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Bullets and death

30 Aug 2011
@ 10:36 am (GMT)

Bruce Holler

Seeing the results of the VDL on goats and pigs brings into question on how bullets cause damage to bring about death. They appear to explode in the chest of game as varmint bullets explode on varmints. It appears that both the release of energy and bits of the bullet is causing tissue damage to bring about death.

Compared to the classic theory a bullet mushroom that causes a permanent cavity, and a larger temporary cavity. In the process also sends out shock waves through the bones and tissue.

Has or is the paradigm of bullet performance changing?


31 Aug 2011
@ 11:49 am (GMT)

Nathan Foster

Re: Bullets and death
Hi Bruce, in some ways, we are coming full circle. Back in the 1920's, jacketed bullet design was still in its infancy. Cartridges like the .30-30 were promoted as being immensely more effective than the older big bores, however bullet designers were kind of struggling to deliver on this. It was about this time that frangible bullets were loaded into such cartridges as the .30-30 because, as much as this was promoted as a high velocity cartridge, it really didn't have a great deal of velocity or wounding potential. Western made a highly frangible hollow point, producing wide but somewhat shallow wounds. It was a somewhat effective design. Winchester also developed the SilverTip and later on, the Power Point. These are supposed to be controlled expanding bullet designs but can be frangible bullets. Even today, the 180 grain PP is a shallow penetrator when used at close ranges in the magnums.

The strengths of frangible bullets can really be found at low velocities which allows both a mixture of wide wounding combined with relatively deep penetration of the entire cluster of fragments.

At high velocity, we have disproportionate to caliber wounding. In other words, if for example a projectile has expanded to .5" in diameter, the wound channel may still be as wide as 3" or so. Frangible bullets produce wide wounding in the absence of high high velocity or put another way, in the absence of disproportionate to caliber wounding, due to, as you say, fragments extending outwards from the central path, some fragments extending outwards at up to 90 degrees with a few fragments travelling as far as 14-16".

In conversation, it pays to avoid using the term 'exploding bullets'. Even though you may understand that this is not actually what happens to the bullet. Serious analytical thinkers caution us to be selective with our terminology to avoid the mis-application of physics theory. So, although the term exploding fits very well and is creates an appropriate image, fragmentory is a better term, helping avoid unnecessary arguments.

Heavy bullets with high SD's and ultra thin jackets are certainly very effective accross a wide range of game and can sometimes be much more versatile than light, stout bullets. For long time, light bullets at high velocities has been the major trend amongst consumers, now, thanks mostly to modern bullet designs, we have alternatives. Whether the shooter uses a 7mm-08 with the 162 grain A-Max at 2600fps or uses the 30 cal 208 grain A-Max from a magnum at 2850-3000fps or even 2450fps, these combinations have great merit, regardless of whether substantially higher velocities can be achieved with lighter bullets.

Ofcourse, this is just one aspect of terminal ballistics, it would be foolhardy to suggest using frangible projectiles on dangerous game such as Cape Buffalo. In theory atleast, bore size would need to be 20mm and the SD very high in order to produce fragments, each weighing around 200 grains or more, capable of delivering the deep penetrating cluster that makes heavy frangible bullets so effective.

I think the answer is probably yes, there is a shift involved, we are beginning to understand (or remember) that there is more than one mechanism that can be utilized to obtain fast, clean killing. But there are a lot of buts, a lot of caveats such as high SD's being key to reliable performance. The same can be said for high velocity wounding though, the FMJ 7.62 being a good example of a projectile that produces narrow wounding due to energy retention on impact.
01 Sep 2011
@ 04:12 am (GMT)

Bruce Holler

Re: Bullets and death
How do the VDL bullets hold up say with 7mmRUM under 200 yds on big game? Perhaps that is the reason they changed design. Perhaps they are trying to produce a frag bullet to use at both close and extended hunting ranges.

BTW, I have a hunting friend who shoots a M77 Ruger, 7mmRemMag and tells how it is sighted in for 300 yds. He was just amazed at the videos on TBR. He said, “That is just wrong” meaning those shots are fantastic.
03 Sep 2011
@ 06:10 pm (GMT)

Nathan Foster

Re: Bullets and death
Berger were put into a difficult position, it was very unfair on them- and on a great many shooters.

There were a group of shooters chasing ultra velocities, using ridiculously long freebore cartridge designs (encouraging yaw before the bullet enters the rifling) combined with unnecessarily fast twist rates. These shooters complained that the lead cores must be melting at high velocites as the VLD's were either falling apart mid flight or losing accuracy. Berger responded by following the customer is always right philosophy and now we have the tougher VLD. A shame as there was nothing wrong with the former VLD jacket tolerances.
08 Sep 2011
@ 03:12 pm (GMT)

Bruce Holler

Re: Bullets and death
Well, after Nathan's post above and watching the videos I just had to read Berger's Theory on their bullet design.

