June 10, 2013
Never Trust a Bashed Lead Tip
By David E. Petzal
During the taping of this season’s Gun Nuts (which promises to be bigger than Ben Hur) the question came up whether a deformed lead tip can cause a bullet to fly awry. Several times in the past, when shooting a group, I had shot a slug with a deformed tip and seen no indication of this at all. But before I went on camera I decided to check.
The first thing I found was that there are not a hell of a lot of pointed exposed-lead tips around these days. Just about everything on my shelf was all copper, or polymer-tipped, or had a flat tip (meplat) with not enough lead showing to deform. Finally, I found a box of .25/06 ammo handloaded with 120-grain Nosler Partitions.
At the range, I picked out 10 cartridges for two five-shot groups, five shots being a more reliable indicator of what is going on than three. The first group measured .657, which is about right for this rifle. Then I set about deforming the other five tips, and discovered that the damned things are hard. Rapping them on wood dented the wood and had little effect on the lead. I had to smack them against a steel plate anchoring the beams to the range roof. (Also, do not try this at home. I am a highly trained professional and you, as Chevy Chase used to say, are not.)
With the five tips bashed all to hell I then shot a second group and got an ugly surprise: the spread measured 2.131 inches, and three of the five shots strayed off to the right. See the photo.
The moral of this story is, if you’re using lead-tip bullets, be careful with them, and if you do beat one out of shape, use it for fouling the barrel, or something like that. Don’t shoot it when the shot counts; it will probably not go where it should.