Don’t miss the video at the end of this article
With modern rifles and bullets, the distances we shoot at animals keeps creeping further and further out. But as bullets travel further away, they lose more and more velocity. How much they lose, and how fast they impact is a very important subject when it comes to cleanly killing an animal. We’ve killed many animals over the years, and its an interesting and important subject. And one particular instance is one I’d like to discuss today.
Last fall, a friend of mine shot a small deer at 900 yards with a 6.5 Creedmoor using a 143 ELDX. This was certainly towards the end of the envelope of energy and velocity for that combo, but it did the job as good as one could hope. The deer took a single shot quartering away, the impact hit just behind the rib cage and passed completely through the animal, exiting through the front of the chest. The heart was punctured, and the deer made it about forty yards before tumbling down the hillside. Everything looked textbook as far as killing it cleanly and quickly. The impact velocity was right around 1800 FPS which according to Hornady should have been enough to open the bullet.
After much hiking to get to the deer, we found a massive blood trail and a perfectly perforated buck. We retraced his steps, as well as the video we recorded looking to see all the details. I was absolutely amazed when as we stood there recounting the events, I looked down to see the bullet laying there in the dirt, not far from where the deer lay dead. The bright copper shown against the damp hillside. Even though the bullet had hit a rock after exiting the deer, it had come to rest nearby. Our immediate impression was “that doesn’t look right”. The bullet had barely opened at all, it had only lost its plastic tip, and bent the front of the bullet off to one side. On further inspection back at the house, the bullet weighed 142.3 grains. Probably just the weight of the lost plastic tip.
Despite the bullet not opening as best we could tell, it still did plenty of damage. But it seems the 1800 FPS in this instance wasn’t enough to cause sufficient deformation of the bullet. This is one of the reasons I like to use “softer” bullets when shooting long-range, they are much easier to rupture.
Impact velocity greatly effects the bullets ability to do damage. I have found several bullets in elk over the years, that obviously didn’t do the job. Whoever shot those bullets may still be scratching their head wondering what happened. Bullets can fail to perform just like anything else, which is one reason why I stress shot placement so often. This event is a perfect example why, even though the bullet did not rupture as designed, it still made a hole through the most vital of organs, causing a quick death for the animal in question.
Distance to the target, and the impact velocity of any given bullet is just one of the many things marksmen need to take into account when evaluating a firing solution. Another anecdote featuring the same bullet; a friend of mine shot a cow elk at approximately 600 yards, the bullet impacted broadside passing through both lungs and stopping in the offside shoulder. Again this one had lost its tip, and barely opened. The cow made it into the trees a few dozen yards, where it lay down and expired. In this case one would surely expect the bullet to have opened, as the impact was likely in the 2200 FPS range. And again, due to good shot placement, it worked despite the bullet not opening.
These are of course a couple of anecdotal examples, and surely not a full representation of this particular bullets performance. But it is certainly food for thought, and something to keep in mind. I have gone into much more detail on the subject in this article about shot placement, I’d invite you to read that one as well, and we can carry on the discussion.
I hope these discussions are helpful, the game we hunt deserve the best skillset we can prepare to avoid undue suffering.