Choices, Choices, Choices…

Matt Siemens with a bison kill
Via Matt Siemens

In the many years I have spent behind the counter or working trade shows, I have encountered many hunters who want to shoot deer with a .338 and go get their elk with a .243. Why?? I have no idea! But I have experimented both with light hyper velocity bullets and the other end of the spectrum the heavy bullets going fast. I have shot and killed game with 39-grain bullets all the way up to 750 grains.  I have also successfully used the “hyper expansion” bullets on game and on the other end I have used solids as well. They all have their application and they all work well if they are placed in the correct place, but that doesn’t make them a prudent choice in all situations.


As hunters, there a few things that we will never agree on such as the perfect caliber for that one gun to do everything or the best bullet made. I actually find myself studying the various aspects of bullet performance way too much.

You can call me to go hunting and I will say yes in an instant and then will spend weeks running various scenarios through my mind on which caliber and bullet to use only to make the decision and then find that the bullet and rifle that was my second choice shoots a 1/8” better.


Does that slightly tighter group make a difference?  With all the other variables that come into play in most hunting situations, I would say not all but I know that but I will still stew on that decision for weeks, literally.  I can’t recall ever losing an animal due to bullet failure, but rather just plain dropping the ball and missing has left me many times heading for home empty handed, replaying the shot in my mind.

The game being hunted is what determines the bullet I use. I am not going to use a bullet with the same expansion characteristics when hunting coyotes for hides as I would use on deer or even a northern bison. Once has to balance expansion and penetration and with today’s selection of bullets the choices are certainly there. I like to be able to reach the vitals from any reasonable angle. You have to remember that you might be called on to finish off a wounded animal. Not an ideal situation but it is a realistic one. Not only can you prevent a lost animal in that situation you may save yourself many hours of packing as well.