Non-lead Bullet Types & How to Find Them
Fragmenting-tip hollow-points are similar in construction to the expanding hollow-point bullets, but the tip fragments intentionally and the shank remains intact. The tip uses the hydraulic pressure to open into several razor sharp pieces that cause separate diverging wound channels immediately upon impact. The shank then penetrates to deeper tissues and causes cavitation with a flat meplate that results in high amounts of damage to internal organs and produces an exit wound to increase blood loss and assist trailing. These bullets open quickly and can have very large initial wound cavities that dissipate energy into tissues as well as a deep wound channel. These bullets differ from expanding hollow-points with their multiple wound channels in the beginning caused by the tip fragments with the shank causing a similar deep wound and exit hole. Examples include: GS Custom bullets, Norma Kalahari, and Cutting Edge bullets.
Manufacturers of Non-lead Bullets
Luckily, alternatives exist that are made of either 100% copper or copper alloys (gilding metal - 95% copper & 5% zinc) that expand similarly to lead-core bullets, but without all the fragmentation. These non-lead bullets give you the stopping power of lead, as the rapid expansion provides the hydrostatic shock needed to give a quick kill. But because they don't break apart, non-lead bullets continue to travel through the target further disrupting tissues and breaking bones adding to the stopping power. In addition, the non-lead bullets typically will pass through the animal leaving an exit wound close to twice the diameter of the entrance wound. This results in greater blood loss and a better blood trail.
Barnes Triple-Shock (left) and Nosler e-Tip (right) are two non-lead designs that both show similar expansion of nearly twice the bullet diameter.
Many companies now produce non-lead center-fire rifle bullets including Barnes, Hornady, Remington, Winchester, Federal and Nosler.
We understand that finding ammunition for a particular rifle can be difficult, especially so with hard-to-find calibers. While HWNL does not endorse any manufacturer or retailer over another, here are a few helpful tips to find ammo:
» To find common cartridges, use a search function such as gunbot.net or ammoseek.com.
» If it isn’t found by using a search function, find a custom ammunition loader. Custom loaders can make any known cartridge, and some will use once-fired brass from the client to reduce costs.
» Bullets are widely available and we have found 293 cartridges loaded with non-lead bullets made by custom loaders.
» Lastly, email firstname.lastname@example.org and use our experience to help you find the cartridge for you.
Cost Comparisons of Lead and Non-lead Bullets
We've heard many comments from hunters and ranchers lamenting the high price of non-lead ammo compared to the prices they have been used to paying for traditional lead-based ammo. While prices have dropped considerably for non-lead in recent years, it's true that non-lead ammo costs more, but it must be pointed out that you need to pay attention to what exactly you're comparing.
For instance, if you compare factory loaded ammo loaded with a premium lead-core bullet with ammo loaded using a premium non-lead bullet you can expect to pay about the same as shown in the photo above taken at the Reno Cabelas in Fall 2010. In this caliber and bullet weight, the non-lead Barnes Triple Shock actually costs a dollar less than the well-known Nosler partition.
However, if you are comparing ammo loaded with a cheap soft-point lead bullet with ammo containing a premium non-lead bullet you will find that the non-lead ammo costs anywhere from 50% to 100% more. Of course, you have to decide if that extra price is worth the better weight retention, penetration and accuracy that the premium bullets offer. Many hunters feel that the cost of the ammo used represents a tiny percentage of the total costs involved with going on a big-game hunt. And arguably, the most important piece of equipment that you buy since the bullet's performance will influence how well your quarry is quickly and humanely killed.
When comparing bullets for reloading, again pay attention to which lead bullet you are comparing against. Premium non-lead bullets will cost from the same to 30% more than a similar caliber and weight premium lead bullet option.