Some continue to question the effectiveness of match-grade ammunition for big game hunting. But are these concerns unwarranted?
Designed to print small groups in paper at long range, match-grade ammo is generally not recommended for use in hunting applications by manufacturers. But I can’t figure out why, since the stuff kills deer so fast and so humanely it could be marketed as some kind of super hunting bullet.
Yet the debate rages on. Some have reported that match ammo has exhibited extremely effective terminal ballistics on game.
Others say it yields unpredictable results and question whether it’s ethical to use for hunting — whether it can produce quick kills.
The late Ian McMurchy, a long-time Gun Digest contributor and noted authority on long-range hunting, defended its use.
“I use match bullets for some of my hunts because I believe they do a better job than most hunting bullets,” McMurchy wrote. “Could I use a hunting bullet successfully? Absolutely, but I want the accuracy edge and long-range ballistic performance I get with match bullets.” (source: North American Hunting Club)
While there is some match ammo out there that is widely accepted for use in hunting (Hornady’s TAP ammo with A-MAX bullet comes to mind), I was primarily concerned with the Sierra MatchKing (SMK) bullet.
The most defining feature of this is the boattail hollow-point (BTHP) bullet itself, which is an “open tip match” or OTM design. Federal’s Gold Medal Match is essentially the same as the military’s M118LR (Long Range), although considered to be of better quality; that is, it exhibits less standard deviation shot to shot.
Unlike a traditional “hunting bullet,” open tips aren’t designed to retain weight and stay together. When they encounter resistance they can come apart (due to a thin jacket) in a dramatic fashion. That puts game down unlike anything you’ve ever seen. Next Page
I came to that conclusion after testing it during a recent deer hunt. Three whitetails were shot using Federal MatchKing 175 gr .308 ammo (featuring the Sierra MatchKing bullet). All shots were under 100 yards.
The ammo’s performance definitely instilled a great deal of confidence. The first to drop, a buck, was taken through the lungs. How he ever managed to make the two or three leaps he did before piling up face-first I’ll never understand.
The round zapped him like a lightning bolt and you could drive a Mack truck through the wound channel.
Next, two does got similar treatment, and again the match bullet literally turned them inside out. The wounds were cavernous but little meat was lost due to taking them through the hamburger region in the front-lower shoulder. Not much was left of the vitals.
As Gun Digest author Wayne van Zwoll tells us in his Technical Rifleman blog, new concept hunting bullets that disintegrate into tiny particles are being tested and developed by specialty firms.
“We’ve found they kill better than deep-driving softpoints,” says Dustin Worrell, who runs Dynamic Research Technologies (DRT). “In fact, we’ve used them on nilgai.”
While all of my shots were close, McMurchy noted that the match bullets actually performed better at extended ranges on deer. He relates the details of a 685-yard shot:
“Glen’s rifle barked, and his 175-grain bullet traveled in a 10 1/2-foot arc toward the deer. It simultaneously drifted more than 3 feet to the right before penetrating the chest of the bedded doe. Her head dropped and she was still. The other two deer jumped to their feet … Another factory loaded 175-grain Sierra Match King sailed across the valley on its deadly mission. The buck dropped with a broken spine.”
Certainly there is no shortage of great hunting bullets on the market today. And most will perform splendidly at the short and medium ranges at which deer hunters tend to take shots.
But if you’re hunting a field edge or the wide, open spaces of the West, and need an effective long-range hunting cartridge, take it from a guy who filled his freezer with fresh venison: match ammo is absolutely up to the task.
I recommend you check out the new Gun Digest Shooter’s Guide to Rifles.
You’ll learn about:
- Rifle history
- American and European Rifles
- Rifle Ammunition and Ballistics
- Rifle Sights and Zero
- How to shoot rifles well