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Reloading For Versatility

by Mike Price   |  June 2nd, 2011 44

It was 45 degrees, and ground fog blanketed the hardwood bottom that ran along the edge of a thicket. Sunrise was about to take place and I could not wait for the sun to burn the fog away and warm up the damp morning. For two weeks I had been hunting a big boar that thought he owned the bottom and the Boley Creek that ran long its edge. He was an early riser who would only make his run along that span of woods in the early hours just at day light or shortly after.

Boley Creek

That boar had put me in a tree one morning a month earlier when I was walking to my deer stand in the dark.¬†¬†I heard branches breaking and a booming like someone beating on a drum as he pounded the ground coming out of a thicket toward me.¬†¬†¬†Fortunately, I was standing right by a fallen tree that leaned against two others at about a 15-degree angle.¬†¬†I ran up that tree trunk for all I was worth and in the process lost control of my rifle. It fell to the ground.¬†¬†¬†For 10 minutes that boar stomped and rutted the ground running in circles under me before he finally decided to leave as fast as he had arrived.¬†¬†I told myself right then that he was mine and I was not going to be run out of the woods by some boar that thought he owned the place.¬†Well, come to think of it, he did own the hard wood bottom that morning–and proof was the fact I was in the tree, and my rifle was on the ground.

Hardwood Bottom

As I sat there perched on that limb and taking note of how powerful and big that hog really was, I decided not to use my usual deer load on that big boar. Nope, the .300 Win. Mag. with 165 grain Sierra Game King SBT bullets had served me well on deer, but¬†I told myself, ‚ÄúYou need to bring your 180-grain Partition load for him.‚ÄĚ And that is exactly the load I used when I came back into those woods to hunt the big boar that had a bad attitude.¬†¬†Good judgment demanded that I have the right bullet for a margin of safety and a quick kill.¬†¬†¬†The 165-grain SBT would probably have put that boar down, but I wanted to remove any doubt.

Removing all doubt is where handloading for a specific rifle and cartridge combination can give any hunter a tremendous advantage along with versatility.   Handloading premium bullets is less expensive than buying factory premium ammunition, and provides a level of accuracy, confidence and, most of all, versatility that factory ammunition generally can’t offer.   The main issue is that factory ammo with any given load is a generic powder charge for that cartridge (the same one for everybody who buys it), and that also includes cartridge overall length (COAL). Standard powder charges and overall length work pretty well in some rifles, but certainly not in all.

Hog Play Ground

During the two weeks of hunting that large boar, I put out corn and doctored the ground with some sure-fire hog stuff a friend gave me. ¬†He assured me it would bring the early morning boar out into the open even during the day.¬† I found myself hunting that spot and working it for quite a some time, and then one day it happened.¬†¬†On my way out that evening I noticed the boar’s tracks were right in my tracks for about 200 yards. It was so hard to believe the boar was actually tracking me and had made note of me during the day. After seeing this big boar’s lack of fear, I was glad I had switched to the Partition load in my Ruger Mk II.

Ruger Mark II 300 Winchester Magnum

The next morning, the fog was beginning to lift and I could see a good 40 yards or so without any trouble. I knew from the size of this boar that it would need a good strong bullet with a stout powder charge behind it.  I chose the Partition because I needed something that would shock the animal when up close, and at the same time continue on through a big, tough boar with good penetration.  I knew soon after impact that the Partition would shed most of its front, sending out little missiles of bullet fragments and creating a good impact effect, and it would tear a ragged wound that would bleed free and not close on itself.  If I was lucky enough for an exit with the back half of the Partition, I would succeed in a quick kill by letting air in and blood out, and also, there would be the added benefit of blood on the ground if I needed to track the boar.

I was concerned about being on the ground in close quarters with this boar because he had such an attitude. ¬†I filled the Ruger’s magazine and put one in the chamber.¬†¬†To an observer, you would have thought I was in Africa with lion in the bush.

Savage 116FHSS .300 Winchester Magnum

An hour or so had gone by and I decided to backtrack my own steps.¬†¬†I hadn’t gone far and there my antagonist stood–facing me, just 25 yards away on the very trail I had used earlier that day.¬†¬†I threw up my rifle and shot him on the right side of the neck. The bullet went down the neck muscle and through the bottom part of the ridge on his back, breaking the right shoulder, going just under the spine and exiting in front of the left ham. The big boar collapsed in his tracks as I bolted the gun for a follow-up shot I didn‚Äôt need.

