Berger bullets in Africa


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Sep 10, 2009
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Namibia, Kyrgyzstan(2) South Africa(4) New Zealand Zambia(2)
I promised Mike (Livingthedream) that I'd start this thread. He wanted me to title it the efficacy of Berger bullets in Africa. I thought that might start an argument right off the bat. I will start this with a few observations. All bullets are designed with a use in mind. There is no one size fits all in bullets. I have no problems with other bullets. I have taken Barnes TTSX's and Nosler accubonds to Africa. Both have served me well. This last trip I took Bergers. I usually get extremely good accuracy and good results with them. Bergers are often used in longer range hunting and are designed to expand reliably at lower velocities. If you plan to use them I will strongly suggest that you heed the next observations:
1) Use heavy for caliber bullets. I used 180 grainers in my 7mm SAUM. If you use a faster bigger .28 caliber cartridges then use their 195 grainers. In .30 caliber use the 215 grain hybrid. Easy to load and deadly effective on game. In a .26 caliber use the 140's or 156's. Apply the same to other calibers.
2) Always check the points. Bergers are a hollow point design. Occasionally the point will be "clogged or closed". That bullet, if not opened, will act like a solid and pencil through an animal. A small drill bit should be used to make sure they are all open. If closed then use that one for practice or drill it open.
3) Do not expect reliable expansion at over 3000 fps. You are more likely to get over expansion at higher velocities along with poor penetration. My SAUM runs the 180's at 2900 fps. That is about right. My .30 Nosler runs the 215's at 2990. Works well too. I would not run them at 3200 fps and expect reliable close range expansion.
On to the point of this post. 16 animals of assorted sizes were taken with my SAUM and the 180 gr bullet's. They are as follows:
1) Cape eland cow at 469 yards. Hit slightly further back than wanted. Down and dead quickly.
2)Cape eland bull at 511 yds. Heart shot. Dead in less than 20 yds. Pretty impressive.
3)Springbock at 175-200 yds. Broadside shot slightly back and high. Down in its tracks.
4)Duiker spotlighted at maybe 40 yds quartering to me. High shoulder down in his tracks.
5)Vaal Rhebuck at 313 yds. Hit way back top of back. Spine hit. Down in his tracks.
6) Klipspringer at 269 yds. A little far back and high. Down and done in place.
7)Blesbuck cow at 130 yds? Back a little and a little high. Down immediately with no fuss.
8) Bull Livingston eland. Huge animal. 75 yds. First hit was high shoulder. Sraggered him. Went perhaps 75 yds and He appeared to be staggering when I hit him again up high mid body which put him down.
9)Hartebeest cow at 200 yds. Quartering slightly to me. Hit mid way up behind the shoulder. Went 40-50 yds.
10)2nd Hartebeest cow. Broadside at 80-90 yds. Hit behind shoulder. Went 30 yds or so.
11)Hartebeest bull at 150-170 yds quartering to me. Low shoulder into the heart. Went maybe 60 yds.
12) Bushbuck at 200 yds or a little more. Hit a little high behind the shoulder. Went perhaps 30 yds.
Mikes animals as follows:
1)Waterbuck at 150 yds broadside. Hit behind shoulder. Went about 70 yds.
2)Puku at 80-90 yds perhaps. Quartering hard away. Hit in front of hind quarter lining up on far shoulder. Went about 40 yds.
3)Bushbuck at 120 yds. Broadside. Behind shoulder. Went 25 yds.
4)Lechwe at 230 yds. Behind shoulder half way up. Down in its tracks. Kicked twice.
I will add the following NA animals for additional consideration:
A) 6.5-06 w/ 140 grain bullet. Bighorn ram at 100 yds. Broadside. Hit back too far. Got liver. Went perhaps 100 yds.
B) 180 in the SAUM. Antelope at 130 yds. A little high behind shoulder. Down in his tracks.
C)180 in SAUM Whitetail doe. 75 yds facing me. Down in her tracks.
D) 180 in SAUM WT buck. 300 yds. 1 shot in leg and one mid body. Went perhaps 30 yds.
E) 215 gr in .30 Nosler. Bull moose at just over 100 yds. Quartering to me. In front of shoulder. Went less than 20 yds.
F) 6.5 SS w/ 156 gr. Whitetail buck at 20 yds. Quartering away. High behind shoulder. Down in his tracks.
G) 6.5 w/ 156 gr Pronghorn buck. Broadside. Hit slightly low behind shoulder. Went 25 yds.
H) 6.5 w/ 156 gr. Pronghorn doe at 325 yds. Behind shoulder a touch high. Down in her tracks.
Notice that I needed more than 1 shot on a wt buck that I screwed up on and the Livingston eland that likely didn't need it. Gotta finish fixing dinner.....
I’m glad you posted this. Last summer my son, dad and I took 21 head of Plains game with nosler ABLR bullets in a 7 mag and a 6.5 CM. I switched to Berger 180 grain for my 7 mag last fall and now have taken 2 elk, 2 mule deer and an antelope. I plan to continue this season with those bullets as the performance has been exceptional.
Closest shot was about 100 yards, which really does put a hole in things. Longest was 472 yards 10 days ago at an elk. (the off side shoulder was really hammered by the fragmentation)
My only complaint thus far is that the bullets are designed to fragment, so you can lose meat.
I have been very curious to see if others are using Berger bullets since they shoot so well in my rifle. I would say I’m convinced they work. But, based on negative reviews I’ve read, I wonder if a problem will come up... I am going to guess no. (Unless I place a crappy shot)

