Bullet failure

WestKentucky

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I have long been a ballistic tip kinda hunter. Usually in .270 but have also use 30-30, .223, .243, 7-30, and the rimfire TNT 22mag and 17hmr. The ballistic tip always does its thing, massive fragmentation and huge wound cavity but not a ton of penetration. I understand the bullet type and what it’s supposed to do. Much like a super-speed hollowpoint (it is, just has a plastic tip in the void) it basically blows up on impact.

Tonight I shot a big doe. I’m not sure what happened here.

6.8spc hornady factory 110gr v-max ammo. Here’s the spec sheet from the hornady website.
IMG_7820.png

22” heavy AR that’s coke can accurate to 600 yards with hand loads and the vmax performs identical out to about 300 before it starts opening up. At 100 yards or less this gun is just a laser beam death ray.

So… the shot. 8 does and a good enough buck came over the rise. I hadn’t verified that the gun was fully in battery and I missed my shot on the buck fiddling with the gun when it wouldn’t shoot. Out of battery and a slap on the forward assist actually worked. The deer all went into the woods but the does came back out a few minutes later, the buck never came back. Big doe was standing in the low spot with good backstop and close range. Perfect broadside and she was looking away. High shoulder shot found its mark and she just dropped in her tracks. Sack of taters hitting the ground kinda drop. But she kept kicking around and after a minute or two she seemed to be coming back to life right to the point where she was trying to stand up so I closed to 20 yards and put a round through the bottom of the rib cage angled up towards the base of her neck. Quite the shot on that one, it took out heart and 1 lung, and she was down for the count in a matter of seconds.

I’m totally ok with shot 2. It blew up but it did so how a ballistic tip does. It hit rib and there was shards of bone in heart, lungs, and likely everything else in the chest. The first shot has me stumped though. Wide open shot so no debris along the way. Placement was good. I made the shot I intended to make. The bullet seemed to just drill a hole straight through. I have never seen a ballistic tip do that.

What went wrong? From the way she just fell I’m assuming I got what I have heard referred to as spinal shock, but why didn’t the bullet do its thing?
 
I have long been a ballistic tip kinda hunter. Usually in .270 but have also use 30-30, .223, .243, 7-30, and the rimfire TNT 22mag and 17hmr. The ballistic tip always does its thing, massive fragmentation and huge wound cavity but not a ton of penetration. I understand the bullet type and what it’s supposed to do. Much like a super-speed hollowpoint (it is, just has a plastic tip in the void) it basically blows up on impact.

Tonight I shot a big doe. I’m not sure what happened here.

6.8spc hornady factory 110gr v-max ammo. Here’s the spec sheet from the hornady website.
View attachment 1180879

22” heavy AR that’s coke can accurate to 600 yards with hand loads and the vmax performs identical out to about 300 before it starts opening up. At 100 yards or less this gun is just a laser beam death ray.

So… the shot. 8 does and a good enough buck came over the rise. I hadn’t verified that the gun was fully in battery and I missed my shot on the buck fiddling with the gun when it wouldn’t shoot. Out of battery and a slap on the forward assist actually worked. The deer all went into the woods but the does came back out a few minutes later, the buck never came back. Big doe was standing in the low spot with good backstop and close range. Perfect broadside and she was looking away. High shoulder shot found its mark and she just dropped in her tracks. Sack of taters hitting the ground kinda drop. But she kept kicking around and after a minute or two she seemed to be coming back to life right to the point where she was trying to stand up so I closed to 20 yards and put a round through the bottom of the rib cage angled up towards the base of her neck. Quite the shot on that one, it took out heart and 1 lung, and she was down for the count in a matter of seconds.

I’m totally ok with shot 2. It blew up but it did so how a ballistic tip does. It hit rib and there was shards of bone in heart, lungs, and likely everything else in the chest. The first shot has me stumped though. Wide open shot so no debris along the way. Placement was good. I made the shot I intended to make. The bullet seemed to just drill a hole straight through. I have never seen a ballistic tip do that.

