An essential sound effect in old Westerns was the ricochet. Once you heard that whining cry, you knew someone had missed.
But we hunters are not actors and we don’t want to miss because ricochets are potentially dangerous. This video from Blaser, showing tracer bullets bouncing off a forest trail in slow motion, really dramatizes the devastating potential of a bouncing bullet.
How can hunters minimize ricochet risks?
First, always be aware of backgrounds. As always, never shoot toward roads, buildings, livestock or people. A deformed, ricocheting bullet can’t fly as far as an undamaged one, but, as those zipping tracer slugs clearly show, they aren’t exactly crawling along!
Second, choose a bullet appropriate for the game and habitat. Small, thin-skinned animals don’t require solid dangerous game bullets. Predators and damaging rodents can be dispatched with tiny .17- to .22-cal. bullets designed to break into tiny fragments. Whitetails taken behind the shoulder, broadside, can be handled with traditional, soft lead-core jacketed bullets. Elk-sized game and larger might need a heavier, tougher bonded-core, partitioned or monolithic bullet for deep penetration.
In dense woodlands, ricochets will be absorbed by limbs and trunks rather quickly, but bullets can skip long distances in open fields. Heavy, thick bullets at low velocities (12 gauge slugs) have been proven in some studies to ricochet farther than many high-velocity rifle bullets.
Choose your ammo carefully, but most importantly, watch backgrounds and shoot carefully. Ricochettes are much less of a concern when you hit what you’re shooting at.
Click here to read one of my previous posts about the dangers of bullet fragmentation.