Bullet-Base Basics

Whether to use a flat-base bullet or one with a boattail depends largely on the cartridge and the game being hunted.

Q: What’s the difference between a standard bullet and one with a boattail? Are boattail bullets worth the extra money?

A: Flat-base bullets are the most common and easiest to manufacture. For hunting North American game at average ranges, flat-base bullets are hard to beat. They combine accuracy with low cost and wide variety. For these reasons, they are the choice of most hunters.

Boattail bullets are more difficult to manufacture and therefore more expensive. The streamlined, tapered base of the boatail bullet significantly reduces base drag which results in higher striking velocity and energy, flatter trajectories and reduced wind drift. Although the advantages of boattail bullets accrue at all ranges, the effect builds—and the advantages become more apparent—at long ranges. At ranges under 200 yards, boattail bullets offer the hunter only minimal gains.

Due to both the increased cost of manufacture and superior long-range ballistics, boattail bullets are normally considered a premium product for long-range hunting under difficult conditions and are priced accordingly. As a result, boattail bullets such as the Barnes TTSXCombined Technology Ballistic SilvertipHornady SSTNosler Ballistic TipSierra GameKing, Speer Spitzer BTSP and Swift Sirocco II Bonded are excellent choices for high-velocity cartridges, long-range magnums and many standard calibers where added effective range may be needed. Boattail bullets offer no appreciable advantage in low-velocity cartridges such as .30-30 Win. or .45-70 Gov’t.

 

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