What went wrong? From the way she just fell I’m assuming I got what I have heard referred to as spinal shock, but why didn’t the bullet do its thing?
No evidence of expansion from shot 1 at all when you opened her up? That IS weird! Is it possible you missed any stern resistance? Slipped through between ribs and over the top of the lung, under the spine? If so that's the only scenario that makes sense to me. On the other hand, if you hit something meaty/boney, I'd say just a fluke? Weird happens sometimes. When we were blasting punkins and a gourd, not 1 of our vmaxs (40 gr-55gr) opened on the paper thin gourd, impact velocities were well over 3k.... you didn't say the distance or impact velocity but I'd guess you were under 300 yds so all I'm left with was a lottery shot or fluke.
 
Nosler changed the construction on MOST, but not all of their Ballistic Tip bullets 10-15 years ago. They got complaints about poor penetration, so they started making the jackets thicker to limit expansion. The bullets intended for varmints remained the same, but bullets intended for large game were made tougher.

Hornady did the same with their SST's at about the same time.

From all indications the new Ballistic Tips perform about the same as Accubonds now. They just cost a lot less and are usually more accurate. I don't know where a 110 gr 6.8 bullet would fall in there. Normally that would be considered a varmint bullet in a 270 WCF, but if designed for the 6.8 it may be intended as a big game bullet.

There are still a lot of older Ballistic Tip bullets out there for handloaders. If you handload you can tell the difference between old and new because the newer box design says "Ballistic Tip Hunting" on it. Older Ballistic Tips simply say "Ballistic Tip" on the box.

New box with tougher bullets.

054041271400.jpg
 
By now, probably everybody knows that I don't like game bullets that fragment. The Nosler redesign of their ballistic tip bullets not intended for varmints was a good idea.


I’d put that one in the stuff happens category. Sometimes bullets do weird things.
Agreed. Sometimes everything is just right but the bullet just doesn't do what you expect it to.
 
I have long been a ballistic tip kinda hunter. Usually in .270 but have also use 30-30, .223, .243, 7-30, and the rimfire TNT 22mag and 17hmr. The ballistic tip always does its thing, massive fragmentation and huge wound cavity but not a ton of penetration. I understand the bullet type and what it’s supposed to do. Much like a super-speed hollowpoint (it is, just has a plastic tip in the void) it basically blows up on impact.

Tonight I shot a big doe. I’m not sure what happened here.

6.8spc hornady factory 110gr v-max ammo. Here’s the spec sheet from the hornady website.
View attachment 1180879

22” heavy AR that’s coke can accurate to 600 yards with hand loads and the vmax performs identical out to about 300 before it starts opening up. At 100 yards or less this gun is just a laser beam death ray.

So… the shot. 8 does and a good enough buck came over the rise. I hadn’t verified that the gun was fully in battery and I missed my shot on the buck fiddling with the gun when it wouldn’t shoot. Out of battery and a slap on the forward assist actually worked. The deer all went into the woods but the does came back out a few minutes later, the buck never came back. Big doe was standing in the low spot with good backstop and close range. Perfect broadside and she was looking away. High shoulder shot found its mark and she just dropped in her tracks. Sack of taters hitting the ground kinda drop. But she kept kicking around and after a minute or two she seemed to be coming back to life right to the point where she was trying to stand up so I closed to 20 yards and put a round through the bottom of the rib cage angled up towards the base of her neck. Quite the shot on that one, it took out heart and 1 lung, and she was down for the count in a matter of seconds.

I’m totally ok with shot 2. It blew up but it did so how a ballistic tip does. It hit rib and there was shards of bone in heart, lungs, and likely everything else in the chest. The first shot has me stumped though. Wide open shot so no debris along the way. Placement was good. I made the shot I intended to make. The bullet seemed to just drill a hole straight through. I have never seen a ballistic tip do that.

What went wrong? From the way she just fell I’m assuming I got what I have heard referred to as spinal shock, but why didn’t the bullet do its thing?

6.8spc hornady factory 110gr v-max ammo...?

That's varmint rifle fodder, and inappropriate for deer hunting.

With its combination of proven materials, innovative design and streamlined profile, the Hornady® V-MAX® represents the pinnacle of what a specialized varmint bullet can achieve, offering straight-line trajectories, enhanced accuracy, dramatic expansion and explosive fragmentation at a wide range of distances and velocities.​

Mystery solved.
 
