Advice on Choosing a Hunting Bullet

Written by Sierra Bullets Ballistic Technician Rich Machholz

Now that it is August it is time to give some thought to where you are going to hunt this fall and what ranges you will encounter not to mention tree stand location, ground blind feasibility, new trails verses old trails, bedding areas and feeding areas and safe havens.  Most of those considerations apply to deer but they can influence other game movements as well.  Sometimes you know the acreage you’re going to hunt but maybe not specifically where in those acres you would like to be.  Obviously the area will change as fall arrives and corn fields which were once great cover areas are reduced to rubble.  Those same fields are now high quality food sources for both deer and turkeys and in some cases bedding areas for big bucks.

Areas that have that close feel this time of year have a tendency to open up visually as the leaves fall and the crops disappear which creates some concerns other than the obvious sight lines.  What looks like close quarters and even closer shots now can get more open and shots longer.  So an area that looks perfect for your Grandpa’s open sighted M94 30-30 Winchester today has morphed into scope sighted longer range territory later in the year.

GameKing vs ProHunter AMNow the real dilemma presents itself.  Which bullet do I use?  Here at Sierra we have two styles of big game hunting bullets GameKings and Pro-Hunters.  The question of “how do I choose which bullet I need?” is a big topic at this time of year.

Well …. Okay, so I’m a little early for some of you.  After all it hasn’t even frosted yet!  I don’t know what I was thinkin’.  Let’s see if we can get a jump on this deer season and have a bullet and a load already chosen for this season.

So just exactly what is the difference between a GameKing and a Pro-Hunter you might ask.  The answer can be as  simple or as complex was you want.

Simply put the GameKing is designed for medium to long range impacts.  While the Pro-Hunter is designed for close to medium range impacts.

The GameKing is a streamlined boat tailed bullet while the Pro-Hunter is a utilitarian flat based design.

While both designs have tapered jackets and usually share the same lead alloy the performance in the field varies.

But there are hollow point GameKings and Spitzer Boat tail GameKings. Why?  Good question.

Here at Sierra we don’t offer gimmicks so the hollow point boat tail GameKings are big game bullets.  They are slightly “tougher” than the Spitzer versions offering more initial penetration before showing maximum upset and the ensuing energy release.  The hollow point also protects the point or meplat of the bullet from deformation in the magazine caused by the recoil of big kicking magnum cartridges. That makes it an ideal choice for the short magazines of the WSMs, RSAUMs and 300 Winchester Magnums in 3.340″ length magazines just to name a few.

Another excellent reason to choose the hollow point GameKing over the Spitzer is if you need a bullet that will function through the magazine but need get close to the lands for accuracy or feeding issues.  The lack of a point allows the hollow point GameKings to be seated farther out than a pointed bullet and still function through the magazine.

2140 165 gr HPBT GameKing

2140 165 gr HPBT GameKing® Bullets

Most of the Sierra hollow point GameKings have skived noses which result in a very distinct + appearance when viewed from the point on view.  This configuration reduces the frontal area of the bullet for increased in-flight efficiency and it also reduces the initial expansion of the bullet by effectively reducing the jacket opening allowing for greater penetration upon impact.  The final form of the hollow point GameKing offers excellent terminal performance while enhancing the ballistic coefficient.  And if all that wasn’t enough the sleek Sierra boat tail offers reloaders precise bullet seating especially when matched with the low angle inside neck chamfer tools from K&M, Lyman and RCBS.

The Spitzer boat tail GameKings excel in down range efficiency.  Their streamlined boat tail shape gives them a major ballistic advantage over other hunting bullet designs for unsurpassed long range efficiency.  The lead tip not only offers aerodynamic streamlining but acts as a wedge, which upon impact will help the bullet expand at the lower impact speeds of longer range.  So, if that soon to be picked corn field offers ranges exceeding 300 to 400 yards a Spitzer boat tail Sierra GameKing bullet might be just what you were looking for.

