During the spring of 2008 the hunting community was forced to deal with a topic many big game hunters still find highly controversial.   Should we stop using lead bullets, especially when used in centerfire rifles while big game hunting?

Recall how thousands of pounds of food shelf venison was destroyed as agency officials from several Midwestern states scrambled to search for answers and to make sure all donated venison for the needy remained a wholesome food product.   Moreover, the concern for safety extended beyond the donated meat as these agencies also wanted to ensure hunters were not putting themselves or their families at risk for any bad effects from elevated blood lead levels.

Well, here we are 16 months later and thankfully the choice on which ammunition type to use for hunting is still ours to make.   If you consult page 60 of the 2009 Minnesota Hunting and Trapping Regulations Handbook you’ll see the Minnesota DNR has a page full of recommendations on how to reduce the lead toxin danger.   The MN DNR also has an extensive section of their website devoted to considerations hunters need to make when using lead-based ammunition.   Check out these resources and make your future ammunition decision accordingly.

Keep in mind there are also several options available for shotgun (slug) hunters as well as muzzleloader hunters for using non-toxic ammunition.   Because these firearm choices deal with ballistics at somewhat lower velocities(as compared to a centerfire rifle caliber), it does not appear the lead fragmentation issue is as great of a concern with these weapon choices.   Still, even with these firearms the hunter has several non-toxic choices available from most ammunition manufacturers.

Today, however, I’m going to focus on some of the new, lead-free, centerfire rifle ammunition choices that will be on the store shelves for this fall.   Right now happens to be the perfect time to consider your ammunition options, and perhaps a great opportunity to pick up a few boxes then head to the range.

FEDERAL
The Federal Cartridge Company has some exciting new non-toxic ammunition options for fall.   The Federal Premium Barnes Triple-Shock X-Bullet and the Tipped Triple-Shock X-Bullet appear to have some great ballistic capabilities sure to bring down that big buck.  Also check out the Federal Premium Barnes MRX-Bullet combining the benefits of both copper with a tungsten-based core.

REMINGTON
Remington offers up its Premier Copper Solid in several popular big game calibers for 2009 as well as its Premier Green line, both incorporating a long history of proven centerfire rifle technology into a non-toxic ammunition product.

WINCHESTER
Winchester produces a non-toxic ammunition option in its Winchester Supreme E-Tip line.  Again, this product is available in several popular deer hunting calibers.

HORNADY
The Hornady Company also provides a Custom Gilding Metal Expanding (GMX) Boat Tail ammunition that is non-toxic.

As you can see there are several options available in the marketplace if you want to go lead-free with your big game hunting rifle this fall.   Keep in mind, however, the switch-over from lead to non-toxic ammunition comes at a premium price.   In most cases you can expect to pay 50 to 100 percent more for the eco-friendly rounds as compared to the traditional lead-based options.

Basically, what it comes down to is a choice each hunter personally needs to make.   If the continued use of traditional expanding lead bullets doesn’t bother you then use them, but be prudent by heeding some of the warnings just as a precaution.   In particular, if you have children in your household six years of age and under, be aware they are the most susceptible to lead exposure and will suffer the most severe effects.

On the other hand, if you’re willing to pay just a bit more for the lead-free cartridges now readily available you can take greater peace of mind in knowing the deer you’ll shoot this fall will be completely free of any ammunition-related contaminants.

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