My wife reads a lot of “who dunnit” mystery novels. The one she’s reading now addresses long-range marksmanship and the use of hollowpoint “match” bullets. As a person normally 100% uninterested guns and shooting, she had a very good question for me; “Why do they use hollowpoints for accuracy”? This lead to a very interesting discussion– one uninterested in guns was trying to understand something that few gun enthusiasts understand completely and rarely discuss in such detail.
I had to admit I was at something of a loss. My best understanding is that the hollowpoint bullet jacket can be manufactured to higher standards of concentricity (the mass being better centered around the mechanical center so as to avoid wobble in flight) and consistency of mass and shape. That is all true, but exactly why it is true I was at a loss to explain with certainty. My best guesses are that it has to do with the process of forming the jacket’s shape, and with the insertion of the bullet’s lead core, but I don’t know the actual processes used in bullet manufacturing.
I also told her it was my opinion that since the hollowpoint jacket (having a closed copper base due to the way it’s constructed) allows none of the bullet’s lead base to melt away during the intense heat of firing, it is going to retain its mass, and therefore its consistency of mass from shot to shot, better than the open base of a standard full metal jacket bullet. I’ve also read that the open-base FMJ can allow the jacket to partially separate from the core at the base under the pressure of firing. If so, that would certainly alter its flight slightly and at random.
She explained that it was her understanding that hollowpoints were used to cause more trauma inside the target, and I told her that she was correct. She was having a hard time understanding that there is no direct correlation between the objectives behind hollowpoint “match” bullet designs, and the hollowpoint bullets designed to expand and cause more damage. This was getting too technical for a layperson, but her interest was piqued by the story she was reading. I had to explain that hollowpoints designed specifically for expansion on impact have a wide range of designs, operating velocities and applications, and that match hollowpoints have nothing to do with any of that. The match bullets are only designed for accuracy, with no regard to their effects on a target.
That being the case, one can nonetheless do a little experimentation. Manufacturers of match rifle bullets usually make a point of telling the customer that they are NOT intended, and should not be used for, hunting. There is one company, Burger Bullets, that touts their match VLD (Very Low Drag) hollowpoints as hunting bullets. I’ve been loading Berger 7 mm bullets in 280 Remington for my son’s use at Boomershoot, and since he keeps his rifle zeroed for that load, he has also used the VLDs for hunting. This particular bullet has a light (read weak) jacket, and while it is an awesome animal stopper, it explodes at high velocity inside the animal due to its light construction and causes major damage to any meat it comes near. It also tears a large hole in the hide for those of us who keep the skins. They make a tiny entry wound and a softball-sized exit wound. That would be OK if the shot placement and angle were ideal because only the heart/lung cavity would be so effected (then too, we like to eat the heart if it’s intact). Other match hollowpoints have heavier jackets that don’t behave much different, on impact, from a standard FMJ bullet.
Practicing for Boomershoot last week, we found one of our 30 caliber match bullet jackets behind a 2′ diameter rotten, wet log that it had penetrated. Just the jacket, turned nearly inside-out, with no lead core. The hollowpoint tip was almost perfectly intact, and so behaved radically different from a hollowpoint hunting or defense bullet. The bullet had traveled 400 yards, entered and then yawed violently sideways inside the log. The intense pressure of deceleration caused the heavier lead core to burst out the side of the jacket, separating completely. The open-sided jacket followed through to drop on the ground just behind the log. These match bullets were loaded in .308 Winchester cartridges made by Black Hills Ammunition. We were using 168 and 175 grain, “red box” new loads. I think the bullets they use in these loads are from Sierra, but don’t quote me on that. You can call them and ask if you’re curious.