That brings us to the work horse of the Sierra bullet line, the Pro-Hunter.  This bullet has endured the test of time and is suitable for all practical hunting ranges.  The Sierra Pro-Hunter is a flat based design featuring a tapered jacket and a “jump friendly” ogive so you can seat it where it performs best in your firearm.  Pro-Hunters come in Spitzer and round nose shapes both of which offer uniform expansion and deep penetration by virtue of their abundance of bearing surface, precisely tapered jacket and carefully engineered exposed lead tip.  The graceful shape is pleasing to look at and efficient in use.  Depending upon caliber and weight it is appropriate for ranges at the muzzle to the far side of the 500 yard cornfield for the Spitzer version.

Close-up and personal is where the round nose bullets excel.  Whether you are carrying your favorite 35 Remington or packing your favorite 30 caliber, thick cover or heavy game need not cause consternation.  The Sierra Pro-Hunter round nose is the proper choice.

The long straight bearing surface does little to betray the heavily tapered interior of the jacket which assures deep penetration.  While the generous opening in the jacket exposes enough lead to guarantee the uniform classic mushroom expansion  with deep penetration so necessary for up close and personal encounters.GameKing and ProHunter BulletsGenerally regarded as short range bullets the classic Sierra Pro-Hunter round nose bullet is just short of brilliant in the field.  If started at 2700 feet per second at the muzzle and zeroed at 200 yards the 30 caliber 180 RN Pro-Hunter #2170 will be about 2 inches high at 100 yards and about 10 inches low at 300 yards.  Not bad for a “short range” bullet.  By the same token the 30 caliber 180 Spitzer Pro-Hunter #2150 will be 1.9 inches high at 100 and 8.5 inches low at 300 and the long range 30 caliber 180 grain SBT GameKing #2160 will be 1.8 high at 100 and just 8 inches low at 300.  Realistically, under normal hunting conditions only the very best of riflemen will be able to hold the difference in these widely varying shaped 180 grain 30 caliber bullets.

So  what, exactly is the bottom line to all this?  If your shots are 300 yards or less pick the bullet you like that fits the type of shot you like.  That means that if you need penetration through dense tissue and or bone at short to medium range the Sierra Pro-Hunter bullet is the bullet for you.  But if you like to stretch it a little or need a bullet that reacts a little faster for less dense tissue or smaller game the Sierra GameKing is your bullet.

There now, wasn’t that easy?

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30 Responses to Advice on Choosing a Hunting Bullet

  1. Well said. Shooting past 300 yards requires a lot more information for well placed shots than just bullet shape or performance.

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  3. Mike says:

    I emailed and asked for minimum speeds for reliable expansion. So far, I don’t have those answers. I hope this isn’t the reply I was promised.

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    • Rich says:

      Different bullets will react differently to low speed impacts. Round nose bullets will do a good job as slow as 1200 fps where as the Spitzer ProHunter bullets will require 1500 to 1800 fps depending upon the bullet and the density of the tissue. Generally GameKing bullets will do well as slow as 1500 fps. While I didn’t make any promises I hope this answers your question.

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      • Daryl says:

        Expansion and retained weight depends not only on velocity but what the projectile encounters when it penetrates the hide….

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  4. Daryl says:

    You actually have another big game bullet and I use them on Mule deer, whitetails and bear….Sportsmasters (in 44 caliber). I also load your Gamekings in 30 caliber for my 308 medium range hunting rifle but I prefer handgun hunting, it takes more skill because you have to get closer.

    I wish you produced a 452 diameter heavy jacketed Sportsmaster capable if withstanding velocities above 1500 fps without coming apart. This year, I’ll hunt with a S&W 460 XVR and while I’ve always loaded your bullets in long guns and pistols, this year will be Hornady XT Mags or Swift A Frames in 452.

    There is a lot more to hunting than just long guns…….

    Liked by 1 person

    • firstriverbend says:

      Having been a handgun hunter since 1974, Ruger Super Blackhawk .44 magnum, I understand what you are saying. It strikes me that this Sierra round would fit well into what you need, certain worth some testing at least.
      #8830 .45 Caliber (.4515) 300 gr. JSP rated at 1550 fps, with a .210 sectional density and .192 BC above 1400 fps.
      Certainly does not seem as this would be a come apart bullet at the speeds you are mentioning. Not too sure about when driven at closer to factory loading speeds, but my experience has shown most bullet manufactures list speeds below what will work well.

