article written by Greg Storey
edited for the web by Whelen Brown (October 2005)
1: 1990 POND INLET:
We slowly idled our skidoos up to the cliff edge stopping well before plummeting over any possible overhang. We dismounted and skirted the edge staying just out of sight of the terrain below us. I risked a peek down into the defile. Just as I had hoped the band of caribou we had spotted had continued their climb and would wind by us in a few minutes at a distance of not more than 50 yards.
The caribou knew something was up, but like any mob, once the herd had made up its mind it would take quite a bit to dissuade them from their course. I smiled at Scott and we took our positions. As the caribou came into sight we picked our animals and I slowly squeezed off a round aiming low behind the shoulder.
The rifles went off as one and out of the corner of my eye I saw Scotts animal buckle to its knees the 130-grain .270 bullet mashing its lungs. Much to my surprise my own animal took off as if stung by a bee. Did I miss?
The other animals scattered and as this was one of my last tags of the year I didnt bother them. I tracked a very sparse blood trail for about 100 yards and beyond a slight rise there was my animal down and dead.
An autopsy revealed a heart shot with a quarter size hole through the heart and a slightly bigger exit wound. The damage was much less than my 308 with 150 Hornadys but even worse was much less than the damage caused by my buds .270. This would have been bearable. If I hadnt been mocking his pea shooter and extolling upon the vast knock down power of my big 350 Rem. Mag. for the entire month leading up to our hunt.
I explained it away; after all a heart shot animal often does the dash and collapse and the shot hadnt offered a lot of resistance to the bullet.
Several seals and caribou later I was forced to face up to the fact that I had traded in my .308 for a rifle with less apparent killing power and more recoil. This wasnt the bargain I was looking for.
I was motivated to look for an answer and started with a mill file. Sectioned, the 200 Rem CLs had a much thicker jacket than .308 bullets of a similar sectional density.
I began testing bullets on some of the old cut up magazines from our school junk-room and sure enough the expansion was delayed compared to my old 308 caliber 150 grainers.
Continued work on caribou proved that though the kills were slower they were sure as the heavier bullets improved penetration from poor angles. Seals though continued on occasion to slide down their aglus (breathing holes) at a greater rate than the seemingly weaker .308. The 350 was at least as accurate. I shot it very well the only difference was bullet construction.
I was motivated by failure to learn how bullets work, and why. I have been studying 358 bullets off and on ever since with side inquiries into .22s and caribou, the 6.5 Rem Mag and .450 Marlin. I am still learning and recently added a 358 Norma which brings 300 ft/sec more speed to the equation.
This article is an attempt to distill 19 years of study on the 35.
2: TYPES OF BULLETS IN .358
The 200 Rem CL is representative of a lightweight bullet with a mechanical core lock.
Here the taper of the jacket tends to lock core and jacket together. Performance of this bullet and the 200 Hornady interlock are very similar. The bullet can fail but only after it has expanded past the core-locking device. This ensures adequate penetration on light and medium big game. The jacket is a bit thick so expansion is somewhat delayed as compared to .30 caliber and lighter bullets of the same style. Thickening the jacket is the only way to improve the integrity of this design and as these relatively lightweight bullets are often used on game larger than deer it appears that they have been made fairly tough.
They do expand down to a usefully low velocity however and are a decent compromise between a light/and mid weight big game bullet.
The 180 Hornady has a much lighter jacket with a fairly good interlock core lock. Shocking power is very good but penetration may be insufficient for animals over 200 pounds. This bullet makes a superb seal bullet.
The 180-grain Speer relies on a cannelure that is quickly defeated but the hot core construction and fairly thick jacket thickness appears to help integrity to some extent. The similar but much longer 220 Speer is a great choice in low capacity 35s for larger game. Its relatively short length will not impinge on too much case capacity and it is tough enough to survive 2400 ft/sec and lower impacts velocities.
In heavier weights the mechanical interlocks work rather well as the length of shank allows for a lot of expansion before the mechanical interlock is defeated. The 250 Hornady is very capable at impacts of 2500 and below, as the bullet will not normally over-expand at these speeds. The jacket is somewhat brittle and occasional splintering may limit performance on tough impacts.
Speer makes a 250-grain grand Slam that appears to be an excellent version of a locking core bullet that appears to be a bit tougher than the Hornady. Preliminary results in my 350 Rem Mag have been very promising.
