Understanding VLD Bullets

VLD stands for Very Low Drag, and does not refer to a lifestyle, but to an ultra streamlined bullet. VLD … Continued

VLD stands for Very Low Drag, and does not refer to a lifestyle, but to an ultra streamlined bullet. VLD bullets, which were formerly the property of target shooters, are entering the world of big-game hunting, so it behooves us to know a bit about them.

The first thing to understand about VLDs is that, like everything else in the wonderful world of bullets, they represent a tradeoff — streamlining for strength. The most aerodynamic bullet, the one that shoots very flat and bucks wind very well, will not hold together when it hits an animal.

VLD bullets are heavy for their diameter and characterized by a pronounced boattail, a short shank (the straight section), a very long, highly tapered ogive, and a small hollow point. Just how streamlined they are is expressed as a Ballistic Coefficient. There are no fewer than seven mathematical models for calculating BC, but the most popular is the G1, which was developed in the 1880s by the Germans for determining the trajectory of artillery shells. G1 assumes that the projectile has a flat base, so it may not be the best suited for VLD bullets.

This is why some manufacturers are now giving BCs based on the G7 model, which assumes a boattail and a long, sharp nose. But for our purposes, if you see a bullet with a BC of .500 or above, it’s based on G1, and it’s a VLD or very, very close.

VLDs require that you re-educate yourself in the art of calculating bullet drop and wind drift, because they shoot unlike hunting bullets. I have shot Berger 140-grain 6.5 VLDs at 2,750 fps that dropped far less at 600 yards than 140-grain hunting bullets did at just under 3,000 fps. And the degree to which they buck wind is a revelation. Until you get used to them, you will over-allow for wind drift every time.

I’ve never killed an animal with a VLD bullet, but I’ve shot a great many critters with soft, squishy bullets that were about as fast-expanding, and they do fine if you use them within their limitations. Tom McIntyre, a hunter of the very highest literary and moral worth, has shot beasts with Berger VLDs and has no complaints. If you’d like something a bit more substantial, Nosler has come out with the Accubond LR, a dedicated hunting bullet that is streamlined enough to qualify as a VLD.

Or you can stay within 300 yards and keep life a lot simpler.