Towsley, Bryce M
With the advent of the first “smallbore” smokeless powder cartridges in the mid-1880s, it was soon obvious that the higher velocities were not compatible with lead or lead alloy bullets. Simply making the bullet from a harder material would solve the problem inside the gun, but the killing power of the new cartridges depended on bullet expansion, and a hard bullet would not expand in game. The problem was eventually solved by wrapping a soft lead core with a jacket of harder metal, creating the “Model T” of jacketed bullets and the roots of the family tree for today’s “super-bullets.”
Bullet technology to some extent has been driven by new cartridge introductions. Each new and faster cartridge further opens the velocity window and expands the parameters of bullet performance demands. If they are to survive and prosper, bullet companies must design products to meet those demands. Swift Bullet Company has two distinctly different rifle bullets that both attack the problem, but from slightly different angles. There are, however, some similarities between the two bullets.
Company CEO Bill Hober says, “We use pure copper in all our bullet jackets because it’s malleable. Where gilding metal can be brittle and may split or fragment during bullet expansion, copper tends to change shape with less argument. The most common problem associated with pure copper bullets is bore fouling, so we workharden the copper to minimize bore fouling.
“All our bullet cores are from pure lead for the same reason– malleability.We want to insure positive expansion from our bullets over a wide range of impact velocities, and a hard lead alloy often does not allow that. Because we bond the core to the jacket, weight retention is excellent. We only make hunting bullets, and our goal is twofold: The bullets must shoot straight and must deliver great terminal performance. I believe we have achieved both with our bullets.”
The Swift A-Frame bullet uses a thick web of copper separating two distinct cores of lead to insure no expansion will occur past the web. The jacket walls are thick, with the front tapered to aid expansion. The front core is bonded to the jacket to prevent separation, while the jacket in the rear is folded generously over the heel to lock in that lead core.
Some years back, I tested four of the top 180-gr. big game .30-’06 Sprg. factory loads in water-soaked newspapers for penetration, weight retention and wound channel. Consistency of performance from the Swift A-Frame bullets was astounding. Penetration was never more than 1″ different from the average. Retained weight did not vary more than 1.5 grs., and the expanded bullet diameters were are all within 0.15″ of each other. The A-Frame showed large initial wound channels indicating early expansion that would remain relatively large through most of the channel length, yet penetration was the best of the lead-core bullets I tested.
It’s no secret that shooting a test medium and shooting game are not the same. Problems can show up in game that simply cannot be predicted in any test using a static medium. However, the A-Frame has proven to be as predictable in game as it is in my test medium. Through the years, I have recovered very few A-Frame bullets from dead critters, which is exactly what I want from a bullet. I do not subscribe to the “leave the bullet in the game” theory, and I expect exit holes in the majority of big game I shoot. However, if the cartridge, bullet and game are correctly matched, there is always a certain percentage of bullets that will not exit.
I have three expanded examples recovered from a Cape buffalo shot with 300-gr. A-Frame bullets from a .375 RUM. One was an “insurance” shot that hit the bull head-on with an impact velocity of more than 2,700 f.p.s. It shattered a section of spine and continued on to stop in the stomach. The bullet was very beaten up, but still weighed 213.7 grs. Later, I fired two more into the dead bull to test the results. They penetrated a stomach full of wet, soggy grass, and both were bulging the hide on the off side. They were perfectly mushroomed to 0.70″ and 0.67″. One weighed 262.8 grs. and the other 264.2 grs. I even have one that went through an impala and hit a brick-hard termite mound behind it. The perfectly mushroomed bullet weighed 254.1 grs.
My .358 UMT wildcat rifle pushes a .358″-diameter 250-gr. A-Frame out the muzzle at more than 3,100 f.p.s., which is much faster than any other cartridge using that bullet. Of the three I have recovered from game, the range varied from a few yards to more than 250-yds., so impact velocities were quite different. The bullets recovered weigh 224.2, 242.4 and 218.2 grs. The expanded diameters are 0.65″, 0.69″ and 0.66″. Back home, a friend trying the rifle fired another bullet into a large chunk of maple firewood at 50 yds. The recovered bullet weighed 215.7 grs. and expanded to 0.68″.
A buddy was using an 8 mm Rem. Mag. with 200-gr. Swift A-Frame bullets in Africa. In the six animals he shot, we recovered only one bullet-the others exited. The performance was identical to what I have seen with A-Frames in other cartridges. In game, wet newspaper and even firewood, the consistency of the A-Frame bullet’s performance is unbelievably predictable.
The Swift A– Frame is available from .25– cal. through the burly .470″, 500-gr. All diameters except the .470″ have two or more bullet weights available. It’s also offered in several handgun bullets as well as sabot-style muzzleloader bullets.
Many of the hot, new super magnums are being sold to hunters looking for long-range performance. They want a bullet that’s sleek, slippery and very accurate. The problem is many of the traditional bullets fitting that description weren’t designed for terminal ballistic performance at today’s hyper-velocities. One exception is the plastic-tipped Swift Scirocco.
The primary advantage of a plastic-tip bullet is that it allows for a sharp profile with a very small meplat, which results in a high ballistic coefficient to increase the bullet’s ability to overcome air resistance in flight.
The Swift Scirocco features a thick, tapered copper jacket that is bonded to a pure lead core. The thin front section works with the wedging action of the plastic tip to initiate expansion. As the bullet expands, peeling the jacket back to its thicker mid-section, expansion is arrested– or, at least, controlled.
The Scirocco is a long and sleek bullet that features a short, 15– degree boattail and a secant ogive profile resulting in a high ballistic coefficient. It bridges the terminal performance gap between the “soft,” quick expanding bullets and the “super bullets.” My experience, and that of many other hunters I have talked with, is that it tends more in the direction of the softer bullets and it’s a better bullet for deer-size game than for the truly big stuff. (That’s why Swift makes the A-Frame.) Ideally suited for the new generation of magnum cartridges hitting the market, the Scirocco has the high ballistic coefficient needed to exploit its long-range potential, but is tough enough for the inevitable close shots.
My first experience with the Scirocco on game was on a big Wyoming whitetail buck. I was using a .300 RUM with a 180-gr. Scirocco bullet. The buck was about 200 yds. from me when the first shot hit him behind the shoulder, centering a rib. It punched a large hole through the lungs and had expanded enough to hit two ribs on the exit. I shot again as the deer ran quartering toward me, and struck it at the junction of the neck and shoulder. That bullet exited almost exactly out the same hole as the first, but was obviously unnecessary.
Since then, I have I have examined Scirocco-made wound channels in about a dozen more whitetails and a couple of hogs, most shot with high-velocity magnum cartridges. The Scirocco has exhibited the same consistency of performance. I also have talked with several other hunters who have taken game ranging from pronghorns to brown bears with the Scirocco bullet and they have reported the same type of performance, “Fast expanding, but tough enough for high-velocity cartridges.”
The Scirocco is available in .30– cal. weights of 150, 165 and 180 grs. In 7 mm it is offered in a 150-gr. weight, and most recently added to the line is a .270-cal., 130-gr. bullet. In addition to those five bullets, Swift has plans to expand the Scirocco line to include all of the popular hunting bullet diameters.
Swift also has a new reloading manual (see sidebar) with enough data to work up a great hunting load or two for the fall hunting season.
Copyright National Rifle Association of America Apr 2002
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