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I've seen this happen a couple times, coincidentally with younger shooters using the .243 Winchester. In my personal opinion (worth exactly what you paid for it), it was a flaw in the bullet. Maybe the gilding metal was too thick or too hard, I'm not sure. Regardless, no fault of any of the parties involved. In both instances, a second shot sealed the deal and performed correctly and led me to the opinion I gave above. As the others said, I'd chalk it up to "crap happens" and not worry too much about it.

Having said that, I personally do not like BT bullets for any of my hunting rounds. For varmints, I use Sierra hollow points in both my 222 and 243. For deer and other larger game, I like a soft pointed bullet at a moderate speed. That "system" works well for my use and if it ain't broke....

Mac
 
6.8spc hornady factory 110gr v-max ammo...?

That's varmint rifle fodder, and inappropriate for deer hunting.



Mystery solved.
He got a pencil hole.....


That's an odd one, Ive never had one of those fail to expand, my BO (110gr .308@2450) and 6x47rem (87gr .243@2800) didn't make em blow up like they are suppose to, but they always expanded.
 
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I’m in the weird stuff happens group. Have never had a bullet fail to expand. That bullet is intended for varmints and should have pretty much disintegrated if it encountered anything at all.
Have seen hollow point bullets that had the opening closed completely up. These probably wouldn’t expand well. With the plastic tip you cannot see if the bullet is formed correctly. Nothing against plastic tip bullets . Have used many. Just throwing a wild idea out there.

I probably would select a different bullet. Not because of this one failure, but, because they are designed for varmints.
 
I'd have to look at what was hit during field dressing or during the butchering process to know exactly what happened. High shoulder hits do a good job of dropping deer in their tracks, but sometimes if the shot is a tad high and forward, you miss most, if not all of the vitals for quick bloodloss. So the deer tends to try and get up and dies a slow death. This is the kind of archery hit, that because it does not break the shoulders or injure the spine, makes for a lost deer. Does don't have much mass high and forward of the shoulder so, there may not have been enough to give maximum expansion. Again, without knowing exactly what you hit and where, I'd have a hard time figuring out if it was bullet or shooter failure. Still, the deer went down on the spot and was easily recovered. I don't see any kind of failure there at all.
 
I have held back a bit because I still consider the bullet as failed. I field dressed her and was careful to look at the damage done and trying to distinguish between any possibility of damage from shot #2. The shot did pass through the shoulder blade, and left a hole smaller than my pinky finger. Does not seem to have hit any bone other than the thin shoulder blades. There were holes straight through the upper edge of both lungs so realistically the shot was a kill shot. Still, 1/2” or smaller hole the entire way through.

I have shot varmints with this exact setup. No, a varmint and a whitetail are not the same, but damage on flesh is pretty universal for light skinned game. Coyote shot broadside had an entrance wound and a massive exit wound that ruined the hide. He was a pretty boy that I wanted to mount. Opossum and raccoon shot with this rifle were just a mangled mess. Groundhogs may be even worse than the raccoons.

This shot just didn’t work right. Can’t say why, but it just didn’t. Maybe it needs heavier bone to grenade like I’m used to. I’m fine with using this setup again, and would not hesitate to pull the trigger on a deer again today, but I do wish I could make more sense of what happened.
 
By now, probably everybody knows that I don't like game bullets that fragment. The Nosler redesign of their ballistic tip bullets not intended for varmints was a good idea.



Agreed. Sometimes everything is just right but the bullet just doesn't do what you expect it to.


I've used BTs almost exclusively since just after the originals came out and never had a problem, just did my best not to shoot shoulders. The redesign is pretty awesome with the solid copper base. I also almost never manage to recover one. Positively my favorite deer bullet.

One thing that should be clear though, these were NOT Nosler Ballistic Tips, these were Hornady V-Max.

Another aspect of terminal performance is velocity. A 110 V-Max in a .270 travelling at 3200 is probably an outstanding, incredibly destructive, varmint bullet. But, the same bullet from a 6.8SPC with a lower impact velocity, might just be good deer bullet.

For instance, Nolser uses there 110 Varmageddon Bullet in 300 Blackout and markets it as a SD round. In a .308 Win, it's a fragmenting varmint slaughtering bullet. But look at gel tests at 300 BLKOUT Velocity and it acts like a controlled expansion bullet.
 
