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March 10, 2008

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Where the Metal Meets the Meat

Somewhere back in the .338 blogs someone asked about bullets. Here's what I know about bullets. The last bad bullet I saw was in 1988. It was a short-lived version of the Winchester Silvertip (not to be confused with the present Ballistic Silvertip) that blew apart upon encountering dense pockets of air, drifting milkweed, or blown kisses. Winchester got so much heat for this that they came out with one of the best bullets ever, the Fail-Safe, and the whole industry took a lesson and began testing its bullets much more thoroughly and much more realistically.

Since then, everything I've used at any length has been terrific. This includes:
Swift A-Frames, Swift Scirocco IIs, Remington Core-Lokt Ultras, Garrett Cartridges' hard-lead Hammerheads, Hornady Interloks, Hornady solids, Nosler Accubond, Barnes XXX, and Winchester Ballistic Silvertips.

The most impressive have been the Swifts. I have yet to recover a Scirocco; they expand and go through everything deer-sized I've shot with them. The A-Frames are simply unreal. I have shot the following unfortunate creatures with them: Alaska moose, .338, 275 grain; common eland, .375, 300 grain, Cape buffalo, .416, 400-grain, and lesser beasts with smaller bullets. Of the A-Frames I've been able to recover, weight retention has always been over 90 percent, and the mushrooming has always been perfect.

And then there is the Nosler Partition. Any man who would say a hard word against the Partition would spit on the flag.


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Jason N.

I shot my last two elk with 150 gr. Sciroccos from my 7mm. First one passed through leaving a first sized exit wound(shot in back of neck at close to 100 yards). Second went through two rib bones and nicked backbone and recovered under hide on off shoulder at 75 yards. Probably 80 percent of bullet left as squished mushroom. Elk only went ten steps after hit. Have not had a chance to try on deer yet.

B. Cameron

I'm sure they're fabulous bullets. Amazing loads. Incredible cartridges overall.

However, I can't justify a box of .270Win Winchester XP3 at $41.99 (Cabela's online) when I can get a box of .270Win Remington CoreLokt for $15.99 at my local gun shop.

Maybe I'm missing something here... but if I'm doing my part (i.e., shooting within my limits and placing it well), isn't it just throwing dollar bills down the barrel?


As a veteran I resent the implication of this column. I will always call a spade a spade. In the 70's I was looking for a bullet that at high velocity wouldn't blow up on a deers hide and make a big mess of it. Jim Carmichael touted the Nosler Partition to such an extent as being the holy grail of bullets, so I tried some 95 gn partitions in 6mm Rem. They grouped nicely. When I shot my first buck with them at 30 yards, with nothing but thin air between it and me, the bullet's front core blew up on the hide and the rear core bounced around inside the deer and ended up under the skin on the same side I shot him on. Well it killed the deer alright, but upon inspection I looked for the exit hole. There was none. I want a bullet to go straight through, not become unstable and go awry. My brother shot a large buck through the rib cage 5 times at about 150 yds with 165 gn 30-06 partitions. We found the buck about 500 yards away from where it was shot. No expansion was evident. Everyone was laughing and asked him when he was going to buy a real rifle. If this isn't bullet failure I guess I don't know what bullet failure is. I hope the partition lovers of this column can accept my criticism of the partition as one mans opinion. To me the proof is in the pudding. I come from a long line of hunter/reloaders. That's why I always test bullets and loads on game, before establishing an opinion. You can talk bad about the bullets I love but don't you dare spit on my FLAG.


I have been a big fan of Nosler Bullets for over 25 years. I have shot game at distances ranging from just off the end of the barrel to 300 yards with Partitions, Ballistic Tips, and the old Solid Base. I have learned a bit about thier stregths and limitations. With the exception of the early Ballistic Tips which were a bit on the fragile side (since corrected) they all perform as suggested. Problems usually arise when we ask a bullet to do something we shouldn't.

The extreme cases of bullet failure I have seen have been on animals at close range (less than 50 yards). When we drive bullets at high velocity and they strike semisolids (Animals) they tend to do the things we hope they won't.

I once shot a feral hog of about 250 pounds in the pump works with a 165 grain Ballistic Tip launched from an '06 at 2750 fps. The hog was 15 yards. The bullet exploded, but the hog died in its tracks. A week later I put the same load into another similar sized hog at 120 yards and the pass through killed a another hog standing 5 yards behind it.

