Saturday, July 26, 2008

Video: The joy of non-lead ammunition

Ah, California - always at the forefront.

I know you folks in the Other 49 are watching in fear as California implements a lead-ammunition ban in the state's massive condor region.

That region happens to be where Boyfriend and I do most of our big game hunting, so you are cordially invited to live the fear through us vicariously as you wait to see if your state falls in line.

With deer season in that area beginning Aug. 9, we are doing our best to get ready, and that means shelling out for spendy ammo, and sending it flying into paper targets over ($2) and over ($4) and over ($6) and over ($8) and over again ($$$$$).

Wanna see what it's like? Just click the play button below. But be warned - I'm new at video and I haven't figured out how to "bleep" yet...

© Holly A. Heyser 2008


Brandon Darnell said...

I had no idea that was even being considered, let alone going into effect. Does it only apply to hunting, or does it apply to ranges and all of that as well?

It's also lame that if you hunt somewhere else, you need to use the same ammo or waste more time and money to sight in with lead ammo, then go back to the other stuff.

I would hope the other stuff has the same knockdown power so you don't have a higher chance of wounding an animal to let it suffer after it runs away on the vague notion that birds are eating bullets, which, by the way, Darwin would chuckle over.

Holly Heyser said...

Brandon, it's really complicated. You can target shoot with lead, but if you're in the field to shoot animals, you can't even be in possession of lead - except for small game animals, but not varmints (and correct, there is NO non-lead ammo for centerfire rifles). So, yeah, crazy.

We already decided: This stuff was SO hard to sight in that we can't go back and forth between lead and non-lead - we're just going to have to keep doing target practice at $2+ a pop.

What kills me is I suspect condors will still die of lead poisoning over the coming year, and our commission will probably blame it on out-of-compliance hunters, instead of considering what everyone's been saying: that condors will pick up lead tire weights and chew one them - we're not the only source.

But if no condor ever dies of lead poisoning again, then swell, I'll suck it up and hope for better, cheaper non-lead ammo down the road.

Native said...

I have not had the pleasure of shooting copper ammo yet.
What will I expect to see when I go to the range and try to sight my rifle in with it?
A Weatherby 300 magnum ultra light with fluted barrel is the rifle which I will be using.

I have had to chase wounded big game after being shot by clients using copper and I did not like the performance of the bullet.

Although, it could have very well been shot placement,distance from target etc. etc.

Holly Heyser said...

I'll get Boyfriend to answer this question because I was so focused on gathering material for a video that I didn't pay close attention to ballistics details.

But the first day we shot the gun sighted in for the ammo I used when I was at your place in June, it was at the edge of the paper, and off the paper entirely sometimes. In two sessions, we went through 27 rounds sighting in. Subtract a few of my practice shots and it was probably 22-23 that we really NEEDED to get it right. So, nearly $50 in ammo.

As for killing power, I don't know. They showed us a shot bullet at the hunting store, and it opened up like a perfectly symmetrical flower on impact. If anything, I'm concerned that it's too neat - I know you need rough edges to do the necessary damage.

I don't know when you're hunting with Phillip, but you'll get to see how our ammo works in a few weeks when I come down for a visit.

I'll be at the range a lot between now and then.

Anonymous said...

I love your website, I would suggest that you start handloading,it's alot of fun and you will save money, if you do alot of hunting and shooting it will pay for itself. I went on a pig hunt in April with native hunt, I was using unleaded ammo, it performed perfect, one shot kill at 150 yards.

Hunter Angler Gardener Cook said...

Native, I'd say get ready for unsightly patterns. In the video, you will see us calling it a day with what I would normally consider a piss-poor pattern -- about 6 inches at 100 yards. But believe me, it is pretty decent with this crappy copper.

And in case you are wondering, look at me shooting in the video -- I am pretty steady.

Bottom line: I will no longer shoot anything past 200 yards with this stuff; for some perspective, I killed a mule deer cleanly at 325yards in a 2006 hunt.

Buy 2 boxes of this ammo ($82?!) and be ready to swear a lot...

Jesses Hunting And Outdoors said...

Like any ammo your rifle likes to be feed certain loads Holly. The load choices will grow once the ammo companies ramp up their production. Right now it's slim pickens.

I've got lead and copper loads now that group poorly but I have searched out and found a couple loads that shine.

The other thing to consider is that your rifle or bench setup is not the problem. Check the scope and mounts, bedding etc. That one horizontal string across the target in the video indicates it's not the load causing the poor grouping.

