Cast Bullets for Hunting - HP or Solid

  • Last Post 13 August 2023
Wilderness posted this 29 July 2023

A while ago I posted an image of a boar pig shot with a .30-30 hard alloy hollow point cast bullet. This was with my Savage 99 .30-30 rifle with Leupold VX1 2-7 scope. In that post I indicated that I was about to test soft alloy non HP cast bullets in the same application.

My hard cast hollow points (10% or 11% non-lead) are 176 gns with gas check and lube, and mostly I drive them at about 2200 fps with 32 gns LVR powder. The solids I've tried are 192-193 gns, about 10 gns of the difference from omitting the HP and the rest from the heavier alloy (3%-4% non-lead). The soft solids are doing 2100 fps with 31 gns LVR, and surprisingly shooting a similar sized group.

The test on pigs so far has been limited, just seven shot with the solids, as against two to three thousand with the hard HPs in this and other rifles. My impression so far is that even in nearly dead soft alloy the bullets penetrate excessively and are insufficiently destructive. They may need a small degree of hollow pointing to be effective.

I am attaching some stills from NV videos taken of pigs shot at night feeding on carcases. In all instances these indicate the point of aim in the frame immediately before the big white flash, with  a description of the effect on the pig.

I apologise for the quality of the images, but the clip-on NV device requires some compromise between focusing the target and focusing the reticule. This is an experiment in posting such images.

The first three shots were at 80 meters, the last at 50. All were shot with the Oneleaf NV100 device on the back of the scope.

The first image is of a large boar, 60" from nose to butt of tail, shot with HP bullet as per the indicated aim. He dropped to the shot and flopped about a bit before going quiet.

The next shot is of another smaller boar shot with a HP but with point of aim way too low. I'd call it at best a bottom of the heart shot. This one travelled 50 meters in a series of parabolic leaps before running out of steam. I suspect that a less destructive bullet would have seen this one travel much further. In this image the first pig can be seen dead beside the cow carcase, and another one in the left background, likewise shot with HP and dropped where shot.


The next image is of a boar shot with a soft solid bullet. This seemed like a well placed shot, and the pig collapsed at the shot, but within a couple of frames of the video regained his feet and made a dash of 100 meters. Shot placement is similar to the pig in the first image (HP) which went straight down. By now the (white) cow is almost obscured by dead pigs.

The last image is the most baffling of all, again with a solid bullet. This was at a different location. It is also the shot that has nearly cured me of taking frontal shots. The intention was to shoot the boar centrally from the front. The head was going up and down and moving around, so the final aim by chance was pretty well at the pig's right eye. The hog went straight down, with lots of kicking on the ground, but between when I took the NV illumination off him and put the torch on, he had vanished. To this day I have not found him and suspect that he might have survived. I can only surmise that the bullet deflected down the side of the head and neck and ended up in the shoulder instead of the chest cavity. I firmly believe that a hard HP bullet with some good shrapnel might have rescued this situation.


I have two more of the solids to use up, and thereafter will stick to the hard hollow point bullets.

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Spindrift posted this 29 July 2023

Thank you for a very interesting report! I can't contribute anything to the subject, as I'm new to hunting with cast.

What is the nose shape of your non- HP bullets?

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Ken Campbell Iowa posted this 29 July 2023

...thinking about soft solids vs. soft hollow points in 22 rimfire ...  from a few thousands test shots ...

maybe the best result would be from soft alloy in a hollow point ...


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Wilderness posted this 29 July 2023

What is the nose shape of your non- HP bullets?

Spindrift - bullet is resized U321297HP (yes, in .30-30), flat nose, outer edge slightly rounded by a round nose lubesizer top punch. It has a hemispherical dimple about .050" deep from slightly extended round ended HP blanking pin. Rounded outer edge is to ensure reliable feeding in 99 Savage.

Maybe the best result would be from soft alloy in a hollow point

Ken - on these big fellows penetration is required as well as destruction. The alloy chosen for the hollow points ensures double shoulder penetration whilst also churning up the smaller hogs on a soft rib shot. Softer alloy risks non-lethal blowup on the shoulder. The hard alloy HPs are also very good for rear angle flank shots, or even THS on smaller stuff. Optimum bullet hardness for HPs is also velocity dependent. These ones are going at 2200 fps. I have taken them up to 2300 with LVR, at which point I was beginning to think they might be too soft for the velocity.

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Ken Campbell Iowa posted this 30 July 2023

soft hollow points ...  i am thinking that with the right shape hollow point ... the softer alloy might not blow up into shrapnel ... but might expand yet stick together as a " ball ' ... thus actually give you good penetration along with some shock power from the expanded bullet.

using a ductile alloy .... (  hammer flattens it , not cracking it ) in a 405 gr. flat nose 45-70 ... last fall made it thru 4 feet front to back of a doe and broke the rear leg on the way out ...  about 1300-1400 fps btw ...

just a thought ...



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Wilderness posted this 30 July 2023

Thanks Ken - I don't mind shrapnel, so long as the pieces are big enough and what's left of the bullet is still substantial. With hard alloy at least, enough metal between the hollow and the ogive will ensure useful shrapnel. That shrapnel continues to penetrate as a cone after it breaks off. I shot a half grown pig a while back and the exit side looked like he'd been done over with buckshot. Also, HP cast bullet performance is dramatically more violent at 2200 fps and has to be reined in, most conveniently with harder alloy.