The 200 Barnes original is an example of a bullet with no core-locking device. The Barnes and to an even greater respect the Hawk bullet rely on a soft copper jacket and lead that tends to bend and flow rather than break. The large mushroom limits penetration but creates a lot of damage. Cores can separate but performance is generally good. Jackets are often kept fairly heavy to ensure penetration but this may have a negative effect on expansion at low speeds. For example the Barnes Original, above did not expand when impacting wet newsprint at 2000ft/sec.
In the 250 grain version, the Barnes bullet tended to core separate when pushed to 2500+ ft/sec, however in the 300grain version with .049 jacket this design has been a very reliable performer. In fact the 300 Barnes when kept between 1900-2500ft/sec would be a top choice for heavy game.
The similar Hawk bullet line relies on an annealed jacket and soft lead cores to hang together. In the 225 grain flat point version the bullet is very short for its length and suitable for short actioned rifles of low capacity. At speeds over 2400ft/sec destruction is awe-inspiring but the bullets will self destruct. In the 275 grain weight with a .50 jacket ,expansion is good and so is penetration, though core separations are very frequent.
When long shanked these simple cup and core bullets can perform quite well. The 250 Speer can usually be relied upon to penetrate deeply and expand. The jacket is tapered and the jacket and lead are soft enough not to splinter under heavy impacts. Core Separations are possible but penetration is usually adequate.
My own experiences with this Speer bullet have been variable. However a group of 358 Norma aficionados in Whitehorse, Yukon swear by this bullet for moose. Testing indicates that it is a reliable performer, core separations if they do occur happen near the end of travel.
Kept away from heavy bone and kept to moderate speeds the long version of these bullets appears to work fairly well. Very high speed impacts into hard bone may defeat this entire class of bullets. Length and sectional density help these bullets and the heavier ones in this class are suitable for large game when kept inside their design velocity.
The Nosler jacket has a very heavy base but even with this the jacket will generally weight about 120 grains and at 60 caliber I wonder if it would reliably punch through much bone. The jacket is very tough however and would likely be very reliable on deer or caribou size game.
Further tests have improved my opinion of this bullet as the jacket taper seems to result in very uniform and progressive expansion and wound channels. Bonded this would be quite a bullet. As is the core will separate when stressed reducing performance.
The Sierra jacket is thinner, less well tapered and has an added problem of not expanding well at low velocities. Some internet reports suggest that the Nosler has this problem as well. The only way to encourage bullet integrity is to up jacket thickness, and perhaps they have gone too far.
In the end I dont recommend these two boat tail bullets for any game in excess of 250-400 pounds . Even here with possible long range expansion issues better choices exist.
Premium bullets are designed to be as fool proof as possible. The core may be chemically fused to the jacket, or a thick partition or homogeneous construction help ensure bullet integrity and uniformity.
The early version of the Barnes X bullet has been re-worked to give better long-range expansion. The very long length of the low-density copper can create some problems with stability in a low twist rate rifle, pressure with a long bearing surface and speed due to reducing the powder space. Penetration is excellent.
Testing of early (1990) versions showed inconsistent expansion at 2000ft/sec. Newer versions appeared to do well down to about 1800ft/sec.
The 225 Nosler Partition bullet will penetrate nearly as well as the X bullet and is also available in 250 grains which is still short enough to work in all but the smallest of 35s. The belt in the middle stops over-expansion and the well-tapered jacket expands down to 1700ft/sec. This is a very reliable choice in magnums and for large or dangerous game especially in the 250-grain version. These bullets do at times tumble in test media and this can limit penetration.
Other versions of premium bullets can be had. Trophy bonded makes a 225-grain with a solid copper back and a bonded core front. North Fork makes a similar bullet with pressure relief cuts. These bullets have a very heavy solid base and should be very reliable
The latest 225 Barnes X bullet also have pressure relief cuts boosting possible velocities slightly. The 225 XLC has a coating which achieves the same results.
3: THE NUMBERS GAME:Lies, lies and damn statistics, opined Samuel Clemens many years ago. Unfortunately this is truer now then ever before and without numbers no one will take an argument seriously. So here you go.
