I’m not making fun of anyone — except myself — concerning certain cracker barrel shooting philosophies and notions swirling into the maelstrom of falsehood. After all, everyone harbors ideas which hold water like a bucket full of bullet holes. How many of us believed Pluto was a real planet and not a dwarf? I did. The laws of shooting are just as complex as any other rules from the realm of physical science.
Bottle of Molten Lead
One of the greatest gun writers of all time came up with this one, and no wonder. It actually makes sense, except it’s false. The idea is: a jacketed .220 Swift bullet screaming through the rifle bore at over 4,100 feet per second gets so hot the lead enclosed in the jacket is actually liquefied — hence, the bullet is a “bottle of molten lead.” Well, not to be. The first Nosler Partition bullets I enjoyed had an open base of exposed lead. Digging out fired bullets from dirt banks proved the lead remained in a solid state. There was a mild imprint of powder granule shape visible on the base, but the lead had not melted away. The fact the bullet remains in the bore for mere milliseconds is the reason for the core not melting, just as we can swiftly pass a hand through the campfire flame without getting burned.
Slow or fast, Sam has plenty of experience with bullets.
Here’s a buff Sam put down with a .30-06, using a special
permit to use that caliber.
7mm Magnum Load – 160-grain Bullet @ 3,500 Feet per Second
I’m the moron who would have told the world this tail, except I was saved by that great rifle-maker Frank Wells, who prevented my embarrassment by running my loads on a professional chronograph where he worked. I had a new chronograph — one of the first models readily available to the “average shooter.” The machine functioned with bullet breaking start and stop “sheets.” Then you turned dials for a series of numbers that translated into bullet speed. The chronograph worked fine. The failure was mine.
Blew the Darn Elk Right off its Feet!
In Africa these days, my only rifle is a Kimber Caprivi .416 Remington Magnum. After all, the .416 clan is (my take on this) the most versatile all-around number for the Dark Continent. A 300 grain bullet at up to 2,800 feet per second for longer-range, and 400 to 450 grain bullets for the largest and most dangerous animals on earth. My brother dropped a rampaging elephant with my Caprivi, driving a 400-grain Hornady solid totally through the bull’s head face-on.
Meanwhile, a gemsbok (Oryx) taken with a factory Winchester a 400-grain Nosler Partition bullet starting at 2,500 feet per second dropped in its tracks. But it was not hurled into space, in spite of the energy arrival of around 5,000 foot-pounds. Bullets do not knock game over, although reaction from the strike can sure make it look that way.
Can a bullet “knock down” an elk? Or an elephant? Hardly,
but often the impact will put them down so fast it “looks”
like they get “knocked” down.
Exit Wound and Bullet Expansion
“That bullet opened up so much the deer had a 2″ exit hole.” Uh, no. The bullet did not create that 2″ hole in the offside of the buck. In this case, the projectile in question was .30-caliber and the fellow telling the story had roughly measured the exit hole at 2″. But a .30-caliber bullet did not pancake out to 2″. The exit hole was created by something else, energy in front of the projectile forcing tissue apart, not by the bullet expanding to 2″.
The Bullet Didn’t Have Time to Get Going
I never could convince him, that grand gentleman who kindly let me tag along when he took his son hunting. He had experienced several instances of deer struck from very close range bolting away, while he witnessed deer taken farther out dropping like sacks of hay from a feed truck. All in all, expanding gas energy imparted to a bullet is finished pushing once the bullet exits the muzzle and is on its way. But we sure can be fooled by “eyewitness observations.”
Does a patch on a muzzle loader’s bullet seal the gas
from escaping around the ball during firing? Sam’s tests
show it doesn’t, and plenty of gas still escapes! But
there are still good reasons for that patch.
Slower-Striking Bullets Penetrate Better than Bullets Hitting Game Faster
One of the most knowledgeable shooters I know said, and I quote, “The faster a bullet hits, the faster it slows down.” And there is something to this for several reasons, not the least of which is “tipping” or yawing in the wound channel. But we have to be careful. An afternoon of shooting into ballistic media found a 550 grain hardcast lead bullet starting at only 1,550 feet per second out-penetrating a 500 grain soft-nose bullet from a .458 Winchester leaving the muzzle at 2,150 feet per second — every time.
I will fudge-factor my way out with a fact. We lined up solid oak pieces over a foot in diameter one behind the other and from 20 feet fired a variety of 400 grain solids from my .416 into the wood. All bullets penetrated four feet and arrival velocity had to be about 2,300 feet per second. Also, the above-mentioned elephant was dropped with an arrival velocity of around 2,300 feet per second.
The Cloth Patch in a Muzzleloader Seals Gasses Behind the Round Ball
I was not the first to debunk this false notion. Edward Yard was way ahead of me. But we used different methods and came to the same conclusion — no cloth patch, no matter what it’s made of from Irish linen to sailcloth or denim, will prevent hot gases from flying through the grooves of the bore ahead of the projectile. In tests only, I found a well-fitted bare round ball to deliver the same velocity as a patched round ball. Then reader Hugh Awalt came along with his high-speed camera and put the icing on the cake — the photos showed smoke exiting the bore ahead of the patched ball.
