180 Berger Performance

Discussion in 'Long Range Hunting & Shooting' started by sydleier, Dec 2, 2010.

  1. sydleier

    sydleier Member

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    So I finally had a chance to field test some of the 180 Berger's on something besides steel plates. Since I'm not longer a MT resident and I failed to draw a general combo tag I headed out with a few good buddies and an extra cow elk tag I was able to get after the drawing online.

    The first animal we show with my gun a 7mm rem mag with a 26" Bison barrel shooting the 180 bergers @ 2840 fps was a 6 x 6 muley buck. He was bedded at 380 yards with no wind. So we set up and once he stood up my buddy Ashbee shot him through the neck and dropped him right back into his bed without the buck taking a step. The bullet passed right through the neck with about a 1 inch entry and exit hole so it wasn't that great to judge the performance of the bullet.

    The second animal we took was my Cow Elk @ 415 yards with a 10 mph right to left crosswind. She was standing directly facing us so I took a head-on shot through her sternum. Instead of dropping in her tracks she just humped up did a 180 degree turn and slowing walked away about 30 yards then humped up and stood in place only offering a back end shot for a full 2 - 3 minutes before piling up. Upon opening her up we found a massive 6 inch wide entry hole into the chest cavity, but less damage than one would have expected to the lungs with such a massive entry hole into the chest cavity.

    The third animal was a 6 x 6 Bull elk we found bedded alone in the timber across a canyon. My little brother decided that he wanted to take him so we crawled up to the top of the closest finger ridge across the canyon and set up @ 568 yards. There was a 3 mph crosswind. The bull was bedded quartering away behind a dead snag only offering us a low chest shot. It was my brothers first time firing my rifle so we got it dialed and then took about ten minutes for him to calm his nerves and talk about shot placement (or whether or not we should take the shot) and wind hold before taking the shot. I watched the the vapor trail from the first round smack the bull through the chest. He stood up in his bed and I told him to hit him again. I watched the second round take him through both lungs as he turned a quick 180 and then quartered the other way. He sent one more into the boiler room and it was all 4 hooves in the air for the bull. After a quick high 5 get hiked back to our horses and rode down to find our dad with another horse to go get the bull. While we were able to ride to within 300 yards of the elk it still took us about 45 minutes to hike up the 45 degree slope that he was on through the 3 feet of snow. We ended up boning out the bull where he was laying and found the the first round took him through the heart and passed completely through the chest leaving a massive exit hole. the second and third both quartering shots both caused trauma all the way to the far side of the hide, but neither exited.

    Has anyone else had good or bad results with the 180 bergers? I'm kinda on the fence about trying a "more solid bullet" for black bears in May, but I'm not sure maybe the shot on the cow was just a fluke. I'm relatively new to the long range game with high BC bullets so any advice from the pros on this page will be greatly appreciated.

    thanks,

    syd
     
  2. Eric Stecker

    Eric Stecker <b>SPONSOR</b>

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    Syd,

    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.

    Regards,
    Eric
     
    Last edited: Dec 3, 2010

  3. Derek M.

    Derek M. Well-Known Member

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    Why not bond Berger bullets?
     
  4. Eric Stecker

    Eric Stecker <b>SPONSOR</b>

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    Over the decades we have done a tremendous amount of testing. We recognize the there are certain things that are desired by the market so we worked to make them a part of our line.

    Walt decided a long time ago that one of the requirements of our testing is that we produce a result that is capable of 1/4 MOA precision (in an equally capable rifle).

    We tested plastic tips, non-lead core materials (everything you can think of) and every bonding process we could get our hands on. None of these tests produced a bullet that is capable of 1/4 MOA precision.

    Right or wrong this is one thing that we will stick to regardless of what is more desireable in the market. Berger = precision rifle bullet performance and until we can bond a bullet and make it 1/4 MOA capable we won't offer one in our line.

    For what it is worth, this is also the reason why we don't sell our culls or use second use (reclaimed) lead in our bullets. Many will debate that our culls out shoot many other bullets but we won't sell anything that is not match grade. Others believe that reclaimed lead (used by every other brand) does not affect precision. We don't believe this is true and we will go to every extreme to ensure best performance lot after lot.

    Regards,
    Eric
     
  5. sydleier

    sydleier Member

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    Eric

    Thanks for your very thorough response. I think I should clear up one thing about my cow kill. What I called a 6 inch entry hole was actually on the inside of the chest cavity basically removing a large section of the sternum and a few ribs as the bullet entered the chest cavity. There wasn't a large surface wound, it seems the bullet penetrated about an inch into the chest then exploded as it passed through the sternum. I also agree with you that this probably would not have happened on a broadside shot.

