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Neck Shots on Medium Game With Frangible Bullets

29 Nov 2017
@ 03:39 pm (GMT)

Ryan Nafe

Firstly let me just say that if someone says this is covered in one of Nathan's books, I'll be reading them shortly anyway. So if that's the case, I can just wait until the reading.

What I'm wondering is if anyone has used varmint-type bullets for shooting medium game in the neck, and what the results were. I would have to suspect that if you use one that's not too low in sectional density and use it on game that is the size/shape/weight of mule deer or smaller, it could result in pretty dramatic wounding and very quick killing. Obviously if you're doing this its imperative to only take neck shots and not body or possibly even head shots given the explosive nature of the bullets.

One that comes to mind is using 130 grain Speer varmint bullets for neck shots on Whitetails.


30 Nov 2017
@ 05:45 am (GMT)

Joshua Mayfield

Re: Neck Shots on Medium Game With Frangible Bullets
Hi Ryan,
I answer with a little trepidation as what I am about to say may border on confession of damnable sins in the eyes of some. Fortunately, the guys in this forum are a forgiving bunch... Here we go.

I have taken numerous whitetails with neck shots using frangible bullets. The greatest number of these were with 50 and 55 gr. bullets from a .222. Let me be clear - when I say neck shot I mean within four inches of the jaw. I have also made several kills with 30 cal. bullets to the same area with frangible and non-frangible bullets. As pertains to the 30 cal. frangibles I'm referring to the Amax, not a bullet labeled as a varmint bullet.

Here are a couple of thoughts:
- I do not take this shot unless I have full confidence that I'll hit where I'm aiming. No shooting through brush, not on the run, etc. And I've never taken this shot past 150 yards.
- Regardless of whether I was shooting the 50 gr. .222 or the 178 gr. Amax or a 150 gr. Scirocco or SST, results have been 100% consistent. Instant kills. Let me reiterate my first point - I ONLY take this shot in optimal conditions.
- The .222 bullets penetrate a couple inches then separate but do not usually exit.
- The 30 cal bullets exit. The Scirocco exit is one hole. The Amax exit is a bloody patch about the size of my fist, maybe a touch smaller. Years ago I also took this shot once from a 1917 Enfield with a 150 gr. Remington Core-Lokt. My dad's analysis was "you about shot his head off."

Others may offer a corrective and I would welcome it - we've got some sharp, experienced hunters in this forum. My observation has been that a solid, centered hit to the HIGH neck at close to moderate range results in an instant kill with any hunting bullet that I have used.
01 Dec 2017
@ 01:04 pm (GMT)

Mike Davis

Re: Neck Shots on Medium Game With Frangible Bullets
this has been done for years with fallow deer for meat.
the deer cullers of bygone era used .222 and .223 for deer and most who continued to use it were crack shots who got in close and PLACED bullet where it would do most good.
130grn speer hollow points in .308 are a good projectile for this type of shot,that or a meatsaver are about best place to put them on a larger deer..... Ive neck shot a handfull of deer over the years and a soft projectile is definately better if you dont hit bone
I believe the exzample Nathan gives in data base goes something along the lines of this
"a stout 150 grn projectile striking animal in jaw will lead to much suffering if animal excapes to die a horrible lingering death from starvation or blood loss,the same shot with a highly frangible projectile will likely decapitate animal"

hope Ive conveyed that correctly Bossman.
02 Dec 2017
@ 07:45 am (GMT)

Nathan Foster

Re: Neck Shots on Medium Game With Frangible Bullets
You got it Mike.

When neck or head shooting, provided the bullet has the potential to penetrate through the bone it will encounter, it can be far more ethical to use a varmint bullet than a medium game hunting bullet. Mike mentioned why in his above quote.

But again, bullet weight must be sufficient. As an example of a poor load, the .22-250 can suffer surface blow up with 40gr pills due to both the light weight of the bullet and typical impact velocities versus skull angles.

