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  1. #1
    Member Andrew Leigh's Avatar
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    Default Thoughts on "premium" vs. "normal" hunting bullets

    It is said that fishing lures catch more fishermen than fish.

    I have for long pondered over whether the same is true for bullets and the hunter. Forgetting the number of manufacturers for a moment each offers so many types of bullet, cup and core, bonded, partitioned, hollow point, soft point, polymer tipped, mono-metal etc. Are these simply marketing tools and hype or real improvements in technology that justify the price.

    Now let me be clear hear, I am talking about bullets for biltong hunting. Not long range shooting, match shooting, not dangerous game but hunting Bambi and company.

    I have experimented very little with bullets, never having found the need to frankly, starting my reloading with Sierra bullets. A wise man told me that they were accurate and he had never heard of a gun that did not shoot them well;

    30-06
    165gr Sierra Game Kings
    180gr. Sierra Game Kings
    180gr. Sierra Pro-Hunters
    180gr. Nosler Accubonds

    I had a “bad experience” with the 180gr. SGK’s and felt the need to change to a “premium” bullet.

    6.5mm
    By the time I had bought the 6.5mm I was pretty firmly in the Accubond camp and started with these as my primary load.
    130gr. Accubonds

    I then wanted a lighter load for the grandbuddies first hunt and went for a Sierra again.
    120gr. Pro-Hunter

    I have bought some 120gr. Barnes TTSX as my first entry into mono metal bullets but have yet to load these.

    .375
    When the rifle first came I could get some Hornady’s real cheap from a hunting buddy so I thought I would start there.
    270gr. Hornady
    300gr. Accubonds
    300gr. Sierra Game Kings

    .308
    I have assisted a friend with loading his .308 with 150 and 165gr. Interlocks as well as Barnes TTSX.

    As one matures in their shooting and loading, one learns and experiences more which leads to better focus. I find myself having to alter opinions I once had due to new inputs and experiences which leads to a better understanding.

    So let’s start by saying that I have minimal hunting experience and have probably accounted for some 30 animals in my 3.5 year hunting career and have loaded some 1 500 rounds. These range from Warthog piglets through to Kudu Bulls and I have hunted with all three calibres.


    So let’s get into it then.

    Bullet construction
    I had shot a Kudu bull in the chest at 40m, into the chest, with the 30-06, 180gr. SGK at 2 650 fps. The bullet punched a 25mm hole through the chest and try as we might we could not recover even the smallest fragment of the bullet. When the carcass was eviscerated the entire cavity was filled with a bloody liquid as most the internal organs had been converted into mush. Clearly the bullet had fragmented in hundreds of small fragments.

    Shortly thereafter and with the same load I took an angled shot on an Impala ewe who was quartering away from me at about 20m. In hindsight the shot was very angled and the bullet entered at the ribs which deflected the bullet along the ribs, between the hide and the ribs and exiting at the shoulder entering into the neck. The recovered bullet was banana shaped and the tip had sheared off, “a clear indication” to me of bullet failure.

    So based on these two incidents and reading all the hype of “premium” bullets I decided that clearly a premium bullet was required.

    Accuracy
    Between the Sierra’s and the Accubonds the SGK stayed the most accurate bullet of the two.

    Price
    The Accubonds come in at a stiff price commanding a 30% premium.

    Meat damage
    As a new hunter I was unsure what to expect as far as meat damage goes. I thought I was getting meat damage with my kills while in reality I was doing exceedingly well. This I was only to discover on later hunts where I observed very poor shots resulting in shattered bones like femurs etc. I also encountered fast calibres bruising the meat.

    I was also to experience some meat damage of my own when I alter my aiming point from lungs to heart.

    When I started hunting I would go for the classic shoulder shot positioned behind the shoulder, through the ribs and into the lungs. As my ability grew I decided to go for heart shots, on my last hunt 4 animals were shot through the heart which resulted in the opposite shoulder being smashed and increased meat damage.

    While the SGK’s caused little meat damage when placed into the lungs the entry and exit wounds were slightly larger than those with the Accubonds. The Accubonds without fail (bar a Blue Wildebeest) whistled through. In both cases meat damage was negligible.

    Weight retention
    The weight retention on the Sierra’s was clearly poor as they fragmented while the Accubonds whistle through. I recovered one Accubond and I would estimate 90% retention while the one SGK was probably at 70%. Those have been the only bullets I have ever recovered.

