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Don Fischer's picture
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Bullet failure

This post and the next are moved here with permission of their author, JJHack, an African PH. I found them very interesting and hope you all do too.

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I think the question requires a definition. What exactly is bullet failure? It seems we are all considering this definition much differently.

I have read this statemet several times in my life now: "At what point during the animals death did the bullet fail"

Or the bullet exited with a bore size hole so it could not have expanded, must have failed.

Well, with any opinion somebody relates it needs high resolution to have any credibility,.........at least to me. How significant is a single event to try and prove or disprove a theory or function? As many of you know my background, you know I don't refer to single events to draw my conclusions from. I'm also not stuck with a single firearm type, caliber or cartridge. My hunters bring everything under the sun to shoot with archey, muzzleloaders, handguns, you name it I've probably had somebody hunt with it. They typically take well in excess of 100 big game each year. In the last 13-15 years I would say without question they have taken more then 2000 head of big game from the tiny steenbok up to the elephant. This does not incude the many years working in Alaska with goats, both species of bears, deer, wolves, cariboo, moose, etc.

With this kind of resolution you would think bullet failures would be seen eventually on at least some of these species. You would be correct. But then My definition of bullet failure may not be the industry standard (whatever that is) or even another persons opinion.

My simple definitions are
#1 lead and jacket seperation at any point after impact.

#2Not penetrating in a dead straight line.

I have seen both of these more times then I can count with cup and core bullets, I have seen the lack of straight line penetration more times then I can count with several versions of the Barnes X bullet.

In order to have seen or witnessed these failures I would have had to recovered the game. So the theory of "at what pint during the animals death did the bullet fail" is absolutely silly to me. If the bullets performance was unacceptable and you still lucked into the location of the dead animal why would you trust it on a second animal?

I could go into a list here of specific animals just from last season that I have seen failures on. However it's a safe bet that cup and core bullets are not the prudent choice for todays hunting where big game is important to recover. The original "premium" bullet is the Nosler Partition. Fully three times the cost of a cup and core bullet when released and remained double the cost for many years afterward. This was the baseline bullet for big game for probably 20 years or more.

Today you can buy a bonded core bullet which is so vaslty superior to the partiton at less then half the cost of the partition.

Recent catalog prices for example:
165 grain .308 Nosler Partition 23.16 per 50
165 grain .308 Hornady interbond 31.39 Per 100
165 grain .308 barnes X 28.83 per 50
165 grain .308 Swift Aframe 44.18 per 50

Standard cup and core bullets
165 grain .308 Speer 17.42 per 100
165 grain .308 hornady 16.15 per 100
165 grain .308 Sierra 17.58 per 100

I have seen everyone of these bullets shot and recovered. The majority of the cup and core bullets in many little pieces with the jacket seperated.

More then half the partitions recovered had no front half lead core attached. Not automatically bad. It's the design to do this. However it does leave many people with a bad feeling to see a bore diameter exit hole even though the bullet had violent internal expansion. It's still not as good at retaining the momentum of a bullet that will retain all its weight or the majority of its weight. It's also hard to beat a bullet that doubles its diameter or more and can maintain that dimater. Those exits leave a hella good blood trail!

I suppose in the end it's up to your definiton of bullet failure. Regardless if it's a sub 3000fps cartridge or over. Standard cup and core bullets will crumble and seperate. The frequency of this is higher the faster they travel. Standard bullets from a 30/30 work well, standard bullets from a 30/378 are a failure waiting to happen. If the issue is an important one for you then shoot the cup and core bullets all you want for practice, then switch to the premium bullets for use on game. At least that's what I do with my rifles.

As far as my recommendations go, sub 3000fps rifles will work far better with the Hornady interbonds. they are soft and stay in one piece very well. Rifles over 3000fps might be better with A frames. They are much harder and withstand much higher impacts better.

I would say the same for most bigger bore rifles as well. When shooting 338 or larger the A frame would be my bullet of choice on the bigger species. If you're lucky enough to have a rifle that can shoot the newest versions of the X bullet then that is a great choice as well. Not all rifles deal well with the X bullet though._________________
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WesternHunter's picture
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Bullet failure

Interesting, but I think too many hunters today place way too much emphesis on weight retention and core/jacket separation.

