Bruce Potts offers some advice to a reader
Lead-free ammunition is definitely making its presence felt and I am increasingly hearing from readers who have concerns about lead-free bullets and accuracy. Here’s an example of just one such question.
Lead-free bullets and accuracy
Q: Will my .243 Win rifle shoot lead-free bullets accurately if lead is banned?
A: Accuracy and terminal ballistic issues from switching to lead-free bullets, and the implications to shooters here in Britain, are posing a problem.
It is important to understand that lead-free bullets have characteristics that will influence how well your rifle will shoot them.
Weight for weight, a lead-free bullet of the same weight and calibre will be longer because copper (lead-free) is lighter than lead. This means rifle barrels need a faster twist rate to stabilise these bullets. Your rifle, while accurate with a lead-cored bullet, may not stabilise a lead-free one.
The 6mm or .243 is a case in point. A lead Nosler Ballistic Tip of 90gr is 1.0785in long with an ogive to base length of 0.6055in and 0.5045in of bearing surface. The same weight 90gr lead-free Nosler E-Tip is 1.1805in long with an ogive to base length of 0.7245in and bearing surface of 0.6445in.
In bullet terms, that’s a big difference, resulting in stability and therefore accuracy issues, as well as more fouling.
New lead-free .22 rimfire ammunition
Q: I believe there is some new lead-free .22 rimfire ammunition available. Have you tried it yet?
A: I am in the process of testing the new CCI lead-free and Norma/RWS lead-free .22 rimfire ammunition for accuracy, down-range trajectories and performance in ballistic media.
The CCI uses a 21-gr hollowpoint compressed copper and polymer bullet, which has a velocity of 1,850fps capable of developing 160ft/lb energy. It is designed for target or game shooting.
The Norma non-lead rounds are available in Eco Speed or Eco Power. The former is a 24-gr flat-nosed zinc/copper bullet, which has a velocity of 1,706fps and 155ft/lb energy, while the latter is a 24-gr hollowpoint zinc/copper bullet, which is designed to expand for sporting use.
RWS produces the new High Velocity Green .22 rimfire round, which is a 24-gr flat-nosed zinc/copper bullet identical to the Norma Eco Speed. The Norma cases have a RWS head stamp because RWS manufactures them.
Because these bullets are all lead-free, they are much lighter than lead bullets and have a high velocity. This makes them noisy, even with a sound moderator, something to bear in mind if deciding to use them.
Debating non-toxic ammunition
I have written about the pros and cons of lead-free bullets in detail here.
The debate about the eco-friendliness of non-toxic ammunition continues. Lead-free .22LR ammo makes a lot of sense because a vast quantity of lead ammo is shot every year. The trouble is the alternatives to lead are usually a lighter metal – for example, compressed copper as in this new CCI ammo – and is therefore much faster than standard 40gr .22LR ammo.
Over my chronograph the lead-free CCI ammo achieves a velocity of 1,842fps. This makes it loud and, in my guns, it is not particularly accurate. Due to the light 21g bullet weight, it loses energy quickly – from muzzle to 30 yards teh velocity dropped from 1,842fps to 1,564fps.