LJ Bonham is a semi-subsistence hunter, hunting magazine editor, and firearms enthusiast who lives in the Rocky Mountains.
Are premium hunting bullets worth the extra expense?
Premium bullets just do a better job than low budget bullets. They offer the hunter three distinct advantages: higher ballistic coefficients, more accuracy, and greater terminal performance on game.
Low Budget, Low Performance
Budget bullets generally have poor ballistic coefficients (BC), a non-dimensional number which describes the bullet’s ability to retain velocity down range and resist cross winds. Typical budget bullet BC’s are in the .300 - .400 range. A bullet, regardless of caliber, with a .400 BC will drift almost a foot in a ten mph cross wind at 400 yards. That’s a lot, and can mean the difference between a clean kill and tracking a wounded animal for miles.
In the Beginning
Premium bullets first appeared when John Nosler experienced budget bullet failures on game animals during the 1940’s. He vowed to make a better bullet and developed the Nosler Partition. Bullets up to that time were designed to either expand explosively when they hit an animal, or hold together and penetrate deeply. John recognized a bullet must do both for best results, and his Partition worked. The soft nose expanded rapidly on contact which transferred enormous energy to the game, while the tough base drove deep into an animal’s vitals. One must see it in action to fully appreciate Nosler’s genius.
The Way Forward
Since the Partition's introduction, many new designs have been introduced from Nosler, Woodleigh, Swift, Trophy Bonded, Barnes, Sierra, North Fork, Berger, and others. Each addresses a particular performance envelope, and gives hunters bullets tailored to every possible need. Premium bullets are available for every game animal from wood chucks to elephant; and ranges from ten yards to beyond a thousand.
Premium bullets give the shooter three distinct advantages over budget bullets.
1. Higher Ballistic Coefficient
Premium bullets, such as Nosler’s Accubond, or Swift’s Sirocco, have BC’s around .480 - .720, depending on caliber and weight. They drift up to sixty percent less than low BC bullets, and retain their velocity better. This means greater accuracy and knockdown power at long range.
Premium bullets are made with better manufacturing methods and held to much tighter quality standards. This gives them better concentricity, consistent weight, and precise balance. All these factors affect accuracy. Under equal circumstances, a premium bullet will shoot better than a budget bullet.
3. Bonded Cores
Most premium bullets have their lead cores chemically bonded to the outer jacket. This provides controlled expansion, deeper penetration, and greater weight retention than budget bullets. They won't breakup if they hit heavy bone or thick muscle.
Are premium bullets worth the money? Absolutely. They fly straighter and farther, and hit harder than budget bullets. Given the costs in hunting today, a few extra cents spent on a high quality bullet is a small price to pay for meat on the table and antlers on the wall.
The Original Partition. Still The Standard By Which All Other Bullets Are Judged
Experts Agree, Premium Bullets Are Best
Swift Scirocco vs. Impala. You Get What You Pay For.
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.
© 2017 LJ Bonham