Exit wounds or not?


Well-Known Member
Oct 13, 2003
Gilbert, AZ
I'm trying to find that ideal whitetail bullet. This topic has probably been beat to death on this forum. This is probably a slight variation of the topic and I'd like to get some opinions. I'm new to deer hunting and have shot 2 deer so far, (both whitetails).

One was a at 70yds with a SMK 168 from my .308. It left a huge exit wound and blew a lung out the other side. The deer ran off like it wasn't even hurt. It must have gone about 400 yards. I had to track it for 45 minutes. Left a good blood trail though.

The second was at 190 yards using a Nosler B-Tip 165 with my .308. That one went into the heart and lung area and left a small exit wound, (about .75 inches). I'm not sure if the whole bullet exited the deer or if just a fragment did. That deer went down right on the spot. The bullet impact was loud too.

So my question is, is it best to get a bullet that stays in the body which seems to me like it would have more knockdown power since it's able to impart it's energy into the deer. Or do you want to leave a big exit wound that bleeds out fast. I would think that the former would be the preference, but have read posts from guys in both camps.

Personally I like shooting the 168 SMKs because my scope is calibrated to them and I'm confident hitting targets out to about 540 yds. The 165 Noslers B Tips track differently on my scope, (Leupold M3 LR) and so I'm not that confident to use them for longer ranges like 400 yards+, which I'd love to do. On the flip side of that, I liked how the deer hit with the B Tip dropped in its tracks.

Let's hear your thoughts.

[ 11-22-2004: Message edited by: Corbett ]
I like both. However, I love to see how big of a hole I can get, most. I really only shoot two kinds of bullets, Hornady A-Max's, and SMK's. The A-Max's create a lot of hydrostatic shock, drop deer on the spot, but usually dont exit. While the SMK's create HUGE exit holes about half will run a little ways, though I've never had one go farther then 100yds or so. I just use whatever shoots best in that particular firearm.
Not much help huh.
Keeping a bullet inside an animal, with all the various presentations and distances involved, can be a challenge. Mostly, it's wishful thinking, in my opinion.

I like two holes with a well constructed bullet that will hold together and leave something on the order of a half dollar exit, ideally.

Maybe I don't always get what I want, but that's what I expect to see, and generally do.

The guy that depends on perfectly repeatable performance will eventually be disappointed, caused by conditions, or perhaps movement by the animal, while the bullet is in flight?

A neat exit, well placed, works for me.

Good hunting. LB
A bullet kills from hydrostatic shock , this shock is the energy that the bullets leaves in the animal "energy dump" , their has to be a balance between penitration and energy deposit , for instance shoot a deer with a 300Wby shooting a 150gr FMJ at say 3300fps , that load with create a pile of Kenitic energy around 3600lbs but the bullet probably will not expand much if any so this load has "dumped" very little energy. Now on the otherhand shoot the same deer with the same load but replace the bullet with a 150gr ballistic tip and the deer will probably get knocked over and not make another twitch due to the bullet "blowing up" and not exiting in this case it has "dumped" all 3600lbs of energy into the deer. Now the later sounds good but you probably would have lost the whole front of the deer.
So you want to find a happy medium between expansion and penitration , optimum would be having the bullet pass completly through with just enough energy for it to come out the skin on the off side , this way you would have dumped all the energy and made two wholes.

Personaly I like the new Hornady Inter-Bond bullets so far they seem to expand well yet still hold together and make a pass through shot. But it is hard to beat the good old Nosler Partition for a hunting bullet.
Here's somthing to think about...

if the bullet exits it still has energy...

Ideally you would want all the energy released inside the animal for optimum performance...
Yet if you have a bullet that stops under the skin on the other side of the ribs, you have one in which, IMHO, you dare not take a quartering or lenghtwise shot or go through heavy bone as the bullet either won't have enough energy to make it through or won't hold up well enough.
Bingo! That's my point.

Ideally stopping just under the skin? Yeah, right.

Different angles, different size animals, different ranges, different wind conditions.

Actually, no two shots are identical. Why even consider a load that you have engineered to stop under the skin of a 125 pound deer at 200 yards with 1800ft lbs.?

You need to be more practical than that. Drive the bullet through the animal at any reasonable range. If he doesn't fall over in his tracks, you have a nice blood trail.

This is the real world. LB
IMO, I want a bullet that will expand, penetrate, and exit. The NBTs in the heavier weights have given me great performance on game from dang near point blank on out to moderate ranges. I think on the long range shots(450+)that alot of you all make, the SMKs and HDY AMXs are good bullets. Bullets are at such lower velocities at long range they need to be soft enough to open properly.

I've never seen the need for the tough bullets on the Deer sized game animals. In my experiences the tough bullets do very little damage unless major bones are impacted.

We all have our own experiences and our own preferences, that's what makes it so fun.

Good Luck!

Whitetail are thin skinned animals and it all boils down to your preference. If you don't mind walking a 100 yds or so to find em, use the bullet you have the most confidence in. If you want to drop em in their tracks, use the ballistic tip, etc. Either one will kill em just as dead. I recently did some experimenting with SGK's and dropped both deer in their tracks with a smaller than expected exit wound. Still plan on playing with Nosler partitions and Barnes XLC's, but have had many years of (Drop em in their tracks) with good old Rem Corelokt's. They're inexpensive and fly pretty darn good! Bottom line - You're gonna kill em. Do you feel like walking or not?
2 schools of thought. Some prefer two holes, that's two spots to leave a blood trail. Others want to dump all of the energy in the animal's lungs.

I prefer the bullet penetrate. First, you can't always take a broadside shot so you're limited if the bullet expands a lot.
And the controlled expansion bullets, like the Partitions, damage less meat should you not hit exactly where you wish.

But, we have choices, and the other folks eat a lot of deer steak, too.
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