We live in a remarkable age, ballistically speaking anyway. Today’s bullets are more accurate and capable than ever. They are built to better tolerances and deliver effective terminal performance over a wider range of impact velocities. For hunters this means that bullets that hit animals at high speeds (typically at closer rangers) will hang together, while bullets that strike at lower velocities (either out of very mild cartridges or at extended ranges) will still expand reliably, resulting in good tissue damage and blood loss, which are prerequisites for a clean kill.
The best bullets are often found in the premium lines offered by ammo makers and, not surprisingly, cost quite a bit more than entry-level ammo.
Take the .30-06 for example. A box of 20 rounds with a basic 150-grain soft point bullet can be had for less than $20. All major ammo makers sell .30-06 for less than $23 a box with loads that feature basic lead-core non-bonded bullets.
Stepping up to premium bullets, a box of ’06 can cost $40 or more. That’s quite a jump.
Is it worth it? Sometimes, yes—but not always. I have a couple bullets I swear by for hunting, such as the Nosler Accubond, Barnes TSX, and Hornady GMX. For my style of hunting, these bullets are worth every penny.
But through my testing, I’ve found that some premium lines of ammo will deliver worse accuracy than the basic price-point ammo.
Bottom line? It makes sense to try a variety of different loads in any hunting rifle. The ammo that doesn’t perform up to snuff can be used for fouling shots after cleaning and for practice.