Having said all of this, the patch is vital for several reasons. A few of which are safety in ensuring the round ball stays put, rather than migrating upbore; holding lube; acting to clean some of the soot leftover from blackpowder, which goes from solid to gas at roughly 50 percent — and more things. Always use a patch on a round ball — but in spite of Buckskin Charley having a coronary over hearing the patch is not a gasket, the fact is, the round ball cloth patch is not a gasket now — and never was.
Did the old cowboy’s load their SAA’s with only five-rounds
for safety? Sam says no, and he’s never found any reference
to that. But he does say it makes perfect sense today since
you’re likely not going to be involved in the gunfight at
the OK corral.
The Substitute for Blackpowder is Smokeless Powder
My blood has run cold a few times, such as watching a huge crocodile leap fully out of the water to land among a herd of impalas, transferring the antelope on the bank to an image of Sam standing there in my mind’s eye. But when I read in print “the substitute for blackpowder is smokeless powder” my blood ran cold. The chap was trying to get around the fact substitutes for blackpowder are: Pyrodex, White Hots, Triple Seven and such. He said, no, the real substitute for blackpowder was smokeless powder (maybe in the “evolution” of powder for firearms, sure, but not as a direct replacement for loading!). If anyone reading those words decides the author of this erroneous nonsense is correct, and actually substitutes smokeless powder for blackpowder in a firearm not intended for smokeless powder, the end result may very well be a mangled hand, lost eye, as well as a gun that used to be in one piece now in many parts.
My Uncle’s .30-06 Shoots Harder than my Father’s .30-06
The friend who told me this was totally convinced. He had fired both rifles and the uncle’s definitely provided more punch. I thought that perhaps barrel lengths or loads differed. Nope. Both rifles had 24″ barrels shooting the same ammunition. This is a story, I think, of “felt recoil.” Recoil is scientific — the measured thrust rearward as the bullet goes forward — Newton’s Third Law of Motion, I believe. Reading, essentially, every action has an opposite and equal reaction. So if the rifle and the bullet weighed the same, the rifle would come back with the same impetus as the bullet going forward, if I have it right. The father’s .30-06 in this case had a stock design conducive to delivering the rearward thrust more efficiently than the uncle’s rifle, making the latter appear more powerful.
Since the two rifles weighed about the same, weight was not a factor. My Kimber Caprivi .416 Remington Magnum “likes” many loads, including a Barnes 300 grain bullet at 2,700 feet per second for longer-range game in Africa, plus a variety of 400 grain bullets at 2,400 to 2,500 feet per second. Due to proper weight and superb stock design, the rifle’s “kick” is manageable. Even so, it’s being “operated on” as this is written by Mag-Na-port International to reduce both recoil and muzzle jump. Two rifles of the same caliber and weight shooting the same ammo will have the same recoil, but not necessarily the same “felt recoil.” And by the way, muzzle brakes do work.
Would the identical .416 Remington Magnum load shoot “harder”
in one rifle than another? Not if they have identical barrel
lengths. But poor stock design may make one “feel” as if it
shoots harder due to more felt recoil!
Bullet Velocity does not Dictate how far a Projectile Will Travel
This can be true, but as presented to me, the idea is bogus. The fellow believed a 500 grain .45-caliber round nose bullet at 2,000 feet per second would fly farther, due to its mass, than a 180-grain spitzer bullet starting at 3,000 feet per second. The argument actually began with a discussion of longbows versus recurves versus mechanical bows. The longbow fan, of which I am one, said while the longbow launched a slower arrow, that arrow traveled farther than faster darts from other bows because “it had better cast.”
Fact is, velocity and arrow cast are wedded like hot dogs and buns. Transfer this to bullets. Consider two bullets of identical ballistic coefficient (aerodynamic shape). Let’s make them 180-grain .30-caliber. One is sent away at 2,000 feet per second, the other at 3,000 feet per second. The latter will go farther with muzzles of both rifles pointed upward at about 45 degrees. If you don’t think bullet speed plays a big role in distance traveled, throw one by hand and shoot the same missile from a gun.
Cowboys, Desperadoes, and Lawmen Carried their Sixguns Loaded with Five Rounds
This notion, popularized in modern times, would make Wyatt Earp a complete fool as he headed for the gunfight at the OK Corral in Tombstone, Arizona. You can bet that Wyatt, and every other character throwing bullets at each other that day, had their guns loaded full-up. I have looked hard and have found no reliable information from Billy the Kid, Wild Bill Hitchcock, Bat Masterson or any other revolver-toter from the past carrying his sixshooter loaded with five rounds.
Their guns were well-holstered and respected. Having said this, it remains wise to keep an empty chamber under the hammer on revolvers having no safety device to prevent a drop-fire. Do it always! for the sake of life and limb, even though those old-timers didn’t. After all, you’re not going to a gunfight at the OK Corral!
A .45 beats a 9mm Every Time
Nope, not true. I recently tested and extensively shot a charming Springfield Armory Range Officer (RO) 1911 in 9mm. I have a good deal of experience with the platform in .45 ACP and was going to get that caliber until Editor Roy recommended I look at the RO in 9mm. After much targeting and testing of penetration and real-world effectiveness, I can honestly say I see no difference between the two, other than the 9mm is exceptionally accurate, easy to shoot, more affordable to feed and simply a delight to carry afield as a trail gun.
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