Monday, August 22, 2011

How Will Knight's New ALL-BRASS BLOODLINE Bullets Perform On Game?

Over the years, I have had the opportunity to load...shoot...and hunt with a number of novel new muzzle-loaded bullet designs or concepts. Heck, I was even the first kid on my block (maybe in my state) to shoot with modern saboted muzzleloader bullets. And, that idea surely took off. My guess is that better than 80-percent of all muzzleloading hunters today are now hunting with a bullet that's less than bore-sized - and "patched" with a plastic sabot.

Even among saboted bullets we've witnessed a variety of, well, ideas that strayed from the norm when it came to their design and/or construction. Two in particular come to mind. One was known as "The Bullet", and what made this saboted copper-jacketed lead core bullet "different" than anything else on the market was the hole that ran completely through the bullet, from the nose to the base. The thinking behind the design was to reduce drag...and to provide added aerodynamics to a lighter and faster flying bullet - by making it longer. The longest of these I had the opportunity to shoot was a .429" diameter bullet that weighed 240-grains, yet it was 1.050" in length...making it 40-percent longer than a .429" diameter Hornady XTP of the same weight.

The other bullet was known as the DEVEL bullet - a 175-grain copper-tin composite solid. And I do mean solid. I once shot a wild hog with the DEVEL bullet in Texas during a September bullet testing session, hitting the 200-pound hog in the chest as it looked at me straight on at about 100 yards. When dressing out the hog and conducting a postmortem study of the bullet path, I finally found the bullet lodged against the pelvic bone...without a scratch on it. Since the bullet was not deformed in any way...I saved it, and took it to North Carolina for the early coastal muzzleloading deer season. And I shot a doe with it at about 100 yards. The hard composite bullet zipped right through the deer, which ran about 70 yards and went down.

Both of these bullets shot with great accuracy - but lacked in game taking performance. Two does harvested with "The Bullet" went down quickly, but I found that without adequate center density, the hollow tube of a bullet tended to collapse and flatten into a pancake looking disc. On one of the deer, shot at about 35 yards, the bullet did not even make it through the internal organs to hit the opposite rib cage. Then, while the star shaped nose of the DEVEL was "supposed" to hydraulically create a shock wave, I saw little evidence of that in the game harvested with the bullet. I stopped hunting with the DEVEL after losing two bucks, both hit right behind the front shoulder with a 175-grain DEVEL, on the same day. Right here, right now, I want to make it very clear that these are the only two deer I have ever lost to saboted bullets.

Now, this is a lengthy lead in for an article on Knight Rifles' new machined all-brass BLOODLINE saboted bullets. But I felt compelled to share with you that when I now test shoot a novel new approach to a hunting projectile that's supposed to perform differently than a conventional expanding design, it's with some apprehension.

I did my first shooting with the BLOODLINE bullets late last summer and early fall. And I will say that from the very start, I have been extremely impressed with their great looks...and how well they've shot. The bullets I received included 300-grain and 275-grain .458" diameters, and a 250-grain .451" diameter bullet. These came directly from the manufacturer, before the new Knight Rifles announced putting them on the market, as the new BLOODLINE bullets, and did not come with sabots.

I paired the bullets up with the Harvester Muzzleloading black .50x.45 Crush Rib Sabot. While this sabot has actually been designed for shooting .451" bullets, the fine raised ribs on the outside of this sabot offer enough "give" to allow loading .458" diameter bullets without requiring over exertion on the ramrod when pushing the combo down the bore. Loading with my old standby charge of 110-grains of Blackhorn 209, my Knight .50 Long Range Hunter model had no problem whatsoever of keeping groups inside of 1 1/4 inches at a hundred yards with the two weights of the .458" bullets. A fairly high percentage of the groups shot actually printed inside of an inch.

When I switched to the .451" 250-grain BLOODLINE, I felt it loaded just a bit too easily with the black Crush Rib Sabot, so I switched to Harvester Muzzleloading's slightly tighter fitting red version of the same sabot. Two of the first three groups shot with that combo, shooting the same amount of Blackhorn 209, printed just under an inch.

(All three weights can be seen in Photo 1 above.)

Since the first several range sessions with the machined brass hollow-fronted BLOODLINE bullets, accuracy has never been an issue. With anywhere between 100- and 120-grains of Blackhorn 209, or FFFg Triple Seven, I've gotten the same degree of accuracy as already shared here. But in the back of my mind, I kept thinking about how well the two novel bullets detailed at the beginning of this article had also shot...then how miserably they had performed on deer-sized game. Dave Fricke, who played the instrumental role in developing these bullets had sent me photos showing how the concept works...and how the wound channel produced by what would become the Knight Rifles BLOODLINE bullet is far more impressive than the wound channel produced by conventional expanding bullets. Another photo he sent, showing the damage to the rib cage of a red stag, was even more impressive.

Being an all brass precision CNC machined bullet isn't the only thing that makes the BLOODLINE unique. At one time, American shooters considered the all-copper Barnes bullets pretty darn unique, and many were apprehensive. Now, there is something of a Barnes "All Copper Club". The bullets do expand nicely...and retain near 100-percent of their original weight. I've taken several elk with the 300-grain Expander MZ, and a half-dozen deer with the Spit-Fire and TMZ bullets. The performance of these has been excellent.

