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Do You Really Need a Premium Hunting Bullet?

LJ Bonham is a semi-subsistence hunter, hunting magazine editor, and firearms enthusiast who lives in the Rocky Mountains.


Old School vs. New

Every gun and hunting magazine brims with expensive ad copy to convince hunters they must buy the latest high-tech, ultra-engineered bullet or risk never getting a game animal again. Bullets have indeed come a long way from the crude, cast lead lumps used for centuries. Today’s projectiles fly farther, truer, and do more damage on target than ever before. Yet every fall, hunters across America knock animals down with traditional bullets, so are the premium bullets really necessary?

A Selection of Standard and Premium Ammunition

A Selection of Standard and Premium Ammunition

Let's Get Real

Most game is taken inside 300 yards, distances ammunition makers have long been familiar with, and for which they designed bullets decades ago that still work. At those ranges, on all but the toughest animals, a standard bullet driven at industry-accepted velocity, and placed in the vital organs will kill humanely. It may not pass completely through the animal, particularly on quartering shots, but it will, more often than not, expand and penetrate enough to accomplish the job.

Old Soldiers

Standard bullets such as Winchester’s Power-Point, Federal’s Power Shok, or Remington’s Core-Lokt have mediocre ballistic coefficients, but at normal hunting ranges that is a secondary consideration. They still retain enough energy down range with a predictable trajectory.

Old School vs. Premium .375 H&H: Remington Core-Lokt (top), Nosler Accubond (lower)

Old School vs. Premium .375 H&H: Remington Core-Lokt (top), Nosler Accubond (lower)

Do You Prefer Hype or Meat in the Freezer?

Bullet makers are in business to sell bullets—nothing wrong with that. To stay competitive, their marketing departments roll out new, exciting designs every few years. Their newest bullets often address perceived shortcomings in their older products—shortcomings often unnoticed until the next ad campaign’s debut. Even they will admit their older designs put meat on the table and the primary consideration has always been bullet placement. The newest bullet is useless buried in an animal’s non-vital areas.

Standard ammunition has another significant advantage: it costs substantially less than its premium rivals. This means a hunter can afford to practice much more with the same type of bullets they hunt with, and practice improves shooting skills which equals properly placed bullets.


Everything You Need, Nothing You Don't

Internet forums are inundated with hunters—many unskilled and unknowledgeable—who complain a standard bullet did not flip a deer or elk four feet in the air, or some such nonsense, and therefore the bullet is useless. Bullets generally do not kill instantly. An animal that goes down in its tracks has either been hit in the central nervous system, or had a major leg bone broken; they actually die from blood loss once on the ground.

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A game animal that receives a solid hit in the lungs or heart often runs a bit before falling unconscious from blood loss—this is normal—and if they only go 50 to 100 yards, the hunter and their bullet did a proper job. Nothing more is needed.



A good bullet from a quality manufacturer, in a game-appropriate weight, placed in the vitals at a reasonable range will almost always bring an animal down in short order. A hunter’s time is better spent on the practice at the range and learning to stalk than obsessing over their bullets.

Gel Test Shows Standard Bullet Gives Sufficient Expansion and Penetration

Good Performance From a Standard Bullet: Deer Runs Only a Few Yards Before Expiring

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2016 LJ Bonham


Georgiaoutlaw on August 26, 2018:

All I will say is the Federal power shok 308&3006 is the absolute best rifle cartridge I’ve ever used on Whitetails Great Bullet Great accuracy best I’ve ever used without breaking the bank great job Federal

Pax Pacis from North Carolina on November 12, 2016:

I agree with this article: so long as you have a heavy bullet with proven deformation and mass retaining capabilities, pushed fast enough, it will do the job. Don't fall for hype.

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