April 20, 2022
By J. Scott Rupp
Norma enjoys a terrific reputation with hunters around the world. With a history dating back 120 years, this Swedish company has been at the forefront of ammunition and bullet technology for a long time. For example, Roy Weatherby began an association with Norma early on in his hunting rifle career, and Norma has been reloading Weatherby’s branded ammo line from the beginning
Norma has had a lot of success with its famous Oryx bullet, a bonded pointed softpoint that provides a big mushroom and 100 percent weight retention. It’s the sort of bullet you’d expect from people who are really serious about their moose hunting—and the Swedes are very serious about their moose hunting.
In more recent times, the company has branched out into a variety of tipped bullets as well as designs engineered for African game. But for all this, the average American hunter probably has little experience with Norma ammunition. For one, it’s expensive. Two, the company didn’t offer a “deer bullet.”
That’s changed with the recent introduction of Norma Whitetail. It’s a traditional cup-and-core pointed softpoint with exposed lead tip. Its thin jacket promises great expansion at high and low velocities.
It has a flat base, which tends to be more forgiving in barrels thanks to its ability to center up in a bore more easily than a boattail. And as a representative from one major ammunition maker told me years ago, “A boattail doesn’t do squat for you until you’re out past 300 yards.”
Today we have a lot of high-tech bullets designed either for use at long distances or to provide a ton of penetration on tough game. Whitetail hunters don’t typically need any of that. Sure, some of our southern friends take longish pokes over beanfields, and farmland deer are sometimes shot across pastures or cut crop fields, but a lot—a lot—of whitetail shots come in the timber and under the 100-yard mark.
Whitetails haven’t gotten any tougher, either. They aren’t called “thin-skinned big game” for nothing. It doesn’t take—nor do you usually want—a tough bonded bullet. You want expansion and energy transfer. Norma’s Whitetail aims to give you just that, and at an affordable price.
Norma ammunition has never been cheap—in fact a lot of its ammo ranks among the highest in terms of cost. But this new line is a lot easier on your pocketbook.
This may be a bad time to check ammunition prices, but you work with what you got. Premium .30-06 ammo is selling for between $2 and $3 per round, sometimes even more or a lot more. Softpoint deer ammo in .30-06 goes for about $1.50 a round, and Norma Whitetail is right there with competitors like Hornady Whitetail, Remington Core-Lokt, Federal Power-Shok and similar offerings.
Does that mean Norma Whitetail is some sort of cast-off product, loaded to half-ass tolerances? Not at all. Here are some numbers to chew on.
You can see accuracy from my two .30-06 rifles in the accompanying chart. The Remington has a 24-inch barrel, the Ruger a 22. Who here will complain about one-inch groups from an exposed-lead-tip bullet? If I miss a typical woods shot with this kind of accuracy…well, that’s all me.
I took measurements on 10 rounds of Norma Whitetail with my Hornady runout gauge. Bullet runout—an indication of how straight the bullet is seated in the case neck—averaged 0.0016 inch. When you consider that “good” runout is considered to be in the 0.002 to 0.003 range, this average is exceptional. In fact, only four of the 10 bullets even hit the 0.002 mark.
I also pulled 10 bullets, and they averaged 150.06 grains. The standard deviation—a measure of uniformity—was an insignificant 0.1 grain.
After range testing I weighed 10 fired cases on a digital scale, and the SD was 0.55. Just for fun I weighed 10 primed, unfired cases as well, and the SD was the same.
While it’s a limited test for sure, I also shot a round into synthetic gel blocks that I covered with an elk hide. Distance was 10 yards. The bullet penetrated 22.5 inches. Recovered weight was 117.5 grains, and expanded frontal diameter was around 0.60 inch—about double the unfired diameter.
I don’t know about you, but that’s the sort of performance I want in a deer bullet. Yes, it lost some weight, but that’s to be expected from a thin-jacketed bullet—especially at such close range where the bullet is traveling at its maximum velocity. With this kind of expansion, you’re getting maximum shock and tissue damage. And while I grant you that artificial testing like this doesn’t tell the whole story, if I get anything close to that kind of penetration, the bullet is going to pass through from most normal shot angles—increasing a blood trail, if you end up needing one.
How can Norma sell a product this consistent for such a good price? During a presentation by the company earlier this year, a representative explained that Whitetail is run on the same machinery as its other products. Norma simply skips some cosmetic steps like extra washing and polishing to keep the cost down. (I did polish a few rounds for the photograph here because I couldn’t help myself.)
Norma Whitetail is available in .243 Win. (100 grains), 6.5 Creedmoor (140), .270 Win. (130), 7mm-08 Rem. (150), 7mm Rem. Mag. (150), .308 (150), .30-06 (150) and .300 Win. Mag. (150). If you go to norma-ammunition.com and scroll down to the bottom, click on Dealer Locator to find a gunshop near you that carries it. Or, of course, visit your favorite internet ammo source.