    Effectiveness
    I have yet to lose an animal or track an animal for any more than 40m, this with either SGK or Accubonds. I have shot these at ranges from 20m to 250m with both SGK and Accubonds in the 6.5mm and the 30-06 while I have only hunted with Accubonds in the .375

    Convenience
    I find it highly inconvenient to have one bullet for the range with one POI and load and another for hunting. I find it commercially tough to shoot my hunting bullet at a 30% price premium as range ammo.

    Conclusion
    Simply put I am unsure if the advantages of “premium” bullets actually make one iota of difference in the veld. I have no doubt that they hold together better but clearly from my experience if they don’t I still get the biltong.

    So what if you have 98% weight retention on your “premium” and 65% on your cup and core, what was the result, did the animal wander 5m and drop in both instances? If yes then although the weight retention is better with the premium bullet the property is simply not required to make an effective kill.

    What is the meat damage difference, if negligible then what benefit does the premium bullet offer.

    So I am in two minds on premium bonded bullets, my experience tells me that to date I have experienced minimal meat damage with both, quick kills with both, both are sufficiently accurate but one is 30% more expensive.

    For shots through the thin skin and ribs behind the shoulder why would one want a premium bullet? I have never had an animal move between pulling the trigger and impact so I generally hit to within 25mm of where I aimed.

    So I ask myself, is a bullet like a fishing lure, catching hunters with clever marketing rather than real improvement in results. While I do not doubt that they are better bullets I remain unconvinced as to if better bullets are required for my application.

    What's your experience? Has your kill rate improved with premiums? Has your accuracy improved? Has your meat damage reduced for the same type of shot? Are you a better hunter for shooting premiums?
    One too many wasted sunsets and one too many for the road .........

  2. #2
    Member Messor's Avatar
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    Default Re: Thoughts on "premium" vs. "normal" hunting bullets

    LOL

    Two years ago I was shooting at a range, and as usual someone came up and asked "what you're using?", I showed him and he asked how many more shots do I need to sight in?
    I said no, I am just practicing, he was dumbstruck and asked whether I did not have any other bullets to practice with, I said yes, I have some Sierra Gamekings left but they are my hunting bullets!
    The reason he was dumbstruck because I was shooting with Barnes-TSX.

    So here is the truth, we are ever improving upon technology and I understand it as such, but when hunting for biltong statistically people will not have better results with premiums than non premiums, as shot placement(read skill) is what determines hunting success.

    Some time ago I asked the authority in hunting, my brother, what he thinks of premiums. He said there have never been so many animals wounded percentage wise than with premiums. I asked him what's wrong with premiums, he said nothing, people just cant shoot anymore, they don't shoot anymore but they still have money to buy shiny things.

    Perhaps a year ago one of our members, T-stone, said he wished people would stop worrying about bullets and calibers and start shooting more, there is not much more truth than that.
    "It's not the dying part that scares me, it's the not living."

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Thoughts on "premium" vs. "normal" hunting bullets

    Wow, excellent thread, following closely.

  4. #4
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Messor View Post
    Perhaps a year ago one of our members, T-stone, said he wished people would stop worrying about bullets and calibers and start shooting more, there is not much more truth than that.
    Déjà vu to a whole different section.
    "Learning only occurs after repetitive ,demoralizing failures!"

    Pat Rogers (RIP)

  5. #5
    Member Andrew Leigh's Avatar
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    Default Re: Thoughts on "premium" vs. "normal" hunting bullets

    Well Messor that is exactly my point.

    I follow the forums closely, not only Gunsite but also international forums. I also do a lot of reading and informal research. I have alluded to this on numerous occasions, re-loaders (and I head the list) are seeking infinite improvements in powder, charge, bullet type and weight, jump etc. yet many if not most could simply not resolve these differences with their ability as they simply do not shoot enough. But the bad workman will continue to blame the tools.

    I started shooting with my own reloads, I think that the only factory rounds through my rifles was a pack of PMP in the 30-06 and a pack of Highland in the 6.5mm. At the time I started load developing I could not shoot well enough to actually do load development. In hindsight I should have got to 1MOA or better with factory loads and then started with my own load development.

    My loads have got better not because my reloading is better (there may be a small degree of this though) but it is more due to the fact that I can shoot better. Like with golf if you allow the muscle memory to lapse then your handicap goes out. When the handicap goes out the golfer buy new clubs, like that will make a difference.
    Last edited by Andrew Leigh; 26-11-2014 at 22:05.
    One too many wasted sunsets and one too many for the road .........

