Target bullets for deer


Nov 5, 2015
I never have or talked to anyone that has used a target bullet other than a Berger such as a btmhp any brand for deer hunting. Would like to hear of anyone who used a 168 30 cal 142 or such in 6.5 cal and a 77 or there abouts in 223. What were the results? How much of a wound channel, damage done that sort of thing. Just curious not trying to start any trouble, lol. Thanks, Dan.
My buddy uses a 175 gr SMK in his 30-378 Wby for crop damage deer hunting. We usually take shoulder shots so we have minimal tracking and our shots are usually 100 to 600 yards.
From what I have seen, the SMK's usually exit and leave a pretty good size exit wound. There wrer times though that the exits were smaller, about the size of a dime. There were a couple that looked like they just penciled right through, even after going through bone.
I have seen enough to convince me to use only game bullets on deer. My first choice is Nosler because no matter which bullet I use, the on game performance is always predictable.

I used a 6mm,105gr Hornady hpbt on an antelope. Didn't pass through but what was left of the jacket was under the hide on the far side. It was doa. I wouldn't hesitate to use again, but with a bullet that fragile, dont try to shoot through shoulders. Lung shots behind the shoulder and this bullet is fine.
I used a 162gr A-Max bullet in a 7STW to take many, many whitetails. Terminal performance was exceptional at all ranges.
A good friend of mine used some 147 ELD-M in 6.5 on deer...he reported that they worked fine, but with so many excellent bullets out there it's sort of pointless. He shot everything over 400, but admits at closer ranges it would be more problematic.

His partner did use some heavy target bullets in a .30-06 on a bear...with less than impressive results.
I have had lots of guys tell me that the Hdy A-Max works very well on game.
And have had lots swear by the Berger target bullets as well...

My concern is;

Why would the manufacturers state that their target bullets are for "target/paper punching only, as they cannot guarantee consistant on-game performance with those bullets", and "recommend the use of their hunting bullets for that specific purpose"?

I think some people get so excited about the accuracy of their target ammo and are too lazy to then work up a load with the hunting bullet. And/or are too cheap to pay the extra money and invest the time to develop the hunting load.

Always use the right tool for the job!

At the end of the day, the ammo is cheapest expense of any hunt, compared to the costs ($, time & effort) of the hunt, rifle, scope, etc. And the game that we pursue not only deserves our respect, but demands, that we invest in the best ammunition (accurate and more than adequate) for the task at hand!
I think that sometimes we place too much value on "labels."

Some target bullets have worked out great for deer and other game. Some haven't.

Hornady's A-Max was briefly advertised as being suitable for thin-skinned game like deer. A fellow I know has been running a professional animal-eradication/killing business for years here in Washington. He relies mostly on his 300 Win mag with Hornady A-Max bullets, even for disposing of critters as large as elk! He's a superb shot and almost always takes carefully set up head shots at modest range.

Hunters told Berger about the success they were having with the VLD on game, and Berger did some serious investigating & testing. I mean a LOT of animals... Then decided to market it as a hunting bullet too. It's worked out well. I tried the VLD on three mule deer and was extremely impressed.

Sierra specifically cautions us to not use their Matchkings on game. I know some folks who have had great results, and others... Pretty iffy. Much like JD338 described above.

A buddy of mine has been using the Nosler "RDF" target bullet on deer - and it's working great. I was impressed with the appearance of one that was mushroomed. He pulled it from a very dead mule deer. Am not sure, but I think it was from his 260 AI rifle.

I've been told that the 6mm ELD M match bullet works well on deer. I dunno. But, Hornady also makes an "X" or expanding/hunting version of that bullet.

I think it's worth checking on - and remember - the OP asked about deer. Not 800 pound rutting bull elk in the timber. :) Probably not correct just making a blanket statement that "target bullets are not good on game." Worth checking into, some work, some don't.

