Premium big-bore, big-game bullets Essay

Mention was made in this space recently of a new firm making
super-premium big-game bullets for handloaders. Since writing that
column, I’ve had the chance to do some extensive testing of the
products of Trophy Bonded Bullets, Inc., (Dept. GA, P.O. Box 262348,
Houston, TX 77207) in the .375 Magnum and .45- 70, and the results are
worth reporting.

Although the old .45- 70 Government cartridge has enjoyed a lively
revival in recent years, especially among handloaders, most jacketed
bullets of the correct diameter available have fallen into one of two
categories. 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 the
Hornady and Sierra 300-grain slugs. If driven as hard as safely
possible in the much stronger Marlin 1985 lever action, much less the
Ruger #1 or #3, these bullets tend to overexpand, and sometimes even
blow up. The other group consists mostly of lighter bullets jacketed
for the .458 Win. Magnum, and they may not expand enough at .45-70
speeds. The exception was the Speer 400-grain flat-point, which
performs nicely at the higher .45-70 velocities. However, the reloader
who is looking for lighter bullets which can be driven faster for
flatter trajectories and which still penetrate well and expand fully in
heavy game has been hard pressed to find them.

These Trophy Bonded bullets are the answer. Those I’ve been
working with are especially designed for the toughest game, and it is
not an exaggeration to state that they simply give the old .45-70 in
these rifles an entirely different dimensions. They make it into a new

The secret is in the fact that their pure-lead cores are soldered into their pure coper jackets. Thus far, the construction is not
different from that of the great Bitterroot bullets, but Bitterroot does
not make comparable weights and styles for the .45-70. Also, jacket
thickness is selected for maximum .45-70 velocities, and the mouths of
the jackets are thinned–not tapered, but reamed to a thinner wall
thickness at the nose in order to promote and control expansion.

Three bullets were tested for penetration, expansion, and weight
retention, using totally saturated telephone books for a recovery medium
at an impact range of 85 yards. Two of them weigh 350 grains. One of
these is a spitzer, for use only in the single-shot rifles, and it
delivers a remarkably flat trajectory over hunting ranges, effectively
making the .45-70 into a 250-yard big-game cartridge. The other is a
protected-point flat-nose for use in the tubular magazine of the Marlin,
with the crimping cannelure located well forward. The third bullet is a
403-grain round-nose which I shot (at different velocities) in both

The 350-grain flat-nose, by the way, makes up into a round which
exceeds the overall-length specifications for the Marlin rifle. In the
past, 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 feet
per second (fps) in the Marlin, and do not believe my load was maximum.
With careful load development it can probably be given another 100 fps
safely enough. Penetration in the wet phone books was 16 inches, final
frontal diameter was .76-inch (165 percent of original diameter), and
the average weight retention of recovered slugs was 99.1 percent!
That’s right–99.1 percent! With a muzzle energy of 2,880
foot-pounds (ft/lbs) energy, that is a bear, moose, elk, or hog load,
friend! Sixteen inches, by the way, was better penetration, on the
average, than the .375 H;H Magnum bullets I was testing in the same
medium on the same day delivered, and the .375 had always been famed for
its 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 the
sodden paper pulp measuring .852-inches across the mushroom and holding
96.1 percent of original weight. It shot so flat that my first shot
flew completely over the recovery box. That’s a fairly fierce game
load, too. For comparsion and control, I tested the excellent Hornady
350-grain RN with the identical loading; penetration of this bullet was
14-1/2 inches, and weight retention averaged 61.5 percent.

The 403-grain round-nose, from the Marlin at 1,925 fps (3,316
ft/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 unfired
weight. From the Ruger, traveling 2,155 fps (j,ukj ft/lbs!), the same
bullet penetrated 15-1/2 inches, expanded to .936 inches (that’s
more than double original diameter), and retained 99.3 percent of
original weight. The photograph shows what all these bullets look like,
but it does not reveal the beautiful, round, uniform mushrooms produced
by this heavy bullet.

You simply cannot ask any bullet to do more than these did in my
testing. Especially in the Marlin 1895, they make the handloaded .45-70
into a serious Alaskan guide’s rifle, for example, where a light,
handy, fast-shooting powerhouse is needed against grizzly and even brown

The drawbacks? Yes, like all custom-made super-premium bullets,
they’re expensive. Use of Trophy Bonded bullets might even add as
much 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 be
continuous, once full production status is reached.

For the heaviest American game, especially the potentially
dangerous species, these are the bullets for a handloader feding a new
Marlin or Ruger rifle.

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


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