Lesson No. 6: Perfect Bang-Flops

Do you always need that expensive “hard” bullet?

More than a few years ago I brought several fragments of a recovered bullet from a feral boar to show a representative of a well-known bullet company. I was convinced the bullet failed. This boar wasn't particularly large, maybe 150 pounds. The rep asked me if I had any trouble recovering the animal. I replied that the boar had run in a small circle and died perhaps 20 yards from where it was shot. "So why do you think the bullet failed?" he asked.

Nonetheless, I went on the search for the ultimate bullet-one that would always produce the classic mushroom shape and always give me a bang-flop kill, given good shot placement. It doesn't exist. Even with head shots there is a minute chance the animal won't drop in its tracks. I've seen it. Besides, head shots are pretty ugly.

The now-obsolete Winchester Fail Safe bullet gave good results, especially on animals like elk, large mule deer and caribou, but it wasn't perfect in terms of bang-flop. I've done a considerable amount of handloading development with the Barnes Triple-Shock X-Bullet in several calibers, and its results are similar to the Fail Safe. I have never lost an animal hit with either of these bullets, but bang-flops are problematical.

This past season I thinned the whitetail herd on my place a bit using the 130-grain TSX in one of my .270 Winchesters. All three does were hit in pretty much the same spot-within a rib or two, right behind the foreleg elbow. Ranges were from 80 to 310 yards by laser rangefinder after the shot. Each doe ran about 25 to 30 yards before piling up. All of the bullets passed through the animals, so none were recovered.

I also used a 110-grain TSX loaded to 3,485 fps in one of my .270 WSMs to take a doe pronghorn at 350 yards during the past hunting season. This animal dropped in its tracks but it took more than a minute to expire. Again, the bullet was a pass-through and could not be recovered.

From what I have seen I am starting to believe that so-called "hard" bullets are not necessary for light big-game animals-those weighing up to about 120 pounds-at ranges out to, say, 400 yards. There is certainly nothing wrong with using these bullets on light animals. As I noted, I haven't lost or had any recovery problems on any animal I have hit with them. But they do not ensure bang-flop. No bullet can do that.

For large buck deer, bears, elk and such bullets like the TSX, MRX and Swift Sirocco II offer more penetration and nearly always a pass-through. More damage most often means a quicker, more humane kill. But lighter animals might be better suited to a more traditional cup-and-core "soft" bullet like the Sierra GameKing, Remington Core-Lokt or Hornady InterLock SP.


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1 Response to Lesson No. 6: Perfect Bang-Flops

Gary wrote:
January 05, 2010

Whether a bullet failed by coming apart depends on what it was designed to do. Some bullets should come apart while we want others that do not. Those that do come apart tend to provide less penetration and this can sometimes lead to troubles with big game. Likewise a bullet that doesn't expand at all and simply punches a caliber size hole through an animal can create problems recovering the animal if there isn't a good blood trail. I think I've come to the same conclusion as you, that there is no perfect bullet in all situations and that we need to match the bullet to the game.