In the .224 caliber and of the more recent options, the 60gr V-Max can be extremely useful, often working well in 12 twist barrels. This bullet is also perfectly adequate for body shots on light framed game and can produce internal wounds several inches in diameter. U.S (and NZ) readers may want to take note that Freedom Munitions currently produce a very accurate .223 60gr V-Max load (new brass or re-manufactured) at quite an affordable price. This load is not fast but it is economical, accurate, and can be put to good use.
04 Dec 2017
@ 10:21 pm (GMT)

Hamish Gibbs

Re: Neck Shots on Medium Game With Frangible Bullets
Hi Ryan I have a little experience with 30 cal 110 vmax with close to a start load of win 748 out of a .308 and harvesting nz fallow deer with headshots, extremely explosive as you can imagine and from what I have seen would align with what Nathans 308 text on this site states about this scenario. Have never really shot anything between the 80 and 200 yard bracket for whatever reason, thinking maybe because so far have not felt comfortable taking a rushed shot over 80ish but animals I have shot at 200 and 225 yards gave ample time for setup?(getting closer always preferred but not always option) and I have never liked to pull the trigger on this combo unless I am comfortable. Fallow shot 225 yards displayed wounding similar to what I have seen on run of the mill 308 sp at under 50yd, wounding (if you could call it that) under 80 yds simply devastating, not a good idea to have body of animal behind the head as in facing downhill and looking up at you or your likely to get a back full of bone and bullet fragments!
29 Dec 2017
@ 11:55 pm (GMT)

Z Cameron

Re: Neck Shots on Medium Game With Frangible Bullets
Gday Ryan
I have used a Sako L461 .222 for years now and have humanely taken anything from fallow ,Sika to reds and Sambar. I reload a Norma 55 grain bullet ( these bullets have been used for years). The rifle is accurate and a pleasure to carry. I know its limits and mine regarding shot placement, distance etc and also know the bullets limits to.

Out to 150 metres under certain conditions I am capable of killing most deer species as efficient and humane as any centre fire rifle using small varmint bullets. All though most shots are within 60 yards I only head and kneck shoot. I have taken many shoulder shots within this distance on fallow and Sika and nothing goes further than it would with a 308 or a bow.

I have four other mates who are using a .222 rem now

09 Jan 2018
@ 07:44 am (GMT)

Bryan Webster

Re: Neck Shots on Medium Game With Frangible Bullets
In my opinion those people using 50 to 60 grain bullets on a regular basis for deer the size of mule deer and larger need their knuckles rapped and be shown how to use a proper rifle for hunting these animals.

I can tell you that I have observed and had to put down a large number of elk, moose, mule deer and caribou hunters professing to ba able to use rifles like a .222 or .22-250 effectively and the result of their forgetting the ones they wound is disturbing to say the least.

This also leads to fireams restrictions to correct this issue not to mention the support of antihunting.
09 Jan 2018
@ 08:57 pm (GMT)

Jon Short

Re: Neck Shots on Medium Game With Frangible Bullets
Use enough gun... hmmm, wonder who I heard that from Nathan... he he
10 Jan 2018
@ 03:06 pm (GMT)

Warwick Marflitt

Re: Neck Shots on Medium Game With Frangible Bullets
I shoulder Shot a large red hind last weekend at 100 yards with my reloads a 140 grain partition @ Mv 2850fps from my 6.5x55 Swede the bullet went through and out the other side. Both shoulders bones were smashed and meat was jelly. The whole front after we skinned it was black and brused. My old hunting ex culler mate called me and my gun a meat F##ker. I had to hurry the shot from standing as the wind changed we were both in waist high grass she was eating and rather than waiting for a neck shot I took the body shot in line with the front legs the lungs and heart where split open. I still have two chilly bins of prime meat and off cuts for patties and sausages. The dogs Not complaining about the food in His bowl. I'm not complaining about how it goes Nathan gave good advice on what you use to get the best from the 6.5 and I will have to adjust my own hunting for up close.
11 Jan 2018
@ 09:31 am (GMT)

Martin Taylor

Re: Neck Shots on Medium Game With Frangible Bullets
Neck shots are now my go to shot for Sambar, avoiding chest shots if at all possible and have had the same %100 results as Joshua. Never with small cals. though (6.5 or under).