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      • Daryl says:

        In previous years I loaded 240 Sportsmasters over Lil Gun for the 44 but this year is different. This year will be a 460 XVR Performance Center not the short barrel version but the 14″ barreled version with a brake and optics. With 240 grain pills over H110 in Starline brass (45.2 grains) it chrono’s at 1750 fps. Thats under max load by almost 3 grains. Hornady’s factory loaded flex tipped 200 grain roumds chrono over 2100fps, however, S&W claims that the lighter the pill, the less accurate the weapon is…. I have doubts that they will stay together at that velocity, Hornady also lists a 300 XT Mag which I have not loaded.

        No matter what I load, muzzle velocity will be over 1500 fps, well above what a 44 magnum delivers in velocity, or any 45 caliber bullet for that matter.

        I also have to take into account recoil. Ir’s not an offhand shooting pistol anyway. It weighs 7 pounds scoped.

        I shoot my 44 with iron sights but the 460 should be well capable of a 200 yard kill shot, way beyond the realm of iron sights…. and my feeble old mans eyesight.

        Guess I’ll have to get a box or 2 of Sierra 240 and 300 Sportsmasters in 45 cal (452) and see what happens….

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      • firstriverbend says:

        Daryl,
        My Super Blackhawk in .44 magnum was also scoped, and shooting well over the listed velocity with its 7.5 inch barrel. I worked up all of my loads over an Oehler Chronograph. The largest spread on velocity was under 25 fps, average spread was less than 14 fps. With safe pressures it pushed a 265 grain bullet just under 1600 fps. I had no pressure signs, but the load was not one any book lists either.
        It developed 32 ft. lbs. of free recoil and shot into just under 1.5 inch at 100 yards. It too had all it needed with this particular loading to shoot game at 200 yards, but then it would be kind of against the what and why of my using a pistol that was easily carried in a shoulder holster out of the elements. 🙂
        If one is going to be plucking lead at game 200 yards distant, the bullet will be well under the listed maximum velocity for any of the .452 pistol bullets available when it get to target.
        So good luck with your short rifle/pistol and hope you have fun with it. 🙂

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  5. Rich says:

    Of course you are correct Daryl. Traditional handgn hunting with open sights is very challenging and requires not only great shooting skill but great hunting skills as well. – Rich

    Liked by 1 person

  6. David Ray says:

    For the 180 gr spitzer prohunter, what is the minimum muzzle velocity from a 30/06 at 200 or 300 yards ?

    Thanks , David.

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    • David – Are you asking for minimum velocity for expansion? Or, are you asking for the remaining velocity at 200 and 300 yards? – Duane Siercks, Ballistic Technician

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      • David Ray says:

        Yes, minimum muzzle velocity for bullet upset/ expansion for 200 to 300 yards.

        The 180 gr pro. Spitzer is a very accurate bullet from my vanguard s2 30/06 on top of some W760.

        Thanks , David.

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  7. David Ray says:

    Is 2400 / 2500 fps at the muzzle fast enough at 300 yards ?

    Thanks, David

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    • With a muzzle velocity of 2400 fps, the 180 grain bullet will still be traveling a bit over 1900fps @300 yards. This bullet would expand on larger game at this velocity. If you are deer hunting, this bullet may not expand as much as you would want. This is a bullet designed for large game. – Duane Siercks, Ballistic Technician

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  8. Richard Laffey says:

    I need an accurate 257 100gr bullet for a 250 Savage 1-14 twist If that’s not possible please suggest something a little lighter that will work on deer out to 150 yards.

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    • Richard – The 100 gr. Pro-Hunter #1620 will stabilize in the 14″ twist. I also like the #1615 90 gr. HPBT GameKing in the Savage for deer-sized game. – Duane Siercks, Ballistic Technician

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  9. Bill Norman says:

    Game kings have been around for years, hard to beat perfection! I slowed my loads down about 50 fps. An my deer are sits no trailing. Not saying there’s nothing better but they work for me. 50 yards to 600 yards I’ve gotten kills.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Dick says:

    Why do some rifles shoot better with flat base vs boat tailed bullets? I have a Ruger M77 in 30.06 that really prefers flat base. Had this rifle a long time and don’t remember this being true when it was newer.