I’d put that one in the stuff happens category. Sometimes bullets do weird things.
Bullets can do weird things. Sounds like everything was right otherwise, and you did down the doe, so I’d rate it a success.
This shot just didn’t work right. Can’t say why, but it just didn’t.

I don't know why, either, but along the lines of stuff happens, I will say that statistically, you won't get the exact performance from a given type of bullet with every shot. You have picked a bullet that is known to be a reliable performer and that appears to be a good decision overall, but you can't control for the odd bullet that doesn't perform as expected or hits slightly off and doesn't expand. A percentage of the rare bad bullets will end up in a backstop while zeroing. A few will be used in the field and chalked up to bad shots when animals aren't recovered.

The V-Max should not need heavier bone impacts to come apart as most varmint don't have that sort of bone.

If you see the pattern start to repeat, you may want to reconsider your bullet choice. In the mean time, contact Hornady and see what they have to say.

6.8spc hornady factory 110gr v-max ammo...?

That's varmint rifle fodder, and inappropriate for deer hunting.

I always wonder how such determinations are made. There are a lot of Grendel hunters using Speer TNT 90 gr. varmint rounds on deer and hogs and well and are quite happy with the performance. The point here is that the marketed classification is just that, marketing. I watched Hornady go through this with the AMAX that was originally marketed at a target bullet and NOT recommended for hunting (stated by Hornady). People found out that they are a good hunting round and Hornady changed their marketing to fit and included people posting pics of their deer, elk, and bear taken with a "target bullet" that had performance like a "varmint bullet" but was taking game like a regular large game hunting bullet.

How the manufacturers classify a bullet with marketing is just an indication for how it may be used in the field. That doesn't mean it won't work for other purposes and in some cases, work very well.
 
I always wonder how such determinations are made. There are a lot of Grendel hunters using Speer TNT 90 gr. varmint rounds on deer and hogs and well and are quite happy with the performance. The point here is that the marketed classification is just that, marketing.


I don't think it is marketing as much as it is what the bullet was/is principally designed for. Most manufactures make a variety of bullets for a variety of applications. If it was always a "one fits all" there would be no need for so many. While I know the 6.5 is a great deer round, I don't think I have ever seen the 90 grainers being suggested by anyone as the "go to" bullet for deer. It comes down to the shooter's expectations. The OP claims he was disappointed his round did not "grenade". Most deer hunters want expansion, but controlled expansion with good weight retention. Most deer bullets are designed for this purpose. A bullet designed to "grenade" on thin skinned varmints is not designed to get the deep penetration needed on mature bucks. The OP also said this was a "big doe". "Big" is a relative term when used to describe a whitetail doe. Around here a "big" doe is anything that is of age to produce offspring and generally average between 100-135lbs. Mature bucks(3 1/2+) are about twice that and more. The buck I shot with bow this year dressed out at over 200#. That means live weight was around 240#. Some yearling does are about the size of a coyote and ammo designed for 'yotes will probably work just fine on them. But, IMHO, I want a bullet that is going to perform well on the biggest deer I expect to shoot, not the smallest. Still, I am not one to tell others what they are using is wrong. It may be wrong for me, but if it works for them and they are happy with the performance, than so be it. Seems the OP in this case was not happy. Is this a one of a kind fluke or the norm? I don't know. Doesn't seem anyone knows, but I wouldn't put the risk of loosing the buck of a lifetime by using a bullet designed for 'yotes and woodchucks.
 
I don't think it is marketing as much as it is what the bullet was/is principally designed for.

What it was "designed for" really has no determinative meaning, either. I have shot bullets "designed for" this and that and were terrible performers. I have shot AMAX that was designed for target shooting that was fine for hunting.

Whether it was designed for or designed intent or marketing, none of that really matters. All that matters is performance.

