View Full Version : 30/06 bullets in Africa

06-22-2006, 06:58 AM
As Promised I have recovered and recorded a lot of information on the bullets used this season from my loaner 30/06 rifle.

First some of the facts and details regarding the loads and the gun used.

Rifle: Model 70 Winchester PacNor 23 barrel in standard 30/06 cartridge

Winchester Brass
Federal 210M primers
IMR4350 powder 58 grains
Chronographed at 2900 plus at 55deg F

Game shot by 6 different hunters six male one female

6 warthogs
12 impala
6 Kudu bulls
1 Kudu cow
5 Zebra
3 waterbuck
6 wildebeest
4 Red Hartebeest
4 Blesbok
2 Nyala
1 Steenbok
1 Gemsbok

51 total animals. One was not recovered, a Blue Wildebeest was lost although a confirmed hit with a short blood trail.

Shortest shot was a impala at about 40 feet, longest shots were a Zebra at a laser measured 237 yards, Blue Wildebeest at 198 yards, Kudu Bull at 225, and Impala at 177 yards all measured with my LRF 1200.

35 were shot with the Barnes TSX bullets. 7 were recovered
6 were shot with the Federal Fusion factory loads
6 were shot with Hornady Interbonds
4 were shot with the PMC factory loads

My unbiased assessment is as follows. However I must first say that I was admittedly very skeptical of the Barnes bullets based on my prior extensive experience with the original X bullet design. I must also admit to not being very impressed with the Fusions lack of velocity at only 2700plus fps. The PMC bullets were on hand and used to share the difference between factory cup and core bullets and premium handloads. The Interbonds were already a well known performer and had a lot of respect from me.



My rifle was zeroed with the X bullets and shooting hole touching groups at 100 meters. Prior to departure I shot a three shot group to foul the barrel. Upon arrival I shot a 2 shot group to prove the travel did not compromise the scope adjustments. There were 5 shots now through the barrel. Each hunter using this rifle also shot it before their hunt started. The Fusion, PMC, and Interbond bullets would shoot into about a 3+ group mixed POI's with the settings used for the TSX bullets.

The Federal Fusion Bullets: Underpowered for bigger game. The lack of velocity and the unpredictable bullet shapes left me unimpressed. Although they held together they under penetrated and fell short of my desired performance hopes. Its an excellent inexpensive deer and smaller big game bullet but does not have the kind of killing power I expect with a 30/06 using other loads and bullets. A good choice for deer, impala, blesbok, but I would not likely choose them for anything bigger or even on the tough little warthog. I stopped using this bullet for further shooting on game based on the early limited performance on the recovered game and bullets. With the shallow penetration and oddly shaped mushrooms I was not confident to shoot game as tough as wildebeest, gemsbok and zebra with these bullets.

PMC Bullets: As can be expected with these bullets being Cup and Core design they will kill about like the Fusion bullets. If everything is perfect they work fine, but when something goes wrong they will not provide the edge I would like to see in my bullets. All of them failed to stay in one piece and all lost much if not all functional weight retention.

Hornady Interbonds: Work flawless and 100% predictable 4 out of the 6 were recovered and all had massive expansion with great weight retention. Another hunter used these bullets in his 30/06 AI and had identical performace and recovery percentages as my standard 30/06. The AI version was about 90fps faster at 3000fps. A better bullet would be difficult to choose. I have already posted dozens of pictures and text on these bullets in the past. This years experience is the same. It's a class act by Hornady and difficult to choose another bullet over this design.

The Barnes TSX bullet: Well this was the one that drove this project for me. Although I am very pleased with the performance. I am very happy with the results of so many deadly shots on big tough game animals. Im still skeptical about some of what I have seen. The 7 recovered bullets look almost identical and have from what I can see 100% weight retention. Not a single petal was broken off and all expanded from the close range 40 yard shots to the longer near 250 yard shots. Some exits were massive and the blood was flowing freely. Others showed me a bore diameter hole and not a drop of blood from the exit. Im stumped as to how these bullets exit with an exact bore diameter hole? Yet some others have a huge exit hole. I had about a 20% recovered bullet rate from these bullets. The lowest recovery percentage of any bullet I have ever used. Exits are the norm with the TSX. I had a bullet zip clean through the shoulders of a Big Zebra at 237 yards which included the vertebra and one scapula above the shoulders. This is enough mass that I have seen it stop a 270 grain Swift A frame from a 375HH plenty of times. Yet a 165 grain TSX from a 30/06 passed through. 4 zebra were shot with the 30/06. One needed a follow up shot, all 4 of the TSX bullets passed through these zebra. Only the one follow up shot was inside one of them. Zebra, Gemsbok, and Blue Wildebeest are about the best bullet stopping plains game we have. All three species were shot clean through with this bullet. Few provided a good blood trail often due to the bore diameter exit holes. Those that had good blood trails when recovered always had good exit holes too.