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    • Rich says:

      The long bearing surface of a flat based bullet is advantageous in several instances. In the case of a long throat often times the a flat based bullet is still in the case mouth when it reaches the rifling allowing for excellent concentricity where a boat tail bullet and it shorter bearing surface exits the case mouth before encountering the lands and enter slightly off line.
      There are times when the bore just isn’t parallel. A barrel like this can drive you mad but the longer bearing surface of the flat based bullet helps span those areas keeping the bullet straight in the bore.
      Then there is the crown. Arguably the most important part of the barrel. It is is off center just a little bit and a boat tail bullet is used the bullet exits the crown at the pressure ring but that still leaves the tapered boat tail of the the bullet in the barrel. Although it is not touching anything it is exposed to the exiting gases rushing by much faster than the bullet is moving and if more gas exits on one side the bullet tilts to that side putting the bullet in a yaw condition which greatly influences accuracy.

      Liked by 1 person

    • firstriverbend says:

      Going along with what Rich explained, you might have the throat looked at, as over time the rifling in the throat is eroded away, making the bullet movement further before the rifling is engaged. There are two points where a bullet can yaw out of alignment, one is during the bullet jump from the case to the rifling, followed by the exit at the muzzle.
      This is one of the reasons target rifle C.O.A.L. change as the rifle ages for best accuracy, even though the same bullet may be used for the barrel’s accuracy life.

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  11. Warren Rogers says:

    Rich has done a fine job of explaining the differences between a pair of bullet designs.
    This is very important that we hunt ethically,
    with a real understanding of what bullets can and will do downrange. Thanks Warren

    Liked by 1 person

    • Daryl says:

      One thing I’d be looking hard at is, is the bullet concentric with the case? I know, you assume it is because the seater is supposed to center it but is it really?? If the bullet is cocked in the neck, it enters the rifling at an angle out of true with the bore and exits the muzzle in the same condition, attributing to flyers or yaw in flight.

      The only way to ascertain if the bullet is concentric with the case is gauge it and the only way to gauge it is either chuck the loaded round in a collet and use a spin indexer and a dial indicator or use a Hornady bullet concentricity jig (what I use). You’d be amazed at induced runout. Even factory loads can be wobbly. Acceptable runout for most applications is 0.002 but I can center mine (using the Hornady jig, dead on 0.000.

      It makes a big difference in bullet flight, especially over longer distances.

      Liked by 1 person

      • firstriverbend says:

        One more reason for flat based bullets being more accurate in some situations. All things being equal, two bullets one being flat based, one being boat tailed, the flat based bullet will have a longer bearing surface inside the cartridge case. The longer the bearing surface inside the brass, the less chance of cant.

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  12. JMars says:

    I shoot white tail within 100 yards with my 270. Factory loads seem to ruin a lot of meat though. I’m thinking of loading a smaller bullet with a lighter load. Would a 110 gr. ProHunter be a good idea? If so, what is the minimum velocity for proper expansion?

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    • JMars – The minimum impact velocity needs to be at 1800fps or greater. The 110 has worked well on deer with shots placed in the rib/lung area. Reducing the velocity usually works well also. Thanks, Duane Siercks, Ballistic Technician

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      • JMars says:

        Thanks. That’s great news.

        I can probably use a reduced load of 4895 to safely throw that pill at about 2800 fps. That should produce about 1900 ft_lbs and be comparable to a 30-30.

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  13. Daniel Pray says:

    I have read your comments on bullet expansion and velocity. I am looking at using a 30/40 Krag for black bear hunting this fall. Am getting superb accuracy from 150 grain bullets at a somewhat reduced velocity, but for bear I am looking at 180 or 220 gr rn bullets. With the 220 gr bullets starting about 2000fps, at what distance would expansion become iffy? I would aim to break one or both shoulders if the opportunity arose. I ask because I have read that most 220 gr bullets have a heavier jacket than the lighter ones. Thanks.

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