I shot an average sized whitetail through the shoulders at 20 yards with a 100 grain Barnes X spat from a 25/06. Impact velocity was over 3100 fps. The petals sheared off under the hide on the entrance side while the shank plowed through leaving a pencil sized exit wound. The deer died within sight.

The most miserable job of tracking I ever had came about one rainy eve when my Dad put a 150 grain Partition from a .308 through an average buck at 10 paces. The buck made it 100 yards through greenbrier and heavy brush before expiring. The bullet did what John Nosler designed it to do. The front core blew up and the rear core pushed through. The bucks chest looked like a bomb had gone off inside, leaving only a pencil sized exit wound. Not a bad bullet, just a bad situation!

Don't expect a 95 grain lead cored bullet at 3000 plus to stay together when it wacks an animal on the far end of a basketball court...

Five rounds through the chest at 150 yards... that's a tough deer even with solids...!

Nosler keep building them and I will keep shooting them.


From Beekeeper:

"Problems usually arise when we ask a bullet to do something we shouldn't."

I agree, and would add to that it only makes sense to match the bullet with the prey. Premium bullets are constructed for tough-skinned and big-boned game animals. They'll work on deer, but that isn't what they are made for. And bullet failure happens sometimes. I shot a big doe one year at 80 paces. She was quartered away and the 180 gr. Remington Core-Loct .30-06 entered her right side just behind the rib cage and lodged under the skin on her left side, right behind the shoulder. She dropped on the spot, but there was no exit. I expected complete penetration. Still, she was very dead.


That should read "180 gr. Remington Core-Loct .30-06 bullet." I don't want to create the impression that I threw my rifle at her from 80 paces and achieved near complete penetration.

That would be a good trick, though.


KJ....Just what kind of a large, big boned animal is a .243 cal (6mm)95 gn Partition designed to kill? If I considered a bullet marginal on a deer, I surely wouldn't try it on anything larger.
In those days, the 70's, we had trouble with 130 gn Sierras blowing up on a blade of grass. We wanted a reliable bullet. We hadn't discovered Hornadys for some reason. After giving up on Partitions, we discovered the Speer Hot Cores and the wonderful Grand Slam and never looked back. Since then I've had pretty good luck other Nosler designs like the Solid Base Boattail, and the Accubond. And of course Dave named a myriad of others. Thanks for the input.


The only deer I ever killed with a Nosler partition had a .277 entry wound and a .277 exit wound. The shot,(braggingly) was perfectly placed, BUT the deer didn't go down and ran directly AT me. When I reloaded and raised my rifle, he saw me and turned at about 5 yards. The next round was a Texas heart shot, through the pelvis that flipped him over, spun him around and slammed him down on the ground. The second round? Entry, .277, exit .277! It was a 160gr Nosler Partition I had loaded for mulies in Colorado.
I now shoot, without exception, Sierra 130gr BTSP in my .270 and have yet to have one fail when I do my part and put it (the bullet) where it's 'post ta be!
It's still marksmanship guys. The best bullet, misplaced, means a trail job!



I have shot three deer with the Remington 165 grain Core-Lokt in .30-06. All three dropped in their tracks. They suit me just fine.


Most of my shooting for hunting has been accomplished utilizing .17 to .338 employing the majority of the brands and types of bullets that Dave mentioned. I previously recounted that I have also had very good success on long range shots with Berger VLD bullets. To assist in gaining the high BC these projectiles are physically long and may cause seating problems with magazine rifles so one needs to do a little measuring prior to loading up a bunch. Spectacular one shot kills are the norm. If I had to select only one bullet it would be the Scirocco just because I have repeatedly had or have seen very predictable results. This in no way faults the Partition which is as good now as it was decades ago when we thought it was absolutely the best. On the other hand my unscientific and totally unverified assessment of which bullet is used by most guys and gals to kill the majority of big game in Wyoming and Montana each year is just like I have said before...whatever is on sale at Walmart.
I can't speak for African large game but I do know lots about shooting stumps, rocks, hay bales, washing machines, old cars, and stacks of books with the larger calibers. Due to a percieved general lack of interest I will not go into details about the results of these shots.


Well, BA, I'd have to say a large, big-boned coyote. I'm of the opinion that a deer is too big for a .243, even one loaded with NPs. Now - that'll get the howls flying.


Just had to play the washing machine part, huh, KJ?



I once helped field dress a deer that had been shot with a 60 grain Nosler Partition fired from a 223. It was a perfect heart shot, and the bullet liquified all the vital organs.

