Get the Lead Out

Get the Lead Out

Do you live or hunt in California? Are you worried about the impending lead bullet ban and how it might affect your home state, or hunting across the country?  (See pg. 9 of the CA Hunter Digest)

California to Require Use of Lead Free Hunting Ammunition State-wide by July 1, 2019.

Yes, it is inconvenient, but it probably isn’t the death knell for hunting across the country as some view it. In fact, it is likely for the betterment of the environment and hunters alike.  There may be some growing pains as manufacturers ramp up production to meet demand, but just as the firearms industry on the whole has begun to recover from the latest series of ban panics the hunting industry will as well. Here’s some information on the risks of using lead ammunition, the benefits of switching to a lead-free bullet, and some options to consider for your cartridge of choice.

A National Parks Service study on lead bullet fragments in venison found that in the carcasses of 30 deer killed with standard lead-core, copper jacketed bullets 24 of them had metal fragments throughout their bodies.  Even after processing, “32% of 234 ground meat packages contained at least one fragment.”  Another NPS study found that out of randomly selected packages of ground venison donated by Hunters for the Hungry in North Dakota, 59% contained one or more metal fragments after examination via high definition CT scans.  It’s important to remember that “Lead has been shown to be a major health threat and in children there is no safe minimum threshold of lead exposure.” Sure, there might not be a perceivable impact to you or your family’s health from using lead ammunition, but why take the risk?  Honestly, it has me considering my choice in big game rifle loads and will likely switch to a lead free projectile in the future.

Lead has been shown to be a major health threat and in children there is no safe minimum threshold of lead exposure.”

Fortunately, since the advent of lead ammunition the firearms and ammunition industry has made huge gains in projectile design and materials.  If you hunt waterfowl, you’re already familiar with lead-free shot shells like Federal Black Cloud, HEVI-SHOT HEVI-METAL, and others. For varmints and big game, there’s several well designed, high performance lead free projectiles also available to hunters today.

Personally, we’ve had great luck with solid copper 50 cal/.451 muzzleloader bullets like the Barnes Spitfire T-EZ on whitetail, and Kurt dropped his pronghorn buck at nearly 500 yards with a .243 load pushing a Barnes TTSX. With 95%+ weight retention, copper solids pack a hell of a punch, transferring nearly all their kinetic energy upon impact and expansion. They also hold up great if you’re shooting at higher velocities; no worries about fragmentation or jacket separation.

For loading your own lead-free cartridges, some common projectile options are:


Hornady GMX Available in 6.8mm/.270, .224, 6mm/.243, 25 cal/.257, 7mm/.284, 30 cal/.308, 8mm/.323, 338 cal/.338, 9.3 cal/.366, and 375 cal/.375 in varying weights.

Nosler Lead Free Ballistic-Tip Available in .204, .224, and .243 projectile diameters and varying weights (specifically designed for varmints).

Nosler E-Tip Available in .224, 6mm/.243, 25 cal/.257, 6.5mm/.254, 6.8mm/.277, 270/.277, 7mm/.284, 30-30/.308, 30 cal/.308, 8mm/.323, and 338 cal/.338, (specifically designed for big game).

Lapua Naturalis Available in 9.3mm, .338 Lapua Mag, .308, 6.5mm, .243, and 8mm offerings.

Barnes TSX Available in 22 cal, 6mm, 25 cal, 6.5mm, 270 cal, 7mm, 30 cal, 30-30, 7.62×39, 303 cal/7.65mm, 8mm, 338 cal, 35 cal, 9.3mm, 375 cal, 405 Win, 416 cal, 404 Jeffrey, 45-70, 458 cal, 470 Nitro, 505 Gibbs, 500 Nitro, 50 BMG, and 577 Nitro in case you’re hunting dinosaurs.

Barnes Tipped TSX/TTSX Available in 22 cal, 6mm, 25 cal, 6.5mm, 270 cal, 7mm, 30 cal, 8mm, 338 cal, 35 cal, 9.3mm, 375 cal, 416 cal, and 458 SOCOM.

Loaded Cartridges

If reloading isn’t your thing, there’s a number of factory lead free loads available as well, a few are:

Remington Premier Green Available in .243 Winchester, 7mm Rem Mag, 30-06 Springfield, and .308 Winchester. Loaded with Lapua Naturalis projectiles.

Federal Vitak-Shok with Trophy Copper bullets Available in .243, 25-06, .270 Winchester, .270 WSM, 7mm-08, .280 Rem, 7mm Rem Mag, 7mm WSM, 30-30, .308 Winchester, 30-06 Springfield, .300 H&H, .300 Win Mag, .300 WSM, .300 Weatherby Mag, .300 RUM, .338 Federal, and .338 Win Mag . Loaded with Federal Trophy Copper bullets. Federal also has a line of dangerous game “Cape-Shok” loads with Barnes TSX projectiles.

Hornady GMX Ammunition Available in .223 Remington, 5.56 NATO, .243 Winchester, .25-06 Remington, .257 Weatherby Mag, 6.5 Creedmoor, 6.5×55, 6.8 SPC, .270 Winchester, 7×57 Mauser, 7mm-08 Remington, .280 Remington, 7mm Rem Mag, .308 Winchester, 30-06 Springfield, .300 Win Mag, .300 Weatherby Mag, 7×64, 7x65R, 8×57, .338 Win Mag, .338 RCM, 9.3×62, 9.3×74, .375 H&H, and .375 Ruger.

It’s important to remember that while yes, lead-free ammunition is more expensive, slightly inconvenient to procure, and we don’t like being told what we can and can’t use, there are a number of benefits to using solid construction, lead-free projectiles and ammunition.