Copper bullets
Barnes TSX: the recovered one here did not go right through but it penetrated very deeply and caused massive damage, killing quickly

Realistic bullet performance

Q: Many people say that all-copper bullets like the Barnes that fully penetrate bigger game simply waste all their energy on the mountainside beyond, whereas a bullet with quick expansion expends all of its energy inside the animal for a quick kill. What’s your take on this?

Mario DaCosta

A: Obviously, an all-copper bullet and a quick-expanding bullet won’t have the same effect on game. However, tests have proven that concerns about bullets that fully penetrate game and “simply waste their energy on the mountainside beyond” are untrue and completely baseless. 

A bullet with a lot of expansion can only be depended on when you take a broadside shot behind the shoulder into the heart/lung area and no large bones or heavy muscles are struck. 

Rear-end raking shots at game running away require a toughly structured bullet with limited expansion that holds together while ploughing through several feet of tissue and heavy bone to reach vital organs. 

In real life, killing power isn’t measured in foot-pounds of energy. How quickly — or if — an animal dies is determined by several factors. 

First, how well the bullet is placed is vitally important. 

Next, how the bullet performs. This depends largely on the bullet’s design and how it is constructed and how much tissue and vital organs it damages or destroys. Ideally, the bullet should expand quickly without forming too large a mushroom, then drive deeply through bone and muscle. 

Barnes TSX (Triple Shock X-Bullet), Nosler E-Tip and Hornady GMX can be counted on to achieve full penetration and leave a blood trail to follow should the game be wounded and need following up. 

On impact, hydraulic pressure causes the nose of the TSX to peel back and form four razor-sharp copper petals. The bullet expands to double diameter, typically retaining 98-100 percent of its original weight before it exits. 

Energy transfer is important, but it comes last on the list. 

All the energy you can muster won’t be worth a damn unless it is accompanied by proper shot placement and effective bullet design.




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Nick Harvey

The late Nick Harvey (1931-2024) was one of the world's most experienced and knowledgeable gun writers, a true legend of the business. He wrote about firearms and hunting for about 70 years, published many books and uncounted articles, and travelled the world to hunt and shoot. His reloading manuals are highly sought after, and his knowledge of the subject was unmatched. He was Sporting Shooter's Technical Editor for almost 50 years. His work lives on here as part of his legacy to us all.