208-grain Hornady A-Max

I was so glad that handloading had given me an option in bullet style and weight for my rifle.  That big old 468 pound boar hit the ground because in 1947 a man by the name of John Nosler designed the Partition and put it on the market in 1948 making it available to handloaders.

Some hunters will have the tendency to use only one bullet to do all their work while in the field.¬†¬†That idea¬†sounds great, saves money and time, and would be neat if it worked every time, but that is not always the case.¬†¬†¬†A hunter might get away with it for a while, but if he hunts a variety of game it will eventually catch up with him sooner or later, and it could cost him a really nice trophy.¬†¬†¬†From the size of game–the conditions under which we hunt–in some places rules for non-lead bullets–to where shots might have to be longer than usual because of terrain, or up close where bullets have to deal with a lot of energy on impact–one bullet will not do it all–not even one of the all-copper bullets.

There is no rule against simplifying things by having one load.¬†¬†If that is your desire to use only one load for all your work with a given cartridge, then expect the day to come when your bullet was not enough, or to much.¬†¬†If enough time is spent in the field it will eventually catch up with you.¬†¬†¬†I remember hunting a deer with a heavy-for-caliber premium bonded bullet and had a complete pass through without sufficient expansion. It took two and a half hours to find that deer, and it was due to luck, not a blood trail.¬†¬†Handloaders are without excuse for using the wrong bullet in our day and time–with all the different designs and weights for most calibers–especially .30 caliber rifles.

Ruger Hawkeye .358 Winchester

I spent two years helping game wardens thin out deer, hogs and coyotes. In those two years, I killed, not counting what I shot during hunting season, 52 coyotes, 41 deer and 16 hogs. ¬†Consider that is just two years of my 30 plus years of hunting and killing game. ¬†I have seen what all kinds of bullets can do on game.¬†¬†I am here to tell you the bullets that tore flesh, disrupted bone and skeletal structure, ruptured blood vessels, made big wound channels, let air in and lots of blood out quickly, and caused massive internal hemorrhaging were devastating killers and game expired very fast if not immediately. ¬†There’s nothing like seeing it happen in person. In my experiences of hunting, which pales in comparison to many, I have learned to choose the right bullet for the job, to dispatch game consistently.

.358 Win. 225-grain Accubond

 

This is where the advantage of handloading comes in. It allows for one to be able to have game- and condition-specific loads.   Through handloading, one can actually end up using one or two rifles for all of their hunting.  My .300 Winchester Magnum and .358 Winchester now do the majority of my work, and in some years they have done all my work.  The reason being, they are so versatile because of the many loads I have developed for each rifle.  With their accuracy and diversity, I have supreme confidence in the field to make a good shot knowing that I have picked the appropriate bullet for the task at hand.

That day in those damp cold bottoms when I pulled the trigger on my .300 Winchester Magnum and dropped that big boar I was reminded of how important it is to choose the right bullet for the game hunted, assuming you also are using a sufficient enough cartridge and rifle.¬†¬†I have come a long ways through the years, seen a lot, and it has taught me the importance of using my load development to give me accuracy, confidence and versatility in the field–with no doubt about getting the job done.

  • Mike Walker

    Good article Mike. And you are so right about hand loading. It really makes a cartridge more versatile and more deadly, to say nothing about more accurate. Now, a 300 Mag of some sort is next on my agenda. I am thinking Ruger 77 Mk II. What do you think? Good Choice? Also, I'm toying with the idea of maybe a .338 Win. Mag. What's your opinion? 300 or 338?

  • smayer

    I know exactly what you mean by the wrong bullet. I had nearly the same experience as you did with a deer. Tough, bonded core bullet in a .308 passed right through with only a couple of drops of blood before a very heavy rain started up. I knew that deer was dead and close, but we were hunting in thick spruce on Anticosti Island where you can take three steps and be lost. The guide and I never found it.

    • Mike Price

      Yes, Scott, the wrong bullet for the job can give you the wrong results. A lot of the time you can get away with it, but when it catches up with you, the hunt turns out different than you expected – and it can be very disappointing. The right bullet for the game and cartridge you are using, brings consistent results and less chance of a lost trophy.