Lots of products today are products that are marketed and sold primary for purposes other than what they were designed for such as ...
Viagra (bp medicine)
Petroleum jelly (heal wounds)
Kevlar (to replace steel in tires)
Chewing gum (first sold for tire rubber subsitute)
Play-Doh (originally designed as a cleaning product)
Bubble Wrap (first sold as wall paper, then insulation, but worked best for packaging)
And the list is virtually endless

Whatever is on the box, whatever title the manufacturer wants to give a bullet, whatever claims they want to make about development, that is a pretty good indication of one use they think they can market it for and make the most money, plain and simple. Most of the time, the bullet will perform well in that category, but that category isn't necessarily exclusive. It is just an opinion of the designers or marketers that a particular type of performance will appeal to people for a given use. Not everyone wants the same kind of performance, however. Not all designers and marketers fully understand how their products will be used by others in the future.

Take a look at Hornady ELD-Match ammo. Lots and Lots of deer hunters love it, despite the fact that it has "Match" in the name and performs more like a varmint bullet and people are using it on varmints, coyotes, hogs, deer, and elk.
 
I have held back a bit because I still consider the bullet as failed. I field dressed her and was careful to look at the damage done and trying to distinguish between any possibility of damage from shot #2. The shot did pass through the shoulder blade, and left a hole smaller than my pinky finger. Does not seem to have hit any bone other than the thin shoulder blades. There were holes straight through the upper edge of both lungs so realistically the shot was a kill shot. Still, 1/2” or smaller hole the entire way through.

I have shot varmints with this exact setup. No, a varmint and a whitetail are not the same, but damage on flesh is pretty universal for light skinned game. Coyote shot broadside had an entrance wound and a massive exit wound that ruined the hide. He was a pretty boy that I wanted to mount. Opossum and raccoon shot with this rifle were just a mangled mess. Groundhogs may be even worse than the raccoons.

This shot just didn’t work right. Can’t say why, but it just didn’t. Maybe it needs heavier bone to grenade like I’m used to. I’m fine with using this setup again, and would not hesitate to pull the trigger on a deer again today, but I do wish I could make more sense of what happened.
Wierd happens, id write it off unless it happens again.

I don't remember right now who shot it, but a buddy of mine and I took a decent size axis buck back when we were in high school that one of us had likely shot previously.

We both shot 06s with 165NBTs over imr4350.

165gr Nosler BT, was found under the skin on his right side. Looked like textbook expansion. Entry wound would have put the bullet going through both lungs.
I don't remember there being noticeable scarring on the lungs, so my assumption is the bullet pencil holed through until it hit the far ribs, and then opened up and lodged under the skin.
Wound was healed over nicely and the bullet was covered in that protective stuff our bodies produced....cyst like...
Anyway, he should have been dead. But he was still around to take another 165BT thru the shoulders.
 
What it was "designed for" really has no determinative meaning, either.

My statement you quoted had to do with your statement,
I always wonder how such determinations are made.

While folks use tons of things for purposes other than the original designed purpose, in this instance, most modern bullets are designed for a intended purpose, and are marketed as such. Go to any legitimate SD forum and folks will scoff and dis folks thinking of using hunting bullets for SD...and for good reason. Go to any legitimate hunting forum and you will see the same reaction from hunters towards those folks that want to use SD bullets for medium/large game. This is not due to "marketing", but due to construction of the bullet being determined by intended usage. Does not mean they will not work, just that it is not what they are designed for. While there may be the rare instance where a varmint bullet tends to outperform a big game bullet on deer sized game and larger, it does not change the intended usage as determined by the manufacturer. I find that a 30-06 cartridge using a Spitzer type bullet works very well for a letter opener. Does not change its intended usage from the manufacturer. I have both Honda Dirt bikes and Harley Road bikes. Both have different intended purposes as determined by the manufacturers and both work very well for those intended purposes. Neither works well for both, yet there are those that try. While bullet manufacturers may use hype like "the best hunting bullet made" I doubt if the bullet they are touting as such is their #1 SD bullet. IME, there are times when the manufacturer unintentionally confuses the market. Speer did it a few years back with it's "Gold Dot" bullets. They had Gold Dot hunting bullets and Gold Dot SD bullets. Some folks thought they were the same. They were not. They were designed to perform different terminally. That is why they changed the name of the hunting types to "Deep Curl" to avoid this confusion. Hornady still confuses folks that do not take the time to research what specific pistol bullets are designed for and call them all XTPs, even tho some are designed for SD and some for Hunting. Can and do folks still use them interchangeably? Sure do. Still does not change the original intended purpose. Just the just of my statement.