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Thoughts on "premium" vs. "normal" hunting bullets

    Literally thousands of beasts and animals succumbed to ex-mil and milsurp 7x57, 303, 308, 8x57 etc cartridges, most with FMJ's. The effectiveness of the calibres is thus proven.Yet when the old folks had the chance they switched to lead pointed bullets of different designs. Why? At least because of the promise that they would perform better, and probably they did. The premium bullet is an improvemrnt on the "first generation" lead pointed bullets. They promise an edge over standard stuff and probably have it; much like the change-over from FMJ's to cup-and-core did.Thus, shot for shot under equal circumstances the premium bullet outperforms the standard one every time. We buy premium for the edge it gives; same reason why we buy premium SD bullets.Not even an exploding bullet will do its job if it travels through a bokkie's tail hairs but anything will expire from a 174gr FMJ 303 round through the heart. Marksmanship is king. The kind of bullet is an added tool.

  7. #7
    Member Messor's Avatar
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    Default Re: Thoughts on "premium" vs. "normal" hunting bullets

    Quote Originally Posted by BigT View Post
    Déjà vu to a whole different section.
    I probably could have quoted you as well saying the same thing :)

    Quote Originally Posted by Ds J View Post

    Thus, shot for shot under equal circumstances the premium bullet outperforms the standard one every time. We buy premium for the edge it gives; same reason why we buy premium SD bullets.
    Ds, I don't feel like an argument but please understand that under normal hunting conditions the only edge a premium have over a cup and core is when the shooter did not do his part, aka funny angles etc. Which is almost what this whole debate is about.

    I simply CANNOT kill a animal more reliable with a premium with correct shot placement, so as such perhaps I must focus on the shot placement and not the advantage the premium brings.

    Quote Originally Posted by Andrew Leigh View Post
    Well Messor that is exactly my point.

    I follow the forums closely, not only Gunsite but also international forums. I also do a lot of reading and informal research. I have alluded to this on numerous occasions, re-loaders (and I head the list) are seeking infinite improvements in powder, charge, bullet type and weight, jump etc. yet many if not most could simply not resolve these differences with their ability as they simply do not shoot enough. But the bad workman will continue to blame the tools.

    I started shooting with my own reloads, I think that the only factory rounds through my rifles was a pack of PMP in the 30-06 and a pack of Highland in the 6.5mm. At the time I started load developing I could not shoot well enough to actually do load development. In hindsight I should have got to 1MOA or better with factory loads and then started with my own load development.

    My loads have got better not because my reloading is better (there may be a small degree of this though) but it is more due to the fact that I can shoot better. Like with golf if you allow the muscle memory to lapse then your handicap goes out. When the handicap goes out the golfer buy new clubs, like that will make a difference.
    All about the journey Andrew :)
    "It's not the dying part that scares me, it's the not living."

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Thoughts on "premium" vs. "normal" hunting bullets

    Well this is true Messor, and I am learning this more and more on Gunsite in general. I don't shoot enough. Rifle or pistol. There are plenty of different reasons for that; if I could I would want to be shooting every day, all day. (without reloading all that ammo of course! That would be tiring )

    And what I notice with myself, and many other 'hunters' is where we are used to shooting off the bench. Then we get to the farm, and suddenly we are shooting off of a stick, or a tripod, or against a tree or pivoting over a bakkie's rails and the amount of movement of the crosshairs is insane! Shooting in field positions, you have mostly a pivot in the middle of the rifle (shooting over a log or branch or pole or tripod) and that adds a lot of unsteady movement. Then coupled with that the adrenaline, the slapped trigger or jerk etc, and it is no wonder so many of us shoot crap when we get to the hunting field. Those clover groups goes out the window when we walk into the hunting field.

    My dad and I have been only ever using standard hunting ammo. Up until a few years ago it was PMP only. And PMP is fine! It was a PMP bullet that dropped my stubborn Gemsbok, why? Cause the farmer took a steady shot at the heart/lung area.

    So I, for one, don't see the need for premium ammo, provided I don't stuff up my shot.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Thoughts on "premium" vs. "normal" hunting bullets

    Messor, no hard feelings. I am tired and thinking in three languages and don't want a fight either. If I get time tomorrow I'll redo my comment; essentially I am with you guys on this. Our differences might be slight enough to enjoy over a cold beer.

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Thoughts on "premium" vs. "normal" hunting bullets

    Hallelujah! +1 for this whole debate! My vote goes to std cup and core bullets - long live Sierra (if we cab still get them)

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