  • Mike Price

    Mike, either one is a great cartridge and I have and do hunt with both of them. You might want to consider the recoil of the 338 Winchester Magnum when it comes to the heavy bullets for this cartridge. The 210gr Partition is an outstanding bullet in the 338 and so are the 225gr bullets that have less recoil than the 250gr and heavier bullets. If you are not recoil sensitive and can handle a magnum, it would be a very hard choice between the two cartridges – when you consider the versatility of the 300 Winchester Magnum and the power of the 338 Winchester Magnum. Either will more than do the job in North America.

  • robert38-55

    Great article Mike!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Certainly something to think about when hunting with handloads….. I know I will if I ever hunt again…. I had a .300 winchester magnum rifle at one time, and for me and me personally it was absolutly too much rifle for me.. Now I ain't bashing it,,its powerful versatile, fast, and will bring down any game in North America, but Robert just decided he can't handle or shoot a ..300 win mag. with the accuracy and finesse that others can do.. I accept that as a gun owner and shooter, I know my limitations!!!! I have a 30-06 and a 7mm and other rifles, that will allow me to accomplish the same thing that others can do like you with a .300 mag. or 338…

    ……….. Any way Mike I want to know something? When you climbed that tree after that Hogg chased up there when ya dropped your rifle did that hogg dance on your rifle? Man I bet you were steaming and curssing that hogg telling him, that " You just wait buddy, I got something for you next week" hahhahha

    • Mike Price

      Robert, that hog took his nose and push my rifle around for a few moments. I was scared and raddled at first and upset that I dropped my rifle in the first place. When I went up that tree trunk, I almost slipped and had to catch myself with my free hand and needed the help of my other hand – and that is when I lost my rifle. If I had not dropped the rifle I could have looked down the side of the barrel (the scope was useless in the dark) and shot that hog since he was so close. That was over 15 years ago and I was not in the habit of taking pitchers when I hunted back then, or you would be able to see just how big and ugly that boar was.

      • russ808

        Nice one Mike. Good reading. Those Hogs are nasty. Tough too. They do make good eating.

  • tennmike

    Great article, Mike! Big boars are not to be messed with, for sure. First one I ever took was with a pistol in .44 Magnum, and it put me up a tree after I shot it 6 times. Glad I had a tree handy to get out of its way, and reload. Hog expired while I was reloading up the tree. Bullets did their job in the vitals, but that hog was intent on getting to me. Glad they can't climb trees!

    Handloading does give the option to tailor a specific load for the rifle and game that is both accurate and efficient for the purpose; loads not easily found in factory ammunition.

    Glad you took that boar. A hog that will actively hunt you is not to be messed with, ever.

  • Mike Price

    Thanks tennmike – most of the times a big hog will just drop when shot, but sometimes they can get pretty worked up. My friend Bobby shot one three times with a 150gr bullet out of an 30-06 before it hit the ground.

  • robert38-55

    I used to hunt a lot way back in the day when I live in NC, but haven't hunted anything since then (1987) …. The wild boar was/is one critter, that I always want to hunt, never got the chance then, or now… Now after reading your experience,Mike Price and after reading tennmikes post, I think that for me, it would be better for me ( especially at my age now) to "Prep myself" before tackling a "Wild Boar hunt" on my own,,,….. I mean I should read all that there is about boars, their habits, other hunters, experiences, and I dare say that I would rather go with someone like you or tennmike who has …."Experienced the wild boar hunt" before I take on this creature by myself, with no experience.. and not only that, by getting someone to show me how to hunt a wild boar and what to do, and what not to do,,, the information would be valuable…… I didn't realize that the Wild Boar was such an aggressive animal……I know any wild animal is a wild animal, and especially a wounded one, of any type is even more dangerous,,,,,,, Obviously these "Boars don't like to take BS from anyone or anything????? Anyway how was that Boar after ya bagged it, and cooked it and served it up?

  • Mike Price

    First of all most hogs just generally drop when you shoot them. Many are cornered by dogs and guys down here who will actually jump on the hog with a knife or just grab the back legs, tie it up and pen it for a while, feeding it on grain before they slaughter it. Sometimes they use the hogs they catch to train their dogs. Not me, I will leave it to the guys who just have to do it that way.

