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September 26, 2006

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Sometimes, Slow is Better than Fast

NOTE: When I read the comments about my Crocodile Hunter rant and learned what a son of a bitch I was, I became despondent and went to Alaska for two weeks to live among the brown bears, a la Timothy Treadwell. However, they didn’t care for me either, so I have returned to the blog. Here is my welcome-home entry.

Earlier this month I was hunting the Tsiu River region in southeastern Alaska and shot an attractive bull moose with an Ultra Light Arms rifle chambered for the .340 Weatherby Magnum. It took one bullet high in the lungs at 60 yards to put him down, which is rare for moose. Usually, you shoot them three or four times and they stand around thinking the matter over and then head for the nearest body of water and die.

But I digress. I was shooting handloads--specifically, 275-grain Swift A-Frames that develop a muzzle velocity of 2,550 fps in that rifle. Now if you’re familiar with the .340, you’re aware that it can shoot 250-grainers at plus-2,800 fps, and 210s at 3,000 fps. So why in the name of the Late Roy W. did I settle on such a long, slow, projectile?

Because they work. Called-in moose are usually shot at ranges of 20 to 40 yards, where high velocity is worse than useless. At the very least it will produce blown-up bullets that cause horrendous meat loss. At worst the bullet will blow up on the shoulder and the animal will run away and die at his leisure, and you may not ever find it. What you want is a bullet that will hold together and pass intact through 4 feet of bone, hide, and muscle. Which is exactly what the Swift did.

For years now, I’ve been handloading all my hellish magnum cartridges with long, heavy bullets at substantially less velocity than factory specs. One of the very best of these cartridges is a 7.21 mm (actually, .284) Lazzeroni Tomahawk, which is capable of sending a 140-grain bullet along at nearly 3,400 fps, and a 160 at just under 3,200. I load 160-grain Nosler Partitions to 3,000 fps even, and guess what? The critters fall down just as fast.

Velocity is fine and dandy in its place, but in a great deal of big-game hunting you don’t need nearly as much as is available, and in a surprising number of cases it can actually work against you.


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Ralph the Rifleman

Really now Dave an SOB?
But..I digress..I found similar results when I had reloaded my 7mm Rem mag with 160 grain pills. I found the slighthy lower velocity to be more accurate with a bit less recoil.AND the animals dropped just as dead, too.

Rod M.

Welcome back Dave; I'm not ready to string you up just yet. I hope we have all learned a lesson. Yes, much game has been taken with that speed demon 30-30 win. at 2100fps. Yes, the magnums have their place, but many are not necessary. Also, I can't help to notice Dave, that Mr. Forbes seems to have taken his share of your wallet. Don't let them West Virginia boys fool you, many will clean you out in a hurry! Congrats on that bull.

mike shickele

I'm amazed that this is not brought up more often. One of the reasons why I like the 30-06 so much is that all 30 cal bullets are designed to work in it; a manufacturer would be committing suicide to do otherwise.
It's ironic that you use a Weatherby cartridge to make this point. When Weatherby first brought out his cartridges, he marketed them as being far more versatile than their caliber would suggest due to hydrostatic shock. near the end of the safari that he used to attempt to prove his point he had to amend his stance somewhat.
Velocity does increase energy, but it doesn't replace bullet diameter, expansion, bullet weight, and penetration. In fact; due to excessive expansion, penetration is often less with higher velocity.


Welcome home, Buddy!

Few things in this life can restore as your recent pilgrimage to the Alaskan Holy Land.

What as Act of Penance! Salute. :-)

PS: Have you ever read Illusions by Richard Bach?

Lee Woiteshek

Well, I happen to like crusty old sons of bitches. All is forgiven if you will just post a picture of the moose AND your rifle.


Here in slug gun country I have had the same thing happen.
A few years ago I just had to try the new high velocity slugs with 3000+ ft lbs of energy @ 1900 fps (in 12 gauge). They killed deer fine and just beat the hell out of me everytime I pulled the trigger. After one season of this crap, I switched to a 20 gauge load with 1900 ft lbs of energy @ 1500 fps. The deer die just as fast, I'm a better shot because I don't cringe everytime I pull the trigger and the gun I carry is lighter to boot. The magnum phase of my deer hunting career is over.

Dick Filippini

DEP Re your Croc Hunter Rant: To paraphrase Bret Mavrick's Old Man (I'm dating myself), "Son, you can please some of the people all of the time and all of the people some of the time, but you can't please all of the people all of the time. Some of em you're just gonna piss off." Don't lose any sleep over it. Even if you're wrong once in a while, you're entitled to your opinions. Question: Why the big belted magnums at lower/slower velocities .vs. say, a .338-06 at the same velocity? (Possible answer: Because I want to?) I'm not sure I see the point. With the super premium bullets we have available today, max velocity isn't always necessary or better. The standard (and wrong) answer "So I can reach out there a half mile" isn't valid as 99.9% of us can't shoot well enough to hit something at that range. I'm of the opinion that shot placement and bullet construction are what's important. But what do I know.

JA Demko

"When I read the comments about my Crocodile Hunter rant and learned what a son of a bitch I was, I became despondent"

You're being far too hard on yourself. You're not a son of a bitch; you're really much more of a bastard. So, chin up.


I recall in my “foolish youth” I believed a bullet that went less than 3k was a handicap. After having some field hunting experience under my belt I came away with different ideas.

e.g. I’ve owned a 7mm Mag and a 7mm Mauser, shooting big game [and varmints] with both. If there was any practical difference between these two cartridges out to 300-yards in my ability to hit and kill an animal, I wasn’t good enough to differ at. The only real difference was in recoil and muzzle blast.