My aim is lower down the neck towards the base as it gives less chance for PIO changes if the animal moves its head right at the wrong time. I have multiple older hunting buddies that also only neck shoot.

If shooting med to large game with these small calibers/pills or large call with varmint pills, what option do you have with a wounded quartering away l could also take these animals with some of my small cals but wouldn't even think of doing it. Shots are not going to land perfectly every time, you may only just nick either high or low.

Bryan is spot on & this is exactly why we now have minimum deer calibers/pill weights here in Victoria.
19 Jan 2018
@ 08:26 pm (GMT)

zane cameron

Re: Neck Shots on Medium Game With Frangible Bullets
In my opinion those people using 50 to 60 grain bullets on a regular basis for deer the size of mule deer and larger need their knuckles rapped and be shown how to use a proper rifle for hunting these animals.

I can tell you that I have observed and had to put down a large number of elk, moose, mule deer and caribou hunters professing to ba able to use rifles like a .222 or .22-250 effectively and the result of their forgetting the ones they wound is disturbing to say the least.

This also leads to fireams restrictions to correct this issue not to mention the support of antihunting.

In respect
Each to their own I say.
As the same can be said for long distance shooting with large magnum calibre's (which is big in countries like Usa and Canada) and now in NZ.
I am not against it but just as many animals are wounded here in Australia becouse hunters cannot shoot high powered magnums correctly or becouse of recoil.
Becouse most hunters only shoot one or two deer a year here in Aus.
Give them a .223 or 22.250 and they will shoot a fox through the eye at 200 yrds under a spot light.
Most hunters in cities shoot paper allot and when in the field have a habit of pulling the shot back or are inclined to shoot at vast distances when clearly they are not capable at an animal with a high powered rifle.

Enough gun also means a calibre that suits you personally.One that you can shoot with.

What earlier posts are saying is shot placement ,distance ect, are more crucial than calibre or bullet make when it comes to deer.

Any hunter will eventually wound an animal or two like i have done in their hunting carrier wether with a .22 or with a large calibre.

So theres plenty of knuckle rapping to be done there to.

As for laws here in Australia you cant even shoot a red deer with a .243 so that just shows you -Who is righting the rules ? obviously not a hunter (maybe John Howard?) and animal activists are out to get us no matter what.

My answer to Ryan would be you have answered your own question and no body is right or wrong as to how they humanely kill their animals. We all need to be on the same page and if you want to rape someones knuckles then do a activists.

Every hunter needs to learn how to shoot/hunt with a .22 rimfire firstl and foremost, so they can learn its limits and just how deadly this calibre can be instead of picking up a cannon and thinking they are an American snipper and shooting deer in the arse.

20 Jan 2018
@ 01:39 am (GMT)

Bryan Webster

Re: Neck Shots on Medium Game With Frangible Bullets
Fair enough Zane.

However I have observed a lot of persons shooting at our gun ranges that should never take shotsover 400 meters...they just do not have the skill set needed and never are seen shooting enough to develope long range capability.
Evaluating the result of long range wounding/lost animals is not an easy task if a hunter does not get a good shot placement either, since wounded animals are sometimes not recognized as being hit at long ranges.

The videos and shooting classes online these days promoting long range competition shooting have as you indicated, spilled over to include hunting at long distances. I only hope those trying it take the care needed in order to develop the proper skills, however I know many do not, and to them I say get closer.

I recall observing a fellow trying to take a large mule deer. He began his shooting at around 350 meters and 30 shots later the animal jhad not been touched, so I have a bias in this respect, and my message is not directed towards those who are fully capable precision shooters but more to the army of those who are not. I dislike the casual nater some take for being responsible in this respect, and understand most people will pass on shots they know are too tough to take for them.
20 Jan 2018
@ 03:07 am (GMT)

mark korte

Re: Neck Shots on Medium Game With Frangible Bullets
Amen Bryan.
This is a great discussion about the dark side of what we do. It needs to be addressed more often. I seriously doubt that one out of ten hunters in my neck of the woods has the skill set to be taking the ballistic Hail Marys they attempt. They think because they are shooting some super duper short mag they will overcome their glaring lack of skill and respect for the animal about to get its jaw shot off. I see it with compound bows as well. I say if you can do it consistently on paper first (and under hunting conditions) then go for it if you are prepared for the outcome. Otherwise crawl a little closer.
20 Jan 2018
@ 04:52 am (GMT)

Joshua Mayfield

Re: Neck Shots on Medium Game With Frangible Bullets
I'd like to add a couple thoughts to the discussion.