We are very fortunate in this day and age that we have such a wide array of bullet choices out there to choose from. FME, what most folks use is what works well for them. Some folks will give up a little terminal performance for increased accuracy, and some vice versa. Some folks buy whatever WalMart had left on the shelf and are good to go, while some will ask ten questions on six different gun forums as to which bullet is the best for SD outta the .380. A good place for anyone to start is to know what the manufacturers original intended purpose for the bullet was. For the most part, it will perform well for that purpose. As in with anything in life, there are exceptions. Again, I'm not challenging anyone else choice.
 
My statement you quoted had to do with your statement,

I understood. I just don't think "designed for" has any real bearing either. Either the product works for the end user as they want/need or it does not, regardless of what is was designed for or marketed for.

While folks use tons of things for purposes other than the original designed purpose, in this instance, most modern bullets are designed for a intended purpose, and are marketed as such.
Again, does it matter how they are marketed? Does Nosler care if you shoot a "hunting" bullet at a paper target or use "varmint" bullets for deer? Nope. They are just letting you know one thing that they think the bullet is good for when they market it. With the countless bullet models, you generally have no idea when they are marketing a bullet if it was truly designed for the purpose for which it was marketed or not. It doesn't matter if it was or not, right?

It has been my experience that people believe what is on the box (marketing) was necessarily determined by design intent and that certain is not always the case and folks don't have the administrative insight behind the scenes at these companies to know.

Go to any legitimate SD forum and folks will scoff and dis folks thinking of using hunting bullets for SD...and for good reason.
Really, so there are no hunting bullets that are useful for self defense? Otherwise, such scoffing certainly may be naive and premature.

A good place for anyone to start is to know what the manufacturers original intended purpose for the bullet was.
Sure, it is a good place to start, but it is likely not the final word in all the things the bullet may be capable of doing, some of which may be at a high level. So if you don't know anything else, then going with what is on the box isn't a necessarily a bad idea, just not the final word. The only except that comes to mind is TUI hunting ammunition. I was given several boxes by a buddy who tried it and didn't like it.

The point here is that just because somebody used a bullet that wasn't market for hunting that particular animal doesn't mean that it wasn't a good bullet for the job. If you do a google search for V-Max and deer, you will find a lot of people who use it and are happy with it. You will find many that aren't, sort of like with every other dedicated hunting bullet.

In this case, the failure didn't have anything to do with the designation of what it was intended for. It would have failed had it struck a woodchuck as it did not expand. That was the failure. However, it did not fail to expand because it hit an animal that was outside of the manufacturer's stated intended use.
 
There's a small area on animals such as deer behind the shoulder, above the lungs and below the spine where there are no vitals and really nothing to initiate bullet expansion unless one manages to hit a rib.

A few days ago one of my buddies son texted me relating that he'd shot a doe broadside at less than 100 yds. with his .270 loaded with Hornady 130 gr. SST's. He had to trail her for 200 yds. and found the bullet had penciled through, in and out. I asked him if he had possibly hit her high, but below the spine, he said that's exactly where he hit her. The same thing happened to me some time back while dealing with a chicken killing dog.

35W
 
I'm just gonna chime in and say, it would be nice if people were a little more careful with terms here. People are talking about Nosler Ballistic Tips (because OP used the term ballistic tip) but the bullet in question was a Hornady V-max. Not a Nosler ballistic tip and a varmint bullet besides. These companies have reputations and there is no need to talk down about "ballistic tips" when the possible failure was a Hornady V-max.

Also, my 2 cents, there is no complaining about bullet performance when you use a varmint bullet on deer.
 
We are very fortunate in this day and age that we have such a wide array of bullet choices out there to choose from. FME, what most folks use is what works well for them. Some folks will give up a little terminal performance for increased accuracy, and some vice versa. Some folks buy whatever WalMart had left on the shelf and are good to go, while some will ask ten questions on six different gun forums as to which bullet is the best for SD outta the .380. A good place for anyone to start is to know what the manufacturers original intended purpose for the bullet was. For the most part, it will perform well for that purpose. As in with anything in life, there are exceptions. Again, I'm not challenging anyone else choice.

