exploding bullets on impact...is this real or are people guessing?

lwbode1

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Oct 31, 2012
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44
Few years back I was guiding a Mountain Goat hunt and the hunter was shooting a Custom 300WSM/Hand-loaded Berger VLD’s (not sure of bullet weight) that blew up on contact. Goat was roughly 100 yards and he had to shoot it 4 times before it finally took the death roll down the mountain. When we skinned and quartered the animal the bullets barely penetrated the hide and shrapnel was everywhere except the boiler room.

Being that we were extremely close to the goat, this was the only thing I could think of as to why the bullets did not penetrate or function properly. The goat died, but I’m 110% sure it was from being shot? Goat rolled over 1000 feet down a rock slide and most likely died from it!?!? ‍♂

Since that hunt I’ve been very skeptical of Berger VLD’s. I’m sure there are folk’s who swear by them. I’m a firm believer of the old adage “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!” My rifles prefer the Barnes XXX/TSX/LRX, Hornady ELD-X or Nosler Accu-Bond.
 

Stokesrjsr

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Jan 7, 2019
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Location
Arizona
I've witnessed it first hand but it may be irrelevant because the issue has since been fixed. In 1984 I had a Steyr Model M Professional in 30-06 that shot the Nosler Solid base bullet really well, under 1/2 MOA. At that time in Arizona you could take two Coues Whitetail Deer and I regularly did that each year. I had no problem with those bullets at all, Coues are really small deer and even shoulder shots exited the opposite shoulder and killed quickly.

Then Nosler introduced the Ballistic tip and discontinued the solid base bullet. I found the 165 grain Ballistic Tip equivalent shot just as well with the same load, 57 grains of IMR4350 at about 2950 fps. But I soon noticed poor penetration on raking shots, such as quartering away shots. Then one day I shot a small buck I had jumped from his bed as he ran up the opposite side of a canyon, about 200 yards, the deer went down at the shot but just laid there with his head up. I watched him for a few minutes waiting for him to expire but he seemed alert and wasn't fading, so I put another in his neck.

I was curious what had happened so I opened the chest cavity to have a look (I usually use the gutless method and pack only the boned meat) what I found was that the bullet entered the right ham on a trajectory to take out the heart and lungs but had not made it to the diaphragm. I found only small pieces of jacket and lead in the meat of the ham and then into the abdomen which totally absorbed the impact with no hematoma even to the liver.

After that I switched to the Nosler 165 grain Partition and continued to kill them stone dead. A friend of mine that had shot some of my ballistic tip loads found them to be very accurate in his Remington 700 and asked if he could have the rest of the 100 rounds I had loaded. I gave them to him and described the terminal performance concerns I had, but he decided to use them anyway.

Then one day he and I were glassing for Coues when I noticed a slight and very blurry movement in the bottom field of my 15X56 Swarovski binoculars. Looking over them I saw a small Coues buck had fed up the slope we were sitting atop of glassing and was only 30 yards or so from us. I got my friends attention and he was able to slowly raise his rifle and take the shot as the deer turned broadside, unaware we were there. My friend shot him dead center of the shoulder and the deer collapsed with a cloud of hair and debris in the air where he was standing. Because of the angle of the slope we couldn't see the deer any longer so we both stood up from our sitting positions behind our tripod mounted binoculars and were shocked to see the deer laying there with head up and alert, the same as the small buck I had shot the previous year.

My friend quickly dispatched the young buck with a neck shot. As we approached the deer the entry wound to the shoulder was massive, about the size and also the shape of a football. I could see several fragments of jacket glistening in the morning sun in the entry wound. We took the shoulder off and I were surprised to see that not a single fragment had penetrated into the chest cavity. After that he also stopped using those Ballistic Tips.

I called Nosler and discussed the experiences I had with lack of penetration. They acknowledged that they had many similar reports and were changing the jacket design to correct the situation. The changed jacket design is what is now labeled Hunting Ballistic Tip and it is a very good bullet that penetrates deeply while still creating a wide wound channel.

Current bullets such as the Hornady ELDM and Sierra Tipped Match King are jacketed just like the early Ballistic Tips with a thin non tapered jacket and behave much the same. Now that I have much more experience and have seen several hundred big game animals taken with all kinds of bullets I choose to use these thin jacketed bullets on purpose but use them appropriately. They kill much quicker at long range than heavily constructed premium hunting bullets because they create a wider wound channel that provides more margin for error at long range and at the lower impact velocities they penetrate well. If I need to use them up close I simply choose a rear lung shot placement and the deer go down in a flop.
 
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msmith57

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Nov 9, 2015
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Location
western Montana
I have read many threads over the years about bullets blowing up on impact and not being a lethal hit with game such as a deer. My questions are as follows :

1. Has anyone ever witnessed a bullet actually blow up on impact with a deer, and not kill the deer? and what I mean by this is you were able to get a second shot on the deer and actually see the first shot in autopsy to confirm and not guess what happened.

