The story of the Berger Hunting VLD is a story of discovery rather than design. The VLD bullet design was created by ballistician Bill Davis. Bill’s goal was to produce a bullet design that performed better in the wind than the 30 cal 168 gr SMK. He was asked to do this by the US 300 meter shooting team, who had discovered that they were losing points late in the match due to recoil fatigue. They wanted a lighter bullet (less recoil) that would still fly with the same or better trajectory.
After Bill came up with the design he went to Walt Berger to make the bullets. Walt understood the vision of this concept and even though this bullet required a faster twist barrel than was readily available, Walt decided he would make these bullets. They were a huge success in that they had a much better trajectory than the 168 gr SMK, so the goal of this particular project was achieved and surpassed.
Slowly but surely word started to get out about the VLD concept. Shooters who cared about trajectories started ordering barrels and over the next several years the VLD popularity grew rapidly. From the beginning and to this day Berger Bullets makes only match grade bullets. For a very long time Sierra Bullets has communicated the message that you cannot hunt game with match bullets since this is true with their MatchKings. Since the Berger VLD is a match grade bullet, Walt Berger took the same position and recommended that shooter should not hunt with the match grade Berger VLD.
Over the years we would get reports from hunters who used the Berger VLD to take game of all sizes. We dismissed these reports as the exception rather than the rule and would tell these hunters that we do not recommend that they use them to hunt. Through the 90’s we tested several different concepts for a Berger “hunting” bullet, which had to meet two criteria. The first is that it had to retain at least 80% of its weight (since this was the conventional wisdom at the time), and the second was that it had to be capable of ¼ MOA in an equally capable rifle. We were not successful in meeting both goals in any of our tests.
As the century turned, we had all but given up on the notion that we could make a “hunting” bullet which was also match grade. In 2005 everything changed. While attending the SHOT Show we were approached by John Burns, who at the time was with The Best of the West TV show. He asked if we would be interested in sponsoring their hunting show. Walt replied “we don’t make a hunting bullet”. John’s response was, “Oh yes you do.”
John pulled out a portable DVD player and showed us 45 minutes of bang flop after bang flop. Being a long time hunter Walt was very impressed with how quickly the game was dropping in each of the hits. John relayed that each animal was taken with Berger VLD match grade bullets and that he’d taken or watched personally hundreds of big game taken with Berger VLD’s over the years.
Obviously, this got our attention, but we were not ready to jump in with both feet without personally testing this report and observing the results we’d been shown. Over the next year numerous tests were done in media using every caliber and every VLD bullet in our line. The results were consistent and led us to decide to try them on game ourselves. In 6 months we either shot or personally witnessed over 50 animals of various size being taken with the Berger VLD. Each animal acted in the same way as the animals in the video John showed us at the SHOT Show.
Autopsies of these animals would confirm what we observed in the media, that the bullet penetrates through the initial 1" to 3" of tissue and bone depending on impact velocity and then quickly fragments, sending a tremendous amount of hydrostatic shock and fragments into the surrounding vital organs’ tissue. The tremendous amount of internal damage created by these bullets was far more than any of the experienced hunters we shot with had ever seen before. We realized that we, in fact, had been making one of the most quickly lethal hunting bullets since Bill Davis came to Walt with the design for the 6mm 105 gr VLD decades earlier.
After these tests confirmed the results we had heard about for years, we decided to start making it public that our Match bullets (that we have been telling people for years were not recommended for game hunting) are actually recommended for game hunting. This was no easy task at first. Fortunately, there were enough of those who had used them already. Also, with the help of The Best of the West TV show we decide to sponsor, word began to spread. It was during this time that we were wrestling with a completely different situation that had nothing to do with hunting but which would affect our entire line of bullets.