As a reloader, you are able to control the ballistic parameters of the ammunition for your firearm. Whether it is a pistol or rifle, the ability to vary the bullet weight and velocity of your firearm makes each and every one of them much more flexible than most people would think.
There are oodles of great factory loadings available today, and it is better than it has ever been, but we handloaders have the wide world of bullet choices and powder selections at our fingertips.
Take a long look at your favorite rifle, and odds are that you can find a pretty wide choice of projectiles, that can serve in a multitude of different hunting situations. Let’s look at a few examples.
The classic .300 Winchester Magnum can use a selection of .308” diameter bullets that weigh between 110 and 250 grains. That’s quite a wide range, and each weight has its place in the hunting field.
Winchester’s .300 has earned a very good reputation with 180 grain bullets moving along at around 2,950 feet per second and that load is one I use often, especially when the possibility of a long shot exists, like moose across a Quebec lake, or kudu in the karoo of South Africa. Many elk hunters grab this configuration of ammunition, and with good effect.
My rifle loves the 180 grain Swift Scirocco II, handloaded with Reloder 19 to 2,960fps. But, you really don’t need that velocity or the heavy bullet all the time.
Let’s assume you have a .300 Winchester that you absolutely love (which I do!), and want to use it for pronghorn antelope on the Great Plains.
A fast, flat shooting 150 grain bullet will fit the bill perfectly. At 3,150 fps, you should be able to hit those goats out as far as you’d ethically shoot them, and a bonded core spitzer bullet will kill quickly without making a bloody mess.
If you want to take that same rifle deer hunting, a 165 grain bullet loaded to just under 3,000 fps will make a very effective whitetail load, regardless of the distance.
Sometimes, a specialty hunt will pop up that may force you to get creative; bear hunting over bait is one example that comes quickly to mind. The shot will usually be under 75 yards, yet you want something beefy because bears have claws and teeth after all. In these situations, I subscribe to the Elmer Keith “slow and heavy” school of thought.
I took a box of 220 grain Hornady round-nose bullets, and used IMR 4064 to reduce the velocity to 2,425 fps, similar to the older .30-’06 Springfield loads. Group size hangs around minute-of-angle, and these big heavy bullets will really thump a bruin.
As a matter of fact, that particular load has worked very well on whitetail deer as well. My eleven point buck from 2011 fell as if he were pole-axed. He weighed 180 pounds on the hoof.
The plains of Africa can present a diverse selection of game, from the diminutive Steenbok to the moose-sized eland, and you have to carry a load that can cover all the bases. I brought the 200 grain Swift A-Frame, loaded to 2,700 fps in my .300 Winchester and it worked out very well.
The .300 is just one example, and the same could apply to a .30-06, .280 Remington or .270 Winchester. Learn about the different types of bullets available in your favorite caliber, and utilize the different weights and construction available.
Pistols can benefit from the same mentality. My Ruger Blackhawk in .45 (Long) Colt is a very strong revolver, and that cartridge can be stoked up to bark!
The big 300 grain Hornady XTP bullets can be pushed to around 1,300 fps, which is a wonderful insurance policy while hiking in my native Adirondacks or Catskills. The same revolver likes to play cowboy with me though, and when you roll up some 250 grain hard-cast lead Falcon Bullets at a velocity of 850 fps, you can shoot all afternoon at paper hombres.
Lighter bullets like Rainier Ballistics’ 180 grain flat point, which are usually reserved for the .45ACP, can be loaded in the Colt case in either a high velocity situation or in a reduced velocity scenario, depending on the application, or your mood.
The larger caliber safari guns can be rather intimidating to a shooter who doesn’t have a ton of experience with them. The heavy recoil they produce, being a side effect of the big bullets and powder charges, can pose a problem.
Reducing their velocity for practice is a wise idea. Drop the velocity by 150 or 200 fps and that recoil drops off quite a bit, making the rifle much more manageable. The classic .416 Rigby launches its 400 grain bullets at 2,400fps, with rather severe recoil. Drop the muzzle velocity to 2,200 fps and you can immediately feel the recoil drop off, yet you still have a potent big game loading.
The most popular chambering in safari rifles is undoubtedly the .375 Holland and Holland Magnum. The 300 grain bullets that made the cartridge so popular are loaded to 2,550 fps in most factory loadings. These bullets are wonderful for buffalo, elephant and brown bear, but that .375 can be used for much more than the big nasties.
Barnes makes a great 235 grain TSX bullet; it’s a solid copper hollowpoint that can be pushed over 2,800 fps. This makes a great long range elk and moose load. It also works well on black bear, and gives you more time afield with your favorite .375.
So, look at the possibilities for your favorite rifle, and don’t be afraid to use you reloading bench to make sure you have the perfect load for the hunting trip you’re planning. There are tons of great bullets and powders out there, and that’s something we reloaders should be very grateful for.
Gun Digest Shooter's Guide to Reloading
Enjoy the improved accuracy of hand-tuned ammunition, and gather the necessary information needed to get started with the reloading process. You’ll benefit from this reloading guide if:
- You want to learn how to reload rifle and pistol ammo
- You need to know the necessary tools required for reloading
- You’d like to learn the benefits of reloading ammo
Also checkout the companion book to this blog, How to Reload Ammo with Philip Massaro.