I hope other hunters include their experiences here.
I'll stay with my Swift A-Frames...Wife and I just took 15 head in Namibia(Khomas- Highlands)with them..She killed a giraffe with one shot out of a 30/06 so I see no need to change..I thought about them but we don't shoot over 350 yds so no need..Enjoy your article about them though..
I have no plains game experience with them, but I have killed elk and mule deer with them. Longest shot was 660 on an elk with 210gr VLD, dropped in its tracks.

I just picked up a 300 PRC, might like to try it on my next to Africa, probably would use the 230gr hybrids.
Thanks for the report. I'm going on a mountain goat hunt, planning to use my Kimber Mountain Accent in 300 WSM. The outfitter suggested 150 grain ballistic tips. He wants an explosive bullet for the goat. He says they are easy to kill and very narrow bodied so no need for deep penetration but rather he wants a bullet that expands rapidly and even fragments to do lots of damage in case it is not hit perfectly.

So will 30 caliber 185 grain Berger Hybid Hunter's blow up in a goat at 300 to 400 yards as well as a ballistic tip? They are loaded to 2950 muzzle velocity, according to the label.

Well that Kimber does not shoot light for caliber bullets very well. And I do not handload. Federal Ammo with 150 grain ballistic tips are giving me 4" groups at 200 yards. Last year I took the new Federal EDGE-TLR 200 grain loads on a elk hunt. Never saw a bull elk but they were shooting acceptable groups, as were Hornady 200 grain ELD-X. The Hornady may be explosive enough so I went to pick up another box of those but came accross a box of Federal Premium loaded with 185 grain Berger Hybrid Hunter bullets.

