243 WSSM 95 Gr VLD Berger Bullet on a Cow Elk

Dallen hiking in with a PAck Wheel game cart.

3/8 inch group with 95 Gr. Berger VLD Hunting bullets shot from my Winchester Model 1885, 243 WSSM.

 

95 gr. Berger VLD Hunting Bullet 243 WSSM three shot groups.

Different three shot group with 95 Gr. Berger VLD Hunting bullets shot from my Winchester Model 1885, 243 WSSM. The three groups in the circle are all the exact same load on three different times to the range.

 

243 WSSM 95 Gr. Berger VLD Chronograph

The Chrony showing 3223 FPS with 95 Gr. Berger VLD Hunting bullets and 51 Grains of MagPro powder.

 

Frost crystals on my Winchester Model 1885.

Really cool frost crystals on my Winchester Model 1885.

 

Cow elk, Pack Wheel game cart and Model 1885 rifle.

Me with my cow elk, Pack Wheel game cart and Model 1885 rifle.

 

95 Gr. Berger VLD, 243 WSSM entry hole on cow elk.

First entry hole with 95 Gr. Berger VLD 243 WSSM.

 

95 Gr. Berger VLD, 243 WSSM 2nd entry hole on cow elk.

Second Entry hole on cow elk.

 

Hunting with a Pack Wheel game cart on my backpack.

Me carrying a Pack Wheel game cart.

 

 Taking a boned out cow elk off the mountain with a Pack Wheel game cart.

My brother Weston hauling the elk off the mountain with the Pack Wheel game cart.

Berger's VLD hunting bullets have really been intriguing me over the years and this year I decided to give them a try. I knew the ogive on the VLDs often requires a really long cartridge overall length to get optimal accuracy. Since I own a couple of single shot Winchester Model 1885 rifles that I wouldn't have to worry about the cartridge fitting into a magazine I figured they would be perfect for me to load the Bergers VLDs for.

For my first VLD bullet to try I went with the 95 Gr. VLD Hunting bullet. I really wanted to use the 105 Gr. VLD but with the 1 in 10 twist my rifle has I figured I might have a tough time getting the bullet to shoot accurately from my rifle. Even the 95 Gr. VLD recommends a 1 in 9 twist but I figured I would be fine in getting it to shoot with the 1 in 10.

I chose to try three of my favorite powders MagPro, Winchester 760 and Superformance. After tweaking the COAL and amount of powder I came across a load that shot quite well every time to the range. It happens to be the slowest shooting load but holds about a half inch group in outdoor fairly windy conditions with only a shooting bag rest and a heavier than I like trigger. For whatever reason the trigger is just a little heavier on this rifle than all my other factory rifles. If I ever get around to having the trigger worked on and I had a more solid rest I'm sure this would be under a half inch consistently.

One thing I did notice with using this VLD bullet is that it appears to produce less pressure than other more traditional bullet it's same weight. The shape of the bullet with the elongated nose/ogive and boat tail provide a shorter length of the bullet that actually engages the riflings. Well that is at least my theory. I also ended up going with a load that is almost a tenth of an inch longer that the max overall length that would fit in a magazine. I also had the Winchester 760 powder and Hodgdon Superformance powder produce great groups with higher velocities I just ran out of time to tweak loads around those powders before I went hunting and shooting at the outdoor range in December and January isn't the most comfortable. I can tweak the load more when it is warmer if I decide to do so later.

I was itching to try the VLD load on my cow elk hunt this year. My only problem was my injured knee. I had crushed the tibial plateau and damaged the meniscus back in October and had been nursing it trying to get it better. Unfortunately, my leg has not been heeling (I'm affraid there is more damage than we first assessed) and I was running out of time left on my permit so I had to go, hurt leg and all.

Fortunately I have a cool brother, well actually I have two cool brothers but for this hunt my cool brother Weston came along to help me with my bum leg and see if he could also fill his tag.