Regards, Guy
Dan I have used 168 gr Nosler Custom Comps on coyotes, not deer. Most of the coyotes not hit though both front shoulders, ran off somewhere else to die. I switched over to 165 Remington PSP and eliminated that problem. I am not salvaging the hides. I have used the Hornaday 162 PSP, ( a extremely accurate bullet in my 7mm Mags) on a couple of elk, and went to the 160 AccuBond for consistent results. It sounds like from the posts here you are OK with what you are planning. But it doesn't always work.
Guy Miner":3ndz87a8 said:
Hornady's A-Max was briefly advertised as being suitable for thin-skinned game like deer. A fellow I know has been running a professional animal-eradication/killing business for years here in Washington. He relies mostly on his 300 Win mag with Hornady A-Max bullets, even for disposing of critters as large as elk! He's a superb shot and almost always takes carefully set up head shots at modest range.

Guy- I did some control work years ago and used the 125gr (old version) Silvertip out of a 30-06. I've never found anything that turned deer off faster than that. Of course, the reason I used them is that since we were doing control work we were often shooting in built up areas and often in less than ideal conditions and we really didn't want bullets richocetting or over-penetrating and hitting livestock, barns, houses, etc. Out of a LOT of deer, we never got an exit wound. Of course, ranges were very close and the impact speed was very high and there was nothing at all left of the bullet in the tremendous wound cavity.

I don't know that I would use those again in a hunting situation though, just highly destructive and made a real mess in a carcass.
Last winter I did some contract management work with an acquaintance in WI using a 75gr Hornady HPBT. 27 deer taken, mostly does and fawns on head and high neck shots to 100+/- yards. ALL wounds exhibited violent expansion and fragmentation as I would expect. Also did some night work with his .300 blackout suppressed using the 155 Sierra Matchking. At subsonic speeds, it behaved very similarly to a 150 rnsp as fired from a .30-30 on several deer. His daytime load in that rifle was a 125 V-max so not germane to this discussion. One particularly cagey animal was taken at 310 yards with a .308 cal bolt action and 175BTHP Military surplus (Sierra OTM) ammo they use for training by a local LE officer. Performance at that distance was comparable to soft points at similar velocity and lower weight in my experience. This was a behind the shoulder double lung hit.
I'm with the majority here about not using target bullets on deer. As stated there are plenty of good bullets for game. The groups we get from target work are tempting to use but not haven't done that was just wondering . Not planning on it unless was out of hunting bullets and meat in the freezer. Thanks for all the comments. Dan.
Berger target bullets have thicker jackets then the hunting bullet because some competition shooters were experiencing bullet blow ups on hot days and high round count barrels. That is why they aren't recommended for game. All Berger bullets need the hollow points check to make sure they aren't plugged or you can experience pencil holing through game.
The original Burger VLD bullet was their target bullet and is now called their hunting bullet. They now have what they call their target VLD bullet and it has a tougher jacket. I have used the original Burger VLD 155 gr 30 cal bullet on deer from 308 Win and 30x47. Bullet goes in about 3" inches and it does not matter if it is through the scapula or between two ribs then it comes unglued and pulps the chest cavity and usually blows a baseball size exit hole.

I have shot deer with 150 and 168 Sierra Match Kings out of 30-06 and 308 Win. As stated before sometimes they act just about like the Burger VLD hunting bullet and sometimes they like a FMJ.

I have shot deer with the Hornady 155 A-Max from 30x47 and 7.5x55 and it has worked very well. Resembles results of 150 Nosler BT. Horandy does not persay make the A-Max any more but they do make the ELD-M which is supposed to be the same bullet as the A-Max but with a new polimer tip that does not melt druing flight.

