The Super Penetrators
the past 15 years, dozens of new big game bullets have been developed, the majority as
competitors to the old stand-by Nosler Partition, a hard act to follow. Todays
Partition, the result of over 50 years of experimentation, remains the most perfect
all-around big game bullet on the market. It expands easily, yet penetrates very well, and
shoots quite accurately in almost any rifle. While Partitions wont match the
accuracy of varmint or thin-jacketed deer bullets, I own several rifles that
group three Partitions into much less than an inch at 100 yards.
Many premium bullets retain more
weight after impact than Partitions, but only three widely available bullets actually
out-penetrate Noslers of equal weight and diameter: the Barnes X-Bullet, Combined
Technology Fail Safe and Trophy Bonded. All three open up less than most other premium
bullets, such as the Swift A-Frame and Speer Grand Slam, and retain more shank length. In
my experience any of the three need only weigh about 80 to 85 percent of a Partition to
penetrate as deeply.
A typical example might be the kudu
bull my wife shot last year with a handloaded 165-grain Fail Safe from a .30-06. The bull
dropped to a lung shot but staggered to its feet and started off. So Eileen planted
another in its left hip. The bull crumpled, because the Fail Safe broke the kudus
right shoulder before rattling off through the thornbush. I wouldnt try the same
shot with any .30-caliber Partition weighing less than 200 grains.
On average the Trophy Bonded
penetrates slightly less than an X-Bullet or Fail Safe but still penetrates deeper than
any other commonly available bullet. A couple years ago a friend shot a huge Alaskan moose
in the rear end with a 180 grainer from Federals High Energy .30-06 factory load -
and recovered the bullet from the bulls heart. Since the moose is now No. 3 in Boone
& Crockett, my buddys still smiling.
All three bullets work wonderfully
on heavy animals and reasonably well on lighter game. Ive taken animals as small as
pronghorns and whitetails with all three. Often they drop to the shot, though perhaps not
so often as when hit by quick expanders like Sierras and Nosler Ballistic Tips. But even
if some animal runs off before expiring, all three super-expanders generally leave an
excellent blood trail, unlike the popcorn bullets (as my wife calls them), and
tear up less meat. All three expand down to 2,000 fps, the lowest speed where conventional
lead-core spitzers still open reliably. At lower velocities the Trophy Bonded doesnt
punch a hole as well as the other two, probably because of its rounded mushroom
rather than the dished face of an expanded X-Bullet or Fail Safe, so I like to start it as
close to 3,000 fps as possible. Other than that, all three work very similarly on game.
So why not use them for all hunting?
First, theyre expensive, even more costly than Partitions and, on average, not as
accurate. I went through my handloading records for the past five years, averaging
three-shot, 100-yard groups shot in tuned bolt-action and single-shot big game rifles with
each bullet, from both handloads and factory ammunition. Calibers ran from .243 Winchester
to .375 H&H. The averages follow:
Original Fail Safe
Barnes XLC (blue X-Bullet)
Moly Fail Safe