Before setting foot in the field to go hunting you want to be sure you are loaded up with the best hunting projectiles. Serious hunters put in a lot of time at the rifle range. Even with a faithful old rifle, that shoots a pet load you have not varied in years, it is wise to confirm that the rig is delivering the accuracy you have come to expect.
Load development, of course, demands significant range time. I regularly test new loads in my favourite rifles, even though I am perfectly happy with the performance of the pet hunting load I have been using for ages. Mostly these are my own handloads, but at other times I use premium factory ammunition from Federal, Nosler and Weatherby.
Propellant Variation for Optimum Accuracy
Typically, with handloads, I vary the powder charge, starting low and working up towards the maximum charge in a series of small increments with the projectile seated to SAAMI specification. I always seek to cross-reference the load for the projectile and propellant from two or three separate loading guides. Whether handloads or factory ammo, I test on the basis of three-shot groups at 100 metres.
Bullet Seating Depth Variation for Optimum Accuracy
I graph the group sizes achieved and look for the load that gave the smallest 100 metre group size, without any signs of pressure. Then, using that load weight, I vary the seating depth over a range of depths from about 10 thou off the lands to about 150 thou off, in steps of around 30 thou. Note, it is wise to always seat hunting loads clear of the lands. Benchrest shooters, in the clean and stable environment of the covered bench at the range, can afford to seat into the lands.
Projectile Terminal Performance
Once I have a hunting load shooting to my accuracy requirements, which is ideally sub MOA for long range application, and 1 to 2 MOA for distances out to 200 metres, it is time for field testing. The major criteria for choosing the best hunting projectile is based on its terminal ballistics. For shooting varmints, a projectile that expands explosively is needed for humane instantaneous kills. For game animals a projectile with more controlled expansion is required.
There are a number of excellent hunting projectiles with good controlled expansion. Most experienced hunters have their favourites and stick with them. Personally, I am a great fan of Nosler’s Partition and Accubond products. I have tried many calibres and projectiles over the last 50 years, but remain a devotee to Nosler since first trying them back in the early 1980s.
For superior long-range accuracy and great terminal ballistics I generally opt for the Accubond. For totally controlled expansion and an ideal blend of shock and penetration, I am a devotee to the Partition, in all calibres from .224 to .458. These excellent projectiles can be had in premium factory ammunition from Federal, Nosler and Weatherby for those hunters who do not load their own.