2. If your answer to 1 is YES, I just do not get the physics of this so maybe someone can explain it to me. I just don't understand how a 140+ grain object going 2800+FPS can explode, even on bone, and the fragments do not still penetrate to the vitals.

I have used ballistic tips in the past in excess of 3000fps and while they definitely "blew up" inside the deer, they still took the deer out no problem. Ive yet to have one blow up on a shoulder and not had fragments penetrate to lungs and heart.
I used to shoot A LOT and I would mostly shoot 52gr BTHP 22-250 @ 4300fps these would blow up/ Expand to max when they hit the target I also used to shoot 40gr with the same powder load and I would watch them start to tumble and Designate. just before Impact but would still take off the gophers head at 600 - 800 yds. years ago used to take a 22 short and drill out the head on 30 cal lead bullets and these would explode on impact. but no one ever made an exploding bullet for the public to buy that I know of.
 

pahuntnut

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Mar 7, 2018
Messages
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Location
Pennsylvania
I had It happen to me with a 270 Whby and nosler ballistic tips. Both deer were close on at 75 yards, buck ran off like it was a clean miss (which I thought something was off with the scope) took it to the range and all was ok? next week same thing happen on a doe at 75 yards. This time she ran off like it was hit my lightning but I could not find any blood or the doe. Stopped using them as shots can be close here in the east and have not lost a deer since.
 

340Wby-4-everything

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May 1, 2012
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Denver area (Lakewood, CO)
Humans are not created to be able to absord 3500 FT-LBS of energy as felt recoil. :cool:

Check out recoil calculators such as kwk.us/recoil.html
Indeed, Humans are the wimps of the animal world. If we had to absorb 350ft/lbs of felt recoil, there would be very few, if any rifle hunters - imagine shooting a 700 nitro in each hand simultaneously. big OUCH
 

del2les

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Oct 24, 2007
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497
Location
South Central, CO
It happens. I have had it occur twice in 50 or so years, and I have seen the after effects on a couple of others shot by family and friends.

Back in the 90's, I hit a Southern Whitetail at 220yds with a 100gr NBT from my 25-06 with a muzzle vel of 3,400+. The deer was quartering away and standing in tall broom straw grass, so when I tried to place the bullet behind the shoulder to exit toward the opposing shoulder, either I flubbed the shot or the tall grass deflected it into the right shoulder with a resounding dull crack of bone strike.

The deer went down, but I could see he was just lying there, head up and wondering- "What just happened". I walked down to the area he laid and put another round into his neck.

Upon dressing, the shoulder was mush, bone splinters and small lead and copper fragments all around, but ZERO penetration into the chest cavity. Not a single spot in the ribs could be found were anything went into the chest.

Many years prior, another deer was shot dead into the shoulder with a 30-06 using some bulk lot of old 150gr Silver Tips I had purchased for a song, and while they had killed several deer at woods ranges, that one hit just right to cause massive tissue and bone damage. BUT, the 8 pointer ran off and required some tracking to find him lying by a log and slow to get back up. Another shot was required.
.
Not deer but an elk. I witnessed a friend hit a bull elk with a 190ABLR form a 300RUM at just under 100yds, and due to his only shot placement on the shoulder, that bullet at that vel fragmented with no penetration into the vitals.

There are numerous reports of people using varmint style bullets on deer with spectacular DRT results, but if those high-vel bullets find a bone at certain angles, they may fragment and fail spectacularly also.

There are many factors that create this phenom with often reliable hunting bullets, but basically, a high vel lead/thin copper projectile impacting at a high enough vel on enough resistance will result in the projectile violently fragmenting in a short distance. This is how varmint bullets are designed, so think of that when these hunting bullets fail.

This is why there have been so many attempts to manufacture reliable expanding bullets that will also penetrate deeply and reach the vitals in all types of hunting angles: Partition, Barnes, Scirocco II, TBBC, Fushion, AB's, etc, etc.
 
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Yotekiller

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May 23, 2011
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131
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MN
The worst splash wound I have seen was a 200 grain sst fired from a 45 cal smokeless muzzle loader. Guy hit a whitetail deer in the shoulder 10 yards away and peeled most of the meat right off the shoulder. They chased the deer around nearly the entire day before someone was able to put it down. No fragments entered the chest cavity. To me this proves that foot pounds of energy have nothing to do with lethality. Had that bullet been fired 500 fps slower the deer would have died. Wound channels kill game. Bullets are designed to perform at an intended velocity. Step out of the impact velocity window don't blame the bullet for the poor results.
 

Jared2700

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Sep 22, 2017
Messages
185
I have read many threads over the years about bullets blowing up on impact and not being a lethal hit with game such as a deer. My questions are as follows:

1. Has anyone ever witnessed a bullet actually blow up on impact with a deer, and not kill the deer? and what I mean by this is you were able to get a second shot on the deer and actually see the first shot in autopsy to confirm and not guess what happened.