The first is that it's a wonderful rarity to engage in an online forum wherein we can discuss topics that will produce some strong and differing viewpoints and to actually see the participants remain civil enough that nuances of the discussion can be examined. I checked on a forum last week that I participated in a couple of years ago. As the membership has grown the forum's capacity to pursue a topic before things devolve into the online equivalent of monkeys throwing feces at one another has disappeared. I'm grateful for the participants in this forum and particularly for our hosts in New Zealand, who set and maintain a standard of civility without pretending that nonsense is anything but nonsense.

The second thought is that this discussion highlights something that I believe every outdoorsman needs to evaluate throughout our lives, the gaps between what we were taught and what we want to teach. I've said this before and at the risk of being redundant, will say it again - my grandfather and father are my two great heroes in life and taught me most of what I know about hunting. Grandpa was born in 1917. He learned to hunt during the Great Depression. Hunting was done to put food on the table and/or to protect livestock. He was fortunate in that he loved it, but that's not why he did it. My dad was born in 1944. He grew up hunting also and the game he harvested was a welcome food source, but not necessary for survival by any stretch. Both men were well above average in marksmanship and had reputations as excellent hunters. I was born in 1978 and when I moved back to the US from Chile in 1992 I wanted to hunt largely to prove to my grandpa, my dad, and myself that I could measure up to them. So while the men who taught me to hunt were both adamant that the game must be treated with respect and kills must be as clean as possible, there were different layers of experience, perception, and motivation built into both of them as hunters that I continue to be affected by, and in some cases, have had to decide not to carry forward in my own hunting. And that decision to make a change is not always simple when the change is to set aside something your hero taught you.

So here's where I'm going with all my rambling. Grandpa left the house one day in the 1930s with his Winchester 97 intending to shoot a fox that was killing chickens. He had a couple 00 buckshot loads in his pocket. He saw a deer, was able to get a buckshot load chambered, and shot the deer. I don't recall the range but he knew he'd be tracking the deer. He tracked it a long way and eventually got a second load of buckshot into it. The deer died shortly after and grandpa had meat. Even if the law permitted, I would not hunt that way. But I do not feel Grandpa was wrong for doing so. That's a more extreme example but there are many things I learned and heard that I've had to evaluate and eventually say "I'm blessed with the tools and opportunity to do it a better way, so I will."

It's entirely possible that in twenty years my boy will think through a conversation where I told him I neck shot a deer with a .222 and say "Dad should have had his knuckles rapped for that." It's possible that in ten years I'll say the same thing myself. What I do not want my son to do is become one of those who simply says "If it was good enough for Dad, it's good enough for me." I hope he engages with different hunters who have different approaches. I hope he educates himself solidly enough in fundamental concepts to be able to sniff out marketing fluff and fads. I hope he never takes an irresponsible shot and if he does I hope it makes him sick to his stomach like it did me when I was 19. I hope his understanding of what's responsible and what's not is so clear that he'll have the confidence to set some of my understanding aside if he sees that it's faulty.

As to the thread topic, I stand by my original response as all I did was relay facts and invite countering thoughts. Will I ever neck shoot a deer again with a .222? I can't rule it out, having done so previously within parameters that I believed were sound and seeing instant kills. Will I teach my boy to do so? Probably not. There was a time when the .222 was my available tool so I did what I could with it. When my son goes into the woods on his own he'll have a tool that fires a larger diameter, heavy for caliber, frangible bullet. Whether he places it in the neck or body I will leave to him, having made sure he understands the ramifications of both.


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