Back in the late 1970s I began rooting around in the last earthly remains of critters I had done in to recover the spent bullets that did them in. I then put the slugs in little paper change envelopes that I got from the bank, and recorded all the data–range, scope setting, bullet weight, how the animal reacted–on the envelope.
Recently, I went through my bullet collection and am currently meditating on the following:
On my first trip to Africa, I took a 7mm Weatherby Magnum loaded with the old 160-grain screw machine Nosler Partition bullets. I recovered four of them, and each weighed precisely 111.6 grains. Not 111.5, or 111.7, but 111.6. What are the odds on that?
From the 1970s to about 2000, I recovered lots of bullets. After that, the numbers fell off drastically. In recent years, the only time I find a bullet is if I shoot something really sizeable, like an elk, or bigger. Of the bullets I’ve used most in recent years–Swift A-Frame and Scirocco, Hornady GTX, Barnes all-copper bullets in their various forms–the only one I’ve found in an animal was a .416 Swift 400-grain A-Frame that ended up under the hide of a Cape buffalo on the far side.
The cartridge with the highest percentage of quickest, deadest kills, where the animal moved 30 inches straight down, is the .338. One of the bullets I recovered is a 210-grain .338 slug that hit a whitetail buck in the shoulder at 25 yards, went in a few inches, and then did a 90-degree left-hand turn and ranged most of the length of the body. The deer went down, but the bullet’s performance did not make me happy, and I stuck with 250-grain .338s from then (which was 1988) until a few years ago, when I found that Barnes 210- and 225-grain TSXs will give the same kind of unfailing straight-line penetration that 250-grain lead-core bullets do, plus more velocity.
I don’t mind not being able to recover slugs, as I was never thrilled with going up to my elbows in gore, and the performance of game bullets now is virtually perfect, all the time. As they used to say back in the 1940s, “What more do you want? An egg in your beer?” Whatever the hell that means.