The way I judge a bullets performance is by looking at the wound channel and seeing if the bullet penetrated enough to hit the vitals, usually it passes right through. Of course if I'm doing this, then that means I have a dead animal, and if I have a dead animal then my bullet must have hit it's spot and done it's job. Right? Does core/jacket separation indicate bullet failure?? Nope!! Not really. I don't see why people think that it means a bullet failed. It doesn't at all indicate failure, if the bullet impact resulted in a quick, clean, humane kill. In fact often times core/jacket separation can have an added bonus in that there is more tissue damage and blood loss.

I've never bothered to place a recovered bullet on a scale to weigh it. Gee after all, does this really tell you anything? Just never found it to be a testiment to how well the bullet performed, besides I have much more work ahead of me once I down my game animal. Sometimes you just need to look at the obvious to tell how something performs. In this case, how quickly and cleanly was the animal taken down?? Doesn't anyone ever consider that to be the true performace test anymore?

Not trying to disrespect anyones interests or curiousity or cirticise anyone's ideas. I just don't know why this subject gets so much attention on the internet. I personally don't know anyone who has ever debated or pondered this subject. Seems in some circles this is a pretty hot subject though. Still It's always made me chuckle to read about how some hunters gripe about how bullet X weighed this much after impact and expansion, or bullet X had the nose break off or fragmented on exit, and so on. All of this after they have a dead animal. Then they ask - what went wrong? I guess nothing went wrong if you didn't have to track the animal far and you now have meat in your freezer!!!

For a big game bullet, failure to me is either fragmenting on impact, or not penetrating deep enough to hit the vitals. The way to reduce the likelyhood of this happening is to use a bullet properly constructed and loaded to the appropriate load for the game you plan to hunt.

Don Fischer's picture
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Bullet failure

Western Hunter,

There is some truth to what you say but mostly when speaking of Antelpoe and deer size game. But as the size of game goes up bullets must preform better. I believe in another thred, Chester Golf related the failure of a bullet on a deer, I think that's what it was. At any rate, he now uses premium bullets for all hunting. I think it was Chester Golf, forgive me if I'm mistaken.

I don't shoot premium bullets, but JJ's post has given me cause ti rethink, at least on larger boned denser mussled game. My last elk was shot with a 140gr Hornady from a 6.5-06. I couldn't have asked for better preformance. But I also had a very very good shot at the chest at fairly close range. If Hornady made that bullet in an Interbnd, I'd use it. As I think of it, those who said it befor are right; the bullets used for hunting in the course of a year don't amount to a high dollar layout. They do offer a bit more ability to penetrate relaibly under any condition.

I make no bones about my preference for Hornady Interlock bullet's. But there just might be a better choice for large game. One thing to remember about standard bullets today. The latitude that they need to function in, velocity wise, is growing bigger. The same stress is not applied to a 165gr bullet from a 300 Savage as is applied by a 300RUM.

For a moose, weight retention means penetration and on larger animals perenration is a must. If you can't get a bullet into something to kill the animal, a superficial wound could be caused leaving the animal to suffer a lingering death.

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Bullet failure
Don Fischer wrote:
Western Hunter,

There is some truth to what you say but mostly when speaking of Antelpoe and deer size game. But as the size of game goes up bullets must preform better. I believe in another thred, Chester Golf related the failure of a bullet on a deer, I think that's what it was. At any rate, he now uses premium bullets for all hunting. I think it was Chester Golf, forgive me if I'm mistaken.

You are correct Don. I had a point blank range failure with a 180 gr. silvertip Super-X out of a 308 win. and have used premiums ever since. If the technology is there why not utilize it? Some of the new stuff is just smoke and mirrors but there has been a definite improvement in the bullet quality in the last decade or so.

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Bullet failure

I guess if you can call the Speer Grand Slam a premium bullet, that's what I've been loading for Elk. Though most standard soft points are ideal for deer, I now load the tougher constructed Grand Slam for whitetail and mule deer too, just because I've found it to be a great all-around bullet. That, and because I just no longer want to be bothering and fiddling with different loads. I figure what works on elk has also worked great on deer too. Though many wouldn't consider the Grand Slam to be a premium bullet at all. Always had good luck with it since I began using it. I used to use both factory loaded Winchester Silver Tips and Remington Core-Lokt for elk and never had the experience that you had ChesterGolf. It does happen, and I suppose when it does anyone would loose faith too.

Good point about the .300 Savage and .300 RUM comparison in todays velocities Don Thumbs up That's something a lot of guys just never think about.

