Thursday, December 29, 2011

Eleven States Continue To Discriminate Against Muzzleloading Hunters

My wife Christy poses with a plump doe for the freezer, taken at 125 yards with a Harvester Muzzleloading "Crush Rib Sabot" and deadly accurate bullet...thanks to state muzzleloader hunting regulations that permit the use of a riflescope for precise shot placement.

Following is an e-mail that went out yesterday (12-28-11) to the Idaho Department of Fish and Game. Attached to that e-mail was a letter to Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, filing a discrimination complaint against the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, for the manner in which that state wildlife agency forces the aged hunter with weakened eyesight, and those hunters with a natural sight impairment, to jump through hoops in order to "qualify" to use a riflescope during the muzzleloader season. Eleven states still enforce such discriminating regulations.

The battle to win fair and equal muzzleloader hunting opportunities for ALL muzzleloading hunters is far from being over.

The letter to Secretary Salazar can be read at the link in the following e-mail message.

Toby Bridges

December 28, 2011

Dear Idaho Department of Fish and Game;

It's time to get this ball rolling along again. Muzzleloader hunting has stalled some over the past couple of years, and that's partially due to backward muzzleloader hunting regulations, such as those enforced by IDFG, that tend to hold back interest.

The attached letter to Secretary Ken Salazar addresses one of the biggest problems plaguing the muzzleloader seasons.

Your agency is one of 11 state wildlife agencies that continue to discriminate against muzzleloader hunters who cannot see open sights well enough to use them. Since 2006, the DOI/USFWS forced IDFG and ten other state wildlife agencies to make special provisions for those hunters with aged or impaired sight to undergo medical examination, complete an application, sent with a letter from the physician/optometrist, and apply for a permit exemption from the restriction that prohibits muzzleloading hunters from using a riflescope.

The Department of the Interior's anti-discrimination policy specifically says that the agency cannot provide funding or financial assistance to any organization or agency which requires ANY U.S. CITIZEN to "qualify in a different manner" in order to participate in any opportunity.

The requirement you now have in place for those with older or impaired sight most definitely discriminates against these hunters. IDFG is in violation of that policy...and so is the DOI/USFWS when it continues to provide federal tax dollars to IDFG.

More on this issue published at:

Toby Bridges

Saturday, August 6, 2011

10,000 Rounds With No Loss Of Accuracy!

Here is a look at a 1.5-inch hundred yard group punched by Harvester Muzzleloading's 300-grain Scorpion PT Gold and red Crush Rib Sabot. And it was produced by a Knight "Long Range Hunter" with more than 10,000 rounds under its belt! Click on link below for the whole story...


Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Here Is A Cheap & Easy Way To Achieve Optimum Sabot-Bullet Fit With A Lose Bore!

It's not uncommon for the bores of modern in-line muzzleloaders to vary as much as .002" to .003" from rifle to rifle. Most .50 caliber bores today will run .500" to .501". However, a lot of production run barrels will go .502" to .504" - and finding the optimum combination of bullet-sabot fit with those bores can be difficult. Here is a look at how inexpensive and easy to use Teflon plumber/thread tape can be the solution.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Should A Muzzleloader Hunting Bullet Pass Through...Or Remain In The Game Hunted?

When it comes to muzzleloader hunting bullet performance, this is one of the biggest controversies. This article, just published on the new Harvester Muzzleloading Hunter website looks at what makes a saboted muzzleloading big game bullet a GOOD HUNTING BULLET.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

My 50-Cent Shooting Box

I'm sure that I'm not the only person who muzzleloads who also loves to get up early on Saturday morning, when the snow's not flying, and drive around looking for yard and garage sales. I love a great bargain, and much of my hunting, fishing, and especially camping gear comes from these front and back yard extravaganzas. Some of my outstanding recent buys include a set of insulated chest waders...still new in the my size...for just $10. And I was just about to head on over to the local sporting goods store and pay $130 for the same thing. (And the price sticker showed that was exactly where these came from!) Another great deal was a set of top quality Motorola camouflaged hand-held radios...again like new. And when I asked the price, the guy looked me in the eye and said..."How about a dollar?" After I handed him the buck, and had the radios and chargers in my hands, I asked him what was wrong with them. He simply said they wouldn't charge. I took them home, plugged in the chargers, set the radios in...and they charged just fine. In fact, they stay in my truck, sometimes for a month or more, and they hold a full charge.

