September 26, 2006
Sometimes, Slow is Better than Fast
By David E. Petzal and Phil Bourjaily
NOTE: When I read the comments about my Crocodile Hunter rant and learned what a son of a bitch I was, I became despondent and went to Alaska for two weeks to live among the brown bears, a la Timothy Treadwell. However, they didn’t care for me either, so I have returned to the blog. Here is my welcome-home entry.
Earlier this month I was hunting the Tsiu River region in southeastern Alaska and shot an attractive bull moose with an Ultra Light Arms rifle chambered for the .340 Weatherby Magnum. It took one bullet high in the lungs at 60 yards to put him down, which is rare for moose. Usually, you shoot them three or four times and they stand around thinking the matter over and then head for the nearest body of water and die.
But I digress. I was shooting handloads--specifically, 275-grain Swift A-Frames that develop a muzzle velocity of 2,550 fps in that rifle. Now if you’re familiar with the .340, you’re aware that it can shoot 250-grainers at plus-2,800 fps, and 210s at 3,000 fps. So why in the name of the Late Roy W. did I settle on such a long, slow, projectile?
Because they work. Called-in moose are usually shot at ranges of 20 to 40 yards, where high velocity is worse than useless. At the very least it will produce blown-up bullets that cause horrendous meat loss. At worst the bullet will blow up on the shoulder and the animal will run away and die at his leisure, and you may not ever find it. What you want is a bullet that will hold together and pass intact through 4 feet of bone, hide, and muscle. Which is exactly what the Swift did.
For years now, I’ve been handloading all my hellish magnum cartridges with long, heavy bullets at substantially less velocity than factory specs. One of the very best of these cartridges is a 7.21 mm (actually, .284) Lazzeroni Tomahawk, which is capable of sending a 140-grain bullet along at nearly 3,400 fps, and a 160 at just under 3,200. I load 160-grain Nosler Partitions to 3,000 fps even, and guess what? The critters fall down just as fast.
Velocity is fine and dandy in its place, but in a great deal of big-game hunting you don’t need nearly as much as is available, and in a surprising number of cases it can actually work against you.