Hornady SST Muzzleloader Bullets Review: Excellent Shooting Bullet BUT Not For Hunting?
If you've been shooting or hunting for long, you've inevitably heard of the legendary Hornady bullets.
I must admit that Hornady is one of my favorite ammo companies, so my expectations were high before writing this Hornady SST muzzleloader bullets review.
However, after hours of researching and several years of muzzleloader hunting, I came away a little disappointed by my findings.
Were my expectations set too high, or did Hornady drop the ball?
Grab your favorite beverage and keep reading to determine for yourself!
Hornady is one of the most respected names in the ammunition industry. So, when they decided to bring their Flex Tip bullets to the muzzleloader space with their Hornady SST-ML, many hunters were ecstatic, myself included.
Hornady Flex Tip bullets have proven to have excellent terminal performance thanks to the polymer tip (inserted into what is essentially an XTP bullet) that increases accuracy, trajectory, and expansion.
I've shot flex tip rounds in my dad's 30-30 (LeveRevolution) and my .270 rifle, which I use for whitetail and elk hunting. You can find Hornady SST bullets in many other calibers, including handgun calibers, which have proven to be an excellent choice for big game hunters.
The Hornady SST-ML was designed to increase the accuracy and trajectory of your black powder rifle, meaning long-range muzzleloader hunting was much more of a possibility than ever before.
These bullets fully engage the rifling to keep the SST-ML bullet centered and sealed while firing, giving you maximum velocity and unparalleled long-range performance with each shot.
Hornady SST muzzleloader bullets come in a few options, which we will discuss further in a section below. The two primary options are the Hornady SST Low Drag Sabot and the Hornady SST-ML Speed Sabot. A .45 or .50 caliber bullet are your only options in 200, 250, and 300-grain bullets.
I typically shoot T / C Shockwave bullets, which are the sister bullet to the Hornady SST muzzleloader, meaning they're basically the same spire point bullet but sold by different companies. Hornady produces the Shockwave for Thompson / Center, which markets it under its name and changes the color of the polymer tip to yellow.
While most muzzleloader hunters prefer to shoot mule deer, whitetail, and elk within 100 yards, SST bullets can accurately make a 200-yard shot. Muzzleloaders have come a long way from shooting inaccurate lead round balls with unreliable primers to inline rifles with incredibly accurate sabot slugs with primers that consistently ignite the black powder.
I've deer hunted with T / C Shockwave bullets (The same bullets as Hornady SST, just a different brand selling them) for several years and harvested multiple deer with them.
I have no complaints about these bullets while hunting with them, but after scouring the muzzleloader hunting forums for several hours, it appears many hunters had issues with Hornady SST in years past. I did not find many complaints from the last couple of years.
The complaints all centered around the terminal performance of these bullets, specifically the lack of bullet expansion. Many hunters said they regularly had pass-throughs with an exit wound the same size as the entry wound, which made tracking more difficult because the blood trails were inconsistent.
The reason behind the poor expansion is thought to be because of the lower velocity of the projectile. Flex Tip bullets perform incredibly well in modern rifle calibers because of the higher velocities. In contrast, black powder rifles can't achieve these velocities, which makes it less likely the bullet will expand on impact.
However, nearly every muzzleloader shooter mentioned these bullets' accuracy and consistency. Once sighted in, these bullets hit where you aim and can increase your range to 200+ yards.
Hornady SST-ML is excellent for tight groupings during target practice and an ethical shot in the field. As long as you make a good shot, the bullet will do the intended job.
It's been known to drop deer dead in their tracks or have deer run 75-100 yards; and to be honest, this variance isn't uncommon for muzzleloaders. This is especially true if the shooters weren't completely honest with how good of a shot they made.
These bullets will benefit shooters who need the most accurate muzzleloader bullet on the market. They're capable of tight, precise groupings at the range.
Speaking of range, they're sure to increase the overall range of your muzzleloader, thanks to the increased accuracy and flattened trajectory, using the same amount of black powder.
The main disadvantage is the poor bullet expansion at lower velocities, which often leads to pass-throughs and difficulty tracking the animal because there's little to no blood trail to follow.