I could name plenty more great buys...but I don't want to create too much competition for those unbelievable bargains.

Of all the things I've bought at yard sales this summer, one has easily been used more than anything else. It's an old hand-made wooden carpenter's box - which I bought for 50-cents. That's it in the photo above...being used as a shooting box. I keep it and a few other old tool boxes (also bought at yard sales) to keep shooting supplies in - powder, bullets, sabots, primers, several tools, loading equipment, cleaning supplies, you name it - all ready to head to the range. This particular "shooting box" is for the more recent in-line rifle models I use as my regular test rifles. And it sure makes getting ready to go to the range easy. I just slip a rifle or two or three into the truck, and grab this box - and I'm set.

One thing is for certain, I keep this old wooden box well supplied with Harvester Muzzleloading "Crush Rib Sabots" - and a variety of the Harvester bullets. More than once, I've come to the aid of another muzzleloading hunter/shooter who just could not get a rifle to shoot well with other loading components...and got them the tight groups they were seeking using the same Harvester Muzzleloading component combinations that ALWAYS work for me.

I'd have to say that old carpenter's box was the best half-of-a-buck I've ever spent.

What do you use to haul your shooting stuff to the range?

Toby Bridges

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Choosing The Right Sabot & Bullet Combo For Your Bore

Looking For This Kind Of 100-Yard Accuracy Out Of Your .50 Caliber In-Line Rifle? It Might Only Take A Different Sabot & Bullet Combo!

By Toby Bridges

Back in the early 1990s, I attended a meeting to help try establish some standards for muzzleloading, including standardizing bore sizes. Knight Rifles, Thompson/Center Arms, Connecticut Valley Arms, and other major muzzleloading rifle manufacturers or importers were there, and so were four or five muzzleloading bullet makers. And, I am sorry to say...Not much ever came of that meeting, other than the realization that the muzzleloading industry is the most non-standardized segment of the shooting and hunting industry.

Back then, in 1993, rifles sold as ".50 caliber" had bores ranging from as tight as .499" (Gonic) to as loose as .504-.505" (White Rifles). And that much variation had created quite a dilemma for those manufacturing bullets for the so-called .50 caliber muzzle-loaded rifles - or for the .45 & .54 caliber rifles at that time as well. This was especially true with "bore-sized" bullets.

The saving grace of this era of muzzleloader development was the plastic saboted bullet. The resiliency and compressability (new word) of the polymers used to produce sabots made it possible to use the same sabot and bullet combinations in various diameter bores - that is, within a reasonable variation of bore diameters. The fact remained that, at that time, a sabot that fit tight enough to be shot with some degree of accuracy from a .504" White Rifles bore could not even come close to being forced into a .005" smaller diameter .499" Gonic Arms .50 caliber rifle. Likewise, the sabot and bullet combo that loaded properly in the tighter bore would literally fall down the looser bore.

In regard to the variations in the diameter of .50 caliber bores of various modern in-line rifle makers, things have gotten somewhat better. And that's mostly due to those companies that were at the outer edges of what was considered a "nominal bore" diameter not selling enough rifles to remain in business. Still, today's popular .50 caliber fast-twist sabot-shooting bores can vary in diameter as much as .002" to .003" - from the same manufacturer, thanks to wear on the tooling used to produce their barrels.

The .50 caliber rifles produced by Knight Rifles all feature Green Mountain barrels, and are some of the closest tolerance muzzleloader barrels produced today. Typically, a .50 caliber Knight in-line ignition rifle will have a bore diameter of .500" to .501". And on rare occasion, a rifle may leave the factory with a bore closer to .502". Thompson/Center Arms .50 caliber barrels are typically .501-.502", with some .50 caliber bores pushing .503". Traditions, CVA and MDM .50 caliber bores generally run .502-.503". And depending on the hardness of the steels used, by about a thousand rounds most of these barrels will show a minute amount of wear - opening, maybe, another .001".

