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August 15, 2006

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Packing a Wallop: More on the Myth of Knockdown Power

This week I had an interesting and reasonably testy exchange with a reader who claimed that his .300 Winchester Magnum, loaded with bullets that I’d recommended, didn’t “wallop” African game the way he liked. He had to shoot them multiple times, and nothing dropped in its tracks. But on the other hand every critter expired, and he didn’t lose a one.

I told him that you don’t wallop anything in Africa or here for that matter; that animals go down from lack of oxygen to the brain or damage to the spine, and not from bullet impact. Here are a couple of cases in point:

The first day of a safari, your PH will say something like: “Let’s go collect an animal for dinner, bwana.” But what he’s really saying is, Let’s see how well you can shoot.  This is your debut, and how the safari is conducted will depend largely on how competent or otherwise you prove yourself to be.
So in 1987, in Zambia, I had a PH named Abie DuPloy, and we went through this drill, and presently came on a herd of puku, which is a stocky, tough antelope of about 400 pounds. I was shooting a .338, which has plenty of wallop, whatever that is, and put the crosshairs on an attractive bull and pulled the trigger.

We heard the bullet hit, but the bull showed no interest in the proceedings at all, and the herd closed in around him, so I couldn’t shoot again. Abie and the trackers gave me the hairy eyeball, and I sat there sweating wondering how the hell I had missed when I was sure it was a good shot.

Five minutes went by—I timed it on my watch—and then the bull shivered and collapsed, deader than truth in government. He was shot right through the shoulders, dead on his feet, and no sign of it. Was he walloped? Probably not.
On that same trip I shot a zebra at 75 yards with a .458, shooting the old Bear Claw 510-grain bullets. I hit her right in the lungs with 2 1/2 tons of bullet energy, and she did a mad dash for 100 yards before piling up. Was she walloped? Probably not.

Maybe if I used a .50 BMG….


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mike shickele

Hello Mike
I don't want to be one of the crowd and pick on you, but you mentioned that you had a negative experience with a C.O., and that you didn't feel like reporting poachers because of same. Everyone that hunts should know that there are bad apples in the barrel, but there are things that can be done about it; that C.O. should have lost his job, and gone to jail.

If this ever happens to anyone again, ask for the C.O.s' card with his name and badge number. (I'm sure that they have such cards in the U.S. as well as in Canada.) When you get home immediately call the next agency up from the one that the officer belonged to. I.e., call the state police.

The situation that you explained had two criminals involved, and the police would have dealt very harshly with the C.O. Clean cops don't like dirty cops!


Nonsense! That corrupt CO can only be the tip of an iceberg. I kicked exactly such an antbed here, and discovered a situation right out of the Twilight Zone. Brokeback Public Officials and Drug Dealers. The hunter becomes the hunted. Fair enough. Gotta love it!

Ralph the Rifleman

The subject of ethics, and the law, is an animal all it's own..Dave maybe it's time for a Blog on said subject-it would seem worth the time to hear other's experiences concerning this subject.


When I saw the article in this magazine warning of Criminal Gang Operations where we hunt, I too, thought it inappropriate. I must apologize to the editors for that reaction. It is not about ethics and law! It is about protecting yourself from the stark realities of what you are going to encounter out in the woods. There's no law there. There's nobody there to protect you from someone for whom there is no tomorrow. Better get in shape, Ralph, and keep your eyes peeled. All they know is greed and fear. For socioeconomic reasons, the very place where you go to hunt is populated with people who cannot otherwise earn a living.
When you encounter one or more of those, you are the game. Been there and done that three times now, in different states. Not hypothetical at all!


Mr. shickele...thanks for your concern towards my "Feelings" but i am a big boy with rather thick skin......so pick away. ;^)

But on this i have to go with Mr. Ralph the Rifleman and ask MR. Petzal to open a blog on law and ethics.......in that case i shall tell the entire sordid tale as to the next 2 years of my hunting/fishing life in that particular area.....quite a fine tale if i may say so meself.

