Berger Bullet Failure at Short Range

Discussion in 'Long Range Hunting & Shooting' started by Bud Meadows, Jan 11, 2010.

  1. Bud Meadows

    Bud Meadows Well-Known Member

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    I've been shooting Berger 168 grain VLD .308 bullets for about a year now. I find them highly accurate out of my gun (legitimate .5 MOA), and until this weekend, one shot killers. Last year, I high shoulder shot a nice buck with them at 270 yards, and he crumpled on the spot. This Friday, I high shoulder shot a mature doe with them at 147 yards, same story. This Saturday evening, I high shoulder shot a HUGE 10 point buck at under 40 yards, expecting him to drop on the spot. He hunched up in reaction to the shot, but ran off about 150 yards before bedding down. I waited about 10-15 minutes, figuring he should be dead by now. When I climbed down out of my stand and started blood tracking him, he jumped up and ran off. I immediately stopped tracking and backed out to the woods to let him lay overnight. The next morning, two excellent trackers and I tracked him for OVER A MILE!! We found three places where he lay down, with pools of blood about the diameter of a pie plate. In one of the beds, we found the large pool of chest blood, as well as blood obviously coming out of his mouth. The bloodtrail finally petered out near a large swamp, and we gave up after five hard hours of bloodtrailing.

    The shot was perfect- right where I aimed in the high shoulder. I am a Distinguished Rifleman, ranked High Master in NRA High Power, and have shot competively since 1970. The only thing I can figure is the bullet blew right through the shoulder with minimal expansion and shocking power. I welcome any comments, but I must admit I'm tempted to go back to good old Sierra 165 grain GameKings. I've never lost a single animal with Sierras that was properly hit.
     
  2. Michael Eichele

    Michael Eichele Well-Known Member

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    Please accept this post as a friendly outside looking in perspective. You may not like what you hear but this is what I think.

    If the shot had been a perfect high shoulder shot as you are convinced, there would be no tracking job as the buck would have folded. The bullet most likely did not explode to the point of not reaching the spine.

    I realize that you are a capable shooter yet not perfect. we all make mistakes. Our tendancies are to lay blame on something other than ourselves. Have you concidered the possibility of the bullet hitting just behind or in front of the scapula just under the spine yet above other vitals? That is what it sounds like to me. Talking from experience here, sometimes the very close shots become more difficult than the long ones because long is where we practice most of the time. I recently missed a MT goat twice at 133 yards. I got him on the 3rd shot when he started to run. I guess I needed a challenge. Missing the mark happens. It is very doubtfull the 165 SGK would have done any different.

    Sorry if that was tasteless. It was said with the best of intentions.

    M
     

  3. carpetman2

    carpetman2 Well-Known Member

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    I am new to long range hunting & Berger bullets, but based on my limited experience I believe what the post before me said would be my best quess. I took a 7 x 7 Bull Elk this fall at 787 yards with a one shot kill using a 300 Win Mag and 210 grain VLD's @ 2920 fps. I hit him high and at the creese behind the shoulder. He went down in his tracks and left an exit hole about 1 1/2 inches and massive damage to the vitals. I took my buck at 490 yards which took out about 4 inches of spine ( too high). But, my 17 year old daughter took her elk using my gun and load at 300 yards, hit two thirds of the distance low & behind the shoulder and the cow went about 60 yards and bedded down. One shot to the head and she was dispatched. As I looked over the wound channel, I noticed very little trauma to the lung that was hit. Upon further examination I found the bullet had simply passed between the ribs, through soft tissue and exited through the off side passing through a rib leaving a good flow of blood to follow. Now, the cow went down, but there was little damage internally, although the impact at that distance is big. It could be that no bone was touched on your deer and the bullet simply did not open up until it was exiting. I'm not sure, but I'll wager that any bullet would do the same if my hypothisis is correct. The jury is still out for me on close range & the Bergers. :)
     
  4. phorwath

    phorwath Well-Known Member

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    I reserve my factual comments for the game I retrieve, because it's humanly impossible to know exactly where the bullet hits unless I'm field dressing and skinning out a harvested animal. You may have hit exactly where you aimed, or maybe not. The following I know to be factual.