Now, .001"....002"....003" isn't much variation when looking at the gap between the jaws of a set of calipers. In fact, you have to hold it up in front of a bright light to even see an extremely slight gap of .002" between those jaws. But that small amount of difference can make all the difference in the world when trying to obtain optimum accuracy with a saboted bullet - that you are trying to get to group inside of a 2-inch circle at the distance of the length of a football field.

The .50 caliber Knight "Long Range Hunter" I shoot and hunt with more than any other muzzleloader has a bore that's right at .501". This rifle loads relatively easily with the Harvester Muzzleloading .50x.45 black "Crush Rib" Sabot and a .451-.452" bullet. Shooting my favored 260- or 300-grain "Scorpion PT Gold", propelled by a 110- or 120-grain charge of either Blackhorn 209 or FFFg Triple Seven, the rifle will consistently keep groups inside of 1 1/2 inches at 100 yards - often tighter when the operator (me) is up to the task that day.

A couple of fall seasons back, I helped another shooter sight in his well used .50 caliber Knight DISC Extreme model. He was impressed by the accuracy of the Green Mountain barrel of my rifle, and wanted to shoot the same load. With the same powder charge, sabot and bullet, and with the same exact scope (Hi-Lux HPML) as on my rifle, the best we could do was to get the poly-tipped 300-grain "Scorpion PT Gold" to group inside of 2 1/4 inches. But, during loading, I noticed that the Harvester Muzzleloading black "Crush Rib" and .451" bullet tended to load noticeably easier. I surmised that the bore was .001-.002" larger - so switched to the red .50x.45 "Crush Rib" Sabot. This particular sabot is several thousandths of an inch larger in diameter, designed for maintaining more compression of the smokeless powder charges shot out of the Savage Model 10MLII muzzleloader. The slightly tighter fit, which still loads easily due to the "Crush Rib" design of this sabot, made all the difference in the world. Shooting 110-grains of Blackhorn 209 and the 300-grain "Scorpion PT Gold" (with the red .50x.45 sabot), we had his rifle punching 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 inch groups in short order.

Another .50 caliber rifle I shoot often is a prototype of the new Knight "Mountaineer" models. The bore on this rifle I have runs between .501" and .502". And the rifle shoots well with the black .50x.45 "Crush Rib" Sabot and .451" diameter "Scorpion" or "Scorpion PT Gold". Typically, groups with the latter in 300 grains will be inside of 1 1/2 inches at a hundred yards (ahead of 120-grains of Blackhorn 209). After seeing the big improvement with accuracy in the aforementioned .50 Knight DISC Extreme when switching to the slightly tighter fitting red .50x.45 sabot, I gave them a try in the pre-production "Moutnaineer" - and discovered a rifle fully capable of punching sub 1-inch groups.

If you are just so-so pleased with the accuracy you are now getting with your .50 caliber in-line rifle, especially if the groups you are shooting are running 2 to 3 inches at a hundred yards, maybe it's time to do some experimenting. A good start may be to run down to a local machine shop and see if you can get them to measure the land-to-land measurement of your bore. Knowing the exact bore size will help you choose the right sabot. If the bore runs .500-.502", the black .50x.45 sabot may be the one you need to be loading with. If the bore runs .502-.504", chances are the red .50x.45 "Crush Rib" sabot will help tighten those hundred yard groups.

Experimenting to find the optimum sabot and bullet combination for any particular rifle is half the fun of owning...shooting...and hunting with a modern in-line rifle.

