Re: 180 Berger Performance
I read your report with great interest. Everything you relayed is consistent with our results except for the cow elk at 415 yards. There are a couple of things that I will relay that is more of me thinking out loud rather than saying anything specific to you.
The bullets are made precisely the same way so each bullet should perform the same way upon impact since the materials, shape and construction are the same. We've seen hundreds of Hunting VLDs shot into media and game. One of the things that is consistent in all of our observations is that you get penetration of 2" to 3" before the bullet starts to fragment.
We've gone so far as to shoot steel plates and taken game in the shoulder, hip bone and breast plate from a distance of 10" (inches not feet) to try to reproduce a surface wound since we regard this as a negative result. In each case we penetrate the steel (I believe it was 1/4 inch thick) and the bone before fragmentation begins. We have never been able to produce a large entry or surface wound.
The muley at 380 yards was hit with higher impact velocity than the cow elk at 415 yards which will produce more rapid fragmentation but in this case the bullet did not have enough meat to fragment even with this higher impact velocity. Not to be ignored is the fact that the cow elk was hit in the chest which is certainly harder than a muley's neck. The bull elk at 568 yards was hit with less impact velocity than the other two animals and you relay that all three bullets penetrated and fragmented after penetration (which is what should happen).
Ok, now that I have all that thinking out loud out of the way, what does all of this mean? Based on what we know to be true about the bullets there can be only one reason I can come up with as to why a Berger Hunting VLD would produce a large entry or surface wound. This result can come from a bullet that has a core that is partially melted. This result is the reason why we made bullets with thicker jackets which are now referred to as our Target line.
The reason these thicker jacketed bullets are "Target" bullets rather than "Hunting" bullets is because target shooters are far more abusive on bullets than game hunters. This may seem the opposite of the truth but it is not. Let me explain.
Bullet failure to reach the target is caused by the core melting. Once the core melts the jacket can't hold material as dense and heavy as lead together under high RPM so the side of the jacket bursts open and the bullet either turns into a grey puff of smoke or does a nose dive into the ground. The heat that causes the core to melt comes from the friction between the rifling and the bearing surface of the bullet as the bullet goes through the barrel.
Target competition shooters typically use longer barrels and loads that produce higher than typical MV (to make wind doping over a long string of shots easier). They will shoot more shots on one target than most hunters shoot all year and they will shoot these shots in a short period of time. All of these factors produce a much higher amount of friction and heat which is why all the reports of bullet failures were coming from the target shooters.
This is why we made our thicker jacketed bullets our "Target" bullets. Prior to making the thicker jackets we had not received one report of our bullets not making it to the target from a hunter. Having said that, I understand that far fewer hunters were using our bullets for hunting at that time compared to the number of shooters using our bullets on targets.
When I go through all the factors of your report and I compare them to all the test results that we have observed I am drawn to the conclusion that the bullet you shot at the cow elk must have been partially melted enough that when the bullet impacted the chest it was compromised and unable to penetrate like it should. It is important to understand that a core can be partially melted enough to make it to the target but also produce this result.
So what does this mean? There are two things that you can do to resolve this situation. The first is more complicated and difficult to sort out. You can take a look at your barrel and see if there is anything that is producing higher than normal friction. This could be anything from a rough spot to the condition of the bore (from high round count, level of cleanliness, condition of the crown) to the condition of the throat end of the chamber and the throat. If something in your barrel is causing abnormally high friction this could be the cause. Resolving this source of abnormally high friction will prevent this from happening in the future.
The second thing you can do to resolve this is to shoot our "Target" bullets. I need to be very clear on why I am recommending this because it says right on our box that our Target bullets are not suitable for hunting. The reason I recommend this in your case is because it is more important that the bullet makes it to the animal in a condition that will allow it to penetrate and fragment rather than fragment on the surface and not penetrate like it is supposed to.
This is the only exception to our recommendation that our Target bullet is not to be used for game hunting. The reason we do not recommend our Target bullets for hunting is going to be the subject of an article that I will be publishing on our website. To sum up it has to do with the range (velocity and yardage) in which the Target bullets perform versus the Hunting bullets. I'll have to leave it at that for now as it will take a much longer post to go into detail. Check on our website in the next week or so to see a full explanation.
To sum up, your results of a large entry hole on the cow elk are not typical especially at that distance. I suspect that since the bullet made it to the animal that it was still intact enough to have worked properly if it hit the animal in the side rather than in the thickness of its chest. They have been used to take many black and brown bear. Our own Technology Manager, Mark Durfee, took his black bear at 30 feet (high impact velocity) using the 30 cal 185 gr VLD (similar sectional density to the 7mm 180 gr VLD).
Something else that I need to make clear to anyone else who is reading this is that in life there are very few absolutes. The vast majority of hunters will never come across a situation where this is relevant. In this rare exception I will provide my thoughts and recommendation to help this particular hunter but this should in no way be regarded as a general recommendation for other hunters. Having said that, if you have also experienced a large entry hole when using Berger Hunting VLD you are going to benefit from this information. Everyone else should stick with the Berger Hunting VLD and my article explaining the difference between Hunting and Target bullets will express in more detail why we make this recommendation.
To strengthen your shooting skills go to the range.
To strengthen the shooting sports take a non-shooter with you.
Last edited by Eric Stecker; 12-03-2010 at 12:31 PM.