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Big Green Blog

Copper Ammunition vs Lead

04.04.2023 | By Remington Contributor

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Hunters across America are increasingly choosing copper ammo for their firearms. If you’re considering hunting with copper rifle ammunition vs your go-to lead bullets, you might be asking, what’s the difference between hunting with copper vs lead ammo?

Why Hunt with Copper Ammo?

If you want to hunt deer or other big game in California, the government doesn’t give you any choice – you’re required to hunt with copper. Other states and hunting areas are considering similar regulations. Hunting further afield in places like Europe also requires you to hunt with copper or non-lead bullets in some areas.

Currently, there is no documented evidence that use of lead ammunition has any significant negative population-level impacts on wildlife or people.

As always, check the state and local regulations of the areas you’re planning on hunting to see if you’ll need to use copper ammo. If in doubt, call your local fish and game office.

Even when not required, hunters nationwide are also switching to copper bullets for certain performance benefits.

Remington copper bullets in a line on a table
Pictured: Copper Bullets

Lead Bullets vs Copper Bullets

Copper ammunition performs differently than lead ammunition because of how each style of projectile is constructed.

Traditional lead bullets are made by mechanically combining a soft lead core with a harder copper jacket. Copper bullets are usually made from a single, solid piece of copper or copper alloy with no lead core. These bullets are then usually given a hollow point, nose cavity, or polymer tip to aid in expansion. Copper bullets also usually feature driving bands around the base of the bullet to help accuracy and bore fouling.

Due to these differences in construction, each type of bullet has different and characteristic terminal performance advantages and disadvantages.

traditional Core-Lokt next to Core-Lokt Copper cartridges
Pictured (from left to right): Traditional Core-Lokt, Core-Lokt Copper

Copper Bullet Pros

  • Ideal for big game or dangerous game
  • Good at punching through shoulders, thick bone and heavy muscle
  • No jacket/core separation, maintains grain weight during terminal performance
  • Better than most lead bullets at closer ranges, performs better at high velocities
  • Modern copper bullets no longer leave extreme copper fouling in rifle bores
  • Legal to hunt with in places like California that require hunting with non-lead bullets

Copper Bullet Cons

  • Expand less on game than lead bullets
  • Leave smaller wound cavities than lead bullets
  • Due to less expansion, hunting at extreme long ranges with correspondingly low terminal velocities on target can pose problems
  • Does not fragment or separate, not a good choice for varmint hunting or target shooting
  • Lighter than lead bullets. Copper bullets are typically longer to make up for this weight difference. This length can cause feeding issues in some actions/rifles
  • More expensive than lead ammunition

Both lead and copper bullets have their place. Generally, copper bullets are best used when hunting whitetail deer-sized game and up. These bullets perform very well on big game, and are a great choice for hunting elk, bear, buffalo, wild hogs and tough exotics like African game.

Given these advantages, why haven’t more deer hunters switched to copper bullets? Usually, it comes down to cost. Some modern copper ammunition is more affordable than others, including Core-Lokt Copper.

Experiment and try different bullets and bullet weights in your rifle to see what’s most accurate for you.

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