One combination I am looking forward to doing more with in the future is with .458" diameter bullets, such as the 300-grain all-copper Barnes SOCOM, the 300-grain all-brass Lehigh bullet, and the 325-grain Hornady FTX. I've been loading and shooting these bullets in my Knight "Long Range Hunter", shooting 120-grains of Blackhorn 209, and have found they make hard-hitting elk combinations that shoots well under an inch at a hundred yards with regularity. While the black .50x.45 "Crush Rib" Sabot has been designed to be loaded with a .451-.452" diameter bullet, it still loads well with the .006-.007" larger diameter .458" bullet. In fact, these bullets with that sabot load easier than the "standard" sabot and .451-.452" bullet combinations I shot and hunted with for years.

(Note: When shooting the 300-grain Barnes SOCOM, I rely on the yellow .50x.45 "Crush Rib" sabot to accomodate the the slight boat-tailed base of this bullet.)


Friday, March 18, 2011

Low Recoil Muzzleloader Whitetail Loads

By Toby Bridges

In recent years, I have taken a number of nice whitetail bucks at ranges of 180 to 200 yards, hitting them with 1,500 to 1,700 foot-pounds of energy at those distances. And more often than not, I've actually watched the animals go down - pretty much where they were standing. However, to achieve this kind of performance there is generally a trade off. To get a modern saboted bullet out of the muzzle at 2,000+ f.p.s. requires shooting a hefty load, say 110- to 120-grains of a hot loose grain black powder substitute, or a 150-grain "pellet" charge. And the recoil generated can be a bit more than many care to tolerate. This is especially true if the hunter happens to be 12 to 14 years old, a small framed female, or perhaps even an elderly person with some physical impairment.

Back during the mid 1990s, while working on a new muzzleloader book, I spent a great deal of time on the range, testing new rifle models and loading components. A local 12-year-old boy had a lot of interest in muzzleloaders and spent a great deal of time on the range with me. He especially enjoyed shooting the modern .50 caliber bolt-action models, which were the new trend at that time. I started him out loading and shooting with a single "50-grain" Pyrodex Pellet and a saboted 250-grain Hornady bullet. At 50 yards, that young shooter could keep them inside of 2 inches with the scoped muzzleloader.

After a few range sessions, I switched him over to 70 grains of fine-grained Pyrodex "P", and had him start shooting at 100 yards. In no time at all, the youngster was punching 3 inch groups at a hundred yards. And on the second day of the Iowa youth deer hunt in September, a fat six-pointer offered him a perfect 70 yard shot - and one very well placed 250-grain Hornady XTP hollow-point put his first deer on the ground.

So, what kind of ballistics does this load produce?

At the muzzle, the light charge of Pyrodex "P" was getting the saboted hollow-point on its way at just over 1,470 f.p.s. That translates into right at 1,200 f.p.e. at the muzzle. This .452" diameter bullet has a b.c. of .147. And at the distance the buck was shot, the load retained just over 850 foot-pounds of energy. The accepted minimum energy needed to cleanly bring down deer-sized game is 800 f.p.e.. The load the boy used to take his first deer had a maximum effective range of about 80 to 85 yards - and I had purposely selected a stand location from which longer shots were not likely. Even out of the lightweight 7-pound rifle, this load generated very tolerable recoil for the 12-year-old.

One mistake many experienced muzzleloader hunters make when getting a younger or smaller framed person into muzzleloader hunting is to start them out with the exact same loads that perform well for them - and that could mean loading heavy powder charges and heavy weight projectiles. The resulting recoil can make it a very unpleasant shooting and hunting experience. One thing is for certain, if the shooter is afraid to pull the trigger, because of that recoil, it is unlikely that they will consistently pull off optimum shot placement.

Most whitetails are taken inside of 100 yards. When starting a hunter with a muzzleloader for the first time, it's wise to limit range to 75 or 100 yards, then develop a load that is comfortable for them to shoot, and which can generate at least 800 f.p.e. at the maximum range that can be shot from the stand they will be hunting. And with today's superior powders and hunting projectiles, it's now a lot easier to accomplish than it was 10 to 15 years ago.

