By Richard Mann
The current trend in bullets is to make them tough. Tough bullets hold together well, and those without a large frontal diameter penetrate deep.
Bullets that shed a lot of weight are not considered ideal for big game hunting. That weight loss during expansion can inhibit penetration. But there is always an exception to the rule.
I recently hunted wild boars with Berger Bullets to test the performance of their VLD bullets on game. Eric Stecker of Berger had been getting rave reviews from hunters using the VLD, and he wanted to see for himself how it performed on hogs, a good test for any hunting bullet.
We relied on three rifles in three different calibers for the hunt. I let Stecker use my custom Sisk in .264 Win Mag, and Sisk loaned me custom guns in .280 Rem and .308 Win.
I worked up loads for all three rifles prior to the hunt. The .264 really liked the VLDs and could consistently put three shots into a half inch at 100 yards. The .280 and .308 shot well, too, with both averaging on either side of an inch with minimal load preparation.
VLD stands for “Very Low Drag,” which means the bullet has a high ballistic coefficient and a fast downrange velocity. The VLD bullet’s jacket is made of high-quality copper in the J4 design, which is recognized worldwide for concentricity. These jackets have a wall-thickness variation of less than .0003 inch.
VLDs are made by drawing a small piece of sheet copper into a cup and then inserting a lead core before the bullet is finally formed. Berger says it only uses the purest form of lead for the core.
VLDs look like match bullets, fly like match bullets and offer match-grade accuracy because, well, they are match bullets. But the VLD, as I discovered, is also a hunting bullet - maybe one of the most accurate hunting bullets available for taking deer, antelope and the like. We were hunting wild boars in West Virginia with John and Brandon White of Mountain Meadow. It was early April, and the woods were just beginning to “green up,” making spot-and-stalk hunting a challenge. However, within an hour on the first morning, Chris Ellis managed to sneak up on a nice sow weighing almost 200 pounds. When Ellis’ .308 boomed, the hog dropped.
Berger VLDs in .264, .284 and .308 caliber proved to be effective on wild hogs, even at impact velocities of more than 3,000 fps.
Soon, Brandon White and I were slipping along an old road when we heard some hogs moving up a draw to our left. I rushed ahead to a curve, and as a passel of hogs crossed the trail, I managed to ambush them. I was using the .280 rifle topped with one of my favorite big game scopes: the Trijicon AccuPoint. The post reticle with an illuminated triangle made it easy to acquire a sight picture on the hogs as they burst across the path. My first shot dropped a large boar; the second shot put down a nice eating-size pig. So far, so good.
The next morning, we loaded up three hounds. Brandon turned the dogs loose, and we soon had a sow at bay. It was a smaller hog than we wanted, so we collected the hounds, changed location and cut them loose again.
In a matter of moments, we heard them baying again, and we all crashed through the timber in their direction. We found them engaged in a close-quarters battle with a good-size boar. Using the .264 Win Mag rifle, Stecker hit the boar with a non-fatal shot near the spine, and it dropped. However, five seconds later, it was on its feet and running.The hounds rounded up the boar, and when Stecker threaded a bullet into the boar’s boiler, it went down.
He then switched to the .280, and the rest of us spread out to push a 20-acre stand of timber. We lucked out, and a nice boar charged out of the underbrush and headed right for Stecker and John White. As the boar came over a little rise, Stecker put a VLD behind the animal’s left shoulder. It ran about 40 yards and dropped.
Eric Stecker took the last wild boar of the hunt with a .280 Rem rifle. The 168-grain Berger VLD rendered massive internal damage, and the pig only ran about 50 yards.
Brandon and John White told us that they had guided hunters to more than 150 wild boars over the last few months, but had witnessed only a few kills that were as fast as ours. We conducted postmortem examinations on every hog, and in all but one case, the bullets were recovered under the hide on the off side. The only bullet that was not recovered was the near-spine hit with the .264. That bullet exited.
Even with extensive examination, it can be hard to understand why a bullet produces the tissue destruction that it does. We shot each of the VLDs into the Bullet Test Tube and made a very enlightening discovery. The bullets were penetrating more than an inch inside the TUBE before expansion initiated! Typical of cup-and-core bullets, this was allowing the VLDs to get into the chest cavity before expanding. The TUBE showed the wound cavities were large, explaining the massive tissue destruction inside the animals. Walt Berger, who was present on the hunt, attributed this unusual delayed expansion to the secant ogive used in the profile of the VLD. I think the small hollowpoint opening contributed as well.
The Berger bullets recovered from the hogs and the TUBE were very similar. VLDs expand violently, and although they don’t retain a high percentage of weight, they still penetrate, on average, just over 11 inches in the TUBE. Experience has shown that this is more than enough penetration to reach the off side of most big game animals under 400 pounds.
The cup-and-core construction of the VLDs makes them similar to many “standard” game bullets like the Power Point and Core-Lokt, but don’t expect the VLDs to retain as much weight. However, the ability of the VLD to penetrate a short distance before expanding allows it to create wound cavity deep into the animal and destroy vital organs.
I was curious if this delayed expansion would prohibit the VLDs use on prairie dogs or other varmints, so I loaded up some .25-caliber 115-grain VLDs for my Cooper Model 22 in .257 Roberts. I took the rifle to Wyoming and found that the VLDs worked just fine on prairie dogs and rockchucks, even at extended ranges where velocities were low.
I learned several things on this hunt. Chasing after wild hogs with hounds is an incredible rush you will never experience sitting in a box blind overlooking a feeder. And, stalking them out in the thick timber is challenging and exciting. It also seems apparent that the VLD has a great deal to offer hunters. They’re incredibly accurate, shoot flat and get the job done.
Of the five hogs we shot, only one traveled any distance after being hit, and that was less than 50 yards. Those who’ve taken many hogs know how hard they are to put down. Granted, this is a small sampling, but based on the results of the VLDs on paper, in the TUBE and on hogs and varmints, I find no reason to not recommend it for game up to whitetail-size. The high ballistic coefficient and penchant for fine accuracy make the VLD a great choice.
Reprinted from the December 2006 issue of Buckmasters GunHunter Magazine