I have come to the personal observation if a hunter regularly hunts animals that go more than 250 or300-lbs on the hoof; it’s time to invest in the medium bores. It’s not a 6.5mm, 7mm or 30-cal bullet can’t do the job, but the medium bores have that bullet weight to added advantage. Hunting conditions have changed from the 70’s and 80’s.

I don’t understand why the 35 Whelen or the 338-06 isn’t used more especially if a person is not going to load a cartridge like the 338 Mag or 340 Mag to its full potential.


"When I read the comments about my Crocodile Hunter rant and learned what a son of a bitch I was..." I believe Maslow would say you are now self-actualized. Congrats. I myself am an asshole. I have a couple of good friends who have helped me self-actualize, so I know who I am and am comfortable with that. Now to other matters. Slower and heavier bullets, in my observation, hit harder than lighter and/or faster bullets - and tend to kick less. I remember an article on the .45-70 by the late G. Sitton in which he pointed out that the .17 Bee had more kinetic energy at the muzzle than a .45-70, but that didn't make the .17 Bee the choice of Alaskan bush pilots.

JA Demko

"I believe Maslow would say you are now self-actualized."

Maslow, Maslow, Maslow! What about MY needs?


"Maslow, Maslow, Maslow! What about MY needs?"

That's Freud again. Or Oprah...

Dave Petzal

Dick Fillipini: The advantage of the Great Big Cartridges is that they can get respectable speeds out of even the heaviest bullets, and the high velocity is there if you want it. Smaller, more sensible rounds can't do this. If you tried to load a 275-grain bullet in the .338 Federal, you would have room for 5 grains of powder and get a muzzle velocity of 35 fps.

To Mark: No, I haven't read Richard Bach. Like our President, my reading rarely goes beyond the intellectual level of, say, Dr. Phil.

Dave Petzal

To Mark: You can compare the big magnums to a Corvette ZO 6, which I think will go 185 mps and 0-60 in under 4 seconds. There are very few places you can go that fast, and very few people have the skill to stay alive at those speeds, but once in a while all those horses come in handy getting on an interstate, or passing some doddering old fool who's doing 25 mph on a 2-lane road. Also, having that much power underfoot gives you a certain...shall we say...sense of arousal.


I'd have to say the key to dropping game is ultimately shot placement. Whether you use an arrow or a .50 cal, accuracy is what will make the difference in whether the animal goes down quickly or agonizingly later.


I'll be toting a NULA in search of moose myself; namely, a .300 WSM in the People's Republic of Vermont in late October.

Once you go light, it's hard to go back.


I won't buy a magazine that has an article in it on any of the new ultra magnums. Or super short magnums. Or super short ultra magnums. Or ultra short super magnums. Or anything made by Weatherby. I don't care about them, I don't need them, they bring nothing to the table whatsoever. If you can't do it with a 7mm Mauser and a .375 H&H, it can't be done. I know gadgets and gizmoes breathe a little much needed fresh air into our staid and stodgy shooting sports, and everybody gets bored of the same old home cooking, but I'll set this dance out. If it was designed after WW2, I don't want any part of it.

James M. Stamm

Hello Dave,

Congrats on the nice moose.


craig j. curtis

mak nothing to the table? half the fun of gun ownership is the diversity in our sport . something new almost everymonth not always usefull or practical but dont you get curious? if i ever get closed up like you i might as well just sell them all and move to miami ready for retirement id be no more shooting its all the same cock click bang!! ahh but to the reloader each and every grain of something new something different is wow what will this combo do what can i achieve with this new caliber ect.love these insights and cant wait to get my short mag to take to the range and someday to ahhhhh, alaska wooo hooooo thanks dave .

Mike Diehl

Interesting new rifle designs or cartridges are extremely few and far between IMO, judging from whether or not a new product or cartridge makes me want to try that out.

All of my big game needs are met by two cartridges: .30-06 and .243Win. The 06 will drop any animal in the lower 48 with a single competently placed shot.


The introduction of the Savage 10ML-II made me want to get into muzzleloading. So I bought one several weeks ago. Now I have to work up a load.

The introduction of the .17HMR makes me wonder what "varmint hunting" is all about. If someone I knew had a real pest management problem I'd like to try out a rifle in that round.

mike shickele


Not to stir up a hornets nest, but to some extent I agree with you. Most of the cartridges that I like; eg:30-06, 270win, 375H&Hare at the century mark. Unlike you though, I believe that every once and a while, a good cartridge comes out. Some examples are, 222/223rem; good for vermin inc coyote, 308win; fits the capabilities (almost) of a 30-06 into a short action, and far more popular than the 300sav ever was, 338win; if you want to buy something bigger than the 30-06 for this continent, look no further.
There are other examples as well, but you should get the point.
Reading magazines; even if you don't want to buy what they are selling, does keep a person current. Most new products are just gizmo's, but every once and a while a product comes along that is markedly better than what was available before. Imagine what the shooting world would be like if the rest of us had your attitude, and didn't pay the Rem 700 any attention.

Lee Woiteshek

Is the recoil impulse in your ULA at .338 WM velocities (your handloads) roughly the same as an .340 factory loading in an 10 pound MKV? Enquiring minds have to know...


Bullets kill not calibers, by fluid hydraulic compression, hemmorage,massive shock or a combination of some or all. Its simply rocket science, propel a heavy enough projectile at an adequate speed to penetrate said bone muscle mass of the critter to cause the above damage and voila,if Im doing the shooting, and the victory lap a favorite is born. And with that simple cold analysis we can still love the warmth of an old stock of a 35 rem or appreciate the technocision (sorry) of a Kevlar stocked .300wsm that can reach out and touch em. Thats what makes hunting fun, dont squibble about the details.

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