Before anyone ask, this took place in a state that allows the use of the .22 caliber bullets.

John R

Sometimes the manufacturers make a great bullet and discontinue it. Winchester made a great 64 grain, .223 bullet called the Power Point Plus. It is or was rated CXP2 (for deer) on the box and it works. I shot a large Whitetail buck with my AR-15 that was chasing 3 does and stopped when I grunted at him. He was only 30 yards away. I shot him in the neck and because of the angle the bullet traveled through the neck and stopped just under the hide on his armpit. I have the bullet. It retained 75% of its weight (45 gr.). Oh yeah, the deer dropped in his tracks with no thrashing. I wouldn't shoot deer 150 yards away with the .223, but shot placement plus a good bullet makes a big difference. It is legal to use the .223 in my state also.

Jim in Mo.

Gary, John R.,
In my home state of Mo. the conservation dept. people at one time in the 80's had a discussion about putting a minimum caliber on hunting whitetail. They never could agree so it remains any centerfire cartridge.
Not making any assumptions here good or bad. Any ideas?

Dr. Ralph

Federal 30-06 150 gr. Nosler Ballistic Tips are absolutely the best medicine on whitetail under 100 yards... they all work if you hit them right, but I used the cheapest Winchester soft points (power points?) forever and finally lost one deer I hit twice. It was a buck so I got mad and broke up with them. Partitions never knocked a deer down in it's tracks for me and the Remington core-lokts have had spotty accuracy in my guns at best. Hornady SST's have dropped every deer I've hit with them within ten yards but I still prefer Ballistic Tips. I'm too old to crawl around on my knees up a hollow looking for blood.


Jim in Mo.
In Oklahomo, any .22 centerfire is acceptable. Ergo; my .22 Hornet is legal! I have killed a deer with it! Bullet performance was exceptional. He stopped at about 35 yards and looked away from me. I slipped that 45 gr Sierra FBSP behind his left ear. He never even wiggled. I did not recover the bullet, but the experience expounded to me the importance of bullet "placement"! I DO NOT, repeat, DO NOT suggest the .22 Hornet for a body shot! As far as that goes, IMHO, if you're going to shoot a .244 caliber, shoot at least a 100 grain bullet. I would suggest this as the bottom limit for "deer" caliber!
I know, I know, lots of folks out there hunt with the .223 and the .22-250 and the like. I still think the .244 and a 100 grain bullet is the bottom end!


Clay Cooper

Remington Bronze point, the original ballistic tip!

Clay Cooper

Dr. Ralph

You got to be kidding, right?

Federal 30-06 150 gr. Nosler Ballistic Tips are absolutely the best medicine on whitetail under 100 yards? C’mon Doc, that bullet is just getting started! Why do I have so many excellent results out of a Hornady 130 grain soft point out of my 30-06 from Jackrabbits to mule deer as far out as 600 yards


Winchester XP3's have never let me down but I've never killed anything bigger than whitetail deer.

Trae B.

Dave next time you go moose hunting invite me.If I had money you wouldent believe how much i'd pay to go moose hunting.I dont even want to kill one I just want to get one in my cross-hairs then i'd be happy.

Del in KS

Dave and the gang.

To date six deer have been shot with my 6mmX284 Win using Nosler 85 gr partitions at 3500 fps from 30 out to 240 yds. Only one bullet stopped in the deer and it penetrated from the chest to the hip bone after demolishing the heart and lungs. My gun had a 1 in 12" twist 26" Shilen barrel and would not stabilize a heavier bullet. Most 6's and 243's, are 1 in 10" or less. I read someplace that the resulting higher RPM's of a faster twist barrel can cause a bullet to react more violently. Could that account for guys having different experiences with same bullet?

BTW that was a max. load and it was chonographed on my Ohler mod 35. Never should have let Ray Smith (the builder) talk me into the 1 in 12" barrel.
Sold the gun last fall to raise $ for the Kimber 2506 that I dearly love.

Del in KS


Did that buck just stand there and let the guy shoot him 5 times?
I've never seen a deer shot once that did not either drop or run at the shot.


I don't have a strain gauge and do like the performance of Barnes bullets. However given the same powder charge, case, primer, and rifle it appears to me that the signs of higher (not excessive) pressure are more evident with a Barnes XXX than more conventionally constructed bullets. I have a theory about this but cannot substanciate it. Has anyone else ever noticed this phenomenon or is it just my
observation and/or imagination?

Clay Cooper

The harder the bullet, the higher the CUP will be!

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