As we headed out at first light we had a couple of other hunters with uninjured legs drag a noisy sled with them that took off out in front of us. So, much for trying to take it easy and find an elk near the bottom of the canyon. We decided to cut back up a ridge to see if we could find some elk. Sure enough we found a couple cows feeding up high near a ridge line.

We worked our way up the mountain hoping to get to a saddle that would make for about a 350 yard shot. Before we could get to the saddle some mule deer had decided to be on the side of the mountain we were on and they went up and over the saddle. We cut back to the right and were able to see the elk. They were on alert thanks to the mule deer and were ready to  take off. We dropped to the shooting sticks with a quick check on the range finder, 451 yards and a quick check on the mildot hold over tablet I had for the load. Then I sent a 95 Gr. Berger VLD up the mountain. Whop! The cow turned and trotted around the face of the mountain and I held about two feet in front of her and sent another VLD her way. Whop and down she went.

I was really hoping to drop her on the first shot. The first shot had to of done a number on her lungs and I'm sure the elk would not have gone far but I wasn't taking any chances so I sent the second bullet. I think I hit the elk a few inches too high to get it to drop immediately. I like hitting them about a third of the way up... well, right where my second shot hit.

The first bullet hit her midway up her torso and a couple inches behind the shoulder. The second shot hit her on the opposite side about a third of the way up from the bottom of it's torso through the back edge of the shoulder. Both bullet fragmented inside leaving the each opposite side rib cage entirely blood shot and I mean the entire side of the rib cage was blood shot. I did find one mangled bullet fragment from the second shot that had made it through the opposite rib cage and into the muscle on the back of her opposite shoulder/leg. This fragment weighs 24 grains.

We brought along with us a Pack Wheel game cart with a 24" wheel to try in the snow. What an amazingly easy way to get the elk off the mountain. I had Weston take the elk off the mountain and I filmed him a little to show how well the cart worked. Weston was just giggling at how easy it was to haul a whole elk off the mountain by himself. He also commented on how it was even a lot easier than using sleds.

With the single wheel and disc brake he was easily able to zig-zag back and forth across mountain and not have to use his strength to pull and hold the sleds while going around the side of the hills etc. I would have to agree that I might be hanging up my saucer sled system for using the Pack Wheel game cart unless the snow is extremely deep. You can see the video I took of Weston using the Pack Wheel on this hunt below.

Now we just need to get Weston and my oldest son Dallen back on the mountain to fill their cow elk tags.


Why such a light bullet for elk?

After reading this article some might feel that this guy is out of his mind for using such a light bullet to hunt such a large big game animal. You should know that this is not my go to bullet for elk. I like to use different bullets and see how they perform. A Berger VLD has been on my list to try for a few years now. I really like this bullet and it did very well on this cow elk.

My oldest son and I have taken five elk with 80 and 85 Gr. Triple Shock bullets with only one elk requiring a second follow-up finishing shot to put it down. That's correct, six ultra-light bullets for five elk with all elk being recovered. Between the two of us only one elk has ever gotten away. A cow that I shot with a 270 WSM using a 130 Gr. Triple Shock right at 300 yards. This cow was hit directly through both shoulders with a lights out shot that just canned her. She slid down the hill out of view and by the time I crossed the canyon she had disappeared with only a little blood where she had slid down the hill.

I am a strong believer that a 243 WSSM is very capable at taking elk given the right bullet and the right shot placement, within the right range. With a 243 WSSM for elk I recommend the 80 Gr. Tipped Triple Shock for any shot out to 350 yards. I strongly feel that this is an awesome setup to help youth hunters feel comfortable with shooting a rifle and confident in making the shot.

My personal favorite for elk or mule deer is a 270 WSM shooting a 140 Gr. Accubond bullet. My opinion will probably change in the near future as I will be testing 270 WSM loads with a 150 Gr. Accubond Long Range bullet during the summer of 2013. The 0.625 BC on this 150 Gr. bullet is amazing and it's a hunting bullet. It could be my favorite soon.

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