“The Hunting bullet line is proving to be the most lethal big game hunting bullets available. All of our Hunting bullets are made in the VLD design. The VLD design incorporates a sharp nose that allows the bullet to penetrate 2” to 3” before it starts to expand. After the bullet starts to expand it will shed 40% to 85% of its weight as shrapnel into the surrounding tissue (internal organ). The combination between the shrapnel and the hydrostatic shock produces a massive wound cavity within the vital area (internal organs) that will be 13” to 15” long. This massive wound cavity results in the animal dropping fast since most go into shock after such a tremendous blow. Those animals that don’t go down immediately will soon succumb to blood pressure loss and/or organ failure producing a quick ethical kill. Our bullets don't poke through like an arrow (high weight retention, deep penetration bullets) but instead dump their energy where it is most effective, inside the animal. Using the Berger VLD will result in an animal that goes down fast so you can enjoy the results of your hunt without having to track the wounded animal after the shot. You owe it to yourself to see how accurate and deadly the Berger Hunting VLD will be on your next hunt. To order a free 30 minute video that provides more detail on the bullets, cartridge and velocity used to take several animals at a variety of ranges call 714-447-5456.”

In Northern Idaho, USA, my son and I shot one black bear and a 6 point mule deer each. 20 years ago Barns X bullets were just coming on the seen. The bear I shot squared 6.9”, 19.5” skull and 8” ivory :-). (btw I use the ivory to mix drinks at hunting camp.)

The 150 grain X-bullet busted through the bear's chest bone, bore a hole through the innards and broke ribs and back bone and kept on going. That was about 18 years ago. Needless to say I was favoring bullets that expand fast and retain weight.

But times they are a changing. So my concern is if I switch to Berger bullets will they hold together long enough to break bones, ribs and still destroy vitals. How about the other bullets, Super X, Core-lokt, Vital shok, Fusion?


19 Sep 2011
@ 02:41 am (GMT)

Bruce Holler

Re: Bullets and death

What conclusions can we draw from the following news report. That is relating to bullet selection, caliber, shot placement, and hunting area.

Because they were bear hunting I assume they had enough gun. I personally feal that shot placement must have not broken enough major bones to disruption of the nervous system. Nor damaged enough vitals to fast killing.

The main reason for my questions is I am planning a hunting trip to take Deer and Black Bear, through I should not encounter and grizzly. Ther are none in SW Oregon USA. I have selected fast opening bullets that should beable to break bones as well. Winchester PP and Federal Soft Points, 308 and 7mm-08 respectfully.

Thank you,

Nevada hunter who died tried to keep wounded grizzly bear from attacking his partner

Published: Saturday, September 17, 2011, 10:35 PM Updated: Sunday, September 18, 2011, 12:11 AM

By The Associated Press

A 39-year-old hunter killed by a wounded grizzly bear yelled out to draw the 400-pound male bear toward him in an effort to keep it from attacking his young hunting partner, the man's family said.

"They both shot it and it kept coming," Steve Stevenson's mom, Janet Price, said on Saturday. "Steve yelled at it to try and distract it, and it swung around and took him down. It's what my son would have done automatically, for anybody."

The Lincoln County Sheriff's Office in Montana said Stevenson, of Winnemucca, Nev., died Friday after 20-year-old Ty Bell wounded what he thought was a black bear and the two men tracked it into thick cover along the Idaho-Montana border where it attacked at about 10 a.m. Friday.

The two were members of a four-member hunting party from Winnemucca that had been going after black bears in the mountainous, heavily forested region near the Canadian border when the attack occurred. It's unclear if the attack happened in Idaho or Montana. The sheriff's office said GPS coordinates put the attack directly on the state line.

Authorities said Bell used his cell phone to call for help after the attack, but Stevenson died from his injuries. Stevenson's family said he was an active outdoorsman who had made previous hunting trips to the area. He worked as a gold and silver miner for a company called Hycroft, said his stepfather, Christopher Price. Stevenson was married and had two daughters, ages 14 and 10.

"He was a great friend to everyone, great fun," said Janet Price. "A wonderful man."

John Fraley, spokesman for Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, said four agency workers were flown to the remote area by helicopter on Friday. Stevenson's body was taken out by helicopter and turned over to the Lincoln County authorities in Montana. The sheriff's office said the body was being taken to the Montana State Crime Lab for an autopsy.

Lincoln County authorities did not return a call from The Associated Press on Saturday afternoon.

Fraley said the grizzly was one of about 45 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimates live in the Cabinet-Yaak Ecosystem Area in northwest Montana and northern Idaho. Fraley said the bear is being taken to the agency's lab in Bozeman for a necropsy.

He estimated the bear's age at 6 to 8, based on its weight of 400 pounds.

"That's a good-sized grizzly bear," he said.

Janet Price said the hunters had the necessary licenses to hunt black bears in both states and had decided to hunt in pairs after spotting what they thought were signs of a grizzly bear in the area. She said they planned to leave the area if they spotted one.

Janet Price said that after Bell shot the bear, the two hunters waited until they thought the bear had died and then tracked it into thick cover.

"They tracked the bear into an area of heavy cover where Mr. Stevenson was attacked by the wounded grizzly bear," Lincoln County Undersheriff Brent Faulkner said in a news release late Friday. "Mr. Bell was able to shoot the bear multiple times, eventually killing it."

