Bullet Selection For Hunting & Target Shooting
As many of our customers know, Sinclair International sells Berger bullets. One of questions we get asked about Berger bullet is if it’s okay to use the match target bullets for hunting? Berger is very specific about this and the answer is no. Even though a target bullet may have a hollow point, it still works like a full metal jacketed bullet. It pencils through the animal without expanding, and does minimal damage. I feel using a match target bullet for hunting is unethical. If you’re going to shoot a live animal, have the respect to kill it quickly and cleanly, so it doesn’t suffer. Bullets designed for hunting perform well at both short and long ranges, so there really is no need to use match target bullets on animals. Please follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for hunting bullet application.
Bullets For Hunting
Another question we get asked about hunting bullets is at what velocity will they open up or fragment? I refer to several loading manuals and P.O. Ackley handbooks for some answers. These sources refer to 1,000 foot pounds of energy as a minimum for killing medium and big game. I agree with the energy formula. 1,000 ft lbs is a constant you can use to discover the maximum range a certain caliber should be used for hunting.
Here are some examples for some common calibers: A 6mm 95 grain bullet starting at 3,000 fps will be traveling near 2,175 fps and retain around 1,103 ft lbs of energy at 500 yards. A .308 168 grain bullet that starts at 3,000 fps will be traveling at 2,083 fps at 500 yards and still retain 1,011 ft lbs of energy. The .308 190 grain bullet at 3,000 fps at the muzzle will still be traveling at 1,571 fps and deliver 1,042 ft lbs energy at 1,000 yards. You can see that while the yardage changes and the velocity changes, the 1,000 ft lbs will stay constant. And if you shoot from the next 100 yards down range, you are below the minimum energy required to cleanly kill medium or big game.
The muzzle energy charts I have referenced can be found on the Berger Bullets, Hornady and Sierra web sites. If you have the older reloading manuals, they are listed in the back of the book or with the load data. I think the best way to use these energy charts and to determine a cartridge’s usefulness for medium or large game is to look at the 1,000 ft lbs energy mark and the yardage that is listed. I used the Berger Bullets Ballistic calculator from their web site to get these examples of energy and velocity. Different manufacturers will give different information, but they will all be close enough to form a good idea of how far the bullet will work for hunting.
Centerfire 22s For Deer?
Most states want you to use 6mm or larger calibers for shooting game animals the size of deer or larger. I know the 22 centerfire calibers will kill deer, but that doesn’t mean it’s ethical to use 22 centerfires for deer hunting. A 60 grain bullet at 3,000 fps delivers 1,199 ft lbs at the muzzle, and at 100 yards, that energy drops to only 940 ft lbs, already below the 1,000 ft-lb limit for a quick and ethical kill. The same 60 grain bullet starting out at 3,000 fps at the muzzle drops to around 2,041 fps at 300 yards, delivering only 555 ft lbs of energy. You can see why most states do not allow big game hunting with these rifles. I have shot the 223 Remington a lot over the years and won’t dispute the fact that it can kill deer and similar animals. Careful shot placement and keeping your ranges to less than 100 yards are the keys for a clean kill with this caliber. I know these cartridges will work farther than 100 yards, but the muzzle energy drops off very rapidly after that distance.
While not ideal for deer, these rounds work very well on varmints and coyote-size animals out to 300 yards and beyond. There are almost too many 22 caliber bullets to choose from. I shoot the 40 grain V-Max and 50 grain V-Max in my 222 Remington and 223 Remington and use the heavier bullet for prairie dogs out west. I also shoot a 22 Cheetah, and my rifle works best with 50 grain Blitz bullets from Sierra and the 52 grain Berger bullets. They shoot ¼ minute at 100 yards, travel at more than 4,100 fps and are very flat shooting out to 400 yards.
My Favorite Hunting Calibers & Bullets
I often use my 243 Winchester for hunting, and two good bullets for deer and antelope are the 87 grain Berger and the 100 grain Sierra. I favor the lighter bullet over the heavier because of recoil. I like to see the bullet’s impact. That way, I know instantly if I put a good hit on the game animal.
Another caliber I like to use is the 6.5-06. I use the 120 grain bullets for crows, ground hogs and coyotes and the 130 grain bullets for deer and antelope. These bullets give better long range performance and light recoil so I can watch the impact through the scope. I would use the same rifle for elk and black bear with 140 grain bullets and keep my shots limited to 300 yards or less.
One of the most versatile rifles I own is my 30-06. This caliber can be loaded down with light bullets for plinking and varmints, or loaded with heavy bullets for large game. I have shot antelope and mule deer with this caliber using 150-165 grain bullets. I haven’t hunted elk yet, but when I do, I will use 175 grain or 190 grain bullets for quick, ethical kills.
Matching the bullet design to your hunting is important. Berger bullets are made to fragment inside the animal for maximum damage and terminal shock. Sierra, Hornady, Speer, Nosler and Barnes are designed to expand to double or triple their original diameter and create a wound channel that will let the animal bleed out quickly.
Bullets For Target Shooting
For target shooting I use a different approach. I shoot NRA High Power with my 223 and use the 73 grain Berger bullet or 69 grain Sierra as a midrange load. These loads cut recoil and help me get back on target quicker in rapid fire stages. Wind doesn’t affect the bullets all that much and these loads may also extend barrel life a little bit. For the 600 yard line, I use 82 grain Bergers and 80 grain Sierras. I load these to around 2,815 fps. I have shot the 80 grain Sierra at 1,000 yards, but it is a little under-gunned for this yardage. You need 2,950 fps to keep this bullet supersonic at that range, and that requires a fairly hot load for the little 223 Remington.
For my 6mm/22-250, I use the Berger 105 grain VLD and their 108 grain boat tail. The Bergers shoot so well I think they correct some of my mistakes–Ha Ha! The 107 grain Sierras work well also. I compare windage settings with fellow shooters who are using 6.5 x 284s and 7 mm Mags, and I need about ¼ to ½ minute less windage than the 6.5 x 284. This is not much, but sometime that’s all you need to win!
I hope this helps you decide where to start with your bullet selection for a particular application. The information I have provided above will work for all brands of bullets. Thanks to Berger Bullets for the great information on their web page, and also thanks to Hornady for the information I cross referenced in their reloading manuals.
Sinclair International Reloading Instructor