    Now that said, there are those real big, big boars that in my opinion are in a different class altogether, and I have personally seen one kill four dogs before we could get to them, and I don't mean just average dogs, these were get down with it dogs that had proved themselves many times. They were wearing some protection and these dogs had no fear.

    My friend in Pearlington, MS lost six dogs in one morning to a 500 pound plus boar, (that is right – 500 pounds or more). He has not hunted hogs since that day.

    I don't like hunting hogs anymore with dogs after that experience seeing good dogs being killed and watching grown men weep like little children over the loss of their dogs, (fortunately my dog I did not take on that trip and have not since then). I am not into seeing good dogs you care about get torn up, and a real big boar will do it like a master butcher holding a real sharp knife in his hands.

    I personally am always looking for that big boar that is a loner and that I find on my own. To me that is truly an exciting way to hunt them, but it does take a lot of time and work and results are far and few in between. But, as I said, it is much more exciting for me to find the hog. I look for hog sign hoping to find real big tracks. When I do it is baiting time. By the way, I don't eat those real big boars, way to strong for me.

    Hog hunting is different in that hogs generally like the night and lay up in the day, so it is generally just at light or just before dark that I have killed most of the hogs I have hunted. I got lucky a few times and found them during the middle of the day but that was just luck.

  • Orangello

    Excellent article! I wonder, have you considered a sidearm for such situations as being up that tree with the rifle out of reach?

  • Mike Price

    Very good question. I had carried a side arm from time to time when hunting black bear out west, but never seemed to need them around my part of the country – and sometimes they got in my way when climbing tree stands to hunt deer. I would hunt with a side arm every now and then, but was not in the habit of carrying one all the time when hunting with a rifle – and I did not have one on that day. I now carry one all the time and have ever since since that day. No matter where I hunt and for sure in the swamps where I live. :)

  • Fotis

    Good Stuff Mike!

  • Kurt Karlson

    Nice article, Mike! I have to admit, I have a tendency to stick with one load per rifle, usually with Partitions or Accubonds.

  • Mark S.

    I myself have a Ruger MKII 300 win mag. He is right, a 165 is just perfect for deer. But a 180 partition out of the 300 winny will flat out put the hammer down. Reloading for different types of game is the way to go. It makes your weapon more versatile and in the end makes you a better shooter also.Great Article Mike!!! Keep them coming.

  • gerry

    Hard to beat a Nosler Partition when it come to versatility. That sounded like a real big pig you shot.

  • John T

    Great article, I't's good to see someone share the experiance in a common sence, easy to understand language.
    Thank you

  • Ryan

    Very informative article. Thank you for taking the time to write it up.

  • Dave J

    And that is why Nosler Partitions have been my favorite, and go to bullet for many years. They simply are reliable and perform as expected, each and every time. They may not always be needed, but on the other hand, I feel they are cheap insurance. Even on deer !!!

  • Jake M.

    I use one hunting load per gunas well, but I try to make it a very versitile load. I have found that in most cases the Partition or Accubond are up to the task if the righ bullet weight is selected. For practice or just fun shooting I often use a lighter loaded cheaper bullet. but my hunting load always sees extensive range time before I leave to hunt. As you stated, confidence is important as well.

    Great job.

  • Greg Nolan

    That was a close call Mike. That hog was hunting you and it was just a matter of time. Your article on reloading and picking the right bullet for the job was as informative and thought provoking as the hogs plan.
    The armor on a hog that big will stop a lesser bullet amazingly effectivly. I've found several imbedded over the years. Thanks for sharing the thrills of your hunt.
    Greg

  • StretchNM

    Very good story, Mike. I'm like you, I believe in trying my best to tailor the caliber, load, and bullet to the game, and to the hunting grounds. With a big hog like that, you just can;t take any chances. Just think if you hadn't been close to that fallen tree? Well, you got him with a tailored load, and that's what counts. I'd like to see a picture of the heathen!
    Stretch

  • North of 60

    Good article Mike. I hunt with a 300 WM Ruger M77 MKII here in Alaska. I decided on the 300 WM because of its power and versatility for reloading. Until a year ago I used 180 grain bullets for moose with excellent results but when I went on a spring bear hunt I wanted something heavier and settled on the 200 grain Partition. When I ran the numbers I found that I only lost 200 fps out of the muzzle and gained only ¾ of an inch at midpoint trajectory with both loads sighted in for 300 yards. But the 200 grain bullets trumped the 180s all the way. So now when I am moose hunting I am loaded for bear. When I hunt caribou or sheep I can load some 150 or 165 grain bullets but I still have five 200 grain Partitions in a pocket just in case I run in to one of our boars.