What makes the all-brass BLOODLINE really different is that this IS NOT an expanding bullet. Upon impact, the hollow cavity at the front literally separates into six different petals, which break away from the solid brass base section of the bullet. These sharp-edged fragments radiate out from the path of the bullet, and according to those who designed this concept, these frontal pieces are devastating to internal organs. The rear 2/3rds or so of the bullet then punches on through for an exit hole. And it was this claim that I set out to test this summer. Unfortunately, fall hunting seasons were still a couple of months off, so I had to come up with something other than actually shooting game.

Using a portable target board, I loosely attached a piece of 2'x3' cardboard to it by just stapling it a couple of times along the very top edge. Then, I set up a standard wooden sawhorse directly in front of the cardboard. I then stapled a water-filled gallon Ziploc baggie to the 2x4 cross board of the sawhorse. (Photo 2 above.) Then directly in front of the baggie, I hung a water soaked 8" wide strip of 1/8" thick wool/hair felt. Before this was soaked in a bucket of water, I used a permanent marker to make a bold black "+" aiming mark, which was centered over the area of the water-filled baggie where the water mass was the greatest. I felt this should cause the hydraulics needed to initiate the opening of the hollow-point nose...and to cause the petals to break away and radiate out much the same as when the bullet hits a deer...elk...or bear.

To determine how sharply those segments of the nose angled out, for Shot No. 1...I placed the sawhorse so the rear of the of the gallon-filled Ziploc was exactly 12-inches in front of the cardboard. And to prevent the water from the exploding bag soaking the cardboard target board, I hung a heavy duty plastic leaf/trash bag in front of the cardboard. For this test, I was loading the 275-grain .458" BLOODLINE, using a prototype of a new Crush Rib Sabot I've been testing for Harvester Muzzleloading. With 110-grains of Blackhorn 209, the bullet gets out of the 27-inch barrel of my Knight .50 Long Range Hunter test rifle at 2,014 f.p.s. (2,475 f.p.e.). Prior to starting this test, I had tweaked the sighting of the Hi-Lux Optics TB-ML scope to print "dead on" at 100 yards. And my first shot was right at the cross of the aiming mark...maybe 1/4" to the right.

At the shot, the bag literally exploded, and water flew in every direction. This bullet is right at .990" in length, and while it does have a large hollow-pointed nose, the ogive starts fairly far back. I will have to do some trajectory tests to establish a closer ballistic coefficient, but a good guess is around .225. If that's the case, then at 100 yards, the bullet hit the water filled plastic bag at around 1,680 f.p.s., with just over 1,720 f.p.e. The bursting of the bag was enough to blow the felt aiming strip more than 10 feet back in the direction of the shooting bench. When the cardboard was pulled from behind the plastic curtain...the hole near the center revealed that a very big portion of the bullet kept on flying pretty much on the path it had taken from 100 yards away. Fairly evenly radiating out from that hole were six smaller holes, where the separated brass petals passed on through to imbed into the plywood of the target board. The pattern produced by these pieces was right at 18 inches across.

(Note: One of the petals recovered from the plywood target board weighed right at 9 grains.)

With a new piece of cardboard in place...and a new water-filled Ziploc and the felt aiming strip hung from the sawhorse...this time the target board was set so the cardboard was exactly 6 inches behind the rear of the baggie. Again, the baggie exploded, and again the felt strip was thrown 10 to 12 feet toward the bench. And when the cardboard was examined...there was again that large hole pretty much in the center...with six smaller holes radiating out in an even circle. However, since the water-filled bag had been half the distance forward of the target board, the diameter of that circle was just 10 1/2 inches. (See Photo No. 3 above.)

For the third shot, the rear of the bag rested right against the plastic leaf/trash bag used to keep water from soaking the cardboard. And at the shot, the impact was even more explosive. Not only did the felt aiming strip fly forward closer to 20 feet, both the portable plywood target board and the sawhorse were blown over - with the target board flying rearward and the sawhorse flipping over forward. When I pulled the cardboard from behind the plastic protection, it was immediately evident that with the baggie directly against the cardboard, much more energy was transferred to what the baggie had been resting against. And that was evident in the damage to the surface of the cardboard. Pretty much in the center was the hole produced by the base section of the all-brass BLOODLINE bullet, and radiating out in a 4-inch diameter circle were the smaller holes produced by the brass petals. (See Photo No. 4 above.) However, the surface of the cardboard was broken...ripped...and cut from all the energy it had absorbed. It reminded me of the massive trauma and bloodshot area that commonly surrounds an impact wound.

The evidence is that the BLOODLINE bullets will perform just as claimed. I've heard from a number of Knight Rifle shooters who are looking forward to the coming seasons, to see just how well the BLOODLINES do when they hit hair...hide...muscle...bone...and vital organs. From what I've seen of the testing I've already conducted, I would definitely have no qualms about taking a shot on just about anything. My predictions are, there's going to be a great blood trail to follow if the game runs any at all...and a lot of mush will be dumped out of chest cavities this fall and winter. - Toby Bridges

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