    I've killed large game with Berger VLDs twice at close range. One was a black bear at about 21 feet (a finishing shot). This bear was lying down with it's brisket facing toward me. 210gr VLD from 300 Win Mag with impact velocity of about 2900 fps. Bullet hit in brisket and no part of the bullet ever reached the backbone, let alone exit out the top of the bears back. Bear expired instantly upon impact. Throughout field dressing and then butchering back at the house, I couldn't believe none of the 210 gr bullet exited. This was not a large black bear. A sow that I would estimate at about 160 lb live weight. The wound channel between the lower front shoulders was massive and the sight of utter destruction. I mean this bullet came apart explosively into tiny fragments and shards of lead and copper jacket. Total penetration was ~10". Not more than 12 inches.

    Second was a bull caribou shot through the ribs with the 7mm 168gr VLD - impact velocity about 2900 fps at about 50 yds distant. Lung material and blood blown out the far side of the ribs. Animal trotted about 50 yds and piled up dead. Bullet performed fine. Massive internal damage to lungs and very little damage to meat on either side of the ribcage. About a 1 1/4" exit hole in the hide.

    The copper jacket on these VLDs is a J4 jacket. Two pieces of Xerox copier paper is thicker than these J4 jackets. The only thing that keeps these bullets together is this thin jacket and the consistency of the lead, which must be pretty soft. That's all I can offer on close range Berger VLD performance.

    I like them for long range use. Which is the same as saying I don't like them for close range high velocity hits on big game.
     
  5. Chas1

    Chas1 Well-Known Member

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    Without recovering the animal it's impossible to reach any final conclusion. Could be any one of a number of possibilities...some already mentioned and so I'll throw in another one. is it possible that at that close a range that velocity played a part...as in too high. Don't know just throwing it out there. On a positive note you are to be commended for going to the lengths you did to try and recover the animal.
     
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2010
  6. edge

    edge Well-Known Member

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    What was the animal doing just before the shot?
    Walking, bedded, watching a Doe, grazing???

    Personally, " hunched " means something OTHER than a high shoulder shot to me, but your description may not be the same as mine :)

    edge.
     
  7. Buffalobob

    Buffalobob Writers Guild

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    With a thin jacketed bullet at high speed, I like to have a lot of sectional density. I would not even shoot a 7mm 168 Berger much less a 30 cal 168 at that range and speed and expect anything other than exactly what you got. Been down that road with with thin skinned low SD bullets on both an elk and a deer. Never recovered the elk but after about a mile did get my friend close enough that he killed the deer for me with a Speer.

    Deer behaved much the same way you described yours. Hit my deer exactly where you say you hit yours. Deer went about 300 yards bedded down. We jumped it but no shot. Went about 300 yards and tried to bed again but we kept on the blood trail until we finally got a shot and killed it. Found a crater about 10 inches in diameter and half an inch deep on the scapula. Not one bullet fragment made it into the vitals.

    I do not say for sure that it is what happened because I have seen just the opposite also. Bullet pencils through and penetrates as others describe and flies over the lungs but under the spine and nothing is actually damaged. Deer may have partially collapsed lungs until the hair and blood coagulate to seal off the chest cavity and the lungs reinflate and then he is good to go forever and ever. Good bye deer. But from the amounts of blood you found I believe the first scenario is correct. Answer to the problem is sectional density. It will give you the extra mass needed to continue to penetrate when the front part blows away. That is why I shoot the 6mm 115s from Berger or the 130gr 257 Wildcats with J4 jackets or the 200 gr Wildcat 7mm with a J4 jacket. The extra sectional density give me the penetration that I desire even at high speed.
     
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2010
  8. bigngreen

    bigngreen Well-Known Member

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    We shot a few deer with the 210 Bergers out of a 300WBY and on deer under 350yrds they would not open unless they hit bone. We are trying the 185's to see if they are more reliable. In my 270 WSM they performed flawlessly under 350 yrd with or without hitting bone, so I have no hesitation in that cal.
    The high shoulder shot can fail also, if the bullet goes under the spine but does not hit the dorsal vein it can get past the lungs without to much damage unless the bullet blows up and frags bone and bullet into them, I have had that happen a couple times with controlled expansion hunting bullets. I also found that a shoulder hit will generally result in very limited front leg function and hitting both they do a nose stand but can not run.
    Good effort on trying to retrieve the game, sorry do hear you didn't find it.
     
