Premium Bullets

What are "Premium Bullets"?

First let me state which of the many makes and types bullets in my experience of having used and seen in action are certainly not of "premium" performance.  These are personal observations from what happens on the low shoulder of big and small game unless the heaviest bullets in the calibre is used on small game.      As a recap:

We put the bullet here

then we expect calibre size entry

and not more than 2x calibre exit

All the following observations must be read in the above context of shot placement into the substantial protective cage of the animal's heart-lung area, surrounded by strong bones and tough sinews and tough, resilient skin.

Most Unacceptable Performance


Nosler Ballistic Tip:  Mostly complete fracturing and total lack of penetration on all big game shoulders, and even on small game with impact velocities above 2,600 ft/sec. Huge entrance wounds and lead and copper slivers all over. The animal invariably dies from inhaling its own blood, and suffocation from a perforated diaphragm and trachea.

Nosler Partition:  The 180gr from .308W / 30-06 and 150gr from .270W impact velocity at all distances from 70-250 yards lose the front end with slivers of copper and lead all over the entrance wound causing too much meat to be thrown away. Killing is good but the rear end tumbles all the way to exit below 150 yards with lots of meat spoiling. Whatever was the theory of designing a bullet that throws away 50% of its sectional density at the moment of impact, and then acts like a tumbling FMJ?  Why did Nosler not just design a FMJ with 60% of the original weight and still ensure 100% penetration?


PMP old style "Red Kudu" ammunition:  Very accurate ammunition but too thin front end jacket for impact velocity above 2,400 ft/sec, with too much expansion, weight loss and meat damage, with not all the way penetration on big game closer than 150 yards.


Sierra Game King:  The 180gr from .308W / 30-06  and 150gr from .270W impact velocity at all distances from 70-200 yards lose the front end with slivers of copper and lead all over the entrance wound causing too much meat to be thrown away. Lack of penetration due to little retained momentum and often long tracking to find a very much alive animal.

Speer "Grand Slam": Exactly the same as the PMP and Sierra GK above.

Remington CoreLokt:  Must be the worst bullet in the market for keeping the core and jacket together. Even at 2,100 ft/sec impact velocity of the 150gr 7mm bullet the expansion on boneless skin immediately on impact is about 4x calibre, completely detaching the jacket from the core.

Almost Premium


1. Barnes TSX and TTSX.  At impact velocity below 2,200 ft/sec the petals of even a 160gr 7mm  TSX do not open and the bullet acts as a monolithic solid.  Above 2,600 ft/sec the petals of a TTSX get flung back and become swaged onto the shank and the bullet again acts as a monolithic solid, with total through penetration.  With heart shots as we do in South Africa this is no big deal as the animal will be dead in a couple dozen yards, but a lung shot with Barnes is always a big risk - particularly on Africa game where any lung shot must be resisted no matter the bullet. Many hunters have reported non-expansion from high impact velocities because the bullet passed through and the exit hole was calibre size - but this in fact most probably indicated petal throwback.

Friend Dom in southern Colorado who lives at at 7,700 ft. elevation has excellent results with 120gr and 130gr Barnes TTSX from his 6.5 mm rifles on elk. Dom is an expert elk hunter and can place his bullets into the heart as asked for in the above photos; he shoots at distances from 80 yards to 250 yards. My bet is that without knowing Dom may have had petal throwback but would not know due to the complete pass through he has most of the time.  As said earlier: when a proper heart shot is taken that issue is neither here nor there.  See below what Impala bullets achieve with zero  expansion.

2.  Woodleigh.  In principle  good design but often poor quality assurance.  Once again a local hunter recently reported a complete core and jacket separation:  a 510gr from a .470 Nitro Express on a whitetail deer size impala frontal shot. Of course the animal dropped in its tracks because the heart was completely demolished by the core which stopped in the rear upper leg.  That bullet should have gone out the rear with no slowing down. The jacket already separated from the core right next to the breast bone.  This is the hunter's Cape buffalo rifle and not finding his buff that day, on the way back he shot the impala for camp meat. Had that shot been at the buffalo he may have got himself killed.

The proper "premium" bullets

1.  Impala Bullets.  South African made lathe turned brass monolithic solid with a unique sharp conical nose design with a grooved semi wadcutter shoulder edge in order to utilise the supersonic shockwave to enhance organ tissue disruption. It is designed for high impact velocity to achieve very high impulse from surprisingly light bullets.  A colleague who is an experienced big game hunter only uses 130gr Impala bullets at 3,000 ft/sec from his Lee Enfield .303 Brit and achieves consistent "bang-flop" kills on kudu and wildebeest at all distances to 200+ yards with complete penetration through both shoulders.  Zero meat damage and no expansion is required. Because of state hunting regulations these bullets are not allowed in the US for hunting as they have been classified as FMJ type. This bullet and Impala ammunition are very popular in Germany and Scandinavia.  Three .308" weights below:

130 gr

150 gr

170 gr

2. GS  Custom (GSC) copper bullets.  Another local design.  Everything the Barnes wanted to be - but this one is better. The GSC has fairly consistent expansion from from 1,900 ft/sec to 2,900 ft/sec.  A number of narrow driving bands ensure a perfect gas seal while offering far less frictional resistance than Barnes - and even less than standard cup and core. 100% weight retention, mostly complete pass through and no petal flip-back.  I have no personal experience of the GSC series bullets but they get very good press in the local gun media. It is a good bullet for the fast magnums. 

3.  Peregrine bullets.  My own experience with these South African designed,  lathe turned soft copper bullets is very good and the only projectile I use in all calibres. It has perfect 1.5x calibre, round mushroom expansion from as low as 1800 ft/sec impact velocity to above 3,000 ft/sec.  An accurately turned brass plunger in the nose centre ensures the low impact velocity mushroom.  The plunger has only a set amount of rearward movement and at high impact velocity it still only causes the same amount of mushroom.

Not "premium" but very good performance at impact velocities below 2,600 ft/sec

1.&2.  Hornady Interbond, Federal Premium Fusion, Speer Deep Curl.  Consistent performance, deep penetration and very little meat damage. Complete penetration through the low shoulders of mule deer size game with 150gr .308W at 100-250 yards and deep penetration on big game with 180gr.

3.&4.  Hornady Interlock and PMP ProAmm.  Consistent performance, slightly more expansion than the Interbond, still good penetration and acceptable meat damage. Complete penetration through the low shoulders of mule deer size game with 150gr .308W at 100-250 yards and good penetration with 180gr into the shoulders of big game - often bulging on the opposite skin.

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