D Neely

Of all 75 deer I have harvested in MT (We can have up to 4 tags a year-7 this year!!) and 1 in CA I have had exactly three "fall in their tracks". The one in CA was shot with a .243 100gr. shot in the spine at 75 yrds. The two I "dropped" in MT were both shot with 165 Speers out of an 30-06 one was a going away head shot and one was shot at 200 yrds in the lower chest facing head on. Every other deer I have hit with everything from .223 64 gr. to 12 ga slugs or buckshot has traveled from five yards to 3 miles after a "blood trailing hit". There is no such thing as a cartidge/ bullet that "drops e'm dead in their tracks"
As far as .22's for deer they are legal in MT. A warden told me they are a favorite with the local poachers, as well as the few who have silenced guns.

Ralph the Rifleman

I hear you Bigfish...we had a saying on the PD, "Not on my watch-every man is going home tonight" Sad to say one needs to anticipate the worst in people, but that is reality and, for the record,I do carry a sidearm while hunting--just in case. Mike-Can't wait to hear more of your experiences too: knowledge is a good thing, but life is a much better teacher.


Ralph.....good on ya for packing heat whilst hunting....I do most of my deer hunting with a bow(2 and 1/2 more months of hunting that way), and as you probably know, its illegal to carry the 1911(or even the S&W 686) during bow season(and the 1911 is illegal for use in firearms season in IN). Often have i battled with this dilema...become a "poacher" and disregard the game laws.(even tho i would NOT use the weapon on game outside of legal season)or be safe for those outside contingincies...quite the delema to be sure...what end of the dilema wins out shall remain between me,the tree stand and the fence post.


i'm going to go ahead and say that wallop, or knockdown power is a bunch of bs. Anybody who thinks their super magnum can anchor a deer in its tracks without the spinal cord or maybe both shoulders being damaged is blowing a lot of hot air. Last year my bow apparently had a lot of wallop as I dropped an eleven pointer who walked right under my stand in its tracks. Due to the steep angle of the shot, the spinal cord was damged on the way to the lungs. Although i have to agree with the fact that a larger caliber bullet will damage more of the bucks vitals and lead to a quicker kill.

mike shickele

Even though I don't use a bow (I'm a rifle man), I tend to think that an arrow is a very lethal projectile for a few key reasons.
With the arrow heads that are available today, the wound channel is very large, with a lot of deep lacerations surrounding it.
With the compound bows in use today, the arrow is actually travelling quite fast.
These equal tissue damage, and shock; both are necessary.


Exactly, my point was that an animal is "walloped" due to shot placement more then the size and speed of the projectile.


Dave, a question: For most hunting situations in North America, do you believe a magnum is advantageous?

mike shickele

I'm not Dave, but I will put my 2 cents worth in anyways.
The word magnum is, and has always been misused, and misunderstood.
A 338WIN shoots a 250GR bullet as fast as a 30-06 shoots a 180GR bullet. In terms of actual velocity, the 338 is not a magnum. compared to the 348WIN though, this is a meaningful velocity increase.
There is nothing magical about the cartridges that we call magnums. In the Hodgdon manual #26; the 30-06 achieves 2737FPS with the 180GR bullet, and the 300WIN MAG achieves 3121FPS with another 180 gr bullet. All things equal, this is slightly more energy, and a slightly longer point blank range, with an increase in felt recoil.
But all things are not equal!
Hodgdon might have used a 22 inch barrel for the 30-06, and a 24 inch barrel for the 300WIN mag. Also, the 30-06 might have had a larger diameter barrel, a rougher barrel, or they might have been using harder bullets in the 30-06.
See my point.