^^^This, exactly^^^

Bullet manufacturers don't just arbitrarily make some bullet without at least having some idea of how it will perform in the field, then field testing it on game. I used to deer hunt with a couple of guys that used 22-250's and handloaded Sierra Matchking's because of their incredible accuracy. Those bullet worked most of the time on deer, but I knew of at least one epic failure, because they're NOT intended for use on game the size of deer. IME, incredible accuracy means nothing when you're shooting at a vital system the size of a volleyball at a couple hundred yards. Match the bullet to the game. Also, with todays incredibly precise machinery and manufacturing processes, I think the notion that someone like Hornady made a single varmint bullet that didn't expand is highly unlikely.

As I attempted to allude to in an earlier post, the OP simply made a bad shot (high in the shoulder, only clipped the top of the lungs) in which there wasn't enough resistance to initiate expansion. Many moons ago I went through a phase in which I was obsessed with the 220 Swift and its high velocity. I killed quite a few deer and various other creatures with it and marveled at the performance of small bullets at high velocity. One day I stood an 18" long piece of 2 3/8" oilfield pipe next to the 100 yd. target stand at whacked it 3 or 4 times with my hunting load of a 55 gr. Sierra SBT running about 3850 fps out of my Ruger 77V. Having read P.O. Ackley's experience of shooting through armor plating (from the front of a U.S. halftrack) with a 48 gr. factory load, I knew my bullets would easily pierce the pipe. What I didn't expect was the bullets to penetrate both sides of the pipe, which they did, with the exit holes being only slightly larger than the entrance holes.

The point is, expanding bullets need some sort of fluid or tissue or muscle to expand. A few years ago I hunted with a 45 Colt revolver and home-cast HP's. I shot a buck at just under 50 yds., hitting him higher than I intended in the muscle just under the spine. The bullet expanded beautifully, stopping under the skin on the off side. A couple of weeks later I shot a javelina with the same load and bullet within a few feet of where I'd shot the buck. He trotted off a ways and fell over. When I got to him, I found the bullet had passed all the way through with no evidence at all of expansion, due to less resistance in the smaller animal. The same thing happened with a coyote that I found trotting down my driveway a few years ago. I grabbed one of my 30-30's and at about 70 yds. poked her with a handloaded Speer 170 gr. FP (2050 fps MV). She ran a bit further and keeled over. Upon examination, I found I hit her high behind the shoulder and there was a small entrance hole and a small exit hole. Had I hit her in the lungs, undoubtedly the bullet would've expanded.

Again, you made a slightly bad shot. Had you hit her in the lungs, I'd imagine it would've been DRT.

35W
 
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I always wonder how such determinations are made. There are a lot of Grendel hunters using Speer TNT 90 gr. varmint rounds on deer and hogs and well and are quite happy with the performance.
Design intent has everything to do with it. Or more specifically, what the bullet is designed to do at what impact velocity. Has nothing to do with marketing. What is intended as a varmint bullet in one cartridge, becomes a medium game bullet in another. For example, the 125gr .30cal ballistic tip. In the .308 through .300 magnums, this is a varmint bullet. At 3500fps out of a .300WM, it is going to explode when it hits the target. However, in the .30-30 T/C Contender pistol, where it's leaving the muzzle at somewhere just over 2000fps, it is a deer bullet, due to the decreased impact velocity. Same for the 120gr ballistic tip I use out of the 7mmTCU.
 
Design intent has everything to do with it. Or more specifically, what the bullet is designed to do at what impact velocity. Has nothing to do with marketing. What is intended as a varmint bullet in one cartridge, becomes a medium game bullet in another. For example, the 125gr .30cal ballistic tip. In the .308 through .300 magnums, this is a varmint bullet. At 3500fps out of a .300WM, it is going to explode when it hits the target. However, in the .30-30 T/C Contender pistol, where it's leaving the muzzle at somewhere just over 2000fps, it is a deer bullet, due to the decreased impact velocity. Same for the 120gr ballistic tip I use out of the 7mmTCU.
Thirty cal. V max in a 7.62x39 worked so well for one yard deer. It's in the rotation and will use it again some day. Very good observations.
 
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