Two Leaky Holes

I like to recover bullets from game as much as the next guy—maybe more, in fact, given the hours I’ve spent up to my elbows in animals searching for twisted bits of copper and lead.

But I’m never disappointed when an animal I’ve shot gets two leaky holes when the bullet passes through. To my way of thinking, two blood trails are always better than one and, assuming the game was shot through the chest with an expanding bullet of some sort, you will have inflicted a tremendous amount of tissue damage across the entire width of the animal’s body while perhaps further immobilizing it with a broken shoulder or two. No animal hit this way is going to go very far.

From time to time I hear guys mention that a pass-through in an indication of “wasted” energy from the bullet—that somehow the shot is inferior because of the unspecified number of foot-pounds of remaining energy aren’t transferred into the animal.

This is wrong-headed thinking. Simply put, energy doesn’t kill animals. Tissue damage is what kills animals. We’ve used energy and other mathematical calculations as proxies to understanding the killing potential of a given cartridge (and have argued endlessly over the validity of energy versus momentum versus whatever in the process) but the fact is neither energy nor momentum is what does an animal in. If your bullet inflicts sufficient tissue damage on the animal it is going to die and that tissue damage cannot be determined simply by looking at the energy of the bullet on a ballistics table.

—John Snow