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October 10, 2006

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A Shovelful of Salt

This past Saturday, I was discussing the architectural philosophies of Sir Christopher Wren versus I.M. Pei around the campfire when a friend of mine joined the conversation. He had, it seemed, taken my advice and bought a .375 H&H from a gunmaker who has my highest regard. This rifle was to go to Alaska to hunt deer in brown bear country, where the bears often come at the sound of a gunshot to argue about who should eat the deer.

The gunmaker had recommended that my friend use Federal Premium Vital-Shok ammo loaded with 260-grain Nosler Accubond bullets. When I heard this, I nearly urped up my quiche. I asked my friend the reasons, and he said the gunmaker told him that high velocity bullets like the 260-grain .375 carry more shock to the bear than heavier, slower ones.

Let us consider the following:
1: The 260-grain Nosler Accubond is a fast-expanding bullet that’s meant to be used on thin-skinned game, not on 1,000-pound-plus brown bears.

2: There is no such thing as shock, on any animal, with any gun. If you want to stop a massive animal like a brown bear you do it by destroying vital organs and, hopefully, by breaking the shoulder. And the .375 bullet you use for this is any tough 300-grain slug such as the Nosler Partition, Swift A-Frame, or Barnes XXX.

The moral to all of this is that when you get advice, you always ask “How do you know?” Very often, it turns out that the wisdom is based on the flimsiest of assumptions. I can tell you about rifles, but my opinions on handguns and shotguns are of the most rudimentary kind because there is a ton to know and I don’t know it.

Advice should not be taken with a grain of salt. A shovelful is more like it.


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Ralph the Rifleman

This seems to be an on-going debate on what caliber-to-bullet weight to use and the animal to use it on, oh...and salt,too. I recall reading a number of books on African game being knocked around with a few of the smaller Rigby calibers, and the trusty old 7MM Mauser.Don't get me wrong, I am a firm believer of carrying a "bear gun while in Bear country", and taking advise with a dumpster of salt, and I would go further to say read as much as possible about the game you may need to dispatch from people when have done so, to decrease the amount of said salt intake!

JA Demko

How much salt should we consume after reading your blog, Dave?


I just returned from a Brown Bear hunt in Alaska. I polled many different people. I heard everything under the sun. I ended up with the Nosler Partition. This is not the newest bullet but it has proven itself. I buy into quality not high quantity marketing.



On another note, I asked you earlier this summer about brass and reloading. I did take your advice and the bullets performed well. I got a really nice bear on the 26th of Sep. in Alaska

Dave Petzal

To Mr. Demko: I am salt-free. Everything I say is the living truth. I would no more lie to you than our president would.

To Tom: Glad to hear it. Details?


A salt-free, self-actualized son of a bitch! Not many bloggers can make such a claim. This is a priviledge.

Dave, in your opinion, can you legitimately use "too much" gun? I read an article where a respected hunter/writer chose to use a 7mm Rem. mag on a leopard hunt instead of a .375 H&H, reasoning that the smaller caliber would expend more of its energy inside the animal, and not on the earth behind the animal. We don't have a lot of leopards here in the midwest, so I don't have much experience hunting them, and would like to hear your insights.

Dave Petzal

To KJ: You can use too much gun, and most deer hunters do use too much gun. As for leopards, they are small (150 pounds), thin-skinned, small-boned, and a .375 will not kill one any deader than a 7mm mag, so the hunter/ writer was correct. For what it's worth, leopards seem to grab professional hunters more than any of Africa's dangerous game. I knew one PH who was killed by an elephant, and know four or five who had to peel a leopard off them.


I don't know, Dave, you seem like a pretty salty SOB to me.

Mike Diehl

"The moral to all of this is that when you get advice, you always ask 'How do you know?'"

Watch it Dave. Next thing you know people will be evaluating others' opinions on the basis of merit, education and expertise. It's a slippery slope from there to competence.


Quiche? Debates about philosophy?
What the hell kind of camp is this? We all know about opinions. Some are based on fact, some on speculation, some on pure bull****. I trust your opinions on matters of the gun because of your experience, but I have read a lot of crap on some of these websites. Just remember, if it smells like crap it probably is.

JA Demko

"Quiche? Debates about philosophy?
What the hell kind of camp is this?"

What's not to like about quiche? Don't you like eggs, bacon, and cheese?
I don't know about debating architectural philosophy with Petzal, though. Seems like a good way to get your ass handed to you. Anybody as self-actualized as Petzal will have long since have mastered the manipulation of space, volume, texture, light, and shadow, let alone more abstract concepts. In fact, if I may be so bold, I'd say Petzal knows how to "explore the space."

Dave Petzal

To Mr. Demko: It is a hunters club that attracts people of taste and culture. I f you want to talk about the outdoors and Mary Shelly's stylistic indebtedness to Jane Austen, it is the place to go.

