Skip to main content

What You Need to Know About Non-Lead Ammo and Hunting

There are some serious benefits to hunting with non-lead ammo. 

To find out more about booking your hunting or fishing trip, check out Fin & Field.

If you are affected by voluntary or mandated lead ammo bans for hunting, you may actually be in for a treat, or at least some silver lining. Even hunters not affected by the bans are increasingly curious about how to make the change rather than why. is a great resource for your questions on changing to non-lead bullets.

Copper bullets became available in the mid 1980s and were sold as premium ammunition. Copper bullets were found to have better penetration and less material loss. Modern studies prove that copper bullets have higher velocity, expand well at low and high speed, penetrate extremely well, and lose virtually no mass. You can use a lighter grain weight of copper and get some great performance increases with no compromise. Premium lead ammo and non-lead ammo are very similarly priced.

Switching to non-lead ammo for hunting to protect wildlife diversity

Possibly the most exciting benefit of copper bullets is the point-of-aim options. You can aim directly at the shoulder area of big game and damage very little meat. The shoulder is a vital shot placement. If you aim behind the shoulder, you are going to hit the lung and maybe the heart, but the animal may still trail a ways. By aiming at the shoulder you are taking away critical skeletal structure and shocking the nervous system. You will drop the animal in its tracks.

Lead ammunition is still a great choice for the range. When practicing with the cheaper lead ammunition at the range you can focus on breath control and trigger control. At the end of your time change to non-lead ammo and sight in your scope. Expect a flatter trajectory because the grain weight is lower and the velocity is higher.

Lead vs Non-Lead bullet diagram

Non-lead ammunition facts:

  • Modern center fire non-lead ammo is 100 percent copper or a copper alloy (95 percent copper and 5 percent zinc).
  • Non-lead shotgun ammo is made of, (or alloys of, tungsten, steel, bismuth, and zinc. Slugs are made with tin.
  • Rimfire non-lead options are made with copper and tin. It's worth noting that non-lead .22LR does have performance issues. There is a solid opportunity for someone to make a well-performing non-lead .22 and bismuth rather than copper may be the ticket.
  • Most .22 usage is for plinking vs. hunting.
  • Using .22 lead ammo for varmint hunting and pest control is still popular. The best way to mitigate the effect of your lead use in this case is to make sure wildlife can't feed on the kills.

Wild Condor flying at the hopper mountain wildlife refuge

The condor is far from the only bird effected by lead-ammo fragments. Any bird that feeds on gut piles, so basically any scavenging bird including ravens, turkey vultures, bald eagles, and golden eagles are affected.

Read the entire article on Fin & Field

Image via


oembed rumble video here

NEXT: 6 Tips for Preserving Fresh Fish and Game

you might also like

What You Need to Know About Non-Lead Ammo and Hunting