My trusty old Ruger 77 MKII .308 Winchester – a wellworn, and well-proven rifle – had come along for this afternoon’s hunt. I was sitting with a buddy in a small patch of woods, trying to test some new ammunition; he had a tag for a buck, and I had a doe tag in my pocket, so whatever we saw first would dictate who shot.
With the exception of the camaraderie, it was an uneventful afternoon; the squirrels kept us mildly entertained, but the deer activity was lackluster, to say the least.
It was 10 minutes before legal time was up when a single deer crossed about 60 yards out in front of us. My buddy grabbed the rifle, settled the cross hairs for the only shot he had available – a straight on shot – and broke the Ruger’s trigger. The small buck folded to the shot, not even twitching.
The ammunition we were testing was Norma’s new BondStrike, the third in the Strike series, and I’m happy to report that it’s very good stuff. In the preparation for deer season, while going through the normal sighting-in process, I had the opportunity to test the new Norma stuff. Now, that rifle I mentioned – my early 90’s Ruger 77 MKII – is one I know very well.
It has a trigger that is, well, less than desirable – why I haven’t replaced it with a Timney yet, I do not know – but I know how it shoots in spite of the factory. Nonetheless, the new Norma ammunition shot very well from my rifle. You see, this gun will rarely break 1 minute-of-angle (mostly due to the 6-pound trigger), but the Norma BondStrike printed a three-shot group measuring 0.8 inches, which is more than accurate enough for almost any hunting scenario.
Velocities came very close to matching the advertised figures; the box indicated that the 180-grain bullet has a muzzle velocity of 2,625 feet per second, and my 22-inch barrel gave a muzzle velocity of 2,608 fps on my Oehler 35P chronograph.
BONDSTRIKE COMES ON THE heels of TipStrike, the cup-and-core, flat base, polymer tip bullet, and then EcoStrike, Norma’s chrome-plated, monometal polymer tipped bullet.
As the name indicates, this is Norma’s bonded core bullet, and as of this writing, it is only available in .308 Winchester, in the 180-grain weight, though I am assured many other common calibers will be available in 2019, with popular bullet weights.
Bonding a bullet’s core helps to maintain the structural integrity during the terminal phase of its flight, especially when the bullet has a boattail. The standard cup-and-core bullets have a propensity to demonstrate jacket and core separation upon impact, especially when bones are struck.
This phenomenon occurs more often with boattail bullets, so the cure was to chemically bond the copper jacket to the lead core. The process isn’t new, and certainly not new to Norma; their Oryx bullet has the rear portion of the jacket chemically bonded to the core, allowing for reliable expansion at the front of the bullet, and deep penetration because the rear of the bullet can’t come apart.
Our particular buck took the BondStrike bullet on a downhill angle, to the base of the neck, and as I reported, he dropped to the shot as if the “off switch” had been pulled. The bullet hit the spine and (uncannily) traveled down the bone for over 7 inches, with the hydraulic shock of the impact ruining that length of the delicious tenderloins. Quite obviously, any standard bullet would’ve broken into pieces under that type of strain (I probably couldn’t replicate that shot with a thousand opportunities), but the BondStrike held together rather well.
We recovered the bullet within the left back strap, smashed and flattened. Upon weighing the recovered bullet, I recorded its weight at 73.2 grains out of the original 180; however, having recovered dozens of projectiles from a large number of species globally, I can attest that this retained weight figure is not indicative of the potential of the BondStrike bullet. Traveling longitudinally down a spine – quite obviously one of the toughest bones in a deer’s body – will take its toll on any expanding projectile.
Did the BondStrike do its job? In my opinion, absolutely. That buck,
simply put, died without ever having known what hit it, and for a bullet to demonstrate straight-line penetration within the spine of a deer is a testament to its integrity.
I regret that I didn’t have the opportunity to test it on another deer – the season was marked with inclement weather and the duties of a traveling hunter – but I feel confident saying that this design would invariably exit on any broadside shot on deer.
I’ve used all three of Norma’s Strike bullets on a variety of game, and have been pleased with the performance. They have all proven to be accurate, as well as lethal, and I deem them a worthy investment. I wouldn’t hesitate to use the BondStrike load in my .308 on bears, elk, or even moose.