When pulling together gear before an elk hunt, few things are as important as your ammunition. While choosing a cartridge is hotly debated among hunters, your cartridge is simply a launching platform for the real star of the show – your bullet.
As the single point of connection between you and your quarry, your bullet does all the work once it leaves your rifle barrel. Choosing an appropriate bullet, especially for big-bodied game like elk, can make all the difference between a clean hit and a near miss, a dead animal and a wounded one.
Choosing quality ammunition with the right elk bullet for the job can be a daunting task for new hunters.
Nosler bullets have put thousands of elk on the ground every season for decades, and with Nosler’s premium factory-loaded ammunition like Nosler Trophy Grade, you don’t have to handload to take advantage of them.
Nosler offers four types of ammunition well-suited for elk, and each ammunition’s bullet has distinct advantages depending on where and how you’re hunting.
Trophy Grade™ with Nosler Partition®
Nosler Trophy Grade Ammunition is loaded with premium Nosler brass and bullets to achieve unmatched accuracy and consistency. Trophy Grade offers two bullet options, the legendary Nosler Partition and the Nosler AccuBond.
The classic Nosler Partition revolutionized bullet design in 1948. Inside its copper alloy jacket, the Partition uses two lead cores separated by a copper alloy partition. The front lead core is designed to expand and transfer massive shock and energy while the partition houses the rear lead core to maximize weight retention (up to 65-70%). The Nosler Partition delivers bone-crushing energy, a massive wound channel and deep penetration.
The Partition does feature a more traditional flat base design and therefore doesn’t boast the same high Ballistic Coefficients (BCs) as some of the more aerodynamic bullets in the Nosler lineup, but for shots inside 400 yards, it’s hard to outperform the Partition on big-bodied game. If you’re most likely to encounter elk in timbered country or if you’re shooting a rifle that lends itself to short to medium ranges, Trophy Grade Partition ammunition is an excellent choice.
Nosler also offers RMEF-licensed boxes of Trophy Grade Partition ammunition with a portion of each sale going back to RMEF. Just look for the RMEF logo on Trophy Grade Partition boxes in a variety of popular cartridges, including 6.5 Creedmoor, 270 Win, 7mm Rem Mag, 28 Nosler, 308 Win, 30-06 Springfield, 300 Win Mag and 338 Win Mag.
Trophy Grade with Nosler AccuBond®
Trophy Grade is also available loaded with the Nosler AccuBond bullets. An extremely popular and trusted bonded bullet, the Nosler AccuBond bullet was designed to mimic the on-game performance of the Partition in a sleeker, more aerodynamic design by taking advantage of modern impact-extruded jacket design and bonding technology. The AccuBond features a heavily tapered jacket, a single lead core which is permanently bonded to the jacket, and a polymer tip. This design achieves better aerodynamics while still maintaining controlled expansion on impact for deep penetration and 65-70% weight retention.
Comparing the Partition and AccuBond, most elk hunters taking shots at short to medium ranges will not notice a practical difference. That said, the AccuBond has better aerodynamics at extended ranges. Hunters should test both to see which their rifle shoots more accurately.
Trophy Grade Long Range with AccuBond Long Range
For hunters expecting to take truly long range shots beyond a quarter mile, Trophy Grade Long Range ammunition with AccuBond Long Range (ABLR) bullets is a great off-the-shelf alternative to meticulously handloading for long-range precision. AccuBond and AccuBond Long Range bullets share similar names and the same bonding technology, but they are two distinct bullet designs for different applications.
The AccuBond Long Range is engineered to optimize Ballistic Coefficient and to allow the bullet to expand over a much broader range of impact velocities than the original AccuBond. Whereas the standard AccuBond is designed to reliably expand down to velocities of 1800 fps, the ABLR will still expand at velocities down to 1300 fps. This means a hunter can still achieve the controlled expansion and deep penetration necessary to take down an elk at extended ranges where bullet velocity is greatly reduced. The ABLR’s higher BC also results in reduced bullet drop and better wind-resistance at extended ranges, however the bullet also has more modest weight retention (50-60%) than the standard AccuBond due to its softer nose.
Inside 500 yards or above velocities of 1800 fps, the difference between the AccuBond and AccuBond Long Range will be negligible, but for true long-range hunters who regularly take game beyond 500 yards where wind and terminal velocity are bigger factors, the AccuBond Long Range is the better choice.
Nosler Expansion Tip™
Expansion Tip Lead-Free Ammunition (or “E-Tip”) features Nosler’s proprietary monometal hunting bullet. The Expansion Tip bullet is lead-free and primarily constructed with a unique copper alloy, making it the only choice for hunters in areas where lead ammunition is restricted, such as California.
The Expansion Tip features a polymer tip above its exclusive E² Cavity™ (Energy Expansion Cavity ™). This gives the bullet an aerodynamic design as well as immediate and uniform expansion throughout a broad spectrum of impact velocities.
The monometal Expansion Tip also boasts the best weight retention of Nosler’s elk bullets – up to 95%+ weight retention compared to 65-70% with the Partition and AccuBond or 50-60% with the AccuBond Long Range. This is especially important for use with calibers on the smaller end of the spectrum for use on elk, such as 6.5mm. The more weight retention, the deeper the wound channel and the more effective the bullet will perform on elk with proper shot placement.
For hunters shooting a lighter cartridge or those hunting in lead-free areas, Expansion Tip Lead-Free Ammunition will check all the boxes without sacrificing lethality.
Like with Trophy Grade Partition ammunition, Nosler Expansion Tip ammunition features RMEF-licensed boxes with a portion of sales going back to support RMEF. These E-Tip options include 140gr 7mm-08, 180gr 300 Win Mag and 180gr 300 Weatherby Magnum.
A Note on Bullet Weight
In general, the heavier the bullet weight in an appropriate elk caliber, the better. For example, look for weights around 140 grains for 6.5mm bullets, 140-175 grains for 7mm bullets, and 165-200+ grains for 30 caliber bullets.
Sometimes, monometal bullets of relatively lighter weight can be chosen – this is because copper alloy is lighter than lead, so a monometal bullet of the same grain weight will be longer than its lead core counterpart. Long monometal bullets generally still have high Ballistic Coefficients, and the 95%+ weight retention means all that bullet weight and energy is being delivered through the animal.
In smaller caliber cartridges like the 6.5 Creedmoor, be wary of stepping down too far in bullet weight as the bullet’s BC and downrange authority at extended ranges will eventually suffer despite the great weight retention. Especially before hunting a big-bodied animal like elk, consider using a ballistic app to make sure your bullet will retain enough impact velocity to adequately expand at your maximum hunting range.
All three lines of Nosler ammunition loaded with four different bullets will serve you well when you hit the mountains in the fall. Consider where and how you plan to hunt, then try out a few options to see what your rifle shoots most accurately.
To learn more about Nosler Partition, AccuBond, AccuBond Long Range and Expansion Tip bullets or to see factory-loaded ammunition, check out Trophy Grade, Trophy Grade Long Range and Expansion Tip Lead-Free Ammunition. To pick up a box, head to Nosler.com or visit a Nosler retailer near you.