|BULLET PERFORMANCE---WET NEWSPAPER MEDIA (With 2 Airspaces at 4 and 8 mark)|
|180 Hornady sp||2796||7.5||72 cal||96||open country load|
|180 Speer fn||2699||8||64 cal||150||surprisingly tough|
|200 Rem. sp||2653||10||80 cal||154|
|200 Hornady sp||2754||9.5||74 cal||151|
|200 Sierra||2736||7||59 cal||50(c) + 43(l) c.s.||Explosive expansion|
|200 Norma||2727||7||.91*.74 cal||145||Can fragment|
|200 Barnes||2715||8.5||71 cal||130|
|200 Barnes X||2707||12"||.745 cal.||199|
|220 Speer||2603||11"||.60 cal.||168|
|225 Sierra SPBT||2590||11"||.85 cal.||204 grains
|225 Nosler part.||2570||12.5"||.615||199 grains All around bullet|
|225 Barnes X||2536||14"||.744 cal.||223|
|250 Speer sp||2413||14"||.71 cal.||209|
|250 Norma ss||2393||12"||.66*.90 cal.||48||core separation|
|250 Horn RN||2378||14.5"||.675 cal.||182|
|300 Barnes RN||2110||19"||.80 cal||293||#1 defense round|
|BULLET PERFORMANCE---WET NEWSPAPER MEDIA (With 2 Airspaces at 4 and 8 mark)|
|Bullet||Tested Velocity||Expansion||Weight Retention
|Penetration in inches||Comments|
|200 Sierra||1630||none||Near 100%||30"|
|200 Horn Spire||1800||limited||Sailed through media|
|200 Barnes X||2203||.75 Cal.||198.3||24"|
|220 Speer||2209||.53 Cal.||155||23"|
|225 Sierra||2205||.69 Calibre||149 (l) 67(c)||23"|
|225 Sierra||2008||LIMITED Expansion||and core separation||results repeatable|
|225 Nosler P||2133||.57 Cal.||213||33"|
|225 Barnes X (OLD)||2054||NONE||225||Unrecorded|
|225 New X||1922||.72||221.5||25|
|250 Horn RN||1731||.58 Cal.||231||32"|
|250 Horn Spire|
|250 Speer Sp||2030||Core Separation||90||25"|
|250 Speer GS||NOT Tested|
|300 Barnes||1714||None||45" +|
|NWT Phone Books soaked and drip dried 1 hour|
|Bullet||Tested Velocity||Penetration in inches||Expansion
|250 Barnes Original||2630||10.9||Separation||86.3J/46.4c|
|250 Speer Spitz||2655||13.25||.57x.76||183.4|
|250 Nosler Partition||2705||13.7”||.61x.66||183.6|
|250 North Fork||2631||14.7”||.64x.74||222.7|
|275 Hawk||2495||13.25||.74x.84||120J/94c||Separation at end|
|300 Barnes||2364||13.8”||.80x.84||280.3||Fantastic Destruction|
These bullets all were taken from Yukon Moose by Gary Grunsky. Muzzle velocity in the 358 Norma was near 2900ft/sec. Range was 30-250 yards.
The Bitteroot was a head on shot at 100 yards. The bullet hit the windpipe, struck neck bones and penetrated 3/4 of the way through the back hump.
The Hawk bullet was a neck shot at 60 yards . The bullet pulverized the ball joint at the base of the skull and was found under the skin by the ear.
The Kodiak bullet was a broadside hit high in the hump at about 150 yards. Found under the hide.
The Speers were taken from 30-250 yards and seem to have similar performance at all ranges. Several hunters from Whitehorse report that the Speer Hotcore is very reliable and a favourite bullet. (Thanks Yukoner)
|Rem CL||unrecorded||143 gr.|
|Speer HC||Various||174 & 172 gr.|
|Speer GS||Various||222/201/199 gr.|
|Norma Tri||unrecorded||145 grains|
These results give me some help in calibrating test media. Dry paper will result in a core separation with the same bullets at the above velocities. It appears that impacts into moose are similar to wet newspaper results.
My own experience on caribou suggest that game impacts tend to be slightly more stressful on bullet integrity than impacts into homogeneous wet newsprint. The introduction of a few air spaces between wet paper bundles appear to make a very realistic test media.
From 2005 to the present 2009 I have continued to test 358 bullets on both game (caribou and moose) and wet newsprint. The Barnes X bullet continues to evolve and the 225 TSX version approaches a perfection of the design. Low speed expansion has continued to improve and approaches the levels of the Nosler Partition. I feel the 225-grain TSX might just be the best single bullet for long action 35’s. The extra length does limit its use in short actions however.
I have also spent more time with the 250 Grand Slam and unlike many others I see great merit in the design. I haven’t made it fail yet at high speed impact testing and the slight flat nose initiates expansion well down to 1800fps. It’s also short for its weight and usable in short actions. However, it will not do anything that the Nosler won’t do a bit better, and is not quite as accurate as the other designs in the three 35’s I have tested them in.