  9. Bud Meadows

    Bud Meadows Well-Known Member

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    Thanks for all the responses. I'm inclined to agree with BuffaloBob. To answer Edge's question, the buck had just made a scrape and was scrolling nonchallantly through the woods, probably checking for a hot doe. The rut in southern Alabama is just now starting. I'll try to post a picture of one of the blood puddles to see if that helps.

    [​IMG]
     
  10. Buffalobob

    Buffalobob Writers Guild

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    It occurs to me that I was pretty harsh on Berger bullets. My bad expereince was not with Berger bullets. I actually really like them a lot.

    Secondly, I suspect that lots of people kill lots of deer with that same combination without the problem happening. Sometimes there are things that cause or contribute to it by stressing the jacket before it gets out of the barrel. None of those thing do I know about in thi specific case.

    What I know is that when you have spent a lot of money and waited all year to go hunting you are not at all happy when this happens to you.
     
  11. bigbuck

    bigbuck Well-Known Member

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    Bud,
    Sorry to hear about your 10 pointer getting away . Sometimes buck fever gets the best of us:) Really have you thought maybe you got buck fever ? I had this happen to me once with an 8 pointer we looked and looked I went back 3 days later and I know this is going to sound crazy but i found him by listening to coyotes holler I thought that's my deer so I went toward the yotes and sure enough I found him . I would suggest going back to the swamp and looking for buzzards anything to get that rack .

    This year a friend of mine found a nice 10 pointer on public land ,that had ben hit low .
     
  12. Boss Hoss

    Boss Hoss Well-Known Member

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    Bob tried but came up a little short on his explanation. All bullets are designed and manufactured to “perform” at a certain level within a known velocity range. If you are going to be shooting below or above or even at the edge of that velocity range then be ready for possibly inconsistent results in perfect conditions. This is true especially in the case of a shot for example that lets say hits large bones or goes between 2 ribs and hits nothing but lungs. Test medium is only so good at approximating what will actually happen during the bullets journey through the target. Personally have not ever had very good luck with Berger’s and design (my smith does) the reamers for the SMK’s. Have killed too many animals to count with the majority of which were feral hogs on our place at ranges from 75 to over 1k. Unfortunately the old adage of it is more important where you shoot them than what you shoot them with is so true.

    As an example the majority of feral hogs killed were jumped in tanks where they were wallowing and the SR15 with 2 shots low and behind the shoulder with 55gr PMC ammo drops them like a rock every single time with none ever running over a couple hundred feet. On the other hand had a big sow run over 300 yards with a hole in the opposite shoulder the size of a softball. The shooter misjudged the speed (me) at which she was walking and shot too far forward so the 250 SMK out of the AI AWM at just under 300 yards hit the shoulder rather than vitals a little farther back and a few inches lower.
     
  13. sambo3006

    sambo3006 Well-Known Member

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    That is bright red blood but doesn't look bubbly. The high shoulder shot is not generally going to penetrate the lungs unless fragmentation of bullet or bone takes place. Sounds like you didn't get the spine or lungs or maybe barely clipped the front chest cavity. Sorry to hear about losing the deer. I just lost a doe a couple weeks ago that I shot with the deer standing still right on the shoulder from a steady rest with my muzzleloader. I found pieces of humerus a couple hundred yards from the site of the hit but never found any lung blood and never found the deer. Like you, I would never have believed that I could hit a deer where I wanted to and not bring it to bag. It sucks but it does happen. Know you did your best and get out there and get his daddy!
     
  14. sniperjwt

    sniperjwt Well-Known Member

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    so whats your guys thoughts on the Berger bullet out of a 30-06 at a MV of 2600fps since the speed is not where the big magnums are at do you think that would be satisfactory for deer?