How to choose the right bullet weight for hunting or target shooting
- 22 Aug, 2017
There are a variety of aspects to consider when choosing the right bullet for your gun. Not only must you ensure you buy the correct caliber bullet but also a bullet that is going to fit your application. Fitting your application is vital for choosing the right bullet. Are you a hunter, if so what type of game are you after, rabbits and squirrels or larger game such as whitetails and elk? Not a hunter, but more of a target shooter? Are you shooting stationary targets or clays? All of these are good to ponder before you begin your quest for the perfect bullet.
What is 'bullet weight'?
After identifying your application and caliber bullet, you can now begin to consider the bullet weight. When referring to bullet weight we use grains as the unit of measurement. Grains work well when considering bullet weight as using pounds or even ounces would be tough and confusing (i.e. 7000 grains is equal to 1lb). Before getting further in detail with grain weight it is important to remember that when we refer to grain weight we are not talking about the amount of powder or propellant in the bullet. Referring to grains and powder in the same sentence can be dangerous as different brands of powder can have more charge or less charge then another brand even when using the same amount of powder. The only time one might discuss the grains of powder in a bullet might be for those who self load their bullets. For our purposes grains will refer to the general weight of the bullet and nothing else.
Now that you know the unit of measure, what does it mean and how do you know what grain is best for you? This is a very tough question to answer as it depends on a lot of things; but for starters lets begin with knowing your options. Say you have a 9mm handgun that you need ammo for; first find a 9mm caliber bullet and then know what grain weight is offered in that 9 caliber. The most common will be 115, 124, or 147 grain. You will most often always be able to find the number of grains labeled on the box.
Bullet weight in hunting
When hunting keep in mind that placement is always priority number one, shooting an animal in the vitals should always be the goal regardless of the bullet you are shooting. Choosing the right bullet weight often times means practicing with a variety of weights. Sometimes a certain gun shoots a particular round better then others, and the only way to find out what your gun performs best with is to experiment. For example I use a .270 Remington for deer hunting in the Midwest and I’ve found that the 150-grain bullets work best for me. It is a heavier bullet then others and it is accurate for the distances I shoot. My gun just seems to like the 150-grain bullet the best. To narrow your options you might consider how long of shots you will be taking as weight has an impact on accuracy.
Key points to consider when choosing a bullet weight for hunting:
- Heavier bullets typically hold their accuracy downrange while keeping their velocity in tact
- Lighter bullets will travel faster and flatter
- A denser hide (deer) will require a bullet that can create a great deal of penetration in which a heavier bullet should be used
Bullet weight in target shooting
When it comes to target shooting, it is good to find a bullet that is cheap and still performs well as you will be shooting much more frequently then per say the hunter. If target shooting to you means plinking a few rounds every now and again then bullet weight quite honestly is not that big of an issue. If you are target practicing in regards to home defense then shooting a bullet that provides you accuracy and is close to the actual bullet you would use in case of an incident is important to consider.
Key Points to consider when choosing a bullet weight for target shooting:
- A lighter bullet generally creates more expansion because of the fast speed it travels at, but offers less penetration
- A heavier bullet travels slower creating less violent expansion then a light bullet, this maximizes penetration
Overall bullet weight is just one of the many pieces to consider when finding the right bullet for your gun. As in anything practice makes perfect, don’t be afraid to try different grain weights and find one then meets your satisfaction whether that’s on the range or in the woods. Happy bullet hunting!