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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Mar 2016

    Lead Free Ammunition: My Experience

    I wanted to see how modern lead-free ammunition performed, so I've been shooting as much of it as possible lately. This isn't scientific, but I've shot a number of different brands and calibers out of different firearms to see what happens. My experience is that modern lead-free ammo meets my basic shooting needs, and I'd like to see more availability. The downside is cost.

    1. Lead in Ammo
    Lead is present in most modern ammunition in two places- the bullet and in the primer. The bullet is self-explanatory, but there is also a small amount of lead styphnate in the primer. Let's use a standard FMJ round as an example. The base of the bullet is open, and therefore the lead is exposed. When you fire this round, the primer releases the lead compound in it, and some of the lead is vaporized from the base of the bullet. This is where the airborne contamination comes from. This isn't much of a concern when shooting outdoors, but can be an issue indoors- even with good ventilation. Also, some guns have a habit of spewing gases right at the shooter.

    2. Lead-free Ammo Performance

    With that in mind, I've tried out several lead-free ammo brands. I've shot ICC's Green Elite NT, Federal Ballisticlean, and Sellier and Bellot nontox in several calibers- mainly 9mm, .45ACP, and 5.56. The first two brands use frangible bullets made of a compressed non-lead material that disintegrates when it hits a hard target. S&B uses a TMJ bullet, where the lead is fully enclosed by a copper jacket. All three types use primers that have no lead in them. I've shot over 1000 rounds so far, which is a limited sample. I've used several different firearms, semi-auto and manual, including shooting out of a shotgun chamber adapter.

    My main concern has been reliability, so I can't say much about accuracy. I can say that the ammunition I've shot, of all types, has been reliable. I have experienced no failures to fire, no hangfires, no problems with cases (except for one that I dented and that was my fault), no ejection issues, and no squibs. Ejected casings show no problems, no pressure signs, no bulges, etc. I know 1000 rounds isn't a huge sample, but it seems like a decent starting point. While I haven't tested for accuracy, I have not noticed any difference between lead free and lead rounds when it comes to my groups (but I'm not a particularly accurate shooter).

    One thing I have noticed is that no matter the brand used, the clean-up after shooting was much easier. For whatever reason, the fouling seems to come off much faster than with lead (styphnate in the primer) ammo.

    3. Things to test in future

    Longer term, I'd like to know how well lead-free ammunition stores, and how long it remains good. I shot some 40 year old .22lr ammo the other day, and it functioned just fine. I'd like to see if lead-free ammo can keep as well. Also, bore wear will need to be checked vs standard ammunition.

    The other thing I'd like to know is whether accuracy is affected by the primer and how ignition is impacted. I know this was a major issue with the first attempts at lead-free ammo, but if the other issues like reliability have been resolved, maybe it has as well.

    4. Lead-free ammo availability

    Lead-free ammo is still pretty hard to find in Canada- caliber selection is limited (pistol calibers and 5.56 in the main), and you may find only one brand at one particular shop. Also, it is more expensive. You may need to ask your LGS to special order you some.

    5. Conclusion

    It costs more, it isn't as readily available, it shoots decently, it's reliable. If the cost comes down I can see it replacing a lot of the "basic" ammunition choices for range use (especially indoors). I don't know about consistent accuracy, wear on the bore, or long term-storage, so that needs to be checked.
    Last edited by dinero; 07-13-2018 at 11:09 AM.

  2. The Following 3 Users Like This Post By dinero

    LB303 (07-13-2018), Rory McCanuck (07-13-2018)

  3. #2
    Super Moderator Rory McCanuck's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2012
    Middle of Manitoba
    There is getting to be a good selection of copper bullets for reloading.
    I haven't done a lot with them, but so far the results have been really good.
    I haven't hit any animals with them yet, that will be my true test to see how they perform.
    Don't blame me, I didn't vote for that clown. Oct 20, '15

  4. #3
    Go Canucks Go! lone-wolf's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2012
    Isle Saint-Jean
    California being a large customer base, there should be demand building for it
    the wild still lingered in him and the wolf in him merely slept

    "It must be poor life that achieves freedom from fear" - Aldo Leopold

  5. #4
    In theory the Hitek coating works. I mean you can smash a bullet with a hammer and not see much exposed lead.

    Most ranges are not setup to handle bimetal jacket, or steel core bullets. The 2 indoor clubs Ive been a member of, you'll never pass the white glove test. Or really think about wearing light color clothes.

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