My better half (some say my better 3/4) has shot and hunted most of her life. She tips the scales at just 115 pounds, and is very recoil sensitive. For the 2009 Montana deer season, she decided that she wanted to try hunting with a muzzleloader - for the first time. All of her center-fire shooting had been with mild recoiling rifles in .243 Winchester or .30/30 Winchester caliber, the latter a break-open single shot. And it was one of the No. 209 primer ignition .50 caliber break-open MDM "QuicShooter Magnum" models that appealed to her the most.

Her load was a light charge of Blackhorn 209 behind a 240-grain Harvester Muzzleloading bullet that I had the company's Alan Hensley put together for me. Well, actually all I had him do was install the polymer spire-point tip of the Scorpion PT Gold line up into the funnel-point cavity of the 240-grain Scorpion - to produce a lighter 240-grain Scorpion PT Gold. And the bullet shot so great, the company has now added it to the line.

My gal Christy started with a 70-grain charge of Blackhorn 209 behind this saboted sleek 240-grainer. The light charge of this very energetic powder gets the bullet out of her .50 MDM rifle (26" barrel) at 1,682 f.p.s., with 1,504 f.p.e. This bullet has a b.c. of around .200, and at 100 yards, the load is still good for close to 1,350 f.p.s., and hits with close to 1,000 f.p.e.

Most importantly, this rifle and load does it with very light recoil, and great accuracy. I found that I could consistently keep 100 yard groups right at an inch, and Christy generally kept her groups inside of 2 inches.

She's not much of a horn hunter, and when a big doe stepped out at about 90 yards, one shot put some great eating on the ground - almost instantly. My calculations have this load still capable of delivering 800 f.p.e. to the target out to about 130 yards.

My .50 Knight DISC Extreme, which has been fitted with a conversion to eliminate having to use the red Full Plastic Jacket primer carriers, has always shot well with the 260- and 300-grain Scorpion PT Gold bullets - even when I've pushed powder charges all the way up to 120-grains of Blackhorn 209. Curiosity got the better of me, and I just had to see what the light 240-grain Scorpion PT Gold will do out of the 27-inch barrel of my "Long Range Hunter" version of this rifle.

Now, when heading for the range or the deer woods with this rifle, my goal has pretty much always been to shoot the hottest load that can produce acceptable accuracy - and for me that is to keep them inside of 1 1/2 inches at a hundred yards. This rifle, stoked with a full 120-grain charge of Blackhorn 209 (or FFFg Triple Seven) will get the light 240-grain bullet on its way at 2,188 f.p.s. - with about 2,550 f.p.e. at the muzzle. At 100 yards the projectile is still moving at around 1,800 f.p.s., and plows home with around 1,725 f.p.e. In fact, all the way out to 200 yards, this sleek and light muzzleloader hunting projectile, pushed out of the .50 DISC Extreme by 120-grains of Blackhorn 209, retains right at 1,475 f.p.s., and will take out any whitetail with more than 1,150 foot-pounds of retained energy.

What about accuracy? Three test groups shot with the hot charge of Blackhorn 209 averaged right at 3/4-inch from center-to-center. The best measured .510" . So, what will it do out of this rifle with a lighter, low recoiling powder charge?

With an 80-grain charge of Blackhorn 209 the 240-grain Scorpion PT Gold will get out of the Knight "Long Range Hunter" 27-inch Green Mountain barrel at around 1,740 f.p.s., with around 1,610 f.p.e. By the time this load gets the bullet to 100 yards, it has slowed to right at 1,425 f.p.s. - and hits with 1,080 foot-pounds of remaining knockdown power. This load drops below 800 f.p.e. at between 160 and 170 yards.

Complete with scope and mounts, this rifle weighs in at about 8 3/4 pounds. Recoil with the rifle and load is nil, and accuracy has been exceptional. Most hundred yard groups stay inside of 1 1/2 inches - while some were under an inch.

