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Best Bullets for Deer Hunting

Break-throughs in bullet design technology are making good old factory ammo better than ever. Here are some of the best loads for deer

We have a plethora of intricately engineered projectiles capable of doing things unimaginable in 1925, when the .270 Winchester was introduced. These new age, bonded and mono-metal bullets are known as “premium bullets” and they come with a premium price.

Too often the effectiveness of a bullet is judged by how it looks after expansion. The real clue to terminal performance is how fast it puts deer down.

Too often the effectiveness of a bullet is judged by how it looks after expansion. The real clue to terminal performance is how fast it puts deer down.

Many deer hunters even believe they’re necessary for whacking whitetails. What these hunters are missing – pardon the pun – is that the things learned during premium bullet development have leaked over into conventional bullet design.

Deer are not hard to kill. Sure, ammunition is one of the least expensive aspects of your hunt, so there’s nothing wrong with opting for the high-end stuff. But common bullets still kill deer stone dead.

Here’s a look at several loads that have benefited from more than 50 years of research. They’ll put deer down with authority and they’ll do it for a fraction of the cost of their deluxe counterparts.

The Deer Tip

Nosler has been engineering hunting bullets for 67 years. Several years ago they began offering their own, factory-loaded, Trophy Grade ammunition. Trophy Grade ammo was originally loaded with deluxe Nosler bullets like the Partition, AccuBond, E-Tip, and Ballistic Tip.

Years of research and testing while building premium bullets has allowed Nosler to tweak the Ballistic Tip, making it what might be the ultimate deer bullet.

Years of research and testing while building premium bullets has allowed Nosler to tweak the Ballistic Tip, making it what might be the ultimate deer bullet.

The Ballistic Tip is the most conventional bullet in the Nosler line up. Realizing it was a popular choice for deer hunters, Nosler separated the Ballistic Tip Ammo from the rest of Trophy Grade line.

Compared to the higher end AccuBond and Partition loads, Ballistic Tip ammo retails for about 30% less but is still loaded to the same precision standards.

The Ballistic Tip bullet was introduced in 1984. Its topped with a pointy polymer tip, has a sleek ogive, and boat tail to flatten trajectory. Ballistic Tips instantly developed a reputation for extreme accuracy but some hunters claimed them too soft for big game.

Thirty years of bullet evolution and learning has allowed Nosler to tweak the Ballistic Tip to the point it might now be the ultimate deer bullet.

Less Kick

Hunters have a tendency to over gun. Maybe it’s the fault of gun writers or possibly the idea that bigger is always better. Either way, deer hunters often find themselves behind a rifle that pounds them to the point they cannot shoot with precision.

High-energy dump during the first few inches of penetration is what makes a great deer bullet. Performance like this can be found in modern conventional projectiles.

High-energy dump during the first few inches of penetration is what makes a great deer bullet. Performance like this can be found in modern conventional projectiles.

It used to be if you wanted to shoot with less recoil you had to switch cartridges, opting for one that might not inspire confidence. Fortunately, bullet engineers have learned a thing or two while creating long range hunting bullets and the deluxe bullets gun writers swear by.

Remington and Hornady have applied what they’ve learned to conventional bullets like the Core Lokt and SST and by using special propellants they’ve created two of the most overlooked gems when it comes to deer hunting ammunition.

By limiting the recoil impulse of common deer hunting cartridges, Hornady and Remington have developed very effective and soft shooting deer loads that work.

By limiting the recoil impulse of common deer hunting cartridges, Hornady and Remington have developed very effective and soft shooting deer loads that work.

Hornady’s Custom Lite and Remington’s Managed Recoil loads offer substantial recoil reduction; in some cases as much as 40%. Just as important, terminal performance has not been sacrificed.

These masterfully engineered but conventional bullets deliver devastating results inside game. And, with less felt recoil, hunters can place them more precisely.

The trade off – there’s always a trade off – is reach. Due to the reduced velocities, reduced recoil loads have more rainbow-like trajectories and velocity drops below what’s needed to insure expansion as ranges extend past 250 yards.

Of course most deer hunters don’t need to shoot beyond 250 yards. Remington Managed Recoil and Hornady Custom Lite ammo is a perfect example of how modern bullet technology has enhanced the conventional hunting bullet.

The Subsonic Solution

More and more states are legalizing suppressors for hunting. This is a wise since it reduces the potential for hearing damage. It also makes sense from the aspect of limiting noise pollution in urban areas were deer hunting is permitted. Currently, the most popular subsonic hunting cartridge is the .300 AAC Blackout.

One of the best examples of how ballistic technology has benefitted common bullets is the new subsonic .300 Blackout load from Nosler / Noveske. This bullet doesn’t know it’s going slow.

One of the best examples of how ballistic technology has benefitted common bullets is the new subsonic .300 Blackout load from Nosler / Noveske. This bullet doesn’t know it’s going slow.

Until now there’s been only one subsonic expanding hunting load for the .300 Blackout. It was effective but at more than $ 2.50 per cartridge it was expensive.

The problem with designing bullets to expand at subsonic velocities is engineering one soft enough to expand at velocities less than 1100 fps, while being tough enough to hold together as it penetrates bone, muscle, and hide.

Using what was learned while designing defensive handgun ammunition and rifle bullets made to expand at extreme range, Nosler has created a masterpiece in the art of bullet building.

Their new 220-grain Ballistic Tip Round Nose bullet load for the .300 Blackout will expand to double diameter and penetrate about 20 inches in 10% ordnance gelatin. This is satisfactory performance for any deer bullet and equals that of the time proven-.30-30 Winchester.

It’s affordable and the tip even glows in the dark!

Inexpensive Effectiveness

There’s nothing wrong with using the best bullet you can buy. But sometimes, the best bullet, especially for deer hunters, is not the most expensive or most premium option.

Thankfully, the drive to build better bullets has increased the effectiveness of common projectiles and now high performance does not necessarily mean high prices.

One thing we can be sure of is that deer bullets will just keep getting better.

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