Sept 2009 saw me in a boat on the Mackenzie Delta. With all the good reports on the Speer 250 Spitzer Hot Core I had my lightweight Norma loaded up with them. I smacked a 900-pound bull moose behind the shoulder with one at about 150 yards. Impact speed would have been about 2400fps. The moose showed no visible sign of being hit and wandered off. I hit him again at 200 yards just before he entered some alders. On autopsy the big Speer had absolutely shredded the lungs. The destruction was awe-inspiring. It had hit a rib on entering and on exiting, the exit wound was egg shaped and about 2” x 3” wide. The jacket of the bullet was found inside the shoulder meat of the off side and the core seemed to have disappeared. The jacket has a retained weight of 60.6 grains and has expanded over 3/4s of its length. With the second shot I had attempted to thread the needle and tried to put the bullet just past the hips into the lungs from a quartering away angle. Somehow the femur got in the way and the bullet smashed the femur in two severing it then disappeared or disintegrated. The bull collapsed.
I can’t say the Speer failed but neither did it act like a premium bullet. An exit wound and blood trail on a lung shot moose would have been a nice touch. This wasn’t achieved. Caribou hunting has confirmed to me that the big Speer is better on medium game than large.
A new bullet that I felt had exciting possibilities is the 225-grain Accubond. Despite the length this bullet, it does seem to be stabilized in the 16 twist of my light Norma. In the 25” barrel of my 14 twist heavy Norma it is very accurate and makes 2900-3000ft/sec. Preliminary testing suggests that the bonding process works! Penetration and expansion look very solid, the heavy shank tends to limit the silver dollar over-expansion that plagues other bonded designs. Unfortunately according to The Nosler #6 Manual the ballistic coefficient of this very long bullet at .421 is actually less than that of the 225 Partition at .430. The much shorter 225 grain Partition has an even better wounding action in my opinion and is much more versatile in loading due to it’s shorter length. Since the terminal and long range ballistics are roughly equivalent I’ll vote for the shorter and more proven Partition.
For seal hunting a varmint type bullet is to create a huge and shallow wound channel for massive trauma and quick kills. Something other than a sudden and total impact on the head or neck of the animal may lead to the seal sliding into the ice. For this use the 180-grain Hornady interlock is tops. Accuracy is good and penetration adequate for this use. In a true magnum like the Norma the 250 Speer will give a mighty blow even at long range and could be substituted.
For deer and caribou a balance between quick expansion and adequate penetration is needed. I love the lights out effect of a quick and sustained blow, and here the 250 grain Speer Spitzer Hot Core is a top choice. When pushed at 2600fps or better this bullet works well to well past 300 yards. For smaller capacity 35’s the 225 Nosler Partition would give a useful boost in velocity and range.
For Elk to Moose and Bear size game the relationship between expansion and penetration are reversed. What is needed is penetration with adequate expansion. In this case I’d put the 225 or 250 Nosler Partition in first place with the 225 TSX in the running as well. The 225 Partition is likely the most versatile choice being usable in cases as small as the 358 Winchester. The partition is a very reliable design in caliber 35 expanding down to 1700ft/sec and hanging together as fast as they can be driven.
The very good 220 Speer is the top choice in a really small case like the 35 Rem, as is the 200 RN Corelockt which I have not tested but which has a fine reputation for 35 Rem users.
There are a few Norma users who put the 250 Speer in the heavy game class but the bullet can and will separate, and I won’t use them for really big game again.
I’d probably take a minimum of the 358 Norma and 300 grain Barnes O’s. Too bad they no longer make them. (My own treasured stock of 130 will likely never be turned loose on elephant, but one can dream!)
Using multiple bullets for different applications requires re-sighting and potential confusion. It also makes for complications in keeping bullets in stock. I have settled on the 225 grain Nosler Partition as my choice from seals to moose in all calibers. It can be loaded to good speeds in a variety of cartridges and is excellent at range. It stands up to heavy impacts and has good penetration at all ranges. It hits hard and shocks well. It has an excellent ballistic coefficient and expands well to its trajectory limits in all calibers except the 35 Remington.
It is customary to end articles of this type with the refrain of how having many choices allows the shooter to fine tune the correct bullet to the correct application. After a huge expense, much time and thought and a great deal of fun, I have determined that for actual hunting only a few 35 bullets are needed to cover the entire spectrum of hunting in North America. Most of the wide varieties of bullets have a very limited application. Having just the 225-grain Nosler Partition would cover just about all hunting needs.
I wouldn’t begrudge any one the chance of determining this to their own satisfaction however. Happy shooting.
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