    Also I didn't mention that as the cow stumbled 30 yards she left behind a blood trail that looked like it had been made with a garden hose, so the bullet still caused plenty of trauma for a clean kill.

    All in all I was very happy with the performance of the bullet, I just posted to see if anyone else was having similar results. I mean 2 out of 3 animal shot never left their beds.

    Thanks for the advise.
     
  6. Eric Stecker

    Eric Stecker <b>SPONSOR</b>

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    Syd,

    Thank you for this clarification. In this case then I would forget everything I said about melting cores and friction in your barrel. My suggestion to use our Target bullet was specific to overcoming a high friction issue.

    Given this new understanding of your situation, I will suggest that you stick with the Hunting VLD as they have the widest range for the most successful terminal performance. I will be posting a more thorough article on this point in a week or so which will explain what I mean by the Hunting VLD having the "widest range for the most successful terminal performance".

    To get back to your original point, we have personally shot several dozen animals ranging from cull goats to red stag bulls and black bear. We shot most of these animals before we ever considered suggesting that our bullets were suitable for hunting (and after significant testing in media). If our bullets worked "most" of the time we would not consider them hunting bullets and would not offer them as such. We regularly receive report after report of successful hunts so you can be confident that a Berger Hunting VLD will deliver as promised.

    Having said that, every bullet has had reports of "failures" and this is true with our bullets too. The reports of failures are few and far between. They range from animals traveling farther than expected to a few reports of lost animals. We take each report very seriously. In the situations where bullets are available we get samples back from the hunter. Bryan Litz is working on the methods by which we will test these bullets so that we can learn something genuine that can assist us in achieving 100% performance.

    I will share with you that since the Hunting VLD was officially introduced in 2005 we have recorded less than 10 reports of lost animals. This year alone we have sold several million hunting bullets and have received direct reports numbering in the hundreds. Given the number of animals successfully taken compared to the reports of failures I'd suggest that our bullets performs as good or better than any other brands in this area.

    I'll wrap this up by saying I am the guy making these bullets so don't take my word for it. My initial comments were meant to help you solve a problem that doesn't exist in this case. I'll shut up now and let others share their experiences so that you can make a decision with which you are the most comfortable. In the end, I am most interested in you having the best experience so you keep hunting and shooting. I believe this will be achieved with Berger but if you use another brand that is fine too just stay active.

    Regards,
    Eric
     
    Last edited: Dec 3, 2010
  7. Derek M.

    Derek M. Well-Known Member

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    I certainly appreciate Berger's position on accuracy. There's certainly nothing wrong with offering a bonded VLD that will do 1/2 MOA or even 3/4 MOA. I'd buy them by the thousands with a 1 MOA accuracy!
     
  8. Eric Stecker

    Eric Stecker <b>SPONSOR</b>

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    Derek,

    I completely understand what you are saying and this specific position has been discussed at length each time we attempted to bring something to market that we knew was popular (plastic tips being the biggest). In the end we are left with a clear decision; compromise or don't.

    We choose not to. For us, making bullets is not about making money. We are craftsmen that believe strongly in holding to a higher standard. My bills are paid and my family is fed. I do not measure my success by the size of my house or the value of my car.

    Don't misunderstand my statements as being irritated by your question because I'm not. I can't tell you how many times we've been asked this question. In our opinion there is something wrong with us offering a bullet that we know can shoot no better than 1/2 MOA. The only reason for us doing so would be to increase sales at the expense of our reputation. This won't happen on my watch.

    Let me be clear, I am not suggesting that the other brands that make bonded, plastic tipped or non-lead bullets are money grubbing weasels who have sold their souls for the bottom line. In fact I believe the opposite. The shooting sports needs less expensive options as not everyone can spend what the best costs. This is not a bad thing and is healthy.

    We measure our success by the number of times a shooter tells his buddy that if he wants the best bullets he needs to get some Bergers. Even if both shooters use other brands also they know and trust that Bergers are the best when the best is needed.

    Regards,
    Eric
     
  9. kiwi3006

    kiwi3006 Well-Known Member

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    Sorry about the thread hijack, but

    Eric, any idea what might have caused this entrance wound? It was from a 7mm mag, 168 berger mv 3060 fps range 475 yds. The pig was quartering slightly away. Entrance wound is about 2 inches across.

    [​IMG]

    My thoughts were that the thick hide of the pig and angle caused the projectile to expand immediately.
    This is the fourth or fifth animal I have shot with a berger and is the only one to show an entrance wound.

    Stu.
     