The Berger's just gave me a 1" 200 yard group! Which I thought was impossible from that gun.
I won’t shoot a bullet that comes with a list of “do” or “do nots” which is literally how you started this post. There is so much competition in bullets why would I download the speed of my rifle just to be effective with a bullet? So many others work just fine standard weight at speeds well over 3000 fps.
I had a Berger fail on a cow elk and another hunter killed her. We got to look at the pencil hole all the way through. No expansion. Spoke later with a Berger guy one day at gallensons guns in slc and he said “oh yeah, you gotta hit bone to open em up.” I’ve not shot one since. Any bullet call fail and I do know guys that love Berger and I am glad they worked for you and living the dream but I can’t understand why you tried them in the first place since you had successfully used others previously. Sorry I just can’t convert on this one
First to ActionBob. The 185's should act very similar to the ballistic tip bullets. My experience is that you'll be happier with it at longer ranges. Under 100 yds it may over expand and fail to penetrate as well as you would like. If possible the 200 grain plus would likely do better. Not to question your outfitter but I thought that goats were rather tough? I do realize that they are narrow through the body so a bullet that opens up fast should be an advantage.
To Firebirds comments. Sorry you had a bullet failure and lost the animal. That was likely a clogged tip so they act like a solid. Many Berger users don't know to check the tips. Firebird sent me a very nice DM. We're on good terms and I'll try to answer a couple of the questions.
First is why use a bullets when there are the particulars that I started the post with. Because of the accuracy and consistency. I have used ballistic tips, accubonds , sierra's, hornadys, and TTSX's. I like the AB's and TTSX's. Had good results with them. Because of where I live most of my shots will be over 200 yds and some yrs I'll kill several head of game and all will be at over 300 yds. So accuracy becomes important to me. A 2 inch group at 100 yds is fine for out to 200. If your game animal is at 450 yds then you pass on that shot and may not get another opportunity. With practice, proper optics, bullets and a rifle that shoots sub MOA a 450 yd shot is relatively easy as long as you have some time and low to no wind. The bergers have much higher BC"s so they buck the wind better. They also tend to be more consistent when weighed and measured and then compared to other bullets on the market.
They are not always the best choice! In my .375 Ruger I used A Frames and will continue to use them. Great bullets. If your hunting the Limpopo where a long shot is 120 yds then use a TTSX or a AB. If your hunting the East Cape then maybe you use the Berger because you may have that 400 yd shot at a trophy across a canyon.
I'll end this by saying I expected to get some flack. Thats OK. This forum is a safe place to post something like this. We can and do disagree in a respectful manner. Debate is good. It lets those less experienced learn. I also wanted to help others not make the mistake of using a Berger without checking the tips or following some of my other suggestions.
We all make choices. The great thing is its a free country and we have a huge selection of bullets and rifles to choose from. Some don't like Berger and thats all right. My purpose was to show when used in a manner consistent with their purposes they will work well on game animals. We all should know how our bullets are expected to work. Sometimes any bullet will fail. Just the way it is. Nothing is perfect and bullets and how they act in an animal is subject to change.
By the way, I'm a retail jeweler. I have no connection to or financial interest in Berger or any of their associated companies. Feel free to disagree with me. We all learn.
I have not used Berger bullets, to me they are long range bullet and I don’t like to shoot long range. I think from my studies they wreck meat because of the expansion, I am a meat hunter too. I have nothing against them because I have used Core Lokt, Power Point, PMP and a lot of soft bullets for hunting including Hornady SST and Sierra bullets. My main point is shot placement is very critical. But I have seen a lot of bullet deflection in the body of animals with the above bullets.

I really like Swift-A frames, TSX, TTSX and Copper Tip bullets because they drive through body and bone with usually minimal deflection something softer bullets are famous for in hunting not shooting at paper targets. I hate deflection because the bullet can go anywhere and not where I want it! Example: I have seen them hit ribs and go to the neck or the rear leg. The animal ended up dead but usually after a tracking job with very little blood.
There are so many good bullets available today that it is easy to find one that will do the job on most game.
I think the competition is good for the industry and for the shooters, whether hunting or target.
Shot placement rules!
add to that the tendancy to have different terminal performance at different ranges.
this comes from differing striking velocities, which is made worse by the fact that different cartridges have different muzzle velocities.
good hunting bullets behave more similarly at different striking velocities.
I took berger 185's to Namibia this year in my 300 win. It wasn't my first (or second, or third) choice, but it was the only bullet I could get to shoot well from the gun I had already committed to taking. I use Bergers a lot in the US, mostly on elk, and have been pleased with performance. I definitely like the way they fly. And as the OP suggested I usually shoot heavy-for-caliber bullets. However, in Africa, I was not pleased with the burgers. They did kill everything, but not as emphatically as i thought they should. My other gun was running framers and they hit like hammers. (Granted, bigger caliber too.) Every frame recovered, regardless of shot distance, was a nice mushroom. The Bergers were not as pretty; one of them we recovered only the jacket and it had completely separated from the core. I will continue to use Bergers for some things, but for expandable for Africa, I am sticking to a-frames.
"My other gun was running framers" ??? what does that mean?
"My other gun was running framers" ??? what does that mean?