I have to confess...I'm often inflicted by a case of "magnumitis". It seems that I and many other very performance minded muzzleloading hunters too often forget that not everyone is seeking an honest 200-yard-plus big game rifle. With 70 to 100 grain charges of modern powders like Blackhorn 209 or Triple Seven, the new 240-grain Scorpion PT Gold can deliver the punch needed to bring down deer to 100 yards and a little farther - without the rearward punch that can make muzzleloading a painful and unpleasant experience for smaller framed shooters.

Watch for more on this bullet on the North American Muzzleloader Hunting website at .

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Check Out The Knight Muzzleloader Hunting Blog...

Do Multi-Reticle Muzzleloader Hunting Scopes Really Work? Here's The Answer!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Best Brush Busting Muzzleloader Hunting Bullets...

If you've hunted with a muzzleloader for any length of time, you've surely had a few times when you've taken shots at big game in the brush which failed to connect. And that miss was likely due to the fact that many of the muzzleloader hunting projectiles available in the past were far from being ideal brush busters. I've had a few of those "misses" that were unexplainable, until I spent some time looking at everything that had been between me and that deer, or elk, or whatever. And the tatletale sign of the shot connecting with a branch...limb...or sapling usually revealed why my shot failed to connect. The muzzleloader hunting projectiles of 25 years ago were easily deflected, sometimes at a severe angle.

About 20 years ago, I began a search for those projectiles which could catch a limb or sapling or two, and still hit game with enough accuracy to put it down. And what I've noticed as muzzleloader hunting has progressed is that more and more of today's bullets are doing a far better job of busting brush...and still stying pretty much on target.

Early on, I would drive out to a handy maple or willow a portable target board back into the tangle of limbs and sapling trunks, and see if I could get a high degree of shots to hit anywhere near where I was aiming. Back then, few would.

Now, most every winter, after the big game seasons have closed, once there is some snow on the ground, I get out a half-dozen or so times to conduct the same test that I first did back in those days. But instead of driving out to a convenient thicket, I now bring the thicket to my range. That's accomplished by cutting a truck load of 1/2- to 1-inch diameter willows, and pushing the cut ends down into a snow bank. Then a portable target board is placed behind 5 or 6 staggered rows of saplings, insuring that every shot will contact at least one of the young tree trunks. More often than not, any bullet shot will hit two or three of the saplings.

Surprisingly, some of today's muzzleloader hunting bullets do a pretty darn good job of plowing through a little brush and hitting the intended target close enough to point of aim to get the job done. But that depends on how far the target is behind that wall of brush - and the construction of the bullet.

These tests have also shown that bullet weight plays a big role in resisting deflection. The heavier the bullet, the more it tends to stay on course. This winter, I've put close to 300 rounds through my man-made thicket, and those bullets of 300 or more grains definitely put a much higher percentage of hits into the kill zone than lighter bullets. To simulate that zone, I staple a standard 9-inch diameter paper plate onto my plywood target board. The plate is large enough to be seen behind the stand of saplings, allowing the crosshairs to be fairly centered on the plate for each shot - even if I can't actually see the "center" of the plate.

My first round of testing was with the target board just 5 yards behind the saplings.

The bullets shot were: 1.) 260- and 300-grain Harvester copper-plated .451" Scorpion PT Gold; 2.) 200-grain Harvester copper-plated .400" Scorpion hollow-point; 3.) 330- and 400-grain Harvester .451" Hard Cast lead flat-nose; 4.) 250- and 300-grain .452" jacketed Hornady SST polymer spire-point; 5.) 250- and 290-grain all-copper Barnes TMZ polymer spire-point; 6.) 300-grain Barnes all-copper .458" SOCOM polymer spire-point; 7.) 325-grain Hornady .458" FTX soft polymer tipped spitzer; 8.) 300-grain Lehigh .458" all-brass hollow-point; 9.) 350-grain Lehigh .475" all-brass hollow-point; 10.) 300- and 350-grain Hornady .500" bore-sized FPB copper-plated spitzer; 11.) 295-grain BPI .500" bore-sized Power Belt poly-tipped copper-plated spitzer; 12.) 300- and 350-grain Harvester copper-plated Saber-Tooth hollow-point.

