Spomer on Shooting: Do Blunt Bullets Hit Harder?

Two-hundred-and-20 grains of round-nose muscle. That’s what one old farmer swore by for his South Dakota whitetail hunting. And he threw those 220-grain slugs with a .30-06.

“Knocks ’em flat,” he insisted. “Can’t beat that big, round-nose bullet for impact. Those little, pointy 180-grain bullets ain’t worth spit.”

Well, not really.

It’s a myth that round or flat noses on bullets increase their wallop over the slap of sharp-nosed bullets. The truth is just the opposite. Heavy bullets hit harder, but not necessarily blunt ones.

Ron Spomer

I can understand the blunt bullet theory. Blunt front means more surface contact. Pointy front means less. But most bullets land with so much kinetic energy that, unless they are full-metal-jacket “solids,” they expand, mushroom, flatten, or explode (break up) regardless of their initial shape. Energy transfer is not the problem, but energy retention is.

Long, skinny, pointy bullets hit harder then blunt ones downrange because they sneak through the air instead of fighting it. Air might not seem like much of a threat against a bullet flying at 3,000 fps, but it is. Blunt bullets push air like Mac trucks. Spire point bullets slip through it like Formula One race cars.

Spomer's Do Blunt Bullets Hit Harder 4-13 round & spire points
Round nose bullets don’t improve performance over sharp-nosed bullets except they may expand more readily at low impact velocities.

Check out the huge differences in trajectories and remaining energies between these two bullets, both .308 slugs weighing 150-grains, both launched at 3,000 fps and zeroed at 200 yards (B.C. means Ballistic Coefficient).

At 400 yards, the 150-grain Round Nose with a B.C. of .23 has a velocity of 1,576 feet, a 28-inch drop, a 27-inch drift/deflection, and 827 foot-pounds of energy.

At 400 yards, the 150-grain Spire Point with a B.C. of .44 has a velocity of 2,190 feet, a 20-inch drop, a 12-inch drift/deflection, and 1,598 foot-pounds of energy.

Dramatic differences, aren’t they? Just changing nose shape from pointy to round increases drop by 8 inches and wind deflection by 15 inches at 400 yards. And the round-nose bullet loses almost twice as much energy as the spire point.

After seeing this, why does anyone even shoot a round-nose or flat-nose bullet? Well, in some guns they’re mandatory for safe or effective function. In tubular magazines, where the nose of one bullet rests against the primer of the one in front of it, sharp noses could behave like firing pins under recoil, starting an unpleasant chain reaction.

Also, adding a long, sharp nose on a revolver bullet would make the cartridge so long it would stick out the cylinder chambers and prevent it from rotating. Some old rifles engineered around cartridges that originally fired heavy, blunt bullets, don’t have enough magazine length to accommodate long, pointy bullets. Barrels with short leades or throats might restrict you to the use of short, blunt bullets.

Finally, round or flat-nosed bullets are ideal for maintaining straight-line penetration through massive muscle and bone, something African hunters need to take down elephants, possibly buffalo. Some shooters argue that blunt bullets plow through brush better than spire points, but tests have largely discounted this. It is true that at really low velocities, blunt noses, which expose more of the soft lead core, expand more reliably than spire points, all else being equal. In the real world, if you shoot at short range, say under 175 yards, and at low velocities, round- and flat-nose bullets should serve you well. But if you want to reach farther, shoot flatter, drift less in the wind and deliver more energy well downrange, use pointy bullets.

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