I was at the range once when a very experienced, local pistol shooter was testing this very theory. He set up bowling pins at about 15 yards and shot them with a hot loaded 9mm and then a regular load in a 45 acp. To make a long story short, the 9 would just wiggle the pins and the 45 would tip them over. Both guns were shooting cast lead round nose bullets.
Location: The rifle range, or archery range or behind the computer in Alaska
I have seen 7mm's and 6mm kill deer very fast. I have seen 338's kill deer very fast as well. There are so many variables to think of. Smaller diameter rounds have some killing qualities such as a faster twist rate to stabilize the long skinny bullets. The higher the RPM, the greater the shock wave inside the critter by way of centrifical force. Bigger bullets such as the 338 have lots of frontal area to transfer bullet energy to the game for a shock value albiet it iis a different type of shock than a high RPM shock.
The point is, match the bullet and caliber to the game youre hunting.
Long range shooting is a process that ends with a result. Once you start to focus on the result (how bad your last shot was, how big the group is going to be, what your buck will score, what your match score is, what place you are in...) then you loose the capacity to focus on the process.
I've seen many animals taken with everything from 22/250 up through 50 cal. muzzle loaders and 12ga slugs.
Although I can't quantify it, I put a lot of faith in frontal area. I've seen dozens of Muley's shot with small diameter fast bullets that had 2000lbs energy and wasted at least half of it on the hillside behind them.
I'm still amazed at how a larger diameter bullet with less ft/lbs tends to really hammer animals. Many authors/gun folks have attempted to quantify this exact question. You can probably find info on some of the following writers/formulas Taylor Knockout Value
Hatchers Relative Stopping Power
John Wooters Lethality Index
Most of these base their values on the energy multiplied by area and shape of the frontal area.
If some is good and more is better, then too much is just right.
My mind is a raging torrent, flooded with rivulets of thought, cascading into a waterfall of creative alternatives
ceylonc, not meant to flame but the hammer/sledg/mallet comparison isn't apples-to-apples. With that, ALL of the energy is tranfeded to the object(target). With a bullet that is not necessarily true.
I REALLY started looking into this subject quite a while back, through anecdotal evidence not true scientific research. Some of the things that lead me to question bullets were;
-When I was a kid I read everything I could about hunting. Every year before season there were MANY articals about "tracking" animals after you shoot them with a rifle. We hunted deer with 243's and I could never understand the tracking articles because EVERY deer we shot was a bang-flop.
-Several years ago I read a post asking for a load for less meat damage out of a 30-06. One reply said use a 180gr bullet..."very little meat damage and the animal ONLY TRAVELS ABOUT 100 YARDS AFTER THE SHOT!!!"
- I have seen about 25 caribou shot with rifles from 6mm - 338. By far the quickest kills were with the 6mm and a 270.
-My daughter shot a white tail twice through the lungs at about 75 yards with a 308 and a Remington 150gr bullet. The only reason we found that deer was another hunter saw it fall almost a half mile away.
From this, watching about 75 deer shot over the last 14 years(I love Montana's liberal deer season) talking with everyone who isn't tired of talking about guns with me, and looking around at what goes on in the shooting world, I have come to several beliefs of my own;
(I know there are many arguments about how to measure bullet effectiveness, and they all have some validity, but for the sake of this artical I am just going to use the term "energy")
It absolulty makes not one iota of difference how much energy a bullet contains..what matters is how much energy is dumped into the animal AND how fast that energy is dumped. At one end of the spectrum is the 300 Wizbang bullet taking all of its energy with it after zipping through an animal, on the other end is that 22GopherGrinder dumping ALL of its energy in the shoulder of a deer...but the results are the same; an animal running off and dying, unrecoverable.
An animal with a hole through its heart or lungs is going to die soon, the question is how fast and how far away.
Since the popularity of the magnum calibers (RUM etc) many bullets have been made too tough for standard velocities. The majority of people shooting 7STW or 300RUM are shooting deer and elk at under 300 yards. When you hit a big animal with a bullet going that fast, it better be a TOUGH bullet or it's going to blow up. I took that same bullet (without knowing) and loaded it into a 308 and it went through a deer like a full-metal-jacket (see above).
As Bravo-4 put it so well, you must match three things when selecting a load to hunt with; the caliber, the animal, and the bullet(construction). I believe most "average" hunters use way too much bullet for the animal they hunt. A cow or spike is a completly different animal than a 5 or 6-point bull, just like a doe or small buck is a different animal that a trophy buck.
So, a few decisions I have made for me from these beliefes;
Do as Bravo-4, match the load to the animal and shot anticipated and if that shot doesn't present itself, adjust accordingly.
Since most of the deer we shoot are does and small bucks under 300 yards, which aren't much different than a big varmint, I use big varmint bullets, 85gr 6mm(flame me if you want). If we run into a big buck we MUST pick our shot, but that doesn't happen much.
Also, we often get cow tags so we use bullets that are usually considered "deer" bullets. 150's for 308 and -06, 140's for 7mm. At the same time I won't use a 6mm for elk even with premium bullets, done it, never again. If I get the opportunity to hunt bulls this year you can bet I will be using my 338 with 225-250gr bullets, real elk bullets that will penetrate lots of meat and bone.
I guess I went the long way around to answer the original question, you must compare apples to apples, not apples to oranges. A 308 FMJ bullet will cause more damage at 3000fps than a .22FMJ going the same speed. A 308 going 3000fps will do more damage than one going 1500fps. BUT, will a 22FMJ at 3000fps do more or less damage than a 308 at 1500fps? Any comparison between bullets can only be fairly made if ALL other variables remain the same, which almost never happens. A heavier bullet SHOULD make more damage that a lighter one, BUT heavier bullets also go slower out of the same gun sooooo...
It's the same problem for both shooters and bullet manufacturers since powder went smokeless; a bullet that expands without blowing up, ALL the time. The other side of the coin is the old 22-250/45-70 comparison. No one wants to face a bear with a 22-250, and if you have ever shot a gopher or porcupine with a big .45 bullet, it's not too spectacular.
Sorry, this got a lot more wordy than I intended but I think this is a very important and huge discusion. If I were a writer I would write a book on just this subject.
Genises 27-3: Now therefore take, I pray thee, thy weapons, thy quiver and thy bow, and go out to the field, and take me some venison...