Terminal Ballistics Paper

Discussion in 'Hunting Africa' started by PHOENIX PHIL, Aug 19, 2011.


    PHOENIX PHIL AH Ambassador

    Apr 15, 2009
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    USA, S. Africa
    With recent posts about African PG being tougher than American game, I started doing a little research. But prior to pasting in the link I came across a paper that more scientifically explains terminal bullet performance, I'll give you my opinion. BTW, I offer this up for hopefully a fun discussion, no intention of trying to start an argument.

    A few experiences from my hunting....

    Coues Deer
    A few years ago I killed a Coues deer at a distance of about 330 yards. The buck probably weighed all of about 90 lbs. At the shot, thanks to the muzzlebrake I have on my 7mm, I watched through the scope the back end of the deer drop, the front end quickly behind it...DRT. Not so much as a twitch. Simple explanation, bullet placement at the risk of sounding boastful was indeed perfect as was bullet performance. I say this because as is my habit, I like to keep the heart from my elk and deer for the frying pan. In this case I would have had enough heart to fry up a single Chicken McNugget. The rest of the heart was blown up. Instantaneous stoppage of blood flow and therefore dead right there.

    Sometime back in Idaho, I was on a late season antlerless elk hunt. We headed out early one morning on horseback. When we reached the top of one hill about an hour later we stopped and got off the horses to walk over to look down into a bowl that one of our guys frequently saw elk in. Sure enough a group of bulls, cows and calves were in the bowl and only about 150 yards away. I was on the left and took a shot at the left most 'cow' (turned out to be a young and still antlerless bull, so he was legal). The elk of course scattered and much to my amazement, my elk seemed to be completely fine. He kept up with the rest of the group for about 200 yards, but then collapsed. When we got down to where he was shot, it was quite apparent that the shot was plenty good. The young bull was nearly immediately was spraying blood upwards of 3 feet out of BOTH the entry and exit hole. A blood trail that a blind man could follow, looked like a scene from a horror movie. I swear that when we cleaned tha elk, that not a single drop of blood came out of him. As mentioned he covered about 200 yards and in snow that at times was waist high. This was a fine shot though it didn't get the heart, but I think that elk had no desire to be separated from it's mother and did everything it could to keep up with the herd.

    My second African animal was an Impala. The PH, my wife and I got ahead of a rather large herd and setup such that wind was blowing perpendicular to the line between us and the impala. After an eternity of waiting for the right animal to show, I got a pretty strong quartering shot at the ram. Shot distance was maybe 60-70 yards and right on the front edge of the shoulder. At the shot, the ram went from a slow walk to mach 2.5 virtually instantly. I was amazed as he disappeared behind the bush about 20 feet in front of the animal. I told my PH that I felt good about the shot but was concerned at how strong he was as he bolted. We walked over to where he was when we shot and then turned left in the direction he left. We found him immediately behind that bush he disappeared behind probably hitting the rocky soil still moving at mach speed. Bullet placement was just fine and took out the heart. But I think impala may just be the most nervous animal in Africa and live with the muscles cocked and ready to go to full speed at all times. But nonetheless a shot to the heart was far more than the ram could take and he went a very short distance.

    I'll try to keep it shorter this time. I shot a Waterbuck at about 100 yards and thought the shot to be perfect. The animal reared up on his hind legs at the shot and took off busting through brush clearly wounded badly. Well badly enough to be fatal, but the shot was a bit forward and the wound was to only one lung and towards the front edge. When we followed up, we only found one spot of blood which was clearly lung blood. At that spot we also heard the bull moving and I believe what we heard was the bull thrashing when he went down. We sat at that moment for a 1/2 hour to let him bleed out. When we got back on the track we found him not 75 yards from where we were. But that bull went probably about 500 yards from where he was shot. A less than perfect shot yet still fatal. The animal was no harder to kill than any other animal, but the wound not quite as severe allowed the bull to go a pretty good distance.

    So if you've put up with me this long, this is my conclusion. No matter where the animal calls home, if you put a bullet in the perfect spot and the bullet performs properly, the animal will die and the recovery will be short. No matter where the animal calls home, as your bullet placement becomes less than perfect but still in the fatal zone, the animal will still die but the recovery will grow longer. If the animal also happens to be predisposed to flight and/or is already nervous, the recovery will be even longer.

    But no matter the recovery distance, if the bullet hits in a fatal spot, he will die and that does not make them any tougher to kill irregardless of the recovery distance. All of the examples above were one shot kills. The only difference were the conditions of the animals and the bullet placements. I don't believe for one second that young elk I killed was any tougher than the full grown 6x6 bull I killed with my bow last year. That bull only went about 75 yards and on dry ground. The bull mentioned above went more than double that in deep snow.

    I came across a paper today that I found most interesting. Some here may have already seen this. There a couple aspects of this that I'm on the fence about, but basically I think this does a good job of explaining in a more scientific way terminal ballistics. It's a long read if you go through the entire paper which I still haven't, but I think it worthwhile. There's some pretty interesting information on bullet performance, specifically wound cavity and penetration further into the paper. Enjoy.

    Terminal Ballistics

  2. neilr

    neilr New Member

    Aug 13, 2011
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    Thanks for posting your thoughts and the paper. It was an interesting read.


  3. enysse

    enysse AH Ambassador

    Jan 20, 2009
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    Northeast Wisconsin SCI chapter, Lifetime member of NRA,RMEF
    Namibia, South Africa (East Cape, Guateng and Limpopo)
    Intesting reading...thanks for the post!

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