Monday, June 05, 2006

Brush busting myths

Rivrdog takes me to task in comments over my choice of deer ammo, and in doing so brings up one of the myths that seem to perpetuate the shooting community. The myth of the brush busting caliber. To put it plainly, there ain't no such thing. This is no condemnation of Rivrdog. He is entitled to his opinion.

PawPaw remembers as a mere lad, at a range at Fort Knox, KY, we were zeroing the M16A1 rifle. Pawpaw was standing in a foxhole with two sandbags supporting the weapon, firing at a target 25 meters away. And not hitting anything. Nada. No holes in the target. My Drill Sergeant looked downrange and noticed a piece of grass swaying each time I pulled the trigger. The grass was about halfway between me and the target. During a cease-fire, he walked out and harvested that piece of grass. He told me he though my bullets were grazing that piece of grass, and I should try again. I did, and I zero'd the weapon.

Sometime thereafter, Jack O'Connor took the same perception and thorougly debunked it with a series of tests. I wish I had kept the article, but that was thirty years ago. However, Jim Carmichael says in an article in Field and Stream,
When I hear hunters talking about brush-busting calibers, I often wonder what it is they’re shooting at. It seems to me that the whole point is to miss brush and similar obstructions rather than hit them. I’m simplifying, of course, but not by much, because we don’t hear about timber-busting calibers as much as we used to. One reason is that the myths about thumb-size bullets bulldozing their way through timber have pretty much been demolished.
Yet the myth persists. For myself, I don't shoot at a deer when there is anything between me and the deer. I might shoot between trees, over brush, under brush, or whatever, but I don't take the shot if there is anything I can see between me and the target. I don't shoot through brush because the deer deserves better than that.

The simple fact is that there is more than one way to skin a cat. There is also more than one way to kill a deer. Or a hog, or anything else that needs killing. Cast bullets work. They work differently than jacketed, but they work just fine. I wouldn't try to shoot a deer across a bean field with my old .30-30. There are better rifles for that sort of shooting. However, I like still hunting. Taking a rifle and watching an area that deer are known to frequent. Moving slowly through the woods, stopping frequently to watch and listen and learn.

The last three deer I killed were killed like that. All three were killed with cast bullets. None of them moved more than ten yards after being shot. It's a different style of hunting. Don't ask me how many shots I passed up because there was something between me and the deer. It doesn't matter.


j said...

Years ago in one of the magazines, someone did an extensive brush-busting test. They put various bushes in front of various rifles in various calibers. Best I can remember, even the mighty 458 Win mag's big ol' 500 gr bullet was deflected by a tiny limb. Ain't no such thing as a brush buster caliber.

Rivrdog said...

I will beg to differ. My Dad used to hunt with a .401 Winchester Model '02, the very first autoloading hunting rifle. We were hunting in dense brush in Western Oregon, in the Coast Range, for Blacktail.

I saw him mount his rifle and start to swing on an animal I couldn't see, but I did hear it. He fired, and then I did see the deer, which went about two paces and fell over.

While field dressing the animal, my dad took a break and looked around, since something bothered him about the wound (he was a doctor).

He soon found an explanation for the wound's size, which would have done a 12-guage slug proud: while swinging and firing at the running deer, he shot completely through a 6-inch thick douglas fir sapling. The bullet went through the tree's trunk and hit the deer, and killed it.

I doubt a lesser round would have had the power to do that.

Some times you believe things just because they are universal, and the "thutty-thutty" is UNIVERSALLY called a "brush-buster" in this neck of the woods.

Around a hunting campfire, you will hear the eternal debate of what is a brush-buster and what isn't, but the 30-30 is widely thought to be near the low end of that category.

The category is real. Stats on whether a round can "bust brush" or not would have to be posted after an agreement on what "brush" consists of, and I think you would have an easier time convincing a Jihadi to break bread with an Israeli than you would getting a consensus on what "brush" is.

I accept the term because it is part of my hunting heritage.

Your mileage may vary.

j said...

Shoot a 6" diameter tree with a 50 BMG and the bullet will deflect. Your dad's 401 bullet just happened to deflect in the right direction. NO bullet continues its exact original path after it hits something.

Rivrdog said...

I happened to have a new pencil on me at the time (you use a pencil to mark your tag in rainy OR, pencils write in the rain and pens don't), and I poked the pencil through the hole, and it was as straight as a die, no deflection.

In the recent bowling-pin shoot that I sponsored, I built my pin tables with 3 layers of 2X4 to soak up damaging low hits. All those hits went straight through (from weapons that could do that, like the .480 Ruger that one constestant shot).

If something acts to deflect the path of any bullet in dense material, such as a bone in flesh, or a knot in wood, I can see some deflection, but doesn't Newton's Law rule here (a body in motion tends to remain in motion)?

j said...

>All those hits went straight through

Nope, none of them went *straight* through. All of them were deflected to some extent, some more, some less.

>but doesn't Newton's Law rule here (a body in motion tends to remain in motion)?

Yep, sure does.

Rivrdog said...

"J", by "straight", I meant that the path that the round was fired on was the one it continued through the wood on. In both examples I gave, the path that the round was fired on was known, so the comparisons are valid. I've actually had forensic training to be able to assist police forensic technicians in preserving evidence of this, so I can assure you that I know of what I speak.

I usually take my best shot at convincing "true believers", and I've done so.

Good day, sir.

j said...

So . . . let me get this straight, pardon the pun. Big ol' slow moving pistol bullets hit a three 2 x 4 layer tabletop at a--what?--10 degree angle?--and they weren't deflected? Ever skipped a stone on water?