Here is an Impala with a noticeable exit hole but you can clearly see there is no blood flow.


I have 4 other TSX bullets I could photo and post here. However they are identical to the first two in this photo. They would be difficult to tell apart had I not marked them before I left! The only oddball in the group is the one from the zebra. It was recovered inside the heart. It has a wrinkled petal which you can see in this photo. All the others are exactly the same.

The rifle was not cleaned, barrel swabbed out, or oiled during the entire trip. On my last evening I hunted hard for a warthog. I walked from 2:30 PM til dark about 6PM I was hunting alone and looking for a whopper warthog I had seen twice in the prior several weeks I had been hunting here. In the closing moments of light about 5:55 I saw what looked like a shooter. At 75 yards he was trotting parallel to the road I was on, and slightly quartering away from me through the bush. When the warthog cleared a bush and left me with a fleeting moment between bushes I leveled the upper crosshair and touched off the trigger when it was layed behind the last rib. It appeared as if I rolled him over but the muzzle flash was too bright. I walked to the spot and saw a spot of blood. Then there in the flashlight beam just ahead he layed dead. The blood flow was significant and the exit was through the opposite scapula.

Several times I tested the accuracy during the week with targets. Each time the bullets were into the 1 square bullseye on the target at 100 meters. With nearly 60 shots fired during this trip and no cleaning I trusted this rifle and bullet combination on the last moment shot at the warthog. There was simply no fouling problems with these TSX bullets and this PacNor barrel!

I would certainly feel a whole lot better if the exits looked like they had more consistency in size. However I have also come to another probably arguable conclusion with the TSX and the 30/06. I would much prefer to have a 30/06 with this bullet and a rangefinder then a 300mag of any make without a rangefinder. I feel 100% confident that these bullets will penetrate and shoot accurately as far as I would like to shoot. Say 400 yards or so. If you know the distance with the rangefinder hitting the target is not complicated or risky with low wind. These 165 grain TSX bullets in a 30/06 will out perform a 300 magnum with a standard cup and core bullet every time. Sure you can up weight with a 300 magnum and use the 180s. However if the 30/06 killed 50 of 51 tough big game animals Im not sure moving to the 300 mag is a practical choice if you want more power. I think moving to the 338 is much more logical. If shooting long range 450 yards plus is the reason then would I agree. However a rangefinder with a 30/06 is still a very do-able shot with these TSX bullets on a calm day.

So do I switch now from the Hornady Interbonds I love so much to the TSX bullets? ..Wow talk about a tough choice! The TSX shoots a tiny bit better in Accuracy, the tips dont deform, they seat very tight in the brass with the groves. They dont have the 100% internal damage consistency that the Interbonds have, but they are close and I cannot explain why the exit holes are bore diameter on some of the game. I do have a photo coming of the exit on a zebra. It looks like the stallion was shot with a small broad head. It has 4 slices about long each. Its a brilliant exit hole. Why dont they all show this? Maybe 35 big animals under nearly identical conditions is still not enough information? I will say that If I only saw 10-12 of the best exits I would swear these were the best bullets on earth no question, hands down, end of story. I may yet agree to this statement. However there were those few that leave me wondering why a tiny little exit hole as if the bullet did not open or the petals all sheared off? ( no petals ever found inside) I will continue to use them until the first time I find one that is unopened inside an animal. If that does not happen I may not use anything else in this rifle. I think they make a better large big game, Elk, bear, zebra, wildebeest, gemsbok, eland, waterbuck, moose, etc bullet then the Interbond because the exits at least in theory should provide more blood flow. I think the interbonds will provide much more explosive impact and internal trauma on deer sized game like antelope, sheep, blesbok, impala, etc.