    I liked the MKII 300 WM so much that I bought a second one for my boys. They now have both of my 300s and I through circumstance became the owner of a 405 WCF, but that is a whole nother story.

    North

  • Ed C

    Great article! Right now I only have a 30-06but the versatility of hand-loading makes it good for anything I can hunt here in the northeast. I even have a good moose load thought I have not yet been able to get a moose permit.

  • Mike from MS

    Good read. Many people get into "rolling their own" to save money, but one of the best reasons for hand loading is the ability to create truly custom rounds that work well for your particular application.

  • GRT338

    Good article and info Mike. Reminds me to load some Partitions when I go hunt the hogs at a private ranch in South Texas after the first. Thanks for "priming the pump" with anticipation! Look forward to your next article.

  • Paul Moragne

    Great article Mike, but I, like Orangello, believe a powerful sidearm is always a good insurance policy

  • Joe S.

    Good read!

  • Mike

    Great article! I've seen a hog like that. Just once. I was in the pickup but he came right to the door. Took off when I reached for my rifle. I know they exist and they are dangerous. I'm still watching for mine. He may be dead. It's been a few years but that one showed me that not all hogs run off and they don't all have to be wounded to attack. I had a 243 that evening and later thought, I needed something bigger!

  • Mountain Goat

    I really enjoyed your article, Mike. An understated advantage to hand loading is that you can not only custom taylor a load to each rifle, but you can custom taylor various load to each rifle for different hunting situations. That was a great explanation of your observations of the killing abiities of bullets that create large wound channels and have the "many missles" effect through the vitals. The only thing that can be debated about that is that there's more than one way to kill a game animal. There's no disadvantage to shooting a premium bullet, even if that advantage isn't always discerneable.

  • Kip C.

    Very interesting article Mike. I too handload albeit mostly handgun cartridges, they are loaded for specific purposes, you see, I hunt with a handgun. Very good info. and even better article.

  • phillipmcgregor

    Mike,

    That was a good read. I've had a lot of luck with the Barnes line of bullets in my trusty .30-06.

    Way back in the closet I have a box of 50 30 cal 180 grain partitions that are so old they are lathe turned!

  • Neck

    Have been reloading for a good while…I'm not a Nosler Partition fan…have never shot em. Something about em don't look right to me.

    I am a Barnes TSX and Nosler Ballistic tip fan.

    I enjoy reading these articles enough that I've had to seriously reconsider what the author has to say about the partitions.

    Great read

    We enjoy having this author entertain on http://www.msgunowners.com periodically.

    Come check us out

    just ask for 'Neck

  • Dom

    Interesting article and good points! Reloaders have the option to use some really great bullets nowadays.

    Mike, to increase your pucker factor, you should hunt them at night ;-) They have nerves of steel and will hold tight until you are very very close . . .

  • Ruben

    Great article, entertaining as well as informative. A rare combination nowadays where most magazines are filled with advertising pages.

  • xd357

    great read!! thanks

  • Brent

    A little melodrama never hurt anyone.

  • Denny

    Good article and info on hand loading and how it works in hunting situations not just target shooting.

  • Cody Vickers

    Enjoyed the article Mike, Completely agree. I have far less experience but I have found most of your comments on loading for the specific purpose to be true. Cannot imagine being stalked by such an animal.

  • Q.A.

    Good article Mike,

    Reloading gives us a chance to match the right equipment with the right game.

    Nice pictures of the guns. Why no picture of the big hog?

    Q.A.

  • J. Dotson

    What a great article. Not only very imformative but a great story. Look forward to reading more from you Mike.

  • Coyote50

    Excellent article highlighting the benefits of reloading in a hunting setting. Entertaining and well written.

  • mhsp68

    Thanks for the comments. Had two great hunts this year and hope Guns & Ammo will consider another article from me in 2012. Thank you for all the comments. Mike Price :)

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