Smokey Merkley

Smokey Merkley

Deer and elk seasons are quickly approaching. I assume everyone has done some scouting and has an idea of where the game is and what trails they are using, the places and times they feed, where they bed down, and where they go for water.

Actually, I realize that few of us do the scouting routine the way we should. But I have written columns about scouting the last couple of years and wanted to talk about something I think about a lot yet have never written about as far as I can remember.

In America, most hunting cartridges are commercially loaded and marketed in hollow points, round nose, soft points, pointed soft points, bronze points, plain lead, teflon and bronze alloy-tipped, and H-partition. Plus, there’s a dozen other forms, including truncated cone to bluff-nosed.

It would be inconceivable that one single type of bullet would be ideal for the variety of game in America that includes rabbits, deer, elk, moose and the largest bears.

In America, millions of dollars are spent on advertising campaigns to promote one or another style of expanding bullet and its reliable, crushing performance because of one notch or another between the bullet and jacket.

Solids are not commercially manufactured in America in calibers smaller than the .375 H&H, which most consider an African dangerous-game caliber. Because of this, most Americans have never tried them, and they don’t think of them as an all-around bullet for multiple uses.

As a matter of fact, many shooters and hunters this side of the pond think that solids simply “pass right through game animals without doing any real damage.”

Does that really make any sense? Think about it. Solids will put a hole through any organ they are correctly directed at, and if they hit, bone will smash it and then turn the smashed particles of bone into the biological equivalent of grenade fragments.

Properly constructed solids will kill animals that range in size from antelope to elephants, the largest of land animals. Solids are also commercially manufactured in smaller calibers outside the United States. Hornady and Barnes both offer solid bullets in smaller calibers to those in the United States who prefer to load their own ammunition. They may have to be ordered by mail, but they are available.

Unfortunately, there are solids and good solids. The old-style bluff-nosed Winchester .300 grain .375 H&H round that the company manufactured nearly 70 years ago did not perform as well as expected. Solids should have a lead core reinforced by a steel jacket, covered with cuprous alloy to take the rifling of the barrel.

Winchester improved its solid bullet manufacturing procedures and most manufacturers today make excellent products. Just don’t let anyone at the local gun shop tell you that full metal jacketed bullets are the same as solids.

I don’t know about anyone else, but game animals never show me a beautiful side shot where I can stick the bullet right in the boiler room just behind the front shoulder like you see in the ads for scopes and other hunting items.

Usually, the shot I get is quartering away from me or going straight away from me. If I think the shot is pretty dicey due to distance or some other issue, I won’t take the shot. If I do decide to take the shot, I have to shoot through a lot of the animal tissue before my bullet gets into the vital area where it can do its job.

I have been wondering for some time if a solid wouldn’t be more likely to punch through animal tissue and reach the vitals without doing as much damage to the meat as expanding ammunition. Expanding ammunition slows down and expands as it punches through those angled shots, particularly heavier-bodied game like elk.

In one of my previous columns on reloading for my .300 Weatherby Magnum, I mentioned that I load 82 grains of Reloader 22 behind a 180-grain Scirocco II bullet, with a ballistic coefficient of .520. I still like that load and will be using it this coming hunting season.

But by this time next year, I hope to have done more research on solids and to have shot them on a 1,000-yard range to see if they perform better from 500 yards to 800 yards. If they do, solids will have a place in my ammo box.

Smokey Merkley can be contacted at