I just can't see what bullet weight retention tells ya. If it penetrates and hits the vital or even exits, then what difference does it make what it weighs once it's done it's job. Again, it doesn't mean the bullet failed if it weighs less on exit, only if it weighs less and stops before it even hits the hide. I mean, no one really cared about this stuff until someone published an article about it in some magazine. Suddenly what worked before is no longer any good. Think

Don't get me wrong. I think tougher constructed bullets should be used on large tough framed animals like bull elk, moose, brown bear, polar bear, etc. These bullets exist, and aren't that terribly expensive. Why not use them?

I don't condone using FMJ bullets on game, but believe it or not, there was actually a time not long ago, during the years between WWI & WWII when frugal hunters would often use surplus government FMJ rounds in .30-06 to harvest game with great success. What about all those hunters from the same era and previous that used unjacketed plain old lead bullets? Boy, those old timers must have really known what they were doing eh Thumbs up

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Bullet failure

If your recovering bullets from dead animals than they are working. Think "At what point of the animals death did the bullet fail to work?" Brick Wall,) neener!

Don Fischer's picture
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Bullet failure

Western Hunter,

I remember when Speer first brought out the "Grand Slam". That was shortly after the "Mag Tip" and the "Grand Slam" had the "Mag "tip" and was of dual core construction. I never felt it was better than the standard "Hot Core". It was Speers first premium bullet. Don't know why they needed it as their "Hot Core' was an origional bonded core bullet. If I remember correctly, back then the premier american made bullet for dangerious game was the "Barnes". It was cup and core and the jackets were made from copper tubing.

The ability to retain weight comes into play when the bullet has to penetrate a lot of mass, mussel or bone. A bullet that doesn't retain a lot of weight will likely then not make the trip. Also. abullet that sheds weight also sheds it's ability to deliver energy. The more weight you lose, the less energy gets transferd.

The "Grand Slam" is a premium bullet that just never got the credit it deserved. In fact Speer's never recieved the credit they deserved. Vernon Speer was not one to pat himself on the back, he just made good bullets. Then Omark took over and didn't wanted to be bothered by learning just how good a product they had, they took a great bullet way down. The secret to Hornady and Nosler is that they are run and controlled by people that actually use the products they make. Sometimes it suprizes me that any of them made it. Vernon Speer, Joyce Hornady and John Nosler were far better at making bullets and comunicating with hunters than they were at marketing.

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Bullet failure

I'm with you on the Speer Hot Cor and Grand Slam. Both are exceptional. I just couldn't get them to shoot out of my recent, all around carry rifle.
I been to the range and seen some of these target shooters use bullets that vaporize in flight. I would call that bullet failure.

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Bullet failure
remington wrote:
If your recovering bullets from dead animals than they are working. Think "At what point of the animals death did the bullet fail to work?" Brick Wall,) neener!

I would not have retrieved my "failed" bullet from my deer if I haven't tracked it and put another pill in it. The bullet I retrieved from the animal hit the forward shoulder and all I found was very small fragments laying against the shoulder and the shoulder was not even broken. I truly believe that this constitutes a failed bullet especially considering the very close range and velocity it would have entered.

My father has used and will continue to use 180 gr. silver-tips in his 308 win and will continue to kill deer with them. I have seen only one fail and will never give them a second chance. If any of my premium bullets ever fail they will get no better fate but so far so good.

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Bullet failure

Good thread. Bullet failure is a loaded (pun intended) word, I've found that it sometimes can mean a lot of things to different people. My definition of bullet failure is two extremes:

1.) Failing to expand (zips right through)
2.) Expands too much (explodes on impact)

Given this definition, one is trying to match a bullet to the conditions (the size of the game and the shot distance) so that it penetrates enough but not too much. That can be tricky with the variety of bullets of out there today.

I think bullets like the hornady interbond (or the interlock sst), nosler partion, and the accubond (and the similar CT bullets) are good general purpose bullets (close up, far away, big and smaller big game).

I don't have much experience with Barnes, but some folks swear by them.

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Bullet failure

To me. Bullet failure is something that needs questioning. The only bullet failure that I'm familiar with was a bad bullet selection for the purpose. It wasn't the fault of the manufacturer of the bullet or a bad bullet. It was a bad choice of bullet. Made by the user of the bullet.
There is also the chance of the one in thousands of bullets that gets through quality control without being noticed.
All bullets are rated to perform to their intended performance at a given velocity range. From X velocity to Y velocity. If you drop under or go over the given velocity. It isn't the bullet that failed. Somebody didn't do their homework. Shame on You!

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