They do not have a similar POI or load to shoot well from my rifle. They are as incompatible with a single scope setting as possible. I will have to pick one and stick with it. So for now Ill stay with the TSX. As far as Im concerned the TSX does more with the available power of the 30/06 then the Interbond does. The much higher frequency of exits is a benefit to good blood trails. I know my weakness as a confirmed bullet recovery junky even though I know they should all exit.

Im not sure you can make a mistake in choosing between the 165 grain AFrame, Interbond, Accubond, TSX, or Partition, The one that shoots best in your barrel and gets a minimum level of functional velocity should do fine. I guess having to choose between the 165 grain Interbond and the 165 grain TSX for me is actually a good problem to have.

06-22-2006, 08:18 AM
Great write-up, JJ.

I've been thinking about going to Barnes for my -06, particularly for hogs, but I like to use the same load for everything. That 165gr TSX sounds like it might do the job... although I'm a little concerned about punching through on something as small as a blacktail.

Your thoughts there?

06-22-2006, 09:05 AM
I like to live in the world of fact and personal experience which is why I do these tests and gather this kind of information. However I have a strong feeling about something which is stricktly opinion and not yet fact based.

The TSX bullet used should be quite a bit lower weight then the lead core bullets used in your existing cartridge and rifle. I chose 165 grain over 180 grain for this reason. The lower weight theory proved to be very accurate and worked as I had hoped.

Now for my opinion, which is not yet fact based as I have no personal experience with this ........yet

I don't know how low you can go. I feel the lower weights driven very fast, faster the better with the TSX might provide the visible impacts and the violent expansion of the bonded core bullets. Violent expansion would certainly go a long way towards the visual impacts and the larger exit holes. I will try 150's to see if this is any benifit over the 165's. The 165's worked far better then the 180's I used in the past as they can be driven much faster with safe pressure levels.

Hogs likely justify the 165 grain bullets, especially older males with that thick gristle plate. If I were leaving for a trophy wild hog hunt for an old male I would be using the 165's without a second thought. I wish all decisions in life would be that easy!

For antelope, deer, sheep, the 150 TSX or the 165 bonded bullets would be my first choice. Anything bigger would get the 165TSX as the exits and the blood trail are a very high priority to me.

06-28-2006, 09:09 AM
There is no doubt, a wealth of experience and knowledge wrapped up in the paragraphs above. Thanks for the detailed and informed post JJ. I'm going to have to read it again, no way I can absorb it all on the first pass.

06-28-2006, 08:28 PM
Interesting information verifies the info I was given by all of our WW2 vets at the yucaipa gun club that the best all around bullet for the 06 is the 165gr.The guys used to go to Santa Fe Springs then the home of Sierra Bullets and buy seconds by the pound which they'd weigh using some for practise and the best for hunting.Another friend of mine shoots a 300 weatherby handloaded with nosler 165gr solid base bullets @ 3400+ fps he told me to get out the Hornaday tables and check the down range performance of 165gr bullets, btw he uses them for elk , mule deer & bear.I load 165gr nosler solid base & ballistic tip bullets for my three 06's .

07-01-2006, 08:17 AM
with a mgnum primer and 58grains of imr 4350....save pressure levels are about maxxed i would think..

i was wondering how you like your pac-nor barrel?....did pac-nor do the rebarreling?...grade,contour,and was their much before and after improvement?

07-01-2006, 08:33 AM
I would never even consider using a Magnum primer. I don't even use them in my 375HH. Accuracy is far better for me in both cartridges with a Large rifle primer. I use only Federal 210M primers in these loads.

The original factory barrel had 3500 rounds in it and was bad! The accuracy went from excellent to hidious in about 20 rounds. I had a new PacNor put on and it is now sub1" groups with the TSX and that high qualtiy barrel never seems to foul or need any attention.

My new 25/06 is getting a Montana Rifle Barrel put on. They come hand lapped with a mirrior finish inside. I also have a PacNor on my 458 Lott which is a freaking tack driver for a .458 daimeter bullet!

James Vee
07-07-2006, 06:33 AM
Awesome write-up JJ.