You may have noticed a trend over the past decade or so. No, it is not the gradual return of high-waisted jeans or a familiar form of music from the past. The trend I’m talking about is at the cutting edge of much of our shooting, and it brings more than just a bold new look.
Tipped bullets are quickly becoming the standard for many bullet makers. By "tipped," I mean they feature a uniform front end that is typically made of some kind of polymer, but it can also be another material like aluminum. The purpose of the tip is to increase the bullet’s uniformity and efficiency, which translate into more consistent and accurate shots. It can also lead to bullets with higher ballistic coefficients, which allow them to retain their energy and reduce the effects of wind.
You may ask yourself what is driving this movement towards more and more differently tipped bullets? After all, man has used non-tipped bullets for centuries. Do you really need a bullet that was digitally carved by a modern aerospace Michael Angelo to knock over a deer in the next pasture?
Technology has caught up to and even surpassed what most of us consider standard shooting gear, and the bullet-tipping madness is a direct result of this ballistic renaissance. Competitive shooting, and particularly long-range competitive shooting, has driven the demand for perfection into overdrive. People regularly shoot distances that were unheard of as little as a decade ago. I shot a distance of 2100 yards yesterday, just because it was Tuesday. The market has allowed for some very impressive enhancements in our projectiles. Among them, as you might have guessed, is our bullet-tipping subject.
Why Tipped Bullets?
The shape, weight, and profile of a bullet have everything to do with how it flies. The tip of the bullet has an especially critical impact on a bullet’s flight and its behavior upon impact. The very first projectiles were quite rudimentary, but our forefathers kept improving on the design. Each revision became better than the one before it. If you could separate the tipped generation of bullets, the generation just before them would probably be the cup and lead-core soft-tip generation. It was a great development that is still popular today, but it is quickly being overtaken by its plastic-tipped offspring.
Many shooting enthusiasts probably don’t need a bullet with a perfect profile, but the bullet manufacturers are happy to market them to you and praise their superior performance. You could argue either way depending on the application. If all you need is to whack a deer one or two hundred yards away, then using bullets designed 50 years ago is not going to make or break your hunt. But if you are trying to hit a target that is 1,200 yards away in a stiff wind, you would be much better served using one of today’s high-performance tipped bullets.
The plastic (or other) tipped bullets have a much more uniform and consistent shape, unlike lead-tipped or hollow-point bullets, which can get dinged or damaged before you even purchase them. Because of their lightweight front end, tipped bullets also change the balance of the bullet in flight. With a more balanced center of gravity, the trajectory can be improved.
For match or competition applications, these aspects of tipped bullets make them superior for accuracy and long-range shooting.
For hunting purposes, not only do you get the inherent ballistic advantages, but also good terminal performance. Tipped hunting bullets are designed to have the tip driven into the core of the bullet to ensure proper mushrooming of the bullet. These properties help improve all types of ammunition when tipped bullets are used.
In my experience, tipped bullets have better results than their soft lead-tipped predecessors. They have worked well for me in every facet of shooting, whether it was paper, steel, or meat. That said, I do not shoot them exclusively. I will not be leaving my boat-tail hollow-point bullets just yet. They also have their place in my repository. Tipped bullets can do a lot of great things. But for shots that are way out there, I trust a good hollow point with its easily ruptured tip to open up when a tipped bullet may not.
Tipped bullets are everywhere. They have filled a spot on every retailer’s shelf and in every category. There is certainly nothing wrong with this, as the performance they bring is typically superior to the alternative. Whether you have a nice buck picked out or you are trying to break a distance record, there is probably a perfect tipped bullet for you. Do not be afraid to give them a try. You may never look back.