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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.

“*&^*(*&*&&&#@^[email protected]#$,” 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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Is Clay Cooper drunk?

Chad Love

Now damnit Eyeball, don't go ragging on "1941". The ten-year-old me thought it was a great movie. The 37-year-old me, well, not so much, but good taste is often an overrated thing...


Now Dave doesn't it feel good to get that out in the open. You know what they say "Pride Goethe Before The Fall." Just Kidding.

Tom the Troll


Can you warm pizza with a Lazzaroni?


A Lazzeroni would probably burn pizza. Fire spews out the muzzle. Surprised he hasn't named one of his rounds Dragon Breath.


Is Clay Cooper drunk? how so?? makes since to me!

I often wonder if when the bullet blows up on impact it a molten mas?


One of the most-argued advantages of hypervelocity hunting rounds is long-range killing power. You've hunted and killed more animals than most of us can hope to hunt. Do you have a ballpark figure of how many animals you have harvested that required shots beyond 200 yards?


I'd say the WH knew something = if he'd allowed that 2 extra inches on the barrel, the hyper velocity would then have caused the bullet to disentigrate into thin air and he wouldn't have even gotten the antlers!

What would Layne Simpson do on such a Mule Deer hunt? Hmmm. Maybe instead of stalking closer, he'd stalk away to widen the gap?!?!?!

Heck, we could start a whole new hunting movement for hyper velocity shooting with frangible bullets! Since I have so much experience already, I could write the book: "You Too Can Widen the Distance Between You and Your Quarry"!

Thos. B. Fowler

I was with Mr.B's comments until he ridiculed Robt. E. Lee...sorry about that gaffe. Down in Virginia, we not only respect Marse Robert implicitly, but also our gunsmiths and their sage advice about rifles and loads. I have found the 140 gr. Sierra bullet ideal for Whitetails in my little Mannlicher Schoenauer 6.5.

[BTW...Pickett's charge was mishandled by the arrogant Longstreet. Longstreet was sulking because the troops did not receive the .58 caliber Weatherby's for the attack. Little known fact, of course.]

Tom Fowler


With the exception of Steven Speilberg's creative genius and Lee's tactical genius, I don't think anyone would consider the men on eyeball's list to be 'genius' material. Usually it's not the smart ones that work their way to the top, it's the ones who know how coerce, lie, mis-direct, and scam their way to power. Usually those who are actually as sweet as they claim to be are the quite ones in the background doing whatever it is their good at. That's not to say there aren't obnoxious academics out there making asses of themselves, but to say history's biggest mistakes have been made by geniuses is way off.

And with regards to Lee, the man really was as good as they say. At Gettysburg he was duped by a Union artillery officer who slowly cut down the rate of fire on his guns leading Lee to believe that his own arty assets had destroyed the Union's fire support capability. The only difference between audacity and recklessness is whether or not you win, and in this case a clever Union officer tricked Lee into making an audacious move that ultimately became a reckless endeavour.

Mike Reeder

I was intrigued by the ballistic tip when it first came out for a couple of reasons; one, it was one of the most ballistically efficient bullets I'd ever seen, and two, reports of its frangibility struck me as just what the doctor ordered for the relatively small whitetails in our area (the biggest-bodied buck you'd ever see where I lived weighed about 110 pounds. The average deer runs 65 to 80). Most of my hunting at that time was from a tree stand, with plenty of time to place a bullet perfectly. On most does, I would never shoot until I had a broadside shot with the off-leg positioned to avoid meat damage in the far shoulder. My load was basically the old Western load for the 7X57, with the 140gr. ballistic tip exiting the 22-inch barrel of my converted 98 Mauser at about 2,850 fps. It worked like a charm if you placed the shot right. Everything inside the chest cavity was soup but with little extraneous damage. Typical shot distances ranged from 25 out to at most about 125-yards. The brush and cedar was usually too thick to expect to shoot much beyond that, with the exception of one doe I shot at about 220 in a plowed field. It was also a great setup for deer hunting in more open country in southwest Texas, where the deer were also small but the distances tended to stretch out. I did shoot a couple of hogs with that same load with fairly spectacular results, but when actually hog hunting I usually went to more stoutly constructed 150 gr. handloads, or used 180 gr. Core-Lokt factory loads in my '06. Point being that certain bullets are good for certain things within a certain velocity range and not so much for others. The custom gun builder tried to tell Petzal's WH that obvious fact, but there are few mixtures more potent than arrogance and ignorance. My own view is that a ballistically efficent bullet in a suitable caliber, driven at anywhere from 2,700 fps up to about 3,200 fps., is plenty flat enough to take any big game animal at rational hunting distances. It's certainly not worth lugging around an awkward 28-inch (or 26 inch as far as I'm concerned) barreled rifle in order to shoot a wildcat caliber that delivers no real practical advantage in the field, while presenting all kinds of problems in terms of ammo availability, etc. All these arguments about caliber, velocity, etc. are fun and help pass the time, but as long as you are using any caliber within a remotely acceptable range for what you're shooting, what really counts is bullet placement, bullet performance and being wise enough about your own limitations and respectful enough of what you're hunting to wait for a decent shot to present itself.
One other side note -- as much as I love and admire Marse Lee, no general ever committed greater folly than Picket's charge. If you've ever stood at the foot of that long incline looking up at where the Federals were entrenched, you can't avoid shuddering thinking about the men who tried to make that long, open climb.


