Where do you test Norma Tip Strike 308 Winchester ammunition on deer in February? Hawaii, of course.
Few red-blooded American hunters think of our 50th state – tropical wonderland that it is — as a deer hunting destination. The island of Lanai, however, is an axis deer cornucopia. Wildlife biologist John Burrell of the High Adventure Company assured me of this at a Safari Club International convention. “Lanai is swarming with axis deer,” he said. “I’ve never seen such a density. They’ve got to be overpopulated. We’re beginning research into health, body size, condition… You can help us cull a few.”
That led to quite an adventure, which I’ve been assigned to write up for Sporting Classics magazine later this year. Here I want to concentrate on that Norma Tip Strike ammo.
Norma is a Swedish ammo company better known in this country for quality than availability. For decades you rarely saw it on shelves. Handloaders eagerly scavenged any Norma brass they found. The scramble should be over now that Norma has established Norma USA and can import its superb centerfire cartridges in large quantities.
Norma Tip Strike is a Proprietary Bullet
As part of it’s USA push, Norma is loading several proprietary bullets on most popular US hunting cartridges. One is the Tip Strike marketed as the ultimate deer bullet. It will be familiar to most hunters: lead core, tapered gilding metal jacket, heel ring “lead lock” near the base, and polymer tip. It’s a sleek, fully modern bullet shape but with a flat base rather than boat tail. Flat bases are often credited with better accuracy potential, though I doubt that matters for hunting anything larger than mice. Regardless, the flat base isn’t going to add enough drag to compromise performance — either drop, drift or retained energy — to at least 600 yards. That’s about 200 yards farther than I generally shoot at game.
By the way, I went with the 308 Winchester option with 170-grain Tip Strike bullet only because I was also testing the new Mauser M-18 rifle. It was only available in 308 Winchester (not my favorite cartridge) on short notice.
Initial Norma Tip Strike Range Performance
To the credit of both Mauser and Norma, that rifle parked its first three-shot group (after a few sight-in shots) in one ragged hole from 100 yards. The chronograph registered 2,630 fps average velocity or 6 fps faster than Nosler claims for the load. Alas, that was about all the time I had for testing before flying off to hula hula land. Before going, I did manage to fling one shot at a 300-yard target. I missed the center a quarter inch right and just 4.5 inches down. That didn’t seem like nearly as much drop as the bullet should have had at 300 yards, but I’d have to wait until we reached Lanai to double check.
On the island’s shooting range I adjusted the Swarovski Z5 3.5-18×44 scope to put my 100-yard impact 3-inches high. At 300 yards the 170-grain Norma Tip Strike bullets were impacting between 7 and 8 inches low. Consistently. Veteran guide Alec Pascua assured us we’d be able to stalk within 300 yards of some deer, so I needn’t fool around with the BRX reticle. He was right.
The stalking was made difficult by mostly flat terrain, short cover and so many deer that we couldn’t reach one without stepping on several more. Alec then had to determine what was trophy vs. cull. My wife and I were allowed one trophy buck each and as many culls as we wanted. Axis bucks can be in velvet or hard antler at any season. Alec would study antlers and announce if any were large enough and fully grown enough to take. He must have had 20/10 vision because he never missed. The spectacular buck he chose for me sported 32-inch main beams and some additional points that were nearly rock hard under a full coat of velvet. He found Betsy a cull buck with antlers nearly as long but without back tines.
Bob the Butcher, an artist-with-meat back in Lanai City, said this buck had an old bullet wound that had probably impacted its antler growth. It didn’t impact its flavor. Everyone says axis is the ultimate venison, and the dozen meals we’ve eaten so far verify that. They serve axis venison at the island’s restaurants, including the Four Seasons Resort beside Hulopoe Bay. Essentially axis deer, an introduced, invasive species on Lanai with no natural predators except humans, are the sustainable “beef” of the island, widely and wisely used.
Tough Shots Test Norma Tip Strike Precision
The island’s brush and grass limited us to neck and head shots in most places, testing the accuracy of those Norma Tip Strikes. Elizabeth made good with a shot just under the eye of her cull buck from 125 yards. It had popped from its bed as we stalked a different buck. One windy, rainy day she and Alec stalked within about 240 yards of several does. Elizabeth dumped one with a high shoulder shot. A day after the muddy rain, she and Alec crawled inside 120 yards of a doe. Elizabeth thumped it with a clean neck shot. After a long, careful stalk at dusk, she took a hard-antlered buck from 180 yards with another neck shot. The Mauser, Swarovski, Norma Tip Strikes, and Elizabeth were smokin’. Then it was my turn…
I recited “seven-inch drop, seven-inch drop” as we stalked my buck, but when it came time to take the 307-yard shot, muscle memory overruled me and I merely held high shoulder — as I’ve done dozens of times with the flatter shooting cartridges I usually employ. The result was a low brisket hit that required a follow-up shot as the buck ran. Not the gear’s fault. I redeemed myself on a 200-yard doe in blowing rain the next day, putting the 170-grain Tip Strike spot on.
Axis bucks weigh about 150 pounds, does considerably less, so it’s no surprise the Tip Strikes shot through everything except the buck going away. That bullet took out one hip and several rib bones, so we weren’t surprised to find it in parts.
My take aways from this trip are several: Norma Tip Strike is a fine, accurate, consistent deer bullet. At least in 170-grain 308 Winchester. The Mauser M-18 is an equally accurate rifle, the Swarovski a precision scope. And my wife is a pretty good shot. Alec Pascua is a fantastic guide. Axis deer are gorgeous, tasty and thick as fleas on Lanai. And John Burrell of High Adventure Company wasn’t kidding. Lanai is covered up with axis deer.
In his previous 50 years of hunting, Spomer never encountered deer in such densities as he did on Lanai. It was indeed the perfect place to test the new Norma Tip Strike ammunition — and eat the most delicious venison on Earth.