338 bullet selection for Elk

Discussion in 'Elk Hunting' started by Timber338, May 19, 2011.

  1. Timber338

    Timber338 Well-Known Member

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    Wanted to get some conversation started about terminal ballistics. I know a lot of you guys on this forum are big fans of Berger and other high ballistic coefficient bullets, with good reason as they dominate exterior ballistics … but, my goal is to start some conversation about the principals of ideal terminal performance, and leave accuracy for other threads …

    So, I am a big fan of 338 bullets for elk. I have a 338 win mag and just finishing building a 338-300 wsm. I have killed elk with Barnes bullets, Noslers and Hornadys. I know there are lots of other great choices, and I know all of you out there will have experience with them to bring to the table. What I am really after, is which of the currently offered hunting bullets deliver the best terminal ballistics, or more simply, do the best job at killing animals like deer, elk, bears, etc…

    Barnes bullets seem to be very devastating… they don’t fragment, they will crush through heavy bone, and can turn “lighter” rifles like the .270 into elk killing machines. But on the other hand, since these bullets penetrate so well with pass through shots, are these bullets putting too much energy into the tree behind the animals being shot? Anybody out there ever recover a barnes bullet from an animal? The elk I shot last year was a double lung through and through with a barnes 225 grain TTSX. The elk was about 50 yards away and my muzzle velocity was around 2950 fps. After the shot the elk walked around for about 3 minutes drunk, and then fell over. We were in a big herd that was full in the rut and I knew at the close distance that the shot placement was perfect. So I did not want to spook the herd by shooting again as my buddy still had to fill his tag. Upon inspecting the lungs, the bullet only left a hole about the size of a nickle. Now a 243 would have killed this elk, but I was hoping for more expansion out of the bullet.

    Nosler makes some great bullets too, I personally am a big fan of the Accubond. They don’t explode, they are very accurate, and I have had some pass-through shots, yet have recovered several bullets on the far side just underneath the hide, all of which have performed perfectly. Huge wound channels, minimal fragmentation, dead animals. Although you can argue that an exit wound is ideal to track animals, if the animal falls dead within a couple of steps there’s not much tracking to do..

    Personally I am not a big fan of the partition as they seem to expand a bit too quick in my experience, although I am sure plenty of you out there have had great experiences with partitions.

    And the Hornady’s I have hunted with all have seemed to fragment and the jackets have separated from the core. Although that was a while ago, and I have never shot anything with either their SST or their Interbond…

    Or am I being too critical of the bullets where we require them to expand quickly yet penetrate well, regardless if we hit thick bone or not, and regardless if the distance is 50 yards or 1500 yards??? That’s a lot to ask of a single bullet …

    So I would like to hear from all of you. Thoughts on what makes great terminal ballistics and which of the currently offered bullets do the job?


    -Timber338
     
  2. Long Time Long Ranger

    Long Time Long Ranger Well-Known Member

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    The beauty of the 338 caliber is take your pick and they all kill elk effectively. I have killed big critters from the 185 barnes ttsx to the 300 smk and many in between all with excellent results. Can't say that for the smaller calibers. Once you get to the large calibers they are all pretty tough bullets.

    For your 338 winchester and 338-300 wsm I would hunt with bullets in the 225 grain range and smaller. They do not push the heavy high bc bullets fast enough to gain an advantage within the effective range of the cartridge. The 225 accubond has the bc and performance to kill animals efficiently within the range of your cartridge. Also do not overlook the 185 ttsx. It is extremely accurate and last year I killed numerous large animals to 800 yards with great knock down performance and flat trajectorey. Inside of 800 or so yards these bullets have flat trajectory and are very efficient killers.

    I got a batch of 225 AB's a couple years ago that were the first run when they started back making them again after they were unavailable for a while. Some of those fragmented with complete jacket core seperation on large bull elk. Other than that run of bullets they seem to do a good job.

    If you want to try some specialty bullets I am testing some 225 grain .64 bc cutting edge bullets. They are solid copper like the Barnes and I would assume similar performance on game but have not used them on game so don't know for sure. If these work out they would be excellent for these two chamberings.

    By the way I really like those two because they will drop anything hard and can be shot easily without a muzzle brake as long as you stay under 225 grains.
     

  3. newmexkid

    newmexkid Well-Known Member

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    When I lived in Wyoming one of my elk hunting buddies used a .338 with 225 gr Swift A-frames and always got excellent results. Most of his recovered bullets always showed a perfect mushroom. I used the A-frame in my 300 Win with excellent results also. Granted the bullets never produced tiny groups but, the elk never knew it.
     
