Ballistics for Northeast Big Game

I liked to think that I know something about ballistics. The more I study ballistics the more convinced I am that I know very little. I learn that External Ballistics is the study of a bullet passing through air as it goes down range which I do study as in bullet drag and ballistic coefficients (BC). Terminal Ballistics is the study of what happens when the bullet strikes big game such as deer bear and moose.  It has been documented by many hunters that New Hampshire deer are killed at an average distance of 40 yards. External ballistics in the case of a 40 yard shot are of less importance in the travel of your bullet than Terminal Ballistics when it arrives.

Field hunters on the other hand encounter game at longer ranges such as out to 200 or 300 yards need to be concerned with both External ballistics so the bullet gets to the target with as much energy as possible and deliver that energy in the form of lethal Terminal ballistics so the bullet must be streamlined as in a spitzer or ballistic tip of some kind.

Those of us that hunt in the woods of northern New Hampshire know that sometimes a shot at 40 yards seems long. Bullet selection for ballistic performance in this situation is to shoot a round or flat nose bullet. (Oh don’t get me wrong you can shoot pointed spitzer bullets too and I do) but they don’t give up their energy on the animal as readily as a flat point or round nose. In fact the some pointed bullets penetrate so well that they are still screaming along after exiting the animal. I have been a fan of long range spitzer bullets for years, mostly as a result of salesmanship. No matter what the range. Serious study points out that in Africa for example a round nose or flat point are preferred to put down game that can rip you to shreds, or as I like to say in the case of Cape Buffalo that catches you on his horns and do the “Mexican Hat Dance” on your body. Why is it that Dangerous game Pro’s stay with round nose or flat point bullets? It is because the distances are very short thus bullet BC or streamlining is not needed. What “is” wanted is to hit dangerous game with a preverbial barn door. Verses just poking a hole in and through the animal.  A round or flat point bullet spends its energy faster inside the animal, and shots are usually less than 100 yards such as those encountered by Moose Hunters. A compromise bullet that is the best of both worlds is to shoot a spitzer bullet that has a soft nose or one that is designed to expand fast on impact though you still don’t see these compromise bullets used on dangerous game. African Professional hunters (PH) prefer round nose because they are time proven to leave more energy in the animal and not in the bullet.

All that said, Bullet placement is key to all of this. The best hunting shot is really not a heart shot unless you have a rest or shooting sticks and can make the shot. The higher percentage shot is higher, just above the heart and center lung shot performing what doctors call a bi-lateral pneumo-thorax or double lung shot. Why? The lung kill zone is 8-10 inches instead of 4-6 inches The arteries above the heart can be damaged by the shockwave alone and perform an instant kill via hydraulic shock to the brain but combined with entrance and exit holes in the hide and lungs the deer succumbs in mere seconds. I want my bullet to still pass through the deer with punch. This will make for great campfire arguments to last until bedtime.® 2013

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About Ed Hale

I am an avid hunter with rifle and Bow and have been hunting for more than 50 years. I have taken big game such as whitetail deer, red deer, elk, Moose and African Plains game such as Kudu, Gemsbok, Springbok, Blesbok, and Impala and wrote an ebook entitled African Safari -Rifle and Bow and Arrow on how to prepare for a first safari. Ed is a serious cartridge reloader and ballistics student. He has earned two degrees in science and has written hundreds of outdoor article on hunting with both bow and rifle.