2. If your answer to 1 is YES, I just do not get the physics of this so maybe someone can explain it to me. I just don't understand how a 140+ grain object going 2800+FPS can explode, even on bone, and the fragments do not still penetrate to the vitals.

I have used ballistic tips in the past in excess of 3000fps and while they definitely "blew up" inside the deer, they still took the deer out no problem. Ive yet to have one blow up on a shoulder and not had fragments penetrate to lungs and heart.
Shoot barnes and you will never have to worry about.
 

RYEWSKY25284

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Jan 23, 2014
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Salinas,Ca
I have read many threads over the years about bullets blowing up on impact and not being a lethal hit with game such as a deer. My questions are as follows:

1. Has anyone ever witnessed a bullet actually blow up on impact with a deer, and not kill the deer? and what I mean by this is you were able to get a second shot on the deer and actually see the first shot in autopsy to confirm and not guess what happened.

2. If your answer to 1 is YES, I just do not get the physics of this so maybe someone can explain it to me. I just don't understand how a 140+ grain object going 2800+FPS can explode, even on bone, and the fragments do not still penetrate to the vitals.

I have used ballistic tips in the past in excess of 3000fps and while they definitely "blew up" inside the deer, they still took the deer out no problem. Ive yet to have one blow up on a shoulder and not had fragments penetrate to lungs and heart.
This may fall outside of your question only because you are noting bullets of 140gr and up. In my case yes, I have seen it. I have done it. About 20 years ago I had loaded some .257 Weatherby 87gr Sierra Blitz King bullets for an Antelope hunt in Wyo. (I don't remember the recipe) about 3700FPS
On a 300yrd heart/lung shot. Bullet blows up on the ribcage leaving and external mess. The bullets lead core made it between the ribs doing some internal damage. The Antelope traveled about 200yrds going from a high speed run to a slow walk and then fell over. After close examination, a tiny piece of lead hit a large vein in the lung and it bled out on the run. This was the result a poor bullet selection and not understanding bullet construction.
 

jcbjr

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Dec 16, 2012
Messages
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Location
north Georgia
I think "elkeater" had one that he has a pic of the shoulder shot that blew up

its primarily about bullet construction, if you take a 200 grain pencil and launch it at a piece of mild steel plate at 2800fps, I'm betting it will blow up on impact--but if you take the a 200 grain tungsten projectile and launch it at same plate at same speed I'm sure it will punch a clean hole through it -- they both have the same kinetic energy (as brought up in a recent thread) but not the same damage potential due to construction

I know that those are extremes but it shows a good example that its not just weight and speed that er the end all equation-- it also depends on the construction of the bullet and the material you are shooting


bullets aren't perfect after you pull the trigger
Absolutely. As an extreme example, in 1969, (I was 15), I purchased for $100 a custom Mauser 25'06 from my grandpa that he had taken in trade. Remington had just standardized the cartridge, and the rifle was probably 20 or so years old (guess).
We had the chamber miked by a 'smith, and it was indeed the correct chambering for the standardized Remington. At the time, only 87 gr. HP was available, and we did not reload. Due to youth and relative ignorance, I assumed that the little pill would be fine for small Texas Hill Country whitetails. Well, my first shot, broadside from about 100 yards, failed to drop my first Texas deer. He spun, ran a few yards to the right, spun back around right to left about 80 yards out, and I fired a second time (I felt sure I'd hit him with #1), and he piled up and dropped in his tracks.
Later, when we field dressed him, we found 2 holes, no joke, about 2 inched apart. One, presumably the first, had hit a rib, blown up, and peppered the lungs; not immediately effective. The second went between 2 ribs and destroyed the aorta and top of the heart; immediate effect. I will NOT claim that I was shooting for the first hole; nobody here would buy it, anyhow. Just another example of the importance of bullet selection. The 120's came out soon after, and all was well.
 

FEENIX

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Great Falls, MT
It's true, ...



Recoil energy of a 30-06 is 25ft/lbs. Muzzle energy of a 30-06 is 3000ft/lbs.

The FORCE is the same,

MOMENTUM is conserved, (when you include the mass of the propellant) but the energy is not the same.

ENERGY is misunderstood.


I have seen bullets come apart on game and fail to penetrate. I agree with JC that there is a better word for this than 'exploding'
Well said!
 

Oldschool280

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Jan 22, 2016
Messages
535
I had a 139 sst hit a rib at 50 yards from a 280 and definitely exploded, the animal ran 40 yards and went down , just happened to shrapnel the heart, next shot little slower 154 sst same range, perfect pass through.
 

thekyrifleman

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Apr 29, 2013
Messages
131
Using Hornaday Light Magnum 139 SST in my 280 Rem Mountain, had one blow up on a shoulder shot on a big whitetail doe. No time to develop a load that year. Hit her shoulder blade and never penetrated. Needed a second shot to put her away. About 150 yards. Finished the box on paper and never used them again. Went back to my tried and true Sierra 140 Pro Hunters. They have yet to fail me over 50+ years of use.
 
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