Thanks Mike. I've never been afflicted with magnumitis, and I think kinetic energy is a pretty poor measure of the effectiveness of a cartridge. Of course, I've never hunted bear or moose, but I've always felt very comfortable with my .30-06 and figure if I can't get it done with that, it probably doesn't need doing.

mike shickele

Exactly! I live in B.C., and I hunt elk, and deer, and hike all summer and spring when not hunting.
My favorite hunting rifle is a 30-06 that I use Hornady 180gr. FB bullets in.
My pack rifle is a 30-06 that I use Hornady 220gr. bullets in.
I guess you could say that I have my preferances, but if I ever do have to use my rifle to take out one of the bears that I get close to, I know that it is fully capable.


New kid on the block here--I have no problems in saying the old /06 is a good hunting round, but isn't the end-all solution to animal harvesting either.Face it .30/06 followers, some rounds do it better then the old .30 can, so be it with more recoil,unless you really believe as Mike S says,"if I can't get it done with that,it probably doesn't need doing"PLEASE!

Ralph the Rifleman

Hey SS-
My do it all or nothing rifle is the 45/70 Gov, and yes I believe I can get it done with this rifle,or doesn't need doing if I can't!


First of all "sharp-shooter" - the name goes below the post. You disparage Mike but quote me; not so sharp. Second, there is a ton of real-world evidence that a .30-06 will get it done, and as Ralph asserts, so will the .45-70 (it did before the .30-06 came along, and still will). True, there are magnums that will kill an animal from a half a mile away, but that really isn't hunting now, is it? That's just an exercise in marksmanship - something a sharpshooter might want to do.

Some folks have just one rifle for big game hunting, either because they haven't the means to purchase more, or they simply choose to own one rifle and know it completely. Either way, there is an old axiom that says "beware the one-gun hunter." If that one gun is a .30-06 or a .45-70, so be it.

JA Demko

Let's all try not to act like our guns are caught in our rifles, m'kay?

Ralph Bernieri

Nicely written!


Dave, I know you're no fan of .243win. for deer, but how much of an improvement might some of the new bullets make? I ask because I cut my centerfire teeth with one (as a skinny kid) before I stepped up to my .270
Now I would like my boy (built like his dad) to develope good shooting habits.
I killed alot of chucks and a handful of deer with that gun w/out any problems but wasn't always happy with the amount of meat damage compared to penetration.
Would the new bullets make enough difference or should I break down and buy him a new gun? (most likely a .308 or 7mm-08)


I just thought I'd throw my comments in. I use a Winchester 30-06 with a horrible probably 8lb trigger pull and manage to drop both deer and lg hogs where they stand. I have had 1 out of probably 25 run, it made it about 50-75 yards. I hunt south Texas, it's very rough terrain and if the animal goes off the sedero after you shoot it, good luck. All shots have been with a hollow point aiming for the neck or head. The one that ran off was hit low on the neck and it took it a while to bleed out. Most of the shots were less than 100 yrds. A few months back I was able to get a 180# hog with a 50 cal black powder, 180grn , 100 pyro!!! Good luck and good hunting!


I've hunted for a long time and I don't really believe in the "wallop." I've shot deer and caused them to flip or tumble and then get up and run away. I've shot deer in the spine and had them fall dead in their tracks. The best results I've had are, in my opinion, a bit unorthodox, because I've never had anyone else suggest it. Still, here goes my tactic. Most deer hunters will tell you that the "kill zone" is just behind the shoulder on a whitetail deer. I think that the most ethical and destructive location for a whitetail kill is actually ON THE SHOULDER, not behind it. I believe the contact with the bone delivers the shock while still allowing the bullet to take out the heart and lungs. Using my 270 with standard bullets and powder loads, I've dropped countless deer in "their tracks." As said here many times... it is practice, patience, placement... and for southern whitetails... persistence.

Will Garrett

I have a .35 Whelen and would like all the information anyone can give me on its history etc...
I can be reached at [email protected]




Info coming to you lickity-split. Shot a 35 Whelen for 12-years now.

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