By Mr. Black
What if I told you field points are a better choice for bowhunters than broadheads? You’d likely spit your IPA onto the bar. There is zero question that a quality broadhead, while potentially less accurate, is a far superior solution for ethically taking game animals. Why then are some hunters now shooting big game with bullets designed for targets? It’s sheer stupidity.
From the advent of the jacketed bullet era until 1948, hunting bullets were all “cup & core,” style, meaning a copper jacket with a soft lead core beneath. That all changed when John Nosler had a cup & core bullet fail on him during a moose hunt in British Columbia. He returned home to Oregon and sat down to invent the Nosler Partition, a controlled-expansion bullet that offered both expansion and penetration because it held together no matter what it hit. The premium hunting bullet was born.
The Partition is one of the greatest bullets ever designed and remains one of my favorites today. Other great bullets popped up over the decades: Jack Carter’s Trophy-Bonded Bear Claw, Swift’s A-Frame, Winchester’s Failsafe, and Barnes X all performed exceptionally well on game. Today virtually every bullet manufacturer offers a premium, controlled-expansion bullet and you can barely go wrong with any of them.
Fast-forward 70 or so years and the hunting world has lost its collective mind. Match bullets are the hottest thing in the long-range Westie rifle world. But guess what? They’re simply sleeker versions of the old cup & core bullets whose failure prompted innovation. That’s right, we’ve stepped back to 1947.
But why? For one, everyone with a dial on his scope thinks they need to shoot animals at 1,000 yards. Don’t get me wrong, I love shooting at steel targets as far away as possible, but long-range hunting, for the sake of it, takes the hunt out of hunting. Traditional hunting bullets will only expand down to around 1,800 feet per second of velocity.
Let’s say you’re hunting with a .300 Win. Mag. and a 180-grain Partition; that bullet will drop below its minimum expansion window at roughly 515 yards. If most of your hunting knowledge comes from YouTube, that might sound like a chip shot. Let me tell you, that is a long, long shot under average hunting conditions. In all of my years of hunting, I don’t recall ever taking a shot at that distance. Could I? Sure, anyone can sling lead. But I could also get closer … you know … by hunting.
So the same guys that are pushing the concept of long-range hunting are promoting the use of match bullets. That is because only a match bullet is sufficiently fragile enough to expand at such low impact velocities. If you want to shoot elk at 1000-yards, a match bullet is your only real option. But what happens when you use those bullets at average hunting distances? They suck.
Time and time again I’ve witnessed match bullets fail on heavy game when the impact velocity is high. They come apart like the Challenger space shuttle. But this shouldn’t surprise anyone; they were made to punch paper and ding steel.
That said, you can often get away with this kind of dismal performance on varmints, deer, and antelope that are thin-skinned and light-boned. But even then, why? Why use an inferior bullet when we have so many great options available, including Nosler’s Partition, E-Tip, and AccuBond; Hornady’s GMXs, Swift A-Frames, Federal’s Trophy Copper and Ascent, Winchester’s XP3 and Power Core, Barnes’ venerable TSX, and dozens more.
But what about accuracy? Sure, on average match bullets shoot small groups in a wider range of guns. But I have numerous rifles that shoot incredibly well with premium-controlled expansion bullets. My 7mm Remington Magnum will put three 175-grain Partitions into a quarter of an inch at 100 yards. In theory, that’s a five-inch group at 2,000! As a rule, however, you might have to experiment with various controlled-round bullets in your rifle until you find one that meets your accuracy standards.
Wait, wait—what about ballistic coefficient? We have to have a high BC bullet if we are going to shoot past 50 yards, right? Let’s go back to our .300 mag at 515 yards. Our 1940s technology Nosler drops 53 inches at that distance with a 100-yard zero, which is 9.8 MOA. How about a high-tech 190gr. Berger VLD? 44 inches or 8.2 MOA. Are we going to choose shitty terminal performance over dialing a few more clicks of elevation? Hell no.
There’s a bottom line to this. Beware of advice from someone trying to sell you something, whether it is a product or a lifestyle. The promotion of match bullets is all about profit: you need this rifle and these bullets because your old ’06 can’t kill game at 795 yards. You do want to be a long-range hunter, right? We in the outdoor media have been complicit in this madness. Thanks to ad dollars, marketing copy is cut and pasted into editorial, telling the masses how great match bullets are for everything that roams the continent. It’s a lie. Just because it’s named “GameKing” doesn’t mean it’s great for game.