  10. Derek M.

    Derek M. Well-Known Member

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    Eric, I don't read your words as though you are or were irritated. I, like others, was just curious.

    That said, I respect Berger's position even though I disagree with it. I certainly wouldn't want a plastic tip on a Berger!

    I would be very curious as to how a bonded Berger bullet would perform on a mule deer, however.

    I'm not changing my 270 load though. Those 150s are insanely accurate and repeatable like no other load I've got in that rifle. Glad I have 12 more pounds of that IMR4350 lot # on hand and 25,000 of the same 215Ms from same lot#!
     
  11. Eric Stecker

    Eric Stecker <b>SPONSOR</b>

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    Stu,

    I shot a pig in WV that had a similar entrance hole. It would be easier for me to explain if I had a sketch pad but I'll do my best. My pig was quartering with its nose down the hill. If anyone is familiar with WV you know that to call it "hilly" is the same as saying Minnesota has a few lakes. Even though I was only about 75 yards away I was on the downhill face of another hill.

    As I cracked the shot the pig turned just slightly more downhill but the bullet found the side of the pig just behind the right shoulder. If you were looking at the face of a clock and my bullet was coming from 6 o'clock, the pigs nose was at 4:30 on impact. The steep angle of this entrance produced a nearly identical entrance hole.

    As you might imagine the shot traveled a bit south of the boiler room but ended up causing so much damage to the lower part of the right lung through the diaphragm and into the intestines that the pig was not going anywhere. A quick second shot into the broadside was not needed to kill the animal as a later autopsy would clearly show but I was concerned that the first shot was not well placed in the vitals so a second shot was the right thing to do.

    Given the amount of damage our bullets do when they fragment, had the entrance hole you show in your picture been from our bullet fragmenting on the surface you would see two things. The first is that the hole would be about 4 times larger than it is in the picture. The second thing is that the hole would be ragged as the fragments would go in random and unpredictable directions (like a grenade).

    Your angle may not have been as steep as the angle of the shot on the pig I described above but flesh reacts in some unpredictable ways at times. Think about the boxer who takes several blows to the face but suddenly one blow has the effect of opening a gash that if you are a fighting fan (more MMA than boxing for me) you've seen them be quite long and deep. Why did the skin open up like that on that particular blow when several other blows did not have the same effect? It is difficult to say conclusively but it happens. In this case I'd say it is shot angle combined with the somewhat unpredictable behavior of tissue.

    Regards,
    Eric
     
    Last edited: Dec 7, 2010
  12. kiwi3006

    kiwi3006 Well-Known Member

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    Cheers Eric, that confirms my thoughts. I figured it was shot angle and the firm nature of the pigs skin causing it to tear. The pig of course was DRT.

    Stu.
     
  13. Catahoula

    Catahoula Well-Known Member

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    I will not shoot Bergers at anything but targets after this last hunting season. They are very accurate but do not kill, in my opinion. While deer hunting in southern Idaho, I lost a 4 point mulie on a Friday and on the next day I lost the biggest buck I have ever shot at. I was shooting a 270 with the 140 Bergers on both days. First buck ranged at 400 and I only found a few drops of blood. Second buck was ranged at 380. When I pulled the trigger he just collapsed. Got about half way to him and he stood up and went over the ridge. My cousin and I hunted for along time and only found two spots of blood about as big as a soup can. He was well over 30 inches.
    Next was my cow elk. Shot was 200 yards with my 300 Win Mag driving the 190 grain bullets at just under 2900 fps. She was slightly quartering away so I sighted the center of her body. Heard the bullet pop and she just stood there. Another shot would just ruin more meat so I watched her for about a minute. She finally laid down so I walked out and had to shoot her in the neck when she stood back up. First shot turned her liver into tuna fish but did not exit. There was a slight bruise where the exit should have been. I have killed several elk with a 25-06 and a 100 grain Nosler Partition and very seldom not have an exit hole. They died quickly as well.
    Just had a 22-6mm AI built with an 8 twist. I will try the Berger 80 grainers for targets but not for coyotes.
    Kirk
     
  14. Derek M.

    Derek M. Well-Known Member

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    Kirk, that is unfortunate news. Sorry to hear about that! Dang. This is not my experience. I killed this buck and many other deer a couple of weeks ago with a 270 and 150 VLDs. Longest shot was 350 yards, shortest was 40 yards. They all died quick and right on the spot. Made me order 500 more .277 150 VLDs! Believe it or not, that last doe pic was the first deer on opening morning and I killed her at almost 300 yards and she weighed about 165 intact.

    [​IMG]
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    [​IMG]
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    Last edited: Dec 7, 2010