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Copper Bullet Deep Dive

01.22.2024 | By Remington Contributor

From California to Florida, more hunters and even target shooters are choosing all-copper bullets. But what are copper bullets really for? Are copper alloy bullets better than lead bullets? Why do ammunition manufacturers like Remington encase bullets in copper in the first place?

Read on for a copper bullet deep dive. We’ll break down the history, pros, cons, and the future of modern copper projectiles.

Core-Lokt Copper packaging on a table with a deer skull

Copper Bullet History

Since our caveman ancestors compared rocks to see which were better to chuck at a dinosaur, humanity has searched for ways to launch projectiles more effectively. With the advent of black powder, lead was chosen to make bullets out of for its malleability, availability, and weight.

Smokeless powder came on the scene in the late 19th century. Combined with the development of rifled barrels, increased velocities meant bullets were shot faster and farther than before. The drawback? Increased speed caused accuracy and performance issues. Soft lead bullets heated and melted at higher speeds, over-engraved into the rifling and leaving behind lead deposits.

The solution was simple. Cover the soft lead bullet with a thin jacket of harder metal, like copper. Copper-jacketed bullets performed consistently down the barrel, kept their shape, weight, and as a bonus, reliably fed through the new auto-loading guns of the day.

For about a hundred years, the copper cup and lead-core bullet became the norm. But this design had a downside too. As velocities increased, bullets failed at high speeds when copper jackets and lead cores separated on impact, losing weight retention, and giving poor penetration. Remington’s classic Core-Lokt or bullets like Nosler’s Partition were a solution to keeping jacket and core together.

Another solution was to go back to making the bullet from a single piece of metal. With modern metallurgy, enter the all-copper bullet.

Modern Copper Bullets

Modern copper bullets are typically monolithic or homogeneous alloys. That’s a fancy way of saying the bullet is one solid piece of copper or copper alloy. Alloyed copper bullets are a mixture of copper with a dash of another metal, typically zinc.

Without a jacket and core to separate, all-copper bullets penetrate deep. The challenge with copper bullets is to get them to expand on game. To aid expansion and avoid “penciling through”, copper bullets use nose skiving, hollow points, tipped designs or a combination of features. Diving bands, another feature commonly found on copper bullets, helps reduce pressure and copper fouling in the barrel. With these bands negatively affecting ballistic coefficients, today, most modern copper bullets use specific alloys and specially engineered groove shapes and placement on a bullet to maximize BC and keep all-copper bullets accurate as heck, like Remington’s new Premier CuT.

Finally, modern copper bullets are also longer than their lead core counterparts, with lighter grain weights. Since copper is lower density than lead, longer bullets are used to better stabilize in flight.

Copper Bullet Pros and Cons

As discussed above, many of the drawbacks of the original generation of all-copper bullets (barrel fouling and less-than-stellar accuracy) have been solved by today’s modern copper alloy projectiles. Thanks, science.

The pros: Copper bullets shine on tough, large animals that require deep penetration. When you’re faced with a shot angle requiring punching through bone or heavy muscle/skin to reach a vital zone, pick a copper bullet like Core-Lokt Copper.

When hunting smaller, thinner-skinned game like varmints, sheep, goats, or small deer, you’ll want fast energy transfer and might not need the level of penetration that an all-copper bullet gives you.

For a more in-depth comparison of copper to traditional lead ammunition, click here.

For more hunting with copper bullet considerations, check this out.

The Future of Copper Bullets

With some states like California now requiring the use of non-lead bullets, new copper ammunition options are becoming more popular for hunting. Innovation with copper bullets is sure to continue, as more alloys and new feature on all-copper bullets are tested. While not lead-free, hybrid dual-core bullets like Federal’s Terminal Ascent combine the benefits of a bonded lead core with many aspects of a monolithic bullet.

On the competitive front, while most folks still use lead bullets, some long-range shooters are choosing monolithic copper or brass bullets for their uniformity, longer sleek design and preferred fast twist rates. Additionally, some military and law enforcement units use monolithic bullets for specific applications.

No matter your cartridge of choice, copper bullets provide another great option for you to test out in your big game rifle.

Featured Products

Core Lokt Copper

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