A common question I hear is –
And, I guess, it totally depends on what you are trying to achieve.
Like many things, we need to provide some framing and context. For the purposes of this article, we need to make some assumptions – they are –
- You can shoot
- Your rifle can shoot
- You are wanting to shoot further out
- You are an ethical hunter
Because obviously, if you can’t shoot, there is only so much gear will help.
If your rifle isn’t capable of shooting, then it may not matter what you feed it. If you are shooting animals in the bush at 50 meters, then some of the things we are going to talk about certainly won’t apply to you,
If you don’t have a desire to do right by the animal, and the hunting community by ensuring that when you pull the trigger, you are making ethical shoots, then, well, sort out your game.
TLDNR – What does better ammo do for me?
It reduces your margin of error. I could (and will) go on about how a better BC will have better ballistic performance in regards to both elevation and wind hold, as for that matter, doe certain cartridges, but at the end of the day what it actually all means is this –
Better designed projectiles (bullets) provide the same killing power, but also reduce your potential to miss should you incorrectly estimate the range, or, under or overestimate the wind you are shooting in.
So yes. They are worth it if you are planning on taking any long shots.
Ok. So as a primer, pop over and read my article on what exactly BC is. We are going to be talking about projectiles, BC’s, velocities and the like for a bit.
Essentially, the BC is a measure of a projectiles performance and ability to ‘slip’ through the air. Higher BC, better flight characteristics. Better flight characteristics, means more velocity (more correctly, it losses velocity slower), less flight time, so less drop and less ‘pushing’ about by the wind. All of the things that are of interest when hunting longer range.
You know the Road Safety Adverts, well, it holds true for bullets hitting animals as well. It’s fairly logical – if we are talking about an object of the same weight hitting something faster or slower, the faster hit will cause more damage.
Now, sure, the projectile design also plays a large part in this. But for the purposes of this article, we are going to consider the projectiles being discussed to be of close enough performance in regards to expansion to not matter – of course – you shouldn’t be using match bullets or ammo to hunt with – because, at some point, the design becomes more about BC than expansion – and a bullet that doesn’t expand, is likely to pencil straight through an animal – causing bleeding – potentially not enough to kill, or, enough to cause a slow death. Neith of which we want.
However, a bullet design with better BC will generally mean more ‘speed’ downrange at the target. This means it carries more energy, which is transferred into the target, causing hydraulic, or hydrostatic shock – which you can read more about over here.
Getting there faster
Maybe something that isn’t thought of as much – but more velocity means less flight time – and when we are getting up into the seconds, there is actually ample time for your target to move. Maybe not completely out of the way, but moving enough to cause a solid hit to become a wounding one.
A projectile that gets there faster simply reduces the potential for this to happen.
Drop it like its hot
Sorry, not sorry.
More speed, less time for gravity to pull the projectile back down into the earth, so less drop. Now, while gravity is a mathematical constant (as we deal with it), then drop you have to dial is going to also be constant. However, more to the point, if if you need to dial less, you have less margin of error. This also translates into having more wiggle room when it comes to getting your range wrong.
While I would suggest that a rangefinder becomes an important component when you start shooting out to a distance, for those guesstimating range – a bullet that requires less dial i.e. is flatter shooting – is going to be more forgiving if you get the range wrong.
I illustrate this point below.
Here we have two projectiles – and for the sake of this comparison, we are going to use the ‘box’ velocities of two popular hunting loads. PPU 140 grain SP at $39.99 from Gun City, and Hornady Precision Hunter 150 grain ELD-X – $79.95 from GC.
Yes, we have a slightly different grain weight. I know that.
We also have different ‘box velocities’ of 2854fps from the PPU and 2770 from the ELD-X. Less velocity for the heavier projectile. No real supprises. BC’s are .459 for the PPC and .574 for the ELD-X. Let’s run some numbers.
I am going to use Coldbore, and it’s excellent Error Budget functionality. Read up about that over here. Couple of ‘assumptions’ – Ranging Error allowance of up to 10 meters either way – I mean, you should be using a rangefinder, but let’s just allow for a bit of variance here. Wind Call error of up to 2 miles per hour around an average of a 10mph wind call. It’s likely actually more unless you happen to be Todd Hodnett. Spoiler. You ain’t. I allowed an SD on both ammo of 14.27 – which, for factory ammo, is generous. Finally, I allowed a system accuracy of 1 moa.
For the PPU, when all is said and done, at 500 meters – you have a probability of hit of 66% – all going perfect (assuming you don’t pull the shot) that’s the mathematical likelihood of hitting a 6-inch target at that range. I use 6 inches – because, if we are being honest with ourselves – outside of that and we face a real risk of injuring an animal – either missing completely, or hitting low in the legs, or a gutshot.
The purple ring is the ‘system’ accuracy – the green is the target diameter.
And how does the Hornady fair?
83% chance of a hit. Same 6-inch target, same variables, the only change being the BC of the projectile and less velocity.
If you compare the two pictures, you might notice that most of the variation is over the horizontal spread – the basically means – that the higher BC is going to give you more flexibility when it comes to your wind call. Potentially the most tricky part of hunting and shooting to distance.
I do have to point something else out though.
83% isn’t really an ethical shot. Sorry to break it to you. And it’s not until we reduce the distance to around 300 meters that we show a 100% likelihood of a hit. Again, that isn’t accounting for you pulling a shot, stuffing up a position or the multitude of other things that could go wrong.
Out of interest – I also ran the figures for the 300PRC Eld-X Load – 212gr – and – we are presented with a 100% hit rate at 400 meters and 93% hit rate at 500 meters.