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August 18, 2008

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Petzal: A Sorrowful Tale of High Velocity

Once upon a time in 2007, there was a hunter who had done very well in phrenology and went to a Wise Custom Gun Builder (hereinafter known as WCGB) and said, “Build me a 7mm STW.”

“Why do you want a 7mm STW?”, asked the WCGB. “Unless you put a 28-inch barrel on it, an STW is just another 7mm magnum, and the only thing a 28-inch barrel is good for is pole vaulting.”

But the Wealthy Hunter (hereinafter known as WH) was like many other men who had done well in life. Because he knew from phrenology, and making money, he thought he knew about guns and hunting as well, and would not listen to the WCGB who had been accumulating knowledge for 40 years but who, after all, had to make a dollar now and then.

They compromised on a 26-inch barrel. The WH took delivery of the rifle, worked up a handload employing 140-grain Nosler Ballistic Tips at nearly 3,600 fps that went into one ragged hole, and went off to practice.

That fall, the WCGB got a call from the WH who said,

“I’m going on a mule deer hunt with an outfitter who guarantees me a shot at a 35-inch buck. It’s $14,000, and I’m taking the STW.”

“But what happens if you get a shot at 100 yards,” said the WCGB, “the Ballistic Tip is a peerless projectile, but at that kind of range with that velocity it’ll blow up. You won’t even break a rib. Use another bullet.”

“What do you know,” sneered the WH. “That rifle shoots ¼-inch groups and I can hit groundhogs with it at 600 yards.”

The WCGB sighed and went back to his lathe; he had heard it all before.

And so a month passed. Then the phone rang in the WCGB’s shop. It was the WH, back from the West.

“*&^*(*&*&&&#@^!@#$,” said the WH.

“Let me guess,” said the WCGB, “you got a shot at 100 yards and you never even broke a rib. You lost your 35-inch deer and they couldn’t find him.”

“It took them three days to find the carcass,” said the WH. “It was completely rotted. They sent me the antlers. *#&^%&*()&^^%!”

This is a true story; only the names have been changed to protect the silly. I would point out what the morals are, but you can deduce them yourself. Unless, of course, you’ve made a lot of money at something and don’t need any kind of advice from anyone.


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Not really a sorrowful tale of high velocity, is it? But an all too common problem of a bad bullet for the job! It's a good thing to know, though, since looking back on the early days of the .220 swift, and the bad damage they caused before better bullets came out, it was the same old story...either people couldn't figure out what happened when a bullet encountered flesh and bone...or they didn't want to know! Caused a lot of wasted venison, and undue suffering on the animals part, as well....

Too bad they didn't have something big like a buff or elephant coming at them, then they would have a reason to know a little more about "internal ballistics"...(or not ever have to think again...EVER)


And yeah, I posted that.


Stupidity comes in all classes and ethnic groups, it's not limited to the wealthy.


And BTW I take exception to the "the only thing a 28-inch barrel is good for is pole vaulting." part, I have a Swede Mauser which even with taking the last 4 inches off of the barrel it still is longer than any scoped rifle case I ever saw. It gets packed into a shotgun case for going hunting, I also carry a 44 mag for brush use where I can't swing the "cannon" as my kids call it.


Pity that wisdom, earned at such a high cost, is not respected compared to popular theories spawned from cheap talk! Hopefully the WH in this tale of woe has taken up golf or polo or some other diddle and left hunting to those who respect the animals enough to learn to listen to truly wise and experienced voices!


Sounds like the WH and the WCGB were both dumber than a flat rock.
A .30-'06 will kill anything on the North American continent just as dead at viable shooting ranges as what ever that super-duper whooper the WH just had to have, and probably has killed a lot more of it, whatever IT is!!


Good day all.

I don't know that this is a "sorrowful" tale. At one point in my young life, I felt that "velocity" was the "answer"! After developing a load for a 90 gr. HP for my .270 Win, I proceeded into the woods to lay low the might white tail. I did indeed lay several of the mighty bretheren low, watching feet flip over in my 9x Vari X-I Leap-a-long scope, marveling at the death and destruction rendered there unto. No/little recoil. Immediate knowledge of the animals demise/escape!
After dressing several of these half destroyed carcasses, (blood shot meat from last rib to ears!) I began rethinking my approach. (Hey, the bullet expended all it's energy INSIDE the target animal! WOW!)
NOW, I shoot a standard Sierra 130 gr SPBT at near factory velocities. The deer may run for a short distance after the shot, BUT(!), they are just as dead. I deal with just a bit more recoil, don't see flipping feet in my scope and always have less blood shot meat, which is my main objective!
HELLO!, standard velocities!!!
BOO on magnum rifles!



I will make one more statement here.

If you prefer/want a magnum rifle, shoot-heck-fuzzy-fire, go for it! I don't care. Just don't chide me because I want my deer dead and not destroyed!



If he had only swithced to the 140 Accubond the story would be much different...