Sorry...spell-check got me.

Should have been "My other gun was running a-frames."
I've shot the 168 VLD's in my '06. Rifle was a Rem 700 and it really liked them, shot very good groups. I killed several whitetails out to about 175 yds with it, never had an issue. I did switch to A-frames when I took that rifle to Africa though.
I recently found 2 boxes of Berger Bullets at a very low price and decided to give them a try.
As a result, my results are very limited at this point and are as follows:
1) Accuracy out of my 37 year old Remington Model 700 ADL in .270 has been very good to excellent.
2) For the 270, I'm using the 140 grain VLD Hunter
3) I'm experiencing some pressure issues with these bullets and have yet to figure out why,
4) 8 days ago, a five-point bull elk was spotted at 400 and walked with his cows to 80 yards before I fired the single shot. Shot went in from a high angle just ahead of the shoulder angling back and down. The bull went 15 to 20 yards and fell over dead. Fragments were found in the liver and I did not spend much time looking for the rest as I was alone and needed to process and pack the bull out. There was no exit hole.

I appreciate the advice on checking the tips and will do so.

Any advice on how far off the lands these bullets like will be appreciated.
Bergers usually seem to like to be less than 30 thousands off of the lands. There are exceptions to that tho. Here is what is on Berger's website:
The following has been verified by numerous shooters in many rifles using bullets of different calibers and weights. It is consistent for all VLD bullets. What has been discovered is that VLD bullets shoot best when loaded to a COAL that puts the bullet in a “sweet spot”. This sweet spot is a band .030 to .040 wide and is located anywhere between jamming the bullets into the lands and .150 jump off the lands.

Note: When discussing jam and jump I am referring to the distance from the area of the bearing surface that engages the rifling and the rifling itself. There are many products that allow you to measure these critical dimensions. Some are better than others. I won’t be going into the methods of measuring jam and jump. If you are not familiar with this aspect of reloading it is critically important that you understand this concept before you attempt this test.

Many reloaders feel (and I tend to agree) that meaningful COAL adjustments are .002 to .005. Every once in a while I might adjust the COAL by .010 but this seems like I am moving the bullet the length of a football field. The only way a shooter will be able to benefit from this situation is to let go of this opinion that more than .010 change is too much (me included).

Trying to find the COAL that puts you in the sweet spot by moving .002 to .010 will take so long the barrel may be worn out by the time you sort it out if you don’t give up first. Since the sweet spot is .030 to .040 wide we recommend that you conduct the following test to find your rifles VLD sweet spot.

Load 24 rounds at the following COAL if you are a target competition shooter who does not worry about jamming a bullet:
1. .010 into (touching) the lands (jam) 6 rounds
2. .040 off the lands (jump) 6 rounds
3. .080 off the lands (jump) 6 rounds
4. .120 off the lands (jump) 6 rounds

Load 24 rounds at the following COAL if you are a hunter (pulling a bullet out of the case with your rifling while in the field can be a hunt ending event which must be avoided) or a competition shooter who worries about pulling a bullet during a match:
1. .010 off the lands (jump) 6 rounds
2. .050 off the lands (jump) 6 rounds
3. .090 off the lands (jump) 6 rounds
4. .130 off the lands (jump) 6 rounds

Shoot 2 (separate) 3 shot groups in fair conditions to see how they group. The remarkable reality of this test is that one of these 4 COALs will outperform the other three by a considerable margin. Once you know which one of these 4 COAL shoots best then you can tweak the COAL +/- .002 or .005. Taking the time to set this test up will pay off when you find that your rifle is capable of shooting the VLD bullets very well (even at 100 yards).

Eric Stecker
Master Bulletsmith


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KEMP AFRICAN SAFARIS wrote on intj's profile.
welcome to the forum.if you have any questions please feel free at any time .
Here is short video of blesbok hunt from yesterday

made it to camp yesterday afternoon! had a braai with some awesome T-bones ready to start hunting for sable today!