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Terminal Ballistics Part III

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This is sort of the third installment of my thoughts on Terminal Ballistics (what happens when a projectile hits its intended target). One of the reasons I enjoy the topic, is simply the wonderment of why some hits are instantly fatal, while similar ones are not.

One of my favorite ballisticians is John Schaefer, better know as Fr. Frog (https://www.frfrogspad.com). I do owe him some gratitude, as some of his work has found its way into my comments presented here. That said, one of  his “secrets” to stopping an adversary (including wild game) is to… Make the biggest hole you can to let the blood out, and the air in!

Paraphrasing John Schaefer; One would be justified in arguing that projectiles designs, which pass clear through their intended target, are more effective in bringing down game, than some other designs which don’t exit. After all, two holes are better than one! This assumes, of course, that said projectile produces adequate tissue damage on its way through. And isn’t this the ne plus ultra consideration?

Allow me to digress. I’m not talking about firearms, or even slug guns. Obviously, we all know that large, heavy projectiles, moving at relatively fast velocities, can do tremendous damage to animal flesh. But the majority of us are using small caliber airguns, typically ones delivering sub-fifty foot pounds of energy, and sometimes as little as six or eight foot pounds. In these cases, pellet shape is an important consideration. To repeat what I said previously, I am convinced that round-nosed pellets offer superior terminal ballistics, especially at extended distances (greater than thirty-five yards or so depending on the caliber and muzzle energy). They also tend to be more accurate, at least in my experience.

Let’s talk about ballistic gelatin too. It is supposedly designed to mimic the density and elasticity of human flesh. In the former sense it does a reasonable job. In the latter sense it fails miserably! Yes, it does allow us to see the wound channel and any fragmentation or mushrooming of the projectile. What it can’t show is the displacement of animal flesh at the point of impact. However, pundits will argue, that aided by high-speed photography, that it does. In my opinion, it doesn’t which raises another issue.

When you shoot an animal, you typically don’t shoot skin! Rather, there is hair, feathers, scales, or a carapace which needs to be penetrated first. Depending on their density, the real-world projectile’s terminal ballistics varies. How much is varies is an impossible question to answer, and one which certainly can’t be duplicated in ballistic gelatin! In the final analysis, no matter how much killing power a specific pellet has, proper placement of the pellet is mandatory. Speaking of which…

We’ve all heard admonishments about shooting game in the head to assure a quick kill when using a pellet gun. However, that level of accuracy doesn’t happen as often as one would assume, on-line videos notwithstanding!

One contributing factor towards accuracy, is the lack of buck fever—a nervous condition every hunter occasionally succumb to. It is my opinion that anticipation of a loud muzzle report and/or recoil are contributing factors. And, the more recoil, the more important it becomes to properly “hold” an airgun in order to maintain accuracy.

There is one more point to be made, which directly relates to the last two paragraphs. Of late, there have been a myriad of stories, videos, and discussions about long-distance shooting with airguns, especially those designed to shoot slugs. As I mentioned above, this type of activity is not the norm! The vast majority of us, who use airguns to hunt small game, are limited in both external and terminal ballistic “power”, for lack of a better word. We need to realize that we do, and we need to use that knowledge ethically, terminal ballistic behavior aside!

Good hunting.

Interesting post Alan.

I watched a Turkey Airgun Hunt Video yesterday and two fellows hooted and hollered after shooting two Turkeys. “Best Turkey Hunt Ever,” they hooted. Trouble is they both had to make multiple shots, at what must have been 10 yards, and those Turkeys died a slow death. I was wondering if their airguns were just too weak, and didn’t have the needed terminal ballistics to properly dispatch the Turkeys, or they missed vitals.

Hmmmm something to chew on.

Can you point me in the direction of that video? Florida’s turkey season starts in a few weeks and airguns are usable for the first time. I was thinking of lung shooting one with my .30 short Flex and a Polymag and then brain shooting one with an Urban. I have alt of experience lung shooting turkeys with rimfires. But I’d like to see what others have done with airguns on body shots. 


--- Quote from: Bullfrog on February 24, 2019, 06:33:38 AM ---Can you point me in the direction of that video? Florida’s turkey season starts in a few weeks and airguns are usable for the first time. I was thinking of lung shooting one with my .30 short Flex and a Polymag and then brain shooting one with an Urban. I have alt of experience lung shooting turkeys with rimfires. But I’d like to see what others have done with airguns on body shots.

--- End quote ---

Here you go. I’ll watch it again later to see if I was maybe too judgemental.

After watching, I'd say the first gobbler was actually a clean kill for a body shot. I've killed many gobblers with lung shots with rimfires and centerfires. Often they blow right thru and allow the turkey to run off without even knocking it over. This is because the rounds usually don't meet enough resistance in the turkey's body and shoot straight thru without fragmenting or dumping energy. I found that the best body shots on turkeys come from the flimsiest of rounds that blow up immediately entering the turkey or slower rounds that punch the turkey and don't exit out the other side. Sometimes they'll collapse without a kick, sometimes they'll fall and roll and take a bit to bleed out, as the first gobbler seemed to have been doing.

Because the airgun is so precise and quiet, followup shots for a faster death don't cost anything, thus there's no reason not to try to get a headshot in once the turkey is immobilized. Had I had shot that first turkey with a .22 mag, I would have been content to let it lay and bleed out once it was clear is couldn't fly or run off. So I don't fault how they handled the first gobbler.

The second turkey was a little more problematic. Had it not landed within eye-shot, they probably would have lost that bird. Of the dozen or so I've killed with a rifle, I've only ever lost 1, and it was actually one my wife shot with a centerfire .204 because we didn't let it finish bleeding out before going to claim it. It got up and ran and we never found it. I've had 3 or 4 run it total that I was able to recover, most or all from a .204 centerfire, but it took hours of searching and they were found more by luck and persistence. Generally turkey shouldn't fly after a rifle hit. If they do, that usually indicates too low of a shot. The proper place to lung shoot a turkey is right where the wing connects to the body. You should break the wing when you hit.

Its not really a matter of energy. My .204 at 1100fpe dwarfs both a .22 mag and any normal airgun. Yes the .22 mag is my favorite turkey caliber to date. Its a matter of what the rounds actually do by design. A Polymag flying very fast ought to fragment and be deadly on a turkey.

And the exact shot placement is unknown in these videos. I'm guessing the second turkey was hit low.


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