Tissue damage and multiple hits

Jack O'Conner

New member
Jan 11, 2003
Black Hawk, SD
Here are some thoughts to consider:

SCENERIO I: An elk hunter fires at a large bull. He is armed with a 300 magnum and gets off one good chest shot. By the time he has recovered from recoil and cycled his bolt action his bull is out of sight.
SCENERIO II: An elk hunter is armed with a pump action rifle in .308 and gets off two good chest shots.

Both bulls are dead. Which animal has more tissue damage? One shot from the 7mm mag or two shots from the .308? Does it matter?

According to laws of physics the animal hit twice with the .308 "absorbed" more energy and experianced greater tissue damage. But physics can be manipulated to draw false conclusions. For example, an elk shot 5 times with a semi-auto .223 has even more mathmatical damage than the single 7mm magnum bullet. Yet most elk hunters would agree that a small bore cartridge is a poor choice for hunting large bulls irregardless of multiple hits.

Please share your friendly input on this subject of multiple hits and tissue damage.
I think the whole idea of animals being effected by "absorbing" energy is a big steaming pile. Who cares how hard a rifle hits, unless you plant one in the spine or brain, for the most part the animal will run at least a ways before expiring.

Tissue damage is a function of how the bullet performs, not the amount of energy expended.
Jack, That may be true in terms of pure kinetic energy, but I don't believe that tissue damage can be directly related in those terms... Things like penetration, hydrostatic shock, concussive cellular disruption all contribute to the effect that we group as "terminal ballistic effect". Although there are several contributing factors, the common denominators will increase geometrically as the size of the projectile increases, if the velocity remains reasonably constant. While the example you provided shows two rounds from a similar caliber, the only difference seemingly would be velocity. I would have to say that both shots being comprable in terms impact location, the 308 would hold the edge, but minimally. If the 300 mag were a WBY with 200 grain bullets at a range of 300 yards, while the 308 was shooting 150 grain bullets at the same range, I would give the edge to the Magnum. If the range were reduced to 25 yards, I would have to give the advantage to the 308. I don't rememeber what the terminology is, but there is point where a shot is fatal regardless of differences in size of velocity of a bullet. It has to do with weight and density of the target. Beyond that point, things like bullet weight, velocity, weight and density of the target, all combine to present a minimum effective terminal impact effect.

I guess the short answer to your question is "It depends"!

I have taken and helped take many, many moose, shot with everything from a 303 british, up to a 338 mag. Seen multiple hits many times. The bottom line is if you hit a broadside animal in the ribs once, or ten times, there should be no meat lost. You hit shoulder and your gonna get some bloodshot. I have seen shots from a 338 in the shoulder do minimal damage as far as blood shot, and I have seen an off shoulder completely trashed by my 270. I think there are a bunch of factors that go into it if you make a poor shot...angle of impact, bullet construction etc.
As always... just my opinion
dont think it matters, too a point only though. as long as you have a "minimum" caliber or larger they will both do the job.
how much longer does it really take to cycle a big bore over a smaller caliber?
I tried using a 300mag for 2 years on deer and gave it up. it blew up the tissue bad if you hit a bone of any kind, and the deer really didnt die any faster than my .270 (all i use now). I just use whats the best shooter in my safe, and would use it for most all big game. Just my observation.

I think there are too man variables to consider them all simultaneously. I'm not going to try to debate the physics since I don't know the formulas, but here are some anecdotes from my personal experience.

1978 though 1994 killed an elk every year with one shot and all dropped within a few yards of the hit. I was using 150 grain BTSP in 30-06.

1995 I hit a cow elk in the lung 4 times while she stood there looking at me from 30 yards away. I was using 150 grain BTSP and I think I was too close and the bullets were going too fast and didn't expand properly. She finally dropped after the 4th shot. I think the first shot killed her, it just took her a while to realize that she was dead. Afer that I switchefd to 180 grain Nosler Partitions.

1996 I hit a cow elk in the neck from 80 yards and she dropped immediately.

1997 another one shot kill.

1998 I hit a bull elk in the shoulder while he was quartering towards me from 250 yards away and he dropped like a rock.

1999 I hit a bull elk in the lungs with 180 grain Nosler Partition from about 180 yards and he just stood there like nothing happened. I thought maybe I missed. He turned around and gave me another broadside standing shot from the other side. I shot again. Same thing. He casually walked into the trees. I followed and found him dead about 20 yards into the trees. On each side of his chest cavity there was a neat little entry wound and a big messy exit wound.

2000 hit a bull elk in the chest at 180 yards and he dropped immediately.

2001 got skunked for elk.

2002 two more one shot kills.

The only thing you know about shooting elk is this......and I quote.....

....."The only shots to take are neck shots and spine shots, no matter the distance"......and........ "keep shootin' til yer got yer foot on 'em!"
Boy, DS, that is waking the dead!!! Now you need to go see one of those VooDoo ladies in New Orleans so you don't get cursed by a ghost!!!
I think two holes with the 308 would do more damage than one hole made with the 300, unless both bullets went in the same hole.

KC, It is impossible for a bullet to not expand by going too fast. Velocity is what causes a bullet to expand...a lack of velocity is what would cause a bullet to not expand. If that elk had been standing at 300 yards instead of 30, your 150 grain bullets would have expanded even less. Just thought I would point that out.
Washington Hunter:

The first 3 shots hit her in the right side of her lungs and she just stood there looking at me. She was so close that I could see the hair puff and the muscles twitch when they hit. She turned towards me and the 4th shot hit her in the brisket and she fell.

What you say makes sense. I was guessing that the bullets were going so fast that there wasn't time to expand before they exited the other side. I don't know if that's valid but I can't think of any other explanation. The soft point jacketed bullets should have expanded but the exit holes on her left side were all small. The 4th bullet traveled longitudinally and I never found it or its' exit hole.

A righteous hit in the boiler room by almost any thing will result in the death of the animal, as long as the placement is good and you are shooting some thing that will penetrate the bone and into the lungs, the lungs fill with fluid and it drowns.

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