This past year has really changed the world as I knew it, and probably how you knew it. One of the effects I’ve seen is the huge surge in demand on hunting/shooting equipment. This surge has required many of us to use a second or third choice in equipment from what we usually use. The old bread-and-butter staples that we are used to now require several months of waiting for supplies and sometimes they simply just don’t arrive. I always take pride in the personal inventory I keep on hand and very seldom have to go to plan B; however, the need to use product other than my favourite go-to did manage to catch up to me this fall on a short notice, out-of-province hunt.
These shortages have found many hunters and shooters having to step out of their comfort zone and try products other than their tried-and-true preferred favourites.
Different powders and different bullets (because there is no other choice) seems to have become the norm. Being forced to use non-standard products can truly broaden one’s experiences and in some cases even perform better than the product they replaced. Of course, there is always the opposite results as well, and the day I wrote this article I was using bullets much lighter and of different construction than what I normally prefer. I never lost game, but it did require an extra follow-up shot or two that wouldn’t have been needed with my preferred ammunition.
I get asked on a fairly regular basis if it’s OK to use match/target bullets for hunting. Having been fortunate enough to have toured a few major bullet manufacturers and having many conversations with their ballistics engineers, their response to this is usually the same, and that is, “No.” The use of match bullets for game is not recommended. Match/target bullets are engineered for optimum accuracy and do have not have any engineering in them for terminal expansion or performance on game. The hollow point is not there for expansion, it’s a simple by-product of bullet assembly. The polymer tips in other match bullets is there for consistency and to assist in ballistic coefficient. That being said, I am aware of many hunters who have used them successfully, but not everyone has a success story. In my experimenting with the various match bullets, I have encountered both over expansion and complete lack of expansion.
If the situation goes bad and you fail to recover an animal, are you prepared for that? Are you willing to accept that your choice of a projectile may have been the reason for losing/wounding that animal?
I encountered both sides of this issue on this hunt. As previously mentioned, I had a less-than-perfect experience, but I also made one of the best shots of my hunting career using the same rifle and ammunition. I went from a pretty cocky high yesterday to a full serving of humble pie today. Both of these experiences will not be forgotten and I will learn from both incidents. I keep a log/record of both my successes and failures of my trips and I find it amazing that going back and reading these even just a few years later, how much I had already forgotten. These logs assist in developing my skills going forward.
In examining the less-than-perfect results on this trip, it came down to a very simple fact: I made the mistake, the bullet didn’t fail. I have to own that decision and the effects thereof.
I took a shot at an angle and that bullet didn’t even have a chance at getting to the vitals. I knew the capabilities of the bullet I was shooting, but in the heat of the moment, I simply shot as I normally do, failing to consider the bullet weight and construction was different from what I normally use. This failure solely was my fault and nothing else. Using something other than our preferred products, like using match bullets in the field, we need to prepare for the outcome; it is not the fault of the manufacturers or the product.
In the upcoming season and ventures in the field, make sure you are familiar with your equipment. Practice and be prepared, but, most importantly, have fun and be safe.
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