Different Types of Big-Game Bullets

Types of Big Game Bullets
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Different Types of Big-Game Bullets

These 4 bullet styles all work a little differently to perform the same task

When I came off active duty and moved back to the farm in West Virginia from Idaho, the only deer rifle I had was a .45-caliber muzzleloader.

Deer season had just started so I borrowed Dad’s rifle. Preparing for the hunt, I noticed the rifle’s magazine contained a mixture of Winchester and Remington ammunition.

When I asked Dad about it, he said, “Don’t worry, they’ll all kill deer.”

He was right, Winchester Power Points and Remington Core-Lokts are excellent for deer. But Power Points and Core Lokts are just one kind of big game bullet.

Depending on your cartridge and the big game you’re after, they may not be best.

Four Big-Game Bullet Categories

There are essentially four types of big game bullets to choose from. Conventional big game bullets, like the Power Point and Core Lokt, are what’s known as cup and core bullets.

They’ve been around for a long time. The first big change in big game bullets came in the late 40s and it was essentially a cup and core bullet with a partition dividing the front and rear cores.

The next big thing was the bonded bullets that came to us in the late 60s and early 70s. About 15 years later we saw the arrival of the mono-metal bullet.

All these bullets are designed to do the same thing, they just do it in different ways.

Cup and Core Bullets

With a cup and core bullet like the Remington Core-Lokt, the bullet’s jacket is just a cup – jacket – of copper or gilding metal that’s formed around a lead or lead alloy core.

Sometimes the jacket is “locked” to the core with a rib on the inside of the jacket wall to help the core stay connected to the jacket as the bullet deforms.

Cup and core bullets are ideal for low velocity cartridges like the .30/30. They’ll even work well for higher velocity cartridges like the .270 Winchester, but only when deep penetration is not necessary.

A cup and core bullet in a .270 would be ideal on a whitetail deer, but maybe not so much on an elk.

Partitioned Bullets

The first bullet with a partition was the Nosler Partition. It has a front and rear core that’s separated by a wall tying the jacket together.

The Partition is still a cup and core bullet, but it will not deform past its partition.

This allows it to retain weight to guarantee deeper penetration, even when impacting at extreme velocity.

Partition bullets help maximize terminal performance regardless of caliber.

If you want to hunt big game with small caliber cartridges, like deer with a .223 Remington or elk with a .243 Winchester, they’re fantastic.

The Swift A-Frame is another partitioned bullet, but with the A-frame you get the added benefit of a front core that’s bonded to the jacket.

Bonded Bullets

A bonded bullet, like the Nosler AccuBond, is exactly what it sounds like. The bullet’s jacket is chemically or molecularly bonded to the bullet’s core.

The first really successful bonded bullet was the Trophy Bonded Bear Claw. Federal purchased this company and has since revamped the original design.

Bonding greatly enhances the bullet’s ability to retain weight and deform into a nice and wide mushroom as it’s busting through bone, cartilage, and muscle, even at high velocity.

Bonded bullets penetrate deeper than cup and core bullets.

They’re also suitable for use in the same ways as partitioned bullets, but have a reputation for better accuracy.

Mono-Metal Bullets

As the name implies, a mono-metal bullet is made from a single material.

A mono-metal bullet does not have a jacket or a core; it is homogeneous. In the late 80s, Barnes Bullets was the first company to successfully create and market mono-metal bullets on a wide scale.

Their main attributes are weight retention and consistent deformation.

They can enhance the lethality of small caliber cartridges, withstand high velocity impacts very well, and generally out-penetrate all other so-called expanding bullets.

Unlike lead core bullets that partially rely on material transfer for wounding, mono-metal bullets thrive on velocity, the faster they hit, the better they work.

A new mono-metal bullet known as the Controlled Chaos from Lehigh Defense, works a little differently. The front of the Chaos bullet turns into shrapnel and the rear shank penetrates very deep.

It’s kind of a mono-metal version of the Nosler Partition.

Other Big-Game Bullet Advances

Regardless of the bullet style, bullet engineers have discovered things that can help them shoot flatter and more accurately.

These enhancements can be applied to any bullet style. One of the most popular is the polymer tip.

These itty-bitty plastic cones at the end of bullets help them achieve a higher ballistic coefficient, improve flight consistency, and can also help initiate deformation.

The other popular modification is the tweaking of the bullet’s shape or ogive. A secant ogive improves flight characteristics over the more common and less aerodynamic tangent ogive.

No matter how you look at it, hunters today have the best bullets for big game that have ever been created.

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