Comparing bullets is almost as difficult as comparing rifles so don’t expect from me to tell you which brand or weight is better. What I will try to explain is how to find the perfect bullet for your specific combination.
There are a few thing that we should know before choosing a bullet:
- caliber and barrel twist rate
- game size
- drop compensation
- hunting distance
Caliber and barrel twist rate
The caliber is important for calculating bullet velocity at the expected distance of hunting. Which is the most important thing in long range hunting. It is important to know the muzzle velocity but what we really want to know is the bullet velocity and energy at the range where we expect to hunt. The twist rate is important for determining the stability of the bullet. Usually we want a bullet with the highest ballistic coefficient (BC). Bullets with high BCs are heavy for caliber so it is important to calculate the bullet stability and not just pick the one with the highest BC. We want a bullet with the highest BC and good stability*. Bullets with high BCs are less sensitive for wind which is also important in long range hunting.
The game size is important for obvious reasons. We don’t want to hunt big game with small bullets but we need a caliber with a bullet and energy that will ethically kill the animal.
By drop compensation I mean the way we will compensate for bullet drop. If we have ballistic turrets than we don’t care how much drop the bullet has because we can compensate so we always aim at the center. The same is for a reticle with hash marks.
When we have a standard reticle and we want to shoot at longer range then we don’t care about the BC but we want the flattest trajectory possible. This is best achievable with lighter bullets but only to certain distances. I wouldn’t shoot past 400m with this type of compensation.
The distance at which we will shoot is specially important because of the bullet velocity at that range. This is important to determine if this bullet will expand reliably on game. This data can be obtained from bullet makers – usually it is published on their web site.
Lets see how I have choose my bullet:
Caliber .300 win mag
Twist rate 1-11”
Compensation with ballistic turret
First I searched for bullets with the highest BC in .30 cal. The bullet with the highest BC was Berger hybrid 230gr with a BC G7 of 0.368(G1 0.719). This bullet needs a 1-10” twist to be stable. Here we can see that this bullet even if being with the highest BC possible in .30 cal is not the best for me so I have choose the Berger hunting VLD 190gr with the BC G7 of 0.291(G1 0.570). Someone will argue that also the 210 gr VLD can be stabilized in 1-11” twist. I agree but it doesn’t help me if I am not able to get them. Berger hunting VLD bullets need 1800fps(548m/s) for proper bone penetration and bullet expansion. So with my muzzle velocity of 2970fps(905m/s) I can reach out to 750m to get reliable expansion.
To determine what is the animal size that I can shoot at that the distance of 750m I used Edward Matunas formula OGW (from book Big Game Rifles and Cartridges) that says:
OGW = V³W²x1,5×10ˉ¹²
OGW = optimal game weight in pounds
V = bullet velocity in fps
W = bullet weight in grains
1,5×10ˉ¹² = constant
OGW = 1800³190²x1,5×10ˉ¹² = 315lb (142kg)
So I can ethically kill a 142kg animal at a distance of 750m. Don’t take this calculation as a fact but only to get a general idea. This formula doesn’t count for bullet structure, only its weight…
There is no bullet that is the best, but we need to find which bullet is the best for our rifle, hunting game and distance. Don’t forget that shot placement is even more important because there is no bullet that will work if we place a bad shot. We have to study the animal anatomy so that we know where is the best place to shoot. I highly recommend high shoulder shots at long range so we have good bullet expansion and enough damage to quickly drop the animal.