Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you will have noticed the number of Hornady bullets that have been released over the last decade or so. The ELD-X, the ELD Match, the pair of the DGS (Dangerous Game Solid) and DGX (Dangerous Game eXpanding), and the all-new A-Tip match bullet are just a few.
Regarding cartridge development and revitalization, Hornady has been been instrumental in the development of both the 6.5 and 6mm Creedmoor,
and both the 6.5 PRC and .300 PRC. On the other end of the spectrum,
the company has been responsible for providing quality American
ammunition for the .450/.400 3-inch NE, the 9.3x74mmR, the .404 Jeffery
and the .450 NE.
But not all of the Hornady bullet designs were a hit. Their time-tested
InterLock cup-and-core bullet has proved itself as a sound design,
especially if of proper sectional density. In an effort to improve the
InterLock, Hornady released the DGX bullet, meant to pair with the
DGS nonexpanding bullet, but things didn’t exactly work out as planned.
Reports came back from the African game fields of premature expansion
and premature bullet breakup, of shallow wound channels and a lack of
penetration. My own experimentation showed that the Hornady DGX loads were certainly accurate, but I have enough trusted friends in the safari industry who came away with a negative experience that I didn’t have the fortitude to test them on dangerous game myself.
This posed a bit of a dilemma for me, as one of my favorite rifles ever – my Heym Model 89B double rifle, chambered in .470 NE – was regulated with Hornady ammunition, specifically with the 500-grain DGX load. There I was with a double rifle that shot its regulatory load extremely well, yet I had that niggling thought in the back of my mind that the bullets were not exactly up to the task of taking thick-skinned dangerous game. What to do? Well, luckily, I can handload my own ammunition, and so I reverse-engineered the Hornady load to allow me to use those premium bullets that I had good faith in. But at the same time, I heard that Hornady had not only heard the complaints from its customers, but had reacted and responded with a solid answer: the DGX Bonded bullet.
PERHAPS BONDED CORE bullets deserve a bit of explanation, as the technique has certainly caught on, and bonding has proven to be a sound method of producing a reliable blend of both expansion and penetration.
When a cup-and-core bullet impacts hide, flesh and bone, the exposed lead core at the nose expands and – if everything goes just right – results in that perfect mushroom configuration, destroying vital tissue along the way. Should the copper jacket be too thin, or should the impact velocity be too high, the bullet can disintegrate; that is, the jacket and core will separate and penetration will be poor.
This phenomenon is exactly why John Nosler set out to build a better mousetrap, and why different manufacturers have tried all sorts of methods to slow down that rapid expansion. Hornady used a cannelure to lock the jacket to the core – hence the InterLock name – and while it certainly made a difference, it wasn’t the end of the road.
The original DGX design was just a bit too frangible for dangerous game work; the shoulder bones of a Cape buffalo are very tough, and bring in a healthy adrenaline level, ship-lapped ribs and thick hide and you’ve got a candidate for a premium bullet, if ever there was one. Yet you’ll want a bullet that will open reliably on thin-skinned game, as well; lions, bears, leopards and eland are dangerous and/or big-bodied and require a bullet that will reliably expand. The Hornady DGX Bonded fits that bill perfectly, as its lead core is chemically bonded to the copper/steel jacket.
The jacket of the DGX Bonded is .098-inch-thick copper-clad steel,
designed to be tough enough to penetrate from any angle. The meplat
is flat, which is not a good choice for long-range work, but inside of 200 yards it poses no problem. I personally love the way a flat-point or round-nose bullet affects game animals, as I can see the animal shudder upon impact.
To guarantee expansion at the front of the bullet, the nose of the jacket is serrated just enough to get things started. The core is bonded to hold the whole package together, and as the bullet bulletin profile of the DGX Bonded is identical to the DGS, you have a classic pair of
projectiles. I have found that the DGX Bonded and DGS print to the same
point of impact, so if you need solid (nonexpanding) bullets as backup for buffalo, or for elephant or hippo, you won’t see a huge point of impact shift.
Field reports are indicating that recovered bullets are expanding to twice the size of the caliber, and weight retention is running in the low 90 percent range, with the penetration bullet bulletin that professional hunters appreciate.
Hornady offers the DGX Bonded in many dangerous game calibers, at common weights. Included in the component bullet line is the .300-grain .375-inch, the 400-grain .410-inch for the .450/.400 3-inch NE, the 400-grain .416-inch, the 400-grain .423-inch for the .404 Jeffery (my Heym Express loves this bullet over a suitable charge of Reloder 15), the 480- and 500-grain .458-inch diameter for the .450 NE and the various .458s, the 500-grain .474-inch for the .470 NE (which my Heym 89B double rifle loves), the 525-grain .505-inch bullet for the .505 Gibbs and the 570-grain .510-inch bullet for the .500 Jeffery and the .500 NE. All are available in 50-count boxes.
Loaded ammunition is available in 9.3x74R, .375 H&H, .375 Ruger, .450/400 NE 3-inch, .404 Jeffery, .416 Remington Magnum, .416 Ruger, .416 Rigby, .500/.416 NE, .450 Rigby, .450 NE, .458 Winchester Magnum, .458 Lott, .470 NE and .500 NE.
Dangerous game hunting is a niche market to begin with – though it is one I am certainly passionate about – and there are enough good choices available that a hunter could spend a decade or more testing the various makes and models and still not hit them all. I use many different brands and types, but here’s what I like about the Hornady line: It is consistent, it is effective, it is available and it is per box of 20 for the .375s up to $160 per box of 20 for the big Nitro Express cartridges; believe it or not, this is on the affordable end of the spectrum.
Give the Hornady DGX Bonded a whirl; I truly believe you’ll be a happy
customer. The design is both sound and stout, and represents a great value for any hunter.
STORY AND PHOTOS BY PHIL MASSARO