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The hunter was a novice. Just 16 and feeling his oats. He had a spring in his step because this was his first deer hunt. And his first hike away from the pheasant cornfields of home. He was in the big woods, the snowy pinelands of the famous Black Hills of Dakota country where 90 years earlier Custer had shot a grizzly. There were no grizzlies now, but whitetails. And he had the rifle to handle them.
It was a brand new Winchester Model 94® chambered for the famous .30-30 Winchester, the cartridge that had reportedly put more venison on Americans' tables than any other in history. He sighted-in while laying over a hay bale and was shocked at the violence when he squeezed the trigger. Veteran big game hunters would have laughed at him, so he didn't let on that he felt a little afraid of the gun, even though it didn't kick as much as his 12-gauge pheasant gun. The noise of it going off probably scared him more than the recoil.
But the rifle fit him, came up as naturally as a baseball bat to his shoulder. He'd been shooting running jackrabbits for three seasons with a .22 rimfire. He was ready to graduate to big game and more than eager.
He didn't have to wait long. Midmorning of the first day, walking at the end of a long line of drivers, the boy heard shooting crescendo down the line. And then a whitetail leaped over the snowy hill to his left, racing for all it was worth. It dwarfed his jackrabbits back home, but he knew this game. Almost by instinct the rifle came up, the front bead settled in the rear notch and swung ahead of the streaking deer. The boy forgot all about loud shots and recoil, pulled the trigger smoothly and the deer slid in the snow as if unplugged, stone dead.
He stared, somewhat in shock at how quickly it had all happened, how large an animal he'd just shot. This was no jackrabbit. And then he looked at the rifle in his hand. It was no .22. The boy had become a deer hunter with the awesome responsibility of new-found power.
You don't have to ask a hunter the point of power. He knows darn well he needs it to reach his game and deliver a killing blow. If power weren't critical to success, he wouldn't fool with an expensive rifle—he'd just throw a rock.
Come to think of it, we did once throw rocks. First with our hands, then with slings. Spears became technologically superior versions of tossed rocks, adding a cutting edge to the process. Then came the power stored in a bent bow of wood. And then, whoo hoo, blackpowder! Spectacular power was released from the chemical reaction when sulphur, salt peter and charcoal oxidized. Around 1890 the evolution to smokeless nitrocellulose powder put the finishing touch on power, and modern riflery was born.
Missing from this power history is one critical component. The modern bullet. Rocks, spears and arrow tips just didn't mix well with gunpowder, so we set about to refine the rock. Granite, quartz, flint and schists would no longer suffice. Lead became the projectile of choice, and worked well until smokeless powder pushed velocities above 2,000 fps. This was too fast for accuracy, too much power for soft lead to handle. The steel barrels stripped too much of the hot, soft lead. It was time for a new bullet.
The bullet is the heart of a rifle's effectiveness. It does all the work. It is the only piece of a hunter's gear to actually touch the intended target. It must fly accurately to the target, deliver a wallop when it arrives and penetrate deeply to damage vital tissues. To accomplish that, it must manage the power, the tremendous kinetic energy given it by the expanding gases of the ignited gunpowder. With the wrong bullet, power can corrupt and too much power can corrupt absolutely.
A 500-grain bullet from a .458 Winchester Magnum at 2,010 fps muzzle velocity is carrying 4,485 foot-pounds of energy, more than enough to instantly terminate the world's largest land mammal. But even a little 100-grain Power-Point bullet from a .243 Winchester at 2,960 fps hauls 1,945 foot-pounds of oomph. Technically, that's enough potential energy to lift 1,945 pounds of mass a foot off the ground. Concentrating that much power in a bullet that's only 1⁄4-inch wide and weighs just 100 grains demands a lot of it.
While carrying this massive energy at those amazing speeds (that 100-grain .243 bullet, by the way, will cross 1,000 yards, just over a half mile, in 1.77 seconds) a bullet may be spinning on its axis more than 300,000 revolutions per minute. That's enough to spin some bullets apart, like spinning cake mix off a spatula. So bullet material or construction must be tough enough to withstand the friction of the barrel and the centrifugal forces of spin. But, when it arrives on target the real work begins.
A hunting projectile has to penetrate hair, resilient hide, tough muscles, bones and then waterlogged vital organs such as lungs and heart. Ideally it should remain in one-piece and expand 1.5 to 2.5 times its original diameter. This expansion increases surface area, which means the bullet damages more vital tissue, and that's what ensures a clean harvest. If it strikes with enough energy near the central nervous system, it can kill instantly.
Achieving all of this over the wide range of today's bullet sizes and launch velocities, not to mention low residual velocities extremely far downrange, is a monumental task, and Winchester's Power-Point bullets have been managing that task for more than a half century. They were the .30-30 bullet the boy at the start of this article used to slay his first whitetail. They helped him take many more over the years, and he still uses them in .30-06 Springfield, .270 Winchester, 7mm Rem. Mag. and .243 Winchester. Because they work.
The Power-Point bullet arose when Winchester engineers were tasked with creating a new projectile for a variety of hunting cartridges fired at the wide diversity of North America's game animals, the bulk of them being whitetails. According to Winchester Centerfire Product Manager Mike Stock, the Power-Point bullet's main task was to provide more rapid energy transfer than did the famous Silvertip of the era.
"Our engineers did this by putting an exposed, alloyed lead tip on the bullet and then adding six notches in the jacket around that nose," Stock explained.
"I like to refer to the Power-Point bullet as 'two bullets in one,'" he continued. "The front half gives that rapid energy deposit, it's lead tip expanding—bam—immediately upon contacting game. The notches weaken the jacket to allow this expansion to continue its rapid growth while controlling the symmetry needed for straight-line penetration.
"The rear of the bullet, the shank, is built for penetration. Here the jacket tapers rapidly to a much thicker wall from about the knurl location back through the heel. This thicker brass jacket arrests the expansion and makes sure the bullet will retain a lot of weight for the necessary penetration to take down game both big and small."
Evidence for this has been piling up for half a century as deer, elk and bear hunters use Power-Point bullets in some 44 different loads from .22-250 Rem. through .338 Win. Mag. Those represent a wide range of bullet velocities and power levels as well as animal sizes and toughness, raising questions about the Power- Point's ability to handle such extremes. How can one bullet be suitable for coyotes and moose, .30-30's and .300 magnums?
"We do it by tailoring Power-Point construction for each load," Stock explained. "A 180-grain Power-Point bullet for a .300 Winchester Magnum is drastically different than the .30 caliber 170-grain bullet we put in .30-30 Win. It's tougher, tailored for the higher velocities and impact energies of the magnum. In slower cartridges, we work our engineering magic to enable the Power-Point bullets to expand ideally at those lower impact energies."
The result is balanced performance that yields consistent results at a bargain price. In today's world of expensive super bullets with more parts than some rifles, the Power-Point may look deceptively simple, perhaps even old fashioned. Alloyed lead core, notched and tapered brass jacket. Not very complicated. But very effective. Power-Point bullets are one of the most-used, most-loved, most-effective and least expensive big game bullets going. Millions are used each season to fulfill the dreams of boys and men, girls and women, parents and grandparents who enjoy the ancient and honorable traditions of putting up the winter meat supply the old fashioned way. The hunter/gatherer way. The Power-Point bullet has been there for them since 1960. Long may it reign.
Winchester is one of the world's most widely recognized and respected ammo brand names. To this day, Winchester continues a legacy of advanced technology and precision ammunition for all shooting scenarios.
Along with Winchester's reputation as a revolutionary ammunition company, Winchester also has a rich history of firearms and gear for the field.