  4. Outlaw6.0

    Outlaw6.0 Well-Known Member

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    I believe it was RIFLE magazine that conducted a test to answer your question regarding excessive penetration & Barnes Bullets, which read something like this:

    "the .30 cal 180 TSX fired into "24 inches (IIRC) of ballistic gelatin (to approximate the chest cavity of a mature elk) containing the shoulder joint of a bovine, with velocities from ~2700 to 3100fps to cover the approximate range from 30-06 to 300 win mag; showed an average exit velocity of no more than ~150fps...." which doesn't equate to a heck of a lot of retained energy (i can't remember what they posted).

    Controlled test to be sure, but an interesting read none the less.
     
  5. Timber338

    Timber338 Well-Known Member

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    Outlaw6.0 - Thanks, very interesting info.

    I think especially useful since it was done by a third party. Obviously my single experience with the barnes bullet not fully expanding through the lungs is a singular event, and the bullet was not at all stressed to it's capability. And I really should not complain considering the elk fell down within 5 feet of where it was shot... it's just walked around in a big circle for while first. Pretty wild to see that. Right after I shot, I bugled and all the bulls bugeled right back at me. The bull I shot even bugled back about a minute after I shot it!

    Still leaning towards the 225 Accubond though for hunting this year... partially because they cost less than barnes, and don't foul as bad.
     
  6. Outlaw6.0

    Outlaw6.0 Well-Known Member

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    I wish I could have found that article & posted the exact numbers, I was writing from memory on that one.

    The Accubond has just as strong of a following as the Barnes, I think you will be happy. I will share with you my thoughts on your Barnes/Elk experience:

    The majority of failure reports I have read/seen/heard then to be very similar to that which you described (albeit not a failure). The TSX in my experience, usually needs to hit bone or be scootin' along at a higher than normal velocity to ensure the vaunted Barnes Performance. Which is why I almost always recommend light for caliber bullets, this is what I would consider "best Practices" for big game/medium distances.

    With the advent of the TTSX I feel (yet to verify) the expansion/performance should be more predictable with expansion initiation of the polymer tip.

    Make sure you have a clean bore before switching between the Barnes & Accubond, as they are constructed of slightly different material IIRC. I have had some SERIOUS fouling issues before learning that.

    Good hunting-
     
  7. sp6x6

    sp6x6 Well-Known Member

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    I shoot alot of elk with partitions and hornady 225, thatwas out of a 340 wm. I had no problem, shot some barnes in the mix too. I think the barnes excel at the lighter weights than norm, for caliber. I shot a bull high shoulder with my 325 wsm, did the job, accubond, but not much for retention, and I shoot AB'S IN ALOT OF STUFF. I had bad bullet placement with a barnes on my biggest muley, did not work so well, and I had AB'S IN earlier, but took same shot on a bull, with 340 and had similar results, neck shot, had to chase em down. There all pretty good, and in my OP, the faster you push them, the better, I'm shooting 300 bergers out of my norma, there flying like darts
     
  8. J E Custom

    J E Custom Well-Known Member

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    Of all the bullets I have used the Accubonds have performed the most consistant on game
    of all sizes included Elk.

    Nothing wrong with other brands mentioned, I just find that the Accubond is more consistant
    at point of impact velocities.

    For the 338 I prefer the 225 or 250 grain bullets out to 1000 yards beyond that the 300 grain
    SMK is a good choice because of accuracy (Even though I don't like using a Match bullet to
    hunt with) but until someone comes out with a 300 grain hunting bullet that Is my best option.

    J E CUSTOM
     
  9. D.Camilleri

    D.Camilleri Well-Known Member

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    I have had pretty good results with 225 accubonds, I have tried to make the bullet fail with close shots and tried to stop 3 with frontal shots on white tails two years ago and I couldn't get one to stop. All DRT. I was finally able to recover an accubond last year on a frontal quartering shot on a big muley. Broke on side shoulder and was recovered under the hide back by the far side ham. DRT. I also had similar results on elk.

    One year I tried 250 gr partitions and killed a nice 6 point bull at 542 yards. Broke shoulder, but could hardly see the wound going into the chest cavity. Bullet shed too much of its frontal area in the shoulder and it appeared only the shank went into the boiler room.

    I killed several good bulls with 210 gr barnes X xlc being driven at 3350 and they performed well. Recovered one bullet on a cow elk that I finished off for my brother at about 550 yards. Broke both shoulders, DRT and recovered the bullet with a perfect mushroom minus one pedal in the off side shoulder.

    I have loaded some Hornady 225 interbonds and they are shooting about the same as the accubonds in testing, but I haven't taken any game with them.

    Sierra game kings seem to be a very good bullet also, but I am wanting to stay with 225's and the sierra is only offered in a 215 or 250.

    Swift makes an awesome bullet for up close and personal in the A-Frame, but the B.C. is a bit low for long shots. The Scirraco II is a good bullet with a decent B.C. but is only 210 grains.