NEW YORK STATE — Gordon Batcheller, New York State’s chief wildlife biologist, is an avid deer hunter who decided he wanted to test for himself the effectiveness of the new copper ammunition now available to hunters. Writing in the current issue of “The Conservationist,” the online publication of the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), Batcheller concluded, based on his own field tests during last year’s hunting season, that the advanced copper bullets and shotgun slugs worked very effectively. He advocates that that New York hunters take a hard look at this new technology.
“All hunters strive for one-shot kills,” he writes, “and… when [my] first deer dropped in its tracks, I was persuaded.” After repeating this scene three more times, he tells how “all four deer were either killed instantly, or in the case of one shot with a .308-caliber copper bullet, the adult doe ran about 60 yards before collapsing.”
But for Batcheller, the advanced ammo also has an environmental advantage over traditional lead. With the high velocity of modern, center-fire rifles, he describes how “lead bullets often break up upon impact, even when sheathed in copper. Lead fragments can scatter up to 18 inches along the path of the bullet, even when it passes completely through a deer. In some cases, this lead can ruin a great deal of meat as it fragments.”
Copper, a harder metal than lead, typically remains intact on impact. “This means more energy is transferred to the target; in my case, deer. With little or no bullet fragmentation, hunters get more high-quality venison from their deer.” This also decreases the chance that not only people, but scavenging wildlife may ingest lead. “Lead poisoning has been documented in scavenging birds in New York State,” he reports, “including in bald eagles.”
Batcheller also contends that the new copper and other solid non-lead bullets and slugs may be more humane because they are “designed to fold downward from the tip into multiple ‘petals’ that greatly expand the surface area up to two times the original bullet diameter,” resulting in a quick kill.
Although the new ammunition is more expensive than lead, Batcheller concedes, “premium lead ammunition actually costs about the same, [and] as the use of copper and other solid non-lead ammo grows, prices should come down.”
While some sporting goods stores will not yet have a large supply of these new products, they are available from specialty shooting supply stores and through online options. “There are endless options for re-loaders, too, since bullet manufacturers make almost every caliber,” he reports.
Batcheller’s conclusion? “For me, solid non-lead ammo is the right choice. It performs exceptionally well in my shotgun and rifle, it has excellent ballistic properties, and it’s deadly on deer. By using this ammo instead of lead, I get more clean venison for my family, and I’m doing the right thing for wildlife conservation.”
[Note: DEC’s website provides information on the technical properties of non-lead ammunition and lists products made by several major manufacturers to help hunters find what they need for their firearms.]