Field & Stream Online Editors
Field & Stream Online Editors

Q:I read Dave Petzal’s review of the Winchester Fail Safe big game bullets. I’ve been using Winchester’s Silvertip bullets in .270 for the past 22 years with outstanding results. In fact my early success prompted my buddies to switch to these bullets in .270 and .30-06. I was surprised to hear there were problems with this bullet. Can you give me more information?–B.S.

A:Silvertips are a mixed bag. They’re essentially a capped soft-point bullet. The “silver” tip (actually tin, I believe) prevents the lead underneath from being battered and deformed during recoil while in a rifle’s magazine.

The soft-point underneath the cap is generally larger than that of a typical soft-point, such as Winchester’s own Power-Point. A large soft-point causes a bullet to open very quickly (which the Silvertip generally does), and quick-opening bullets tend to kill big game very quickly, particularly with broadside shots through the lungs.

But very quick expansion can also cause the bullet to disintegrate, particularly when hitting bone. Silvertips have varied over the years. A friend of mine bought 1000 130-grain .270’s about 20 years ago, and has used them with great success on game up to elk. None has ever come apart, even after hitting the shoulder bones of big bulls.

But other Silvertips have definitely come apart, even on much lighter bone. I once shot a 150-grain .30-06 Silvertip factory load into the shoulder of a forkhorn mule deer at 200 yards, and the bullet didn’t even penetrate the rib cage. I found what was left of the empty jacket inside the broken shoulder, after I’d tracked the wounded deer down and shot it again through the ribs (which worked fine). My late friend Walter White had a terrible time with a huge brown bear up on Kodiak Island. Walter used 300-grain Silvertips in his .375 H&H;, and shot the bear at least 11 times (he picked up that many empties), and had to reload the magazine in his Model 70 Winchester twice. The bullets were breaking up on the wet hair and hide of the bear. I’ve also seen 180-grain Silvertips from the .30-06 come apart on elk shoulders.

The Silvertip Supreme boattails Winchester introduced in the late 1980’s were even worse. Most of the time they wouldn’t even penetrate all the way through a small deer. The Fail Safe was a direct result of similar failures. It isn’t the quickest-killing deer bullet ever produced, but does a marvelous job on anything bigger.

So some Silvertips have worked fine, others not so well. They also tend to work better on deer than larger game, but not always even then. For deer I personally prefer the Power Point, as it behaves much more predictably.

Q:What’s the best way to remove the hair and skin from a set of antlers so they may be displayed? They’ve been sitting around for a few months.–E.R.

A:Boil ¿¿¿em, preferably outside. Get a pot big enough to immerse the hairy part, then boil on a camp stove or gas barbecue until the skin peels off. It shouldn’t take more than an hour or two.