I had a 7 STW once, and I loaded it with 175 grain remmington core lokt bullets. Powder chosen was WC 860 machine gun powder, loaded to 100 percent load density. One hole groups. 28 inch barrel. I never measured the velocity, but I am sure it was well over 3300 feet per second. I shot a 200 pound pig, and the bullet barely went past the ribs. Took forever to find it, no blood trail. Now I use the .338 Win. Mag with 250 grain core lokt, deadly on pigs. No problem with the blood trail. So I agree with the moral of the story. How's that for staying on topic!

Choosing the right bullet for the job would have made a big difference. Partition all the way.


I think the point David is trying to make here is that sometimes if you think ultra velocity and super tight groups are the most important thing, then you are mistaken. Target shooting and hunting are two different things. This guy would have been better off with his grandaddy's .30-06 or a .270 that shot 2.5" groups. I actually went down (in velocity) from a .270 to a 7mm-08 because 100% of my shots will be inside 200 yards and I can rarely even see farther than 50 yards where I hunt. I even sometimes take an iron sighted 45-70 handi-rifle or 30-30 as first choices. As far as bullets go, I have fun debating and researching about construction and tip construction etc. with the best of them, but nobody that I know ever b*tched about plain jane core-lokts or powerpoints or factory partitions.............


P.S. This blog is amazing. It starts in a gun shop and ends with Steven Spielberg's genius as a filmmaker and Robert E. Lee's military tactics. Sort of like that game as a kid where we passed a phrase down the line and it kept morphing into something different. That's why I keep coming back.

retired waycar rider

Hummmmmm seems to me that a gun writer by the name of Layne Simpson is the one that started the 7STW then went on to make 3 or 4 other STW's. Remember gun writers have to have to eat and get free perks too. right Dave ????


Great parable! Too much gun, too small a bullet at too high a velocity and too dumb to take advice. A 7mm Mauser with the right 140 grain bullet and he would have been a happy man.


Comment on the muzzleloader references:
A 50cal patched round ball with 95 grains of 3F under it WILL go clean thru a 4 inch dia and about 1/4 inch thick steel tube the forest service uses around here as a post to mount steel gates on closed roads. Clean 1/2 inch hole too! Needed to empty the rifle before going home and I really figured the soft lead ball should just splatter on the hard steel, WRONG!
And these magnum crazy people think they need a modern magnum for penetration? Ever seen a steel plated deer?

Clay Cooper

Saying that the 140 grain bullet was too small is really a oxymoron statement if you know your bullets. According to Nosler, Ballistic Tips are designed to function between a Minimum Impact Velocity: 1600 fps Maximum Impact Velocity: 3000 fps.
I remember shooting 100 grain bullets out of my 300 Win Mag that was up around 3800 fps and the bullets blew up before hitting paper and hot loaded 130 grain Hornady‘s worked absolutely fantastic! Sounds to me that the 140-grain Nosler Ballistic Tips at nearly 3,600 fps has the wrong copper alloy jacket unable to withstand the friction/heat of the bore. A 140 grain is plenty heavy at that velocity and I’ll bet the 139 grain Hornady would have been a better choice. The 300 Win Mag I had, I loaded Hornady 130 grain with 79 grains of IMR4350, 77 grains was max at 3500fps so go figure with 79 grains. From Jackrabbits to New Mexico Mule Deer I never had a problem!!

Clay Cooper

Excuse me Gentlemen, to say, too much gun and too small a bullet at too high a velocity and too dumb to take advice is really dumb to say. The fact is the shooter didn’t research the performance range of his projectile!

It's not the weight per say,
It's the construction of!

Clay Cooper

and some of you talking up the Barnes Bulet!


Some decades ago it became apparent to me that a properly constructed bullet which is somewhat heavy for caliber propelled at extra fast velocities from a long barreled magnum will kill critters dramatically at rather extended ranges if the shooter practices a lot on a constant basis. A big slow bullet will also kill critters in a most satisfactory way. However a big fast bullet, again of proper construction, will kill critters ever better than the aforementioned choices. You ain't convincing me otherwise. That said how much dead do you want to inflict? I remember reading about a guy, whose name unfortunately escapes me at this moment, who killed all record class B & C N.A. trophies with a plain vanilla Rem M-700 7 mm Rem mag. He did borrow a .340 Wea for the big bears and I think a walrus. So who needs a super fast, flat shooting, extra loud, hard recoiling, long barreled, huge scoped, synthetic stocked (preferably with decent paint but vomit colored is acceptable), made of stainless steel, custom actioned with a Sako extractor, Jewell trigger, push or controlled feed (both work) and anything else we can dream up? A few of us gun nuts who have grown tired of shooting everyone else's favorite.
When it gets down to the nut cuttin' all of them will work if the shooter can shoot.

Clay Cooper

Thank You Brother ishawooa!

I'll stick with my 25-06

Dick Mcplenty

The 7mm stw has to be one of shootings biggest wastes and horse phuckings of the 1990's.I've seen guys that would have never wasted money on a new rifle buy 7mm stw's to later sell them,because the cartridge didn't produce in standard barrel lengths..

Another common problem was over loading in an effort to get the velocities they thought they should be getting.Smith I use has a couple boxes of 7 stw brass with blown primers,flattened primers and case heads,from several differant customers that insisted 7stw was the holy grail.

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