Arrogance is arrogance no mater the finacial standing or lack there of...

There is a guy here in my town who killed a huge 10 point (5X5) whitetail 7 or 8 years back. Heavy beams tremendous tine lenght, spread, the whole package! Had it in of the pickup truck with the tail gate down going around town bragging about how he did this and did that to bring the old boy to bag. Came by my office for a few minutes (I enjoyed seeing the buck not him) and left. Continued on with his bragging and some where along the way he took off too quickly from a stop sign and the buck slid out. The deer hasn't been seen since. The big guy upstairs has a great way of making those who are less than appreciative pay...

Dr. Ralph

Yeah, yeah, yeah... been there done that one myself. .257 Wby Mag from 30 yards and Nosler Ballistic Tips pretty much explode on impact. Found all my deer except for one that another fellow shot about 150 yards away. Just found the blood trail and gut pile for that one.

Like a friend told me water-skiing one time "if you're not falling you're not learning". From then on I would venture out past the wake and experiment and not worry about others laughing when I did a face dive in the water. Pretty much applies to everything.


I too had a Ballistic Tip blow up, and though I did find the deer I have stayed with Partitions since then (I am aware that there are newer things but these work so well). I have never bought a Magnum caliber rifle -- I have been well-served by the .30-06, .308 and a pleasant little .257 Roberts. I did fall for the too-powerful scope disease once, but got over it.


I have had my share of cannons - including a Lazzeroni Warbird and Firebird and three .454 Casulls. Loved to shoot them and I don't blame anyone for wanting one. (I always wished Lazz made a .35 caliber, though that might be borderline masochistic. He could just call it "Thumper.") These guns had their places, and I never considered their purchase a mistake. That said, recent whitetail I have taken were with a .270Win Failsafe, a .50 cal swaged round ball, and a 100gr fixed broadhead. Each was under a different hunting situation. Each worked just fine.

Some of us, me included at times, especially when I was a know-it-all teenager or when no one knowledgeable was around to show me the ropes, just have to be humbled before the light bulb clicks on and we seek out someone we respect with more experience. Hopefully, the light bulb went on for WH.

It is so important to reach out to others, not just youngsters, to patiently introduce them to hunting, shooting, reloading, and the "stuff" (a big thank you to the good gun writers and Hunter Safety and NRA trainers). But some of us can be so opinionated, arrogant, and self-righteous that the neos turn away. There's one gun writer out there whose articles even I won't read, and others whom I turn off as soon as they open their mouths ... and I haven't been a teenager in decades! Frustrating, because they have some good information.

Some responsible and educated experimentation is fine. But if WH was turned onto the 7mm STW Ballistic Tip by another shooter then that person also has to take some responsibility and help set him right.


This same know it all shooter probably would put plastic boobs on a perfectly serviceable 25 year old mistress too. Sort of mine is bigger than yours.


There are plenty of fools at every income level who think they know everything about everything. But there is certainly something to the know-it-all businessman sterotype. Outfitters seem shocked and then are usually super helpful when I say "What do you think is best for an average shooter" No doubt every other guy who want into their shop in a suit is crack shot / master hunter / navy seal / gunsmith who can take the kick from a cannon with on arm.

Manufactures get people to buy new bows every year and "magnum" cartridges that no one needs by touting FPS- it sure seems to work.

Dr. Ralph

I had to look up phrenology so I know nobody knows what the crap it is... Dave is messing with our minds. The bumps in your skull pre-determine your personality. They may fall on their face but at least they're out there trying.

The WH, WCGB and STW are all to blame. FPS is highly overrated and in fact can become a detriment at close range. Hunting has evolved from bragging about getting close was to bragging about hitting from far away. Are we going backwards?


I am not opposed to the magnum rifles/cartridges produced today or in the past. I have experienced several of them myself, and don't think that most of them are the best for me,personally. I do have, and shoot, regularly, a .338 Win.mag.,
but when I prepare to go hunting, 85% of the time I will take the 25/06, 10% the 30/06,and 5% the .338. With all due respect to Roy Weatherby, his touting of the hyper velosity/hydraulic shock, freebore design,etc, though selling many rifles, has produced a generation of hunters who believe you have to have the very biggest, loudest, kickingest smoke pole available in order to be taken seriously as a hunter.
And actually, for 90% of my own deer and elk hunting, my old 94 in 30/30 would be adaquate for the task, I just happen to shoot the others better, because I don't see so well and don't have, or want a scope on that old warhorse. This is not to condemn those of you who do regularly hunt with the big ones, but the truth is that the short fats are simply duplications of old and tried rounds that have been around for a lifetime. I don't need an excuse to buy a new firearm, except that I want it, but I don't buy the hype/hoopla that the arms companies spread in order to sell a new rifle. Shoot whatever you like, hunt whatever style works for you, life is too short to be unhappy on someone elses values, even mine.


I had to look up "phrenology" too, Doc.

fps=can be too much of a good thing.

