When should I use boat tailed bullets?

rsh july experts

rsh july experts - Credit: Archant

I am new to stalking and unsure whether using boat tailed bullets will help with longer shots... Andrew Venables replies

Q: I am new to stalking, though I have used a .243 for fox control for five years. I understand that I should use 85-105gr bullets for deer management, rather than the 58gr varmint bullets I use for foxing. My question is, should I use boat-tail bullets which some of the makers offer? Will this help for longer shots?

ANDREW VENABLES replies: At hunting ranges, between perhaps 50 and 200 yards (or 300 yards if we are really pushing it), boat-tail bullets will actually make very little difference to the impact speed or energy of the bullets, compared to non boat-tail designs. Standard expanding bullets with jackets of even thickness actually stay together better if they have flat bases. Many expanding lead core boat-tail bullets on the market are more likely to have core/jacket separations than flat-base bullets.

At ranges over 300 yards and notably over 400 yards, the better aerodynamics of the boat-tail designs start to pay off and bullets retain speed and impact energy better. But, you are hopefully not going to be shooting at uninjured quarry of any type at ranges at which you are not reasonably certain of a first killing shot.

Honestly, when stalking deer in the UK, standard, non boat-tail expanding bullets work just fine. If you use boat-tails, ensure they are proper hunting bullets with provision for controlled expansion, not target or varmint bullets that may not expand at all, or may blow up on impact.