Alan Shannahan

There seems to be a definite increase in the number of deer stalkers who are veering towards the use of ballistic-tip bullet heads.

For those that use them, the reason that I am given is that they are a more accurate bullet and that they produce better groups with them on the range. The polymer tips, they say, are less likely to malform when traversing between the magazine and chamber than soft point bullet heads, therefore producing a more aerodynamic shape. I am prepared to accept this theory, but let's take the pros and cons attached to using these bullets for deerstalking purposes.


A well known on-line field sports magazine that we all know and love (!?), recently gave us an article on head-shooting. Almost exclusively, the stalkers were using ballistic-tip bullets. The explosions on impact made graphic x-certificate viewing (showing my age), where they recommended that viewers under 18, be warned about what they were about to see! Possibly, it endorsed that for head and indeed high-neck shots the ballistic-tip was acceptable. However, I want to suggest that these types of bullets are not good for a “normal” behind-the-shoulder, engine room shot.

My experience, with shots that I have witnessed, where the stalker was using ballistic-tips, even with a good shoulder shot, was that the animal ran a good distance before falling. In one case, although with a good initial blood trail, the animal was not found, even with a good dog. I feel that there is not the good solid energy transfer of a soft nosed expanding bullet, compared with one that explodes and fragments on impact. What in the old days, was referred to as “stopping power”. I would hate to go after dangerous game armed with ballistic-tips!

I am not for a moment suggesting that manufacturers recommend these bullets for body shots. (The same on-line programme, gave a good series of articles, a while back, on different types of bullet heads and their impact profiles, by a well known manufacturer). What I suggest, is that stalkers look at the bullets they are using for the type of shot that they are likely to take and select accordingly. The very small, if any, loss of accuracy, over distances we are shooting at deer, must be balanced with the bullet’s effect on the animal and its humane dispatch.

Also, bear in mind the quality of the venison you are providing to your game dealer. The effects of a fragmenting bullet have to be seen to be believed, on a skinned deer. A lot of good meat is wasted into a mass of blood-shot jelly (see attached photo). The Fallow shown was shot perfectly, behind the shoulder. The skinned animal looked like a hand grenade had been thrown into its chest cavity. Look away under 18’s!

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