With a bigger bullet (HP) at lower velocity I would certainly be using a soft alloy, as indeed I did when my weapon of choice was a .44-40 carbine.

For .30-30 I actually prefer my hard cast HP bullets to the Sierra 170 gn bullets I might otherwise be using, even when it means giving up about a minute on group size.

The object of this exercise was to find if a soft solid bullet might be an even better option. The answer so far is NO.

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muley posted this 30 July 2023

from all comments ,it seems that a hard bullet with a wide as possible meplat might work. the solids used against the tough african game use a very wide meplat.

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delmarskid posted this 31 July 2023

I never shot anything with them but I once lay thin narrow strips of paper across the the nose portion of an open mold, closed it and cast with the paper pinned in place. The noses of the bullets had closed lead in front of the strips. The strips were about 1/4” wide. I thought that on impact the forward portion would buckle and maybe two portions would break off leaving the blunt shank to drive forward. I used the 311291 mold. Lots of burnt fingers and a blue haze of oaths were a nasty side effect.

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Aaron posted this 31 July 2023

For what it is worth, my experience with hard hollow point bullets has been disappointing. They become frangible and deliver very little penetration. Seen below is a test I conducted with Lyman #2 alloy and a 44Mag HP bullet at 1200 fps. Lower velocity failed to deliver any viable expansion.


With rifle in hand, I confidently go forth into the darkness.

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linoww posted this 31 July 2023

if you go to Erik Ohlens site there are pictures I sent from my tests years ago with hard .22 HP bullets.Shot at 1800-2300 fps into gallon jugs(tested at about 80 yards IIRC) they fragmented and most of the bullet stayed in the jug.I shot lots of squirrels with them and they were devastating.I had 357 hard HP in handgun act similar at 25 yards .So as a small game bullet for things you don't wanna eat the hard HP is fine.As a big game bullet I agree with you 100% as being a poor choice.Maybe if cast soft and run slower results might be more  of  peeling back of the nose? 


"if it was easy we'd let women do it" don't tell my wife I said that!

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Lee Guthrie posted this 31 July 2023

Never shot a hog.  Have killed a trailer load of whitetailed deer.  Hard cast bullets usually resulted in a long trail or lost deer, although none were HP.  Softnose cast bullets (almost pure lead nose with hard body) always ended with bullet exiting the other side (or with .45-70 or .458 end to end and exit), and expansion was fantastic (but without meat destruction as with hot .25-06 jacketed).  Then again I always use at least .375 diameter cast bullets on deer. 

My unsolicited suggestion would be to use a .375 Win or larger diameter bullet if you want to stick with a lever action ........  foot-in-mouth


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Wilderness posted this 01 August 2023

Aaron - your disappointment does not surprise me. A short bullet with thin metal around the HP hole, and a big hollow, is bound to end up in small pieces if driven hard enough. One object with a cast HP RIFLE BULLET at 2200 fps, which is what we are talking about here, is to ensure that a substantial portion of the bullet (one third to a half) remains after the nose has done its thing. This means starting with a bullet that is heavy for caliber - I use 176 gns (HP weight) in .30-30 and find it hard to fault. The hollow must then be modest enough to ensure that the required portion of the original bullet survives the trip through the hog. That half can penetrate a long way with no major diameter increase to slow it down. My hollow takes out about 10 gns (5%) of bullet weight.

Edit: The attached image shows #U321297HP, sized to .312", along with a bullet recovered from a pig. The hollow extends to the top of the first grease/crimping groove. Beyond the effect of the hollow, another band has been ground off during the passage through the hog. This recovered slug weighed 71 gns (40% retention). Usually these bullet bases pass right through even a large pig. If there is "shattering", it is certainly not happening to the whole bullet. And the gas check stays on.

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358156hp posted this 07 August 2023

 Aaron, Lyman Devastators have too large of a hollowpoint for the velocities normally involved. Consider having a cup point stem made for your mould and keep the original for blowing up pumpkins filled with water on halloween Then juggle your alloys and powder charge a bit to get the best results.

Contact Erik at



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Wilderness posted this 13 August 2023

In my initial post I indicated that I had two of my .30-30 test rounds still to shoot off.

I note Ken Campbell's interest in soft hollow points, and also Larry Gibson's description of soft #311041 with shallow hollow, as described in his writeup of the LeveRevolution work.

Accordingly, I doctored my two solids with the Forster 1/8" hollow pointing tool. The first got a very light touch that took out just 1.5 gns, and second a little more, 4 gns. Remember that the Lyman design for my mould loses 10 gns to the hollow.

I have now put them to the test.

The first (1.5 gns removal) accounted for a big sow, hit mid neck and exiting rear shoulder. She went straight down, but would have done so with just about any solid bullet configuration, given the entry point.

The second, with 4 gns of metal removed (trying to mimic the Larry Gibson formula), accounted for a mature boar in good condition but sub 100 kg. Entry point was the shoulder and exit the diaphragm. Gratifyingly, the hog went down within 5 meters.

Conclusion: The soft bullet with a 4 gn hollow looks like a workable combination of penetration and destruction, subject to further testing. Each hardness will have an optimum sized hollow to achieve the desired result. Since I have already got a good combination for the hard bullet, I may now have defined, for myself at least, both ends of the continuum. The use of the soft bullets may require loading with LeveRevolution to preserve accuracy and avoid leading.

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