Premium big-bore, big-game bullets Essay

Mention was made in this space recently of a new firm makingsuper-premium big-game bullets for handloaders. Since writing thatcolumn, I’ve had the chance to do some extensive testing of theproducts of Trophy Bonded Bullets, Inc., (Dept. GA, P.

O. Box 262348,Houston, TX 77207) in the .375 Magnum and .

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45- 70, and the results areworth reporting. Although the old .45- 70 Government cartridge has enjoyed a livelyrevival in recent years, especially among handloaders, most jacketedbullets of the correct diameter available have fallen into one of twocategories.

One group was intended for low-pressure (and thus,low-velocity) loads in the older, weaker rifles and replicas thereof,such as the “trapdoor” Spring-field. These include theHornady and Sierra 300-grain slugs. If driven as hard as safelypossible in the much stronger Marlin 1985 lever action, much less theRuger #1 or #3, these bullets tend to overexpand, and sometimes evenblow up.

The other group consists mostly of lighter bullets jacketedfor the .458 Win. Magnum, and they may not expand enough at .

45-70speeds. The exception was the Speer 400-grain flat-point, whichperforms nicely at the higher .45-70 velocities. However, the reloaderwho is looking for lighter bullets which can be driven faster forflatter trajectories and which still penetrate well and expand fully inheavy game has been hard pressed to find them.

These Trophy Bonded bullets are the answer. Those I’ve beenworking with are especially designed for the toughest game, and it isnot an exaggeration to state that they simply give the old .45-70 inthese rifles an entirely different dimensions. They make it into a newround. The secret is in the fact that their pure-lead cores are soldered into their pure coper jackets. Thus far, the construction is notdifferent from that of the great Bitterroot bullets, but Bitterroot doesnot make comparable weights and styles for the .45-70.

Also, jacketthickness is selected for maximum .45-70 velocities, and the mouths ofthe jackets are thinned–not tapered, but reamed to a thinner wallthickness at the nose in order to promote and control expansion. Three bullets were tested for penetration, expansion, and weightretention, using totally saturated telephone books for a recovery mediumat an impact range of 85 yards. Two of them weigh 350 grains. One ofthese is a spitzer, for use only in the single-shot rifles, and itdelivers a remarkably flat trajectory over hunting ranges, effectivelymaking the .

45-70 into a 250-yard big-game cartridge. The other is aprotected-point flat-nose for use in the tubular magazine of the Marlin,with the crimping cannelure located well forward. The third bullet is a403-grain round-nose which I shot (at different velocities) in bothrifles.

The 350-grain flat-nose, by the way, makes up into a round whichexceeds the overall-length specifications for the Marlin rifle. In thepast, I’ve found this weapon to be a little finickly on this point,but these Trophy Bonded bullets feed as slick as grease in my specimen,presumably because of the bullets’ shape. I drove the 350-grain FN to a chronographed velocity of 1,925 feetper second (fps) in the Marlin, and do not believe my load was maximum.With careful load development it can probably be given another 100 fpssafely enough. Penetration in the wet phone books was 16 inches, finalfrontal diameter was .76-inch (165 percent of original diameter), andthe average weight retention of recovered slugs was 99.

1 percent!That’s right–99.1 percent! With a muzzle energy of 2,880foot-pounds (ft/lbs) energy, that is a bear, moose, elk, or hog load,friend! Sixteen inches, by the way, was better penetration, on theaverage, than the .375 H;H Magnum bullets I was testing in the samemedium on the same day delivered, and the .375 had always been famed forits penetration. The 350-grain spitzer, fired from the Ruger #1 at almost 2,100 fps(3,395 ft/lbs) muzzle energy) penetrated 15 inches and came out of thesodden paper pulp measuring .852-inches across the mushroom and holding96.1 percent of original weight.

It shot so flat that my first shotflew completely over the recovery box. That’s a fairly fierce gameload, too. For comparsion and control, I tested the excellent Hornady350-grain RN with the identical loading; penetration of this bullet was14-1/2 inches, and weight retention averaged 61.5 percent.

The 403-grain round-nose, from the Marlin at 1,925 fps (3,316ft/lbs) went 15-1/2 inches into the wet paper and was recovered miking.850 inches and weighing 401.5 grains–a full 99.6 percent of unfiredweight. From the Ruger, traveling 2,155 fps (j,ukj ft/lbs!), the samebullet penetrated 15-1/2 inches, expanded to .936 inches (that’smore than double original diameter), and retained 99.3 percent oforiginal weight.

The photograph shows what all these bullets look like,but it does not reveal the beautiful, round, uniform mushrooms producedby this heavy bullet. You simply cannot ask any bullet to do more than these did in mytesting. Especially in the Marlin 1895, they make the handloaded .45-70into a serious Alaskan guide’s rifle, for example, where a light,handy, fast-shooting powerhouse is needed against grizzly and even brownbear. The drawbacks? Yes, like all custom-made super-premium bullets,they’re expensive. Use of Trophy Bonded bullets might even add asmuch as $10 or $15 to the cost of a major hunting trip. At present,they’re in short supply and available only by mail-order (FFL required, of course), but I have been assured that availability will becontinuous, once full production status is reached. For the heaviest American game, especially the potentiallydangerous species, these are the bullets for a handloader feding a newMarlin or Ruger rifle.

Oh yes, one more thing: in the two rifles in which I’ve triedthem, at least, all three Trophy Bonded .45-70 bullets grouped as wellor better than any other slugs I’ve ever fired. Now you know why Isaid above that they add a new dimension to the modern .45-70 cartridge.


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