Top 5 Deer Bullets for 2018

posted on October 16, 2018

We are undoubtedly living in the Golden Age of bullet development. Never before have our projectiles been more reliable, consistent or effective; the science involved in creating a bullet that will perform at long ranges, as well as those up close shots, has been nearly perfected. As deer tags become more difficult to obtain in many states, and hunting opportunities become more precious, we come to depend on our projectiles to get the job done. Let’s take a look at the top five newer choices for deer hunting rifle bullets.

1. Federal Premium Edge TLR
Introduced in 2017, Federal Premium’s Edge TLR makes a wonderful choice for deer of any species. With a unique polymer tip—Federal calls it their Slipstream tip, resistant to heat during flight—and a black nickel coating, the Edge TLR is designed to give the terminal ballistics we’re all after at any hunting range within the realm of sanity. With a good boat tail and Federal’s Accu-Channel groove mid-shank, the Edge TLR retains its energy and resists wind deflection very well. It has shown to be seriously accurate—I have several rifles that will print ¾-MOA groups or less—and the terminal ballistics are perfect for deer, giving a great blend of expansion and penetration. The lead core is chemically bonded to the jacket, so shots from any angle are possible. I recently had the opportunity to prove that in the field, while hunting Axis deer in Texas. Using the 175-grain Edge TLR in a .30-06 Springfield, both an old axis buck and an axis doe fell to a single shot each. As a matter of fact, the results were nearly boring; both fell to the shot nearly where they stood. Available in 7mm Rem. Mag., .270 Win., .270 WSM, .308 Win., .30-06 Sprg., .300 Win. Mag. and .300 WSMMSRP: $47.95-59.95 per 20-rnd. box;

2. Norma EcoStrike
For those who prefer or are required to use lead-free projectiles, Norma’s EcoStrike is sure to please. With a green polymer tip, boattail and unique waist that has been designed to maximize retained velocity and energy figures, the EcoStrike is wonderfully accurate and hits hard. Being lead-free, they are longer than their cup-and-core counterparts; therefore Norma loads them at the lighter end of the spectrum for the respective calibers. I’ve used it in several calibers, for game as tough as European wild boar. I especially like the 150-grain .308 Winchester load; it has proven to print sub-MOA groups in both my own and my wife’s rifle. She took her first whitetail with it; a respectable Catskill Mountain eight pointer. Available in 7x64mm, 7x65R, 7mm Rem. Mag., .308 Win., .30-06 Sprg., .300 Win. Mag., .300 WSM, 8x57 JRS, 8x57 JS, 9.3x62mm and 9.3x74R. MSRP: $50.99-$73.99 per 20-rnd. box;

3. Hornady ELD-X
Hornady has a definite winner in the ELD-X. The same effort and research that produced the ELD Match—with its HeatShield tip, resisting deformation from friction in flight—went into producing the ELD-X, and it has worked out just fine. Delivering a high ballistic coefficient (BC) from a secant ogive, and armed with Hornady’s ultra-concentric AMP jackets, the ELD-X fully embraces one of the simplest principals of hunting: you need to hit your animal accurately. The ELD-X is most definitely accurate, as a matter of fact I’ve found the ELD-X to be one of the most accurate hunting bullets ever made, being on par with the ELD-Match. My 6.5-284 Norma absolutely loves this bullet; printing ⅓-MOA groups out to 500 yards. They are normally heavy-for-caliber (to keep the BC high) and make an excellent choice for big bucks across a windy canyon or standing on the far end of the hay lot. Available in .243 Win., .25-06 Rem., .257 Wby. Mag., 6mm Creedmoor, 6.5 Creedmoor, 6.5 PRC, .270 Win., .270 WSM, 7mm-08 Rem., .280 Rem., .280 Ackley Improved, 7mm WSM, 7mm Rem. Mag., .308 Win., .30-06 Sprg., .300 WSM, .300 Win. Mag., .300 Wby. Mag., .300 Rem. Ultra Mag., .338 Win. Mag. and .338 Lapua Mag. MSRP: $36.99-$42.99;

4. Browning BXR
Browning’s entry into the ammunition market was by no means half-hearted. Their centerfire ammunition is fantastic stuff, purposefully designed to fulfill the hunter’s needs. Browning’s deer load is the BXR Matrix Tip, a flat-base bullet with a polymer tip that will fragment on impact, revealing a large hollow cavity. The rapid expansion of the BXR line is a perfect design for whitetail, mule deer and the like, giving the hydraulic shock that seems to switch these species to the “off” position. It has shown fine accuracy and consistency in my tests, and though I haven’t personally had the opportunity to hunt with it yet, those who have report dramatic terminal effects. I like a flat-base bullet, especially for shots inside of 250 yards; they take up less room in the case, and some “finicky” rifles show a preference for the flat-based projectiles over their boattail counterparts. Try the Browning BXR in your rifle, you might find a new favorite. Available in .243 Win., .270 Win., .270 WSM, 6.5 Creedmoor, 7mm Rem. Mag, 7mm-08 Rem., .30-06 Sprg., .30-30 Win., .300 Win. Mag., .300 WSM and .308 Win. MSRP: $27.99-33.99;

5. Norma TipStrike
This is the lead-core development in Norma’s new Strike series of ammunition; it is a flat-base polymer tip bullet specifically designed to impart its energy quickly and effectively, and it does just that. TipStrike was built for the European driven hunts as well as for American whitetails; both hunts require that quick energy transfer. It too is accurate—my favorite Winchester Model 70 in .300 Winchester Magnum puts three TipStrike bullets into a ½-MOA group—and as a deer round is as good a design as you could ask for. The Lead Lock feature locks the lead core to the shank of the copper jacket—thick at the shank, yet thinning as the ogive approaches the meplat—and that jacket wraps around the base of the bullet for weight retention. I’ve used TipStrike ammo to quickly put down heavy-bodied wild boar in Poland, and have no doubt that it makes for a fantastic deer load; I witnessed it cleanly take red stag—bigger than North American deer—with no issue. Available in 7x57R, 7mm-08 Rem., 7x65R, .280 Rem., 7x64mm, 7mm Rem. Mag., .308 Win., 30-06 Sprg. and .300 Win. Mag. MSRP: $40.99-$50.99 per 20-rnd. box;

These newer designs will most certainly find a place among the classic deer bullets; give them an audition in your rifle, and you just may make a new friend.

Want to read more from Philip Massaro? Check out the following articles:
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• How to Build a Custom Rifle
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• Top 5 American-Made Hunting Rifles
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• An Ode to the Browning BAR
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• Do You Really Need a Magnum Cartridge?
• Why the Ruger No. 1 is Not No. 2
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• Tips for the Traveling Hunter
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• Top 5 Boutique Bullet Companies
• Top 5 .22 Long Rifle Loads
• 5 Reasons Round-Nose Bullets Are Still Cool
• Top 5 Dangerous Game Loads
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• 5 Rifle Cartridges That Need to Make a Comeback
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• 5 New Year's Resolutions for Hunters
• What Your Favorite Rifle Cartridge Says About You
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• What Your Favorite Rifle Cartridge Says About You, Part II
• Top 5 Overrated Rifle Cartridges
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• 5 Cartridges You Might Not Know About
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• An Ode to the Ruger Mini-14
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