Bullet Selectionruger m77 ruger bolt action ruger synthetic ruger mkII

Bullet selection is probably one of the tougher decisions that we have to make in reloading. There are so many choices and so little time.

I have said it before elsewhere but simply following the manufacturer's guidelines is the best place to start.

Jacket thickness and bullet design are of course factors in bullet performance and manufacturers usually state intended velocities or will be happy to tell you if you call them. There are other factors like ballistic coefficient, flat base or boat tail and others. This article is written with field applications in mind and everyday situations that hunting presents.

I purchased a box of Remington bullets from Midway USA back in the late 80’s. They were cheap and my gun liked them. Can’t beat a deal like that especially if they perform on the intended target.

They were 50-grain SP bullets, and probably a little heavy for the Hornet that I used them in, but they worked and they worked well. A couple of hundred bullets from that box got their grooves traveling down the barrel of a 223 Contender I owned at the time, which also liked them.

Last summer, the factory seconds that I bought from Sierra knocked heck out of prairie dogs and punched small groups at the range. Cheap? Yes. Effective? Yes. Just 2 of the criteria that I use for bullet selection.

Other things I consider when working with a bullet are the overall length of the bullet and base to shoulder. I like to set my bullet out pretty close to the lands.

Bullet shank length comes into play pretty quick in this scenario and in my terms this is simply the point at which the bullet becomes fat enough to touch the lands.

Simply comparing 2 different bullets in the same caliber and weight will show you the differences.

Here is a picture. The black line indicates the point where the bullet would come in contact with the lands.

Most obvious differences are in tip design and ogive location. If the bullet gets fat quick and is therefore a shorter bullet, it may not have enough overall length to stabilize in your particular rifle. Read your reloading manual(s) on “Twist”.

A very useful tool that will aid in comparison is the Sinclair Bullet Comparator.

Shown Here with the bullets inserted, you can see the difference in numbers.

While the Sierra bullet actually measures .020 thousandths longer than the Winchester bullet, we can see that there is about .057 thousandths less bullet exposed on the Sierra, behind the shoulder which translates to a greater jump to the lands right from the start.

Rule of thumb is to seat the bullet one caliber deep, in this instance .224.

I had to draw this out to explain it to myself. The drawing is crude but here it is.


I don’t always follow the rule of thumb. Seating the bullet close to the lands may not put the bullet into the case .224. In such an instance, I might leave it a little shallower; however, this can lead to other complications and should be dealt with in a serious manner.

As with any reloading operation, use caution and do your homework.

Magazine length may force you to seat deeper and some rifles prefer a greater jump on the bullet. Just something you have to experiment with, but as always, when changing any component or dimension, reduce the charge and work back up.

Searching for a bullet that you suits you and your rifle is a task, but when deciding on a bullet keep in mind availability. Nothing is much worse than running out of your favorite bullet and not being able to get your hands on another box in a hurry.

More and more we are seeing bulk packaging on bullets at better prices, especially varmint bullets. This is a great way to go. You can get some great pricing and will have plenty on hand.




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Last Modified: Wednesday, January 21, 2004 8:58 PM