All of these bullets were loaded and shot with a volume measured 100-grain charge of Blackhorn 209. Four different rifles were used - a .50 caliber T/C Triumph, a .50 caliber Traditions VORTEK, a .50 caliber Knight Long Range Hunter, and a .52 caliber Knight DISC Extreme. Each was shot and sighted to be pretty much center of a paper plate at 50 yards. Then three shots were taken at a plate on the target board behind the sapling thicket. With the board just 5 yards behind the saplings, only two bullets failed to put all three on the 9-inch plate. The light 200-grain Scorpion hollow-point scored just one hit, while the 295-grain Power Belt put two hits into the simulated kill zone.

When the target board was moved to 10 yards behind the saplings, the angle of deflection became more evident. And so did how lighter weight bullets are more easily thrown off course. The saboted 250-grain Hornady SST, 250-grain TMZ, and 260-grain Scorpion PT Gold each kept two hits on the paper plate. All of the heavier saboted bullets managed to put all three into the zone. Of the bore-sized bullets, only the 350-grain Hornady FPB kept all three on the plate. The 350-grain Saber-Tooth and 300-grain FPB each scored two hits, while the 300-grain Saber-Tooth scored a single hit. All three shots with the Power Belt failed to cut paper. The light 200-grain Scorpion hollow-point also failed to hit the plate. Both bullets were dropped from further testing.

When the target board was moved to 15 yards behind the stand of saplings, six bullets kept all three hits inside the 9-inch circle - the 330- and 400-grain Hard Cast flat-nosed bullets, the 300-grain Scorpion PT Gold, the 300-grain all-copper SOCOM, the 350-grain Lehigh all-brass hollow-point, and the 350-grain FPB. The 300-grain Lehigh all-brass bullet kept two hits on the plate, as did the 290-grain TMZ. The 260-grain Scorpion PT Gold, 300-grain SST, 325-grain FTX, and the 350-grain Saber-Tooth scored one hit each.

The heavier copper plated, all-copper and all-brass bullets definitely resisted deflection better than all lighter bullets, and to some degree better than the copper-jacketed bullets tested (SST and FTX). The two bullets that proved to be only slightly affected by smacking into a sapling or two were the 330- and 400-grain flat-nosed Hard Cast bullets from Harvester Muzzleloading. In fact, after dead centering one willow and clipping another one or two, the 330-grain Hard Cast managed to group right at .705" on the paper plate set 15 yards behind the thicket. The 400-grain stayed inside of 1 1/4". The next best grouping with the target board set that far back was with the 350-grain all-brass Lehigh hollow-point (shot out of the Knight .52 DISC Extreme), which kept all three hits inside of 2.7". The 300-grain Barnes SOCOM and 300-grain Scorpion PT Gold grouped right at 3 inches across.  (Photo Above Right - Still In The Kill Zone After Plowing Through A Wall Of Brush!)

The past couple of winters, my shooting results with the copper-plated, all-copper and hardened lead bullets varied little from this year's brush busting tests. For several years, I would continue to throw in a few soft pure lead saboted bullets, but found that once they hit one or two saplings, the bullets became so deformed that they tended to stray way off course within a few yards. As accurate as some of these may be, they're best used when hunting open country. Plowing through brush with the accuracy to still hit that sweet spot on a big old buck is the job for bullets that are more solidly constructed.

It was easy to see where the bullets impacted the snow covered bank backstop after plowing through the saplings and 3/4" thick plywood target board. After shooting one afternoon, I walked over to a bare spot where most of the bullets had been hitting the frozen ground, and there lay several of the big 400-grain Hard Cast bullets...with the noses just slightly flattened and bent. And that damage was likely done when the bullet hit the frozen dirt bank. It became very clear why those hardened lead bullets had fared so well during the brush buster bullet test. (Those recovered bullets can be seen in the photo at the top of this post.)

If you hunt thick country, you might want to give this testing some thought...or get out and do some of your own. Plowing through brush and still driving into the kill zone takes a very special bullet. - Toby Bridges