As for exploring space, I have just about been able to grasp the Big Bang theory, but have yet to get my brain around the concept of the Singularity. The one thing I do know for sure is summed up by the physicist H.B. Haldane:

"The universe is not only much queerer than you suppose; it is much queerer than you can suppose."


"Frankenstein" does seem like a cheap rip-off of "Sense and Sensiblilty" now that you mention it.

JA Demko

"It is a hunters club that attracts people of taste and culture."

I'll with hold judgement on that until you answer me this: Are the caviar spoons gold or ivory?


DP, you’re the first gun editor/writer I recall that admits he has gaps in his knowledge. I sense you know more about handguns and shotguns and their use than you let on. I salute your humility.

This brings to mind the late Jack O’Connor. The man certainly knew something about rifles, shooting them, and of handloading. However, many times I don’t know where he was coming from in shotgunning. I had a chance to handle what Jack considered an exemplar upland shotgun and came away thinking, “You gotta be kidding me”.

This upland shotgun [Win 21 with beaver fore end, pistol grip, vent rib] was indeed beautiful to look upon and would have likely been good at trap, but it was way heavy and swung like a telephone pole, and had no balance even though it was an s/s. I can’t imagine a worst handicap at grouse and quail, yet the man continually wrote the virtues on these shotgun features for the uplands.

Salt? Sometimes it’s something else piled up and deep.

Dave Petzal

To Mr. Demko: Ivory, of course. Do you think we're a bunch of animals?

To KJ: I have a working vocabulary of 256, 822 words, but none of them are adequate to describe my loathing of Jane Austen.

JA Demko

Consider me to have been properly pimp-smacked by Mr. Petzal for even momentarily doubting his club's commitment to haute cuisine.


I'm betting there are no framed Emily Dickinson quotes around the lodge, either. She was a loon, anyway.

Mike Shickele


I'm with you, I know a lot about rifles (particularly bolt action rifles), but precious little about shotguns, and pistols.
Even though I know about bolt action rifles, I would still hope that any advice that I give would be taken with a grain of salt.
as far as shotguns and pistols are concerned I simply try to not have an opinion. That is the safest bet.
Coincidentally, I'm just changing some things about my bear gun. Mine is a 30-06, that I use 220gr. Hornady bullets in exclusively. The 375H&H is a good cartridge, but I have confidence in this rifle. The recoil is no problem (I can actually keep it on target for the second, and third shot), and it is reliable to a fault. It is a Mark X Mauser, with the action totally worked over, the barrel cut to 20", express sights installed, and oh yes, the changes.
I just bought a pair of Millett "the Grabber" rings to hold a Burris 1.75-5X Fullfield II scope in place.

Incidentally, Millett makes a great product, and has great customer service.


Ed Purvis

Mr. Petzal, you're my favorite gun writer. Stay healthy for as long as you're alive I'll never be the ugliest SOB on the planet.

Dave Petzal

To Mr. Purvis: Thanks for the kind words. Finn Aagard always smiled when I showed up. One day I asked him why and he said:
"Because now I'm not the deafest s.o.b. in the place anymore."

Dave Petzal

To Mike: Shickele: Now that you have your '06 perfectly set up, there's only one thing to do: Sell it and get something else. I recommend a .338.

Ralph the Rifleman

Bears mean business,and I suggest you take Dave's advise(salted)on this one Mike, and get a bigger caliber..mine is a Marlin 1895-Production model,in .45/70 that will drop the bullet where I want it, so I choose not to fix something that's not broken. I know it has distance limits, but I like the big bullet in case things go to crap at close range.

Richard A. Smith

"Sir Christopher Wren versus I.M. Pei" ?

"Mary Shelly's stylistic indebtedness to Jane Austen" ?


Mr. Petzal, you're either in need of a boat-load of salt, or you're the best educated gun writer and drill sergeant in the world. I am astonished.

I find either prospect hard to believe, although it sounds like my college professors could use several lessons from you; either in creating believable BS or in the true nature of a "liberal arts" education.

Either way, you can keep the quiche and caviar; horrid stuff. My hat is off to you.

Mike Shickele

Thanks for your concern guys but; confidence in ones equipment, and the ability to use it far outweigh the perceived benefits of a larger caliber.
I know firsthand that this bullet will penetrate a large grizzly head to toe at close range; stopping the animal dead it its' tracks.
Ralph, Your 45-70 with either a 300, or 350gr. bullet will transmit more 'shock', but the 30-06, because it has more sectional density will penetrate further. The 30-06, with 220gr. bullet has 2800ft/lbs energy at the muzzle. The 45-70 with the 300gr. bullet has 2600ft/lbs, with 350gr. bullet it has 2800ft/lbs.
These figures are directly out of the Hornady manual, using charges that are recommended with the Marlin; humbling, isn't it?
The Marlin is a good gun, but for dangerous game, I prefer a good turn-bolt.


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