Fraley said Montana hunters are required to take a black bear-grizzly bear identification program. He said identifying them can be difficult, and that the two species typically behave differently.

"Anytime you have a wounded animal it can be dangerous," said Fraley. "But usually, grizzlies are considered more aggressive than black bears."

The attack is under investigation. It's illegal to kill a grizzly bear, which is listed as threatened in the Lower 48 states, but there was no immediate word if Bell would face any charges.

In 2007, a black bear hunter from Tennessee mistakenly killed a protected grizzly bear in north-central Idaho, where the last confirmed sighting of the species was in 1946.

The death is at least the third fatality caused by a grizzly since July. In late August, a grizzly in Yellowstone National Park, some 400 miles south of the latest attack, mauled a Michigan hiker to death. In July, a female bear with cubs in Yellowstone attacked a couple from California, killing the man before fleeing.

This attack comes as Idaho's congressional delegation has proposed amending the Endangered Species Act to clarify that it is legal to shoot a grizzly bear in self-defense or in defense of another person.

The legislation was in response to the case of a northern Idaho man who shot and killed a grizzly cub in May after its mother and another cub wandered onto his property.

Jeremy Hill, 33, was charged with a federal crime of killing a federally protected species, but the case was dropped last week and he paid a $1,000 fine for a noncriminal infraction.
30 Sep 2011
@ 04:27 pm (GMT)

Nathan Foster

Re: Bullets and death
Hi Bruce, I have been thinking about this a bit and to be honest, I don’t want to pass judgement on a situation where I have very few facts. Even if I had more information, its such a sad situation for all involved that I would not want to pass comment, other than to pass condolences.
02 Oct 2011
@ 04:10 am (GMT)

Bruce Holler

Re: Bullets and death
There appears to be no “Wonder Bullet Does All”.

Bullet/cartridges need to match to the intended game. Studying the knowledge base and reading the postings really confirms this point. Thank You, Nathan.

I was, but not now, wondering about bullets suitable for black tail deer in black bear conutry. Since they fall in the same class of medimum size game I will be using factory recommendations. Federal 140 gr for 7mm08 and Winchester 150 gr for my 308.

The reason for the above concern stems from the following.
One may consider dangerous animals that might be encountered when in the field. For example: while deer hunting and crossing the path of a big bear. Would it be better to be over gunned for deer and then to be under gunned for bear? This may sound like funny question, but bears can never be trusted.

Berger Bullets claims to penetrate 2-3” before starting to expand: “The VLD design incorporates a sharp nose that allows the bullet to penetrate 2” to 3” before it starts to expand. After the bullet starts to expand it will shed 40% to 85% of its weight as shrapnel into the surrounding tissue (internal organ). The combination between the shrapnel and the hydrostatic shock produces a massive wound cavity within the vital area (internal organs) that will be 13” to 15” long.” Interesting use of hydrostatic shock, internal rather than on bones. My take is it is better to break bones, ribs and/or shoulder, on the way through the vitals.

Thank you,

03 Oct 2011
@ 06:43 pm (GMT)

Nathan Foster

Re: Bullets and death
Ok, regarding the VLD, I would prefer that you not take the quoted performance description to the letter. This description is very mis leading.

If you want to understand the VLD, have a look at the wounding data base in the Knowledge base and study the photo's. There is also a video of a pig shot at 700 and something yards with a 7mm rem mag that goes with the pics but can be found in our video gallery. Following this, have an explore of the individual texts on the Knowledge base, a lot of work has gone into all of this and not one part of it correlates to the quote above. Even the Woodleigh and Swift A-Frame bullets, tough as they are, do not penetrate 3" before expansion. Have a look at the bear in the .308 section of our wounding data base and look at the energy dumped on impact, the diameter of the entry wound- that was some serious hydrostatic shock, more of a description is given in the game killing section.

Being over gunned is always better than being undergunned. A .30-06 would get you closer to the mark than a .308 while a .300 magnum would be more so. 150 grain .30 cal bullets aren't really ideal for large bodied tough game. Current research shows that the latest pepper sprays are more effective at stopping bear that hurried shots so this needs to be taken into consideration as well.

Yes, its hard to find one load for everything. If you are doing a lot of work inside 250 yards though, I think you personally would find great joy in the .35 Whelen, utilized in a bolt action rifle. If you ever get a chance to experiment with this cartridge and the suggested rifle configuration- go for it.
07 Oct 2011
@ 03:17 am (GMT)

Bruce Holler

Re: Bullets and death
Oops, over gunned was meant to be rhetorical. Just to show I am taking into account both game animals the small Black Tail deer and Black Bear.

Pepper spray, that is a good idea. I will have to get some.

When it comes to big guns, I guess I could dust off our 300 Wby Mag. Big heavy, long, laud, cannon with a muzzle break, If I go elk hunting 180 gr. will work. I will need to wear ear plugs.

Now watching your long range shooting videos is a real eye opener. Maybe my cannon needs a little more use, so I would not have to pass on 4-600 yd shots.



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