I enjoy hunting so much because it provides food for my family; while these bullets can get the job done, others might be more capable of ensuring you bring home your game after pulling the trigger.
Below, I've conveniently rounded up the benefits and drawbacks of Hornady SST-ML so you can determine if these projectiles are worth your hard-earned money or if you should keep looking.
- More extended range than the average muzzleloader bullet
- Very accurate and consistent
- Made by a legendary ammo manufacturer
- Middle-of-the-road pricing
- Lack of blood trail due to bullet pass-through and poor bullet expansion
When hunters have a longer effective range, the benefits are apparent. The prey is much less likely to spot or pick up your scent and take off. When most muzzleloaders are happy to reach 100-150 yards, Hornady SST-ML allows average shooters to be consistently accurate at 200 yards.
I mentioned that I'm a massive fan of Hornady ammo because they've built a reputation for developing and producing high-quality ammo for hunting, shooting sports, and plinking. Hornady has been around for a long time and doesn't appear to be going anywhere anytime soon.
I was surprised to see these bullets were at an average price point. There were cheaper bullets and more expensive bullets.
However, the downside is a doozy.
Poor bullet expansion upon impact makes finding your game much harder, especially when hunting in thick woods where you can't see the animal fall.
Despite this con, I still recommend giving these bullets a fair try, especially since the complaints I found were from many years ago and have likely been addressed by recent improvements.
In case you're into everything numbers, below you'll find the Hornady SST muzzleloader bullet specs to compare to other brands and styles.
As I mentioned, there are several types of Hornady SST-ML bullets, whether differing calibers, weights, or sabots.
The first variation is the 45 CAL 200gr bullet with the Low Drab Sabot. Designed for medium game, such as whitetail, this bullet can reach 200 yards with 7 inches of bullet drop.
The 50 CAL 250gr bullet with the Speed Sabot is also intended for medium game. This unique design makes for easy loading and reloading with Pyrodex pellets. It has a protruding "tail" that keeps the black powder in line and prevents you from fumbling with the Pyrodex pellets when you're in a hurry to get another shot off.
It can reach out to 200 yards with 2.7 inches of bullet drop, but it drastically declines after 200 yards.
The 50 CAL 250gr bullet is the same as the one mentioned above; however, the Low Drag Sabot does not have the "tail" that the Speed Sabot has, so the ballistics and trajectory are a touch better, but I don't think the average shooter will notice a difference.
It will also reach out to 200 yards with 2.7 inches of bullet drop and has 11 inches of bullet drop at 250 yards.
The 50 CAL 300gr bullet uses the Low Drab Sabot, just like the 250gr 50 CAL bullet. It will hit a target at 200 yards with 2.9 inches of bullet drop and 11.1 inches at 250 yards.
This data was taken from Hornady.com and gathered using a stock T / C Omega inline muzzleloader with 150gr powder charges. Your results may vary.
If you're not entirely convinced that the Hornady SST muzzleloader bullets will suit your hunting needs, other manufacturers have several similar bullet options.
- Thompson / Center ShockWave
- PowerBelt ELR
- Barnes TMZ/TEZ
- Traditions Smackdown XR
- Remington Premier AccuTip
These are just a few of your many other options for muzzleloader bullets. I recommend testing a few different designs and brands to find your favorites.
Now that you've finished this Hornady SST muzzleloader bullets review, you understand my slight disappointment regarding these bullets, especially after so many excellent experiences with various types of Hornady ammo.
However, I still see the benefit of these bullets: increased accuracy and range and a flatter trajectory, whether you're shooting a Knight Revolution 50 CAL, CVA Optima, or a T / C Impact.
I've taken the liberty of rounding up and answering a couple of commonly asked questions regarding Hornady SST muzzleloader bullets.
Yes, Hornady SST muzzleloader bullets are worth buying to increase your effective range. They are very accurate bullets, but they've had problems with poor expansion in the past, which sometimes makes them less than ideal for hunting.
The range of a Hornady SST muzzleloader bullet is about 200 yards, depending on the shooter.
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