I have shot ground hogs with the 69 gr Sierra Match King out of an AR-15 20" barrel 5.56 and it usually exits with a golf ball size hole and really messes them up.
1shot that sounds like some real hands on experience with an assortment of bullets. Wondered if the tipped match bullets made any difference over say a hollow point. Thanks for helping to educate me. Dan.
I have not shot any of the tipped MKs. I was reading over on the 6.5 Grendel forum that a fellow called Sierra to ask about using the 120 Pro Hunter in the Grendel as a hunting bullet. The Sierra fellow told him that they did not advertise the 107 gr Tipped MK as a hunting bullet but out of the 6.5 Grendel he said that the fellow should give it a try. For what it is worth the Sierra fellow thought that the 120 Pro Hunter would be too tough a bullet to use in the 6.5 Grendel on deer. In my experience with shooting the 120 Pro Hunter out of a 6.5x55 Swede on deer out to between 300 and 500 yards where it has slowed down to the operating velocities of the 6.5 Grendel from muzzle to 300 yards the 120 PH makes a great bullet for the 6.5 Grendel and is one of the bullets that I have loaded up for one of my rifles. I did not get to shoot a deer with it this season but I was confident enough in it that I hunted some with it. I would say that the tip on the Sierra MK would help the bullet to expand about like the A-Max/ELD-M. But again why use a MATCH bullet when there are bullets designed for hunting expansion that are just as accurate is the conclusion that I have reached. The Nosler BT and AccuBond are ones that fall into this category. I just wish that they did not cost so much. In my experience on deer if your impact velocity is going to be under 2900 fps use the BT if over 2900 fps use the AccuBond. Now the AccuBond will do just great at any velocity down to around 1800 fps but they cost more than the BT. The AccuBond flies like the BT and starts to expand like it but holds together like the Partition and keeps on trucking. I have shot over 2 dozen deer, lost count, from 25 to a touch over 500 yards with the 130 AB at muzzle velocity 3350 fps from my 264 Win mag and it reacts the same no matter the yardage. It goes in expands and takes out the vitals in good fashion and exits with about a quarter size hole and the deer drop in their tracks. I have only recovered one bullet shot into a buck at 111 yards that was facing me with just a slight left shoulder angle toward me. Impact was on the edge of the left scapula and when cutting up the meat I found the bullet against the smashed ball joint in the right ham. It was a text book mushroom and weight was 87 grs. Don't get much better than that.
So, I’ll throw my 2 pennies into the fray. I’ve used a handful of bullets like the 77 grain Sierra Tipped MK from a 223 on a handful of deer. Penetrates well and pulps the internals real well. My boy took a deer about 3-4 years ago and it was a fairly decent sized deer at 230 yards. Stumbled 15 yards and was stone dead. All the others either were dead on arrival or snow plowed a few feet.

This year we used the 147 ELD from the 6.5 CM on a handful of northern deer. Shots from 50’ish to 275 yards. No bullets recovered, good 2” exits with lots of blood, pulped insides.

I say that to say on deer it doesn’t take cannons or super bullets to work on animals the size of deer. I love pretty much all of Nosler’s bullets but I greedily take expansion on deer sized animals. The ballistic tips and just about all of them have been used to take a animals for us and they work great.

I guess before we condemn target bullets take a peak at the effects of the ABLR on animals and our simple jug tests, it loses at least 50% or more due to soft lead and fragmentation but does hold onto the little expanded base. It works pretty danged good on animals. The ELD and Berger’s just don’t have bonding to retain that small base. But they work pretty similar just no hardened base. I will not likely shoot bigger stuff with the ELDs or Berger’s but for deer sized animals, I’m pretty happy with them and I can’t find anything about them ruining more meat than any other high velocity bullet put into ribs. Put any high velocity bullet on a front leg and the jig is up.

I think if you’re using long for caliber bullets like the 75 and heavier in the 224’s, 140+ in the 6.5’s and similar in other bore sizes it’s a lot of mass. Most of the cartridges aren’t starting them at blistering speeds either, since they hold onto their speeds so well they pass up lighter bullets fairly quickly.

Just my couple of observations on them. I’ll use the 147 ELDS and similar in the little guys and not worry too much. If folks believe the ELD X is some sorta “tougher” bullet than the same weight class ELD M then I’d love to see the difference cause we’ve been chucking them into jugs and a few deer over the years and I can’t see it. It’s almost like Hornady had to appease the masses with offering a “hunting” bullet to make sure folks had an option. All of the ELD X hunting bullets from the various 300’s have grenaded pretty easily for us in jugs from muzzle to 200 yards, I’d probably rather use the heavier M bullets and retain the mass.
what I often wonder about , I call the miss match of hunting bullets . why would a guy want , or choose , to shoot AccuBond long range bullets when you know you would not shoot past 100 or 200 yards ? why would you choose one of the toughest bullets on the market when you're only hunting deer or antelope ?