I've never been keen on l-o-n-g range shooting in hunting situations. It doesn't take an expert sneak to close the range to 250-yards although a hunter may have to work at it.

Tennessee Hunter Guy

This is entirely off topic but i feel it needs to be said. If anyone thats reads this blog gets the NRA magazine American Rifleman please tear out the card inside telling about Barrack Obamas atrocious gun, make as many copies as you can afford. Distribut them to eveyone u know that might possibly be casting their ballot for Barrack Obama. We must perserve our right to keep and bear arms!

Jim in Mo.

You mentioned Roy W. briefly. He built a fantastic rifle no doubt but I'll tell ya as a promoter of his product, PT Barnum had nothing on that man. Roy is the guy that made all shooters think faster is better. Years ago (early 50's) I read an article from him promoting his rifle to the hollywood set, and his 'actual' claim about how fantastic velocity was(his rifles), is that you would never actually have to hit the animal. The speed (velocity) of the near miss would kill them!

Jim in Mo.

Ten Hunter Guy,
What's going to matter is US going to the polls. Lets get out and ensure our sportsmen friends vote.

Tennessee Hunter Guy

I certainly agree

Clay Cooper

names have been changed to protect the silly?

I find it interesting that using a Nosler Ballistic Tip and if my memory serves me right is a solid base bullet. Two things have not been mentioned. First was shot placement? And second even solid base does allot plowing witch points back to shot placement?! I was getting complete pass thru on mule deer with Nosler Solid Base 55 grain out of my 22-250 with excellent performance with good clean kills.

I’m willing to bet that rifle kick like a truck load of mules and the flinch factor was off the scale!

When I was stationed at Holloman AFB that borders White Sands Missile Range the home of imported African Ibex, I’ve heard a lot of stories of bullets blowing up and not even penetrating past the ribs.

Speaking of White Sands Missile Range, Wildlife Officials and Law Enforcement could not figure what was killing the Mountain Lions (Cougars). They had bullet holes but could not find the bullet. One day one of the Game Biologists spotted a young Ibex running with a small Mountain Lion still shishkebabbed on its horns. Case Closed!

By the way, I knew a clown in Alaska using a 375 H&H with Nosler Partitions wounded a nice Caribou double shovel that ran off Taylor Mountain never to be seen again and dropped 3 cows with one shot! That idiot lucked out by bringing out all the meat and because he did not punch his harvest ticket because a kill is a kill only received only a 100 dollar fine and suspended license for the remainder of the season. But WAIT! That idiot wanted me to take him north of the Yukon River were your allowed 5 caribou and shoot a Caribou or two on my license with my gun, NOT NO BUT HELL NO and not going to be in my truck either!


As for velocity, even some commercial loads for 7mm are quite over the top. In Wisconsin, where I hunt, there is rarely a shot over 75 yards. Most shots are within bow range. I'm talking about thick, surprise the hell out of you, blasting. My uncle and brother insist on using their 7mm mags because "they're fast!" Well, I don't know much about it but under 50 yards there isn't much dodging of a 30-30. You could probably use a rock if you practiced enough. Anyways, last year my uncle shot one of those overgrown corn gobblers with his big, super accurate, hole puncher and the thing literally e x p l o a d e d. I mean an exit wound that you could put your arm in. When you are hunting brushy rabbit holes for medium-sized deer you need a brush gun, not a super duper heat seakin, long range weapon of destruction. I have just begun to hunt with a .50 muzzleloader. I love it. all of the adds push the idea of "magnum power" and lead you to believe that to get ultimate performance you need 150 grains so you can shoot through stuff at 200 yards. I have yet to load it over 100 grains. The bullets I use don't need to go that hard to kill what I am shooting at and the bullets actually perform (hold together) much better at lower thresholds. When in doubt, I've learned that slow and heavy bullets under 75 yards will always work better than light and fast.
But to each his own as long as it works for you. And if you are out there hunting then it must be working.

Mr. B

Do you know what the difference between Genius and stupidity?

Genius has it's limitations. Case in point WH vs WCGB.

I was told a long time ago that if you are paying good money for a rifle then the gunsmith will not take you down the wrong road. Trust him with your rifle project if you don't then find one you do....


The problem with geniuses, Ph.ds, etc. is that they cannot believe that someone with thirty or forty fewer IQ points than they have can give them advice about anything. That is why most of the really obvious, boneheaded mistakes in history were made by geniuses.

It takes a Caesar to trust a Brutus.

It takes a Robert E. Lee to order a Pickett's Charge.

It takes a Napoleon to attack Russia, then hang around Moscow until winter.

It takes a Montague to plan and sell an Operation Market Garden.

It takes a Churchill to plan a Gallipoli.

It takes a Woodrow Wilson to champion a League of Nations in Europe without making sure the US Congress would ratify it if he did.

Hey, it takes a Stephen Spielberg to make a "1941" and "Howard the Duck."

I can go on forever. You smart guys out there, take heed.

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