ammunition manufacturers, try to research the bullets the manufacturers use, they spend millions of dollars on research and development for our benefit. Most importantly, do not for one minute think that your chosen ammunition is unsuitable, many deer were culled along the way whilst we were collecting this information, the chances of a recreational stalker having a bullet fail are slim, the chances of failure obviously increase with the numbers of deer shot, if 1 bullet out of 5 fails that is a 20% failure rate, if 5 out of 100 fail that is only a 5% failure rate, more than acceptable. There were three main types of bullets tested, bonded/partition (1 & 4), soft point (3) and Polymer tipped. The bonded/partition were the strongest and most effective of the 5 with acceptable carcass damage, the SST and Gameking were just not strong enough in construction and the Privi – well, we won’t say anymore about that! Not surprisingly, the two most effective bullets which incidentally accounted for the most deer are the two most expensive on the market, the Swift Scirocco 2 and the Nosler partition, of these 2 the most effective and reliable by far was the Swift Scirocco 2 resulting in the most efficiently culled animals of all.
I hope this has been interesting, it certainly was for us whilst collecting the information and I hope it gives some idea of terminal effects on bullets which will enable you to make the correct choice for your quarry.