Holly Heyser said...

I'm pretty sure that string was horizontal because he was adjusting the sights between shots. Boyfriend never shoots like that - that's much more my wobbly style.

But, I definitely know what you mean about guns liking certain ammo. Guess we're all gonna spend a fair amount of time and money figuring that out. Wah!

SimplyOutdoors said...

Great video.

I don't know what I would do knowing that I was throwing 2 bucks down the range every shot. I guess I do need to brace myself for that possible reality though.

As much as I would hope, I don't think this issue is going to go away, so everyone, know matter what state you are in, might as well get ready.

Holly Heyser said...

Thanks! I'm a rank amateur at video, but it's a lot of fun to produce (even though it takes twice as long to produce as my longest written posts).

I think we'll all adjust to non-lead, and my friend Phillip at The Hog Blog actually has had some good experiences with it. But sighting in was expensive. I think it's just a big unknown to most of us now.

My biggest fear is that the change will drive more people away from hunting, the way the switch to steel shot did. I'm pretty sure hunting has never recovered the numbers it lost in that era.

Tom Sorenson said...

I wonder if more Californians will be throwing sticks this year? I know arrows aren't cheap either, but at least they're reusable at the range!

We're dangerously close to California up here in Oregon, so we'll be paying attention to how this goes down.

Dan said...

I'm $120 into reloading for my 30-06 using Barnes TSX. I've gone thru 3 boxes of 50 doing load development. Quite frankly, It's nowhere near as accurate as I was led to believe. It'll do at 100 yds, but not 200 with any kind of confidence.
No clue on effectiveness on game.

Anonymous said...

Holly, wasn't that rifle turning in some fairly inconsistent performace for you prior to our last hunt... with lead ammo?

For my part, and having now tested both Barnes (copper) and Nosler E-Tip (gilding metal) in four different calibers and several different rifles... I've found one rifle/ammo combination that did not perform well with the new ammo. That was a Browning A-bolt in .270win. I've got the components to handload for that rifle now, and I'll see if it likes my loads better than the Black Hills Gold that I'd purchased to try out. As Jesse pointed out, some guns have distinct preferences for certain ammo.

As far as performance, I've heard some negative reports from people I respect and believe, but in my own experience every animal cleanly hit with non-lead ammo has dropped quickly and cleanly (as did that big boar at Native Hunt). The wound channel quickly opens to double the bullet diameter, and there is almost always a complete pass-through... a bonus that makes tracking easier if it's needed. So far that hasn't been an issue for me or any of the hunters I've accompanied. I think a fair bit of the naysaying is a carry-over from the original Barnes "X" bullet that was known for poor accuracy, nominal expansion, and extreme barrel fouling.

This stuff IS expensive, and there is very little choice as far as available bullet weights, but it appears to be working very well for the majority of folks using it... both in CA and the many other places it's in use.

Tom, you may be dead on about an upswing in archery hunters, although honestly, I don't think this is going to have a significant negative impact on hunter numbers... at least not in the long term. There's already a huge market for the "premium" ammo, and this stuff isn't that much more than some of the high-end bonded and lead ammo.

By the way, I do think handloading is the way to go with prices on ammo where they are. It also gives you the flexibility to adjust loads for your specific rifle.

Native said...

Thanks all for the info,
It seems to me that most all of us are in the same boat when it comes to experience with copper ammo and, how it performs out in the field.
We just do not know yet! And it is still too new for us to formulate a definitive and well informed opinion.

My only experience is from watching other people shoot with it and currently the standing is at about 70/30. With 70% of the hunters making fairly clean kills and the other 30% resulting with us having to cut the dogs loose and chase em' down.

And somewhere in there about 2% of the hunters, Including (Phillip Loughlin) making a one shot,drop em' in their tracks kill!

I will let you all know in November after the Muley Hunt because as we know, paper shooting and the real thing are two entirely different things. And especially when factoring in Hill Angle,Wind, Thermal's and Hard Breathing from walking that hill coupled with excitement!

Native said...

Hi again everyone!
I shot a few of the new copper rounds from my Weatherby 300 Mag. Ultra Light today and at 160 yards,I noticed little to no difference between the copper, Federal 180 grain Barnes Triple Shock and the old Trophy Bonded 180 grain Lead Ammo.

I am now anxious to see how it will perform live and not memorex.

Thanks to all for the advise and I will keep you posted!