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Nonlead ammunition effectiveness and cost

Despite their health and environmental benefits, nonlead alternatives have not always been embraced by hunters. Early versions came with comparatively high prices and unknown efficiency, stalling widespread adoption.

Now, however, we know that non-lead alternatives are not just safer; they’re just as effective as lead (or more so) at a very similar price.

Effectiveness
While lead bullets can lose up to 40% of their mass into tiny fragments, potentially straying up to 18 inches from the wound channel, copper bullets retain between 95-100% of their mass. This produces a smaller wound cavity, minimal fragmentation, greater weight retention and more kinetic energy to drive the bullet, allowing for a greater impact and quicker, more ethical kill.

Cost
Copper bullet prices continue to decline every year, even as performance improves. Given that a hunter will typically use two or less bullets per year on large game, and a few bullets to sight in the firearm, the purchase of a box of copper bullets can last multiple seasons. On average, a box of lead bullets runs $20, where a box of copper bullets runs only a few dollars more. The cost difference goes away completely when using premium ammunition.

Frequently Asked Questions
Why should I switch to using non-lead ammunition?

Non-lead ammunition is ballistically comparable and effective for hunting, producing quick and effective kills, less bullet fragmentation reducing damage to the meat, and mitigating collateral damage to wildlife.

Hunters themselves are conservationists, maintaining species populations and protecting habitats. Switching to nonlead ammunition is yet another way you can support wildlife.

How does lead ammunition affect wildlife?

When an animal is killed using lead ammunition, the carcass and gut pile are often left behind on the land. This carcass provides an appealing meal for birds that scavenge such as bald eagles and vultures, also known collectively as “avian scavengers”. Many mammals like coyotes consume carcasses, however eagles and vultures are severely affected by consuming microscopic lead fragments that are scattered throughout harvested game. Once consumed, a lead fragment in their highly acidic stomachs breaks down, enters into the bloodstream, and causes physiological impairments and eventually death

Where can I find non-lead ammunition to purchase?

Availability and cost of nonlead ammunition varies depending on the retail store. L.L.Bean, Kittery Trading Post and Cabela’s are larger participating retailers in Maine, however, most local retailers either carry non-lead ammunition or are willing to order it for you. Additionally, there are many online retailers offering an assortment of options, ranging from material, cost, and caliber. Be sure to check with huntingwithnonlead.org to find specific ammo.