WON HUNTING UPDATE
New non-lead ammo promises to be more affordable, effective
BY MIKE DICKERSON/WON Staff Writer
It’s no secret that many hunters have been displeased, to put it mildly, with California’s mandated use of non-lead ammunition across vast portions of the state.
Criticisms covered a host of issues, beginning with accusations that non-lead proponents were pursuing a political agenda and used junk science to help enact the ban on lead ammunition. Many found that factory non-lead ammunition delivered poor accuracy in individual rifles, and those who couldn’t handload for improved accuracy had to make do or keep experimenting with rifles and factory loads until they found a combination that performed acceptably. Some hunters and guides also complained of poor terminal performance, asserting that many non-lead bullets failed to expand and “penciled through” game, resulting in more wounded or lost animals.
But the biggest objection, by far, was the cost of non-lead ammunition, which can range from nearly $40 to well over $100 a box, depending on caliber and manufacturer. According to anecdotal reports from game wardens and others, this resulted in behaviors ranging from simple non-compliance to some hunters going afield without even zeroing their rifles due to the high per-round cost of non-lead ammo.
One company has set out to change that. Winchester’s newly introduced Power-Core 95/5 rifle ammunition, in the Super X product line, is likely to attract a lot of attention from California hunters due to its low cost and excellent terminal ballistics.
When company engineers set out to design the Power-Core round, they focused on meeting two primary objectives. First, they wanted to create a lead-free bullet that delivered the same expansion and performance on game as a traditional softpoint bullet. Equally important, they wanted to deliver the ammunition at a price that everyone could afford.
“The goal was to give hunters shooting lead-free bullets the same performance and value that generations of hunters and shooters have come to expect from our Power-Point bullets,” says Mike Stock, centerfire product manager for Winchester Ammunition. “Specifically, that means rapid energy deposit without sacrificing penetration on big game. Too often, monolithic bullets don't expand quickly enough and thus their on-game performance (energy transfer) suffers.”
While company representatives haven’t yet announced suggested retail pricing for the ammunition, they say it will cost just a little more than Winchester’s bargain-priced Power-Point ammunition – but considerably less than the company’s premium E-Tip non-lead line of cartridges.
Early reports from those who have tested the ammunition on game indicate that Winchester’s engineers succeeded admirably in duplicating the terminal performance of traditional ammo. While I haven’t hunted with the round yet, I did have a chance to observe a demonstration conducted by factory representatives. The demonstration consisted of firing a .30-caliber bullet from a distance of about 20 yards into a block of ballistic gelatin. The round, downloaded to 300 Win. Mag. 100-yard velocities, was fired into dense, 20% gelatin (versus 10 percent) covered with a piece of deer hide.
Upon impact, the piece of deer hide went flying and the bullet created a massive initial wound channel, beginning just a couple of inches into the gelatin, indicating early and rapid expansion. Even so, the bullet penetrated some 14 inches into the dense gelatin. Upon closer inspection, the retrieved bullet had mushroomed perfectly to more than twice its original diameter, yet it displayed excellent weight retention.
Clearly, this bullet will hit like a sledgehammer, and any hog or deer-sized game punched in the boiler room will have a slim-to-none chance of surviving the encounter, as early reports of results on game animals confirm.
The Power-Core 95/5’s excellent expansion, penetration and weight retention are a result of the bullet’s unique metal composition and it’s deep, highly-engineered cavity. Starting with a hollowpoint, boat-tail design, the bullet is formed from gilding metal that’s composed of 95 percent copper and 5% zinc. The zinc improves weight retention while an annealing process induces ductility and softens the front half of the bullet. The result is a bullet that expands rapidly, producing four petals that are malleable yet tough enough to hold together.
Cost is reduced by eliminating the plastic tips, coatings and relieving grooves found on some other non-lead bullets. The depth and design of the cavity help bullets “slug up” when they enter the forcing cone, and the gilding-metal composition reduces barrel fouling.
Power-Core 95/5 ammunition will initially be offered in 223 Rem., 270 Win., 30-06 Rem., 300 Win. Mag., 30-30 Win. and 7 mm Rem. Mag.
In other recent developments in non-lead factory ammunition, Weatherby expanded its lineup of factory loads for Weatherby magnum calibers using the Barnes Tipped Triple Shock (TTSX) bullet. These cartridges include: 80-grain 257 Wby. Mag., 110-grain 270 Wby. Mag., 120-grain 7 mm Wby. Mag., 130-grain 300 Wby. Mag. and 130-grain 30-378 Wby. Mag.
Nosler’s latest offerings include welcome additions to the non-lead varmint hunting category. Loaded with Nosler’s highly frangible Ballistic Tip Lead-Free bullet, factory ammunition is available in the following loads: 32-grain 204 Ruger, 35-grain 223 Rem., 40-grain 223 Rem., 35-grain 22-250 Rem. and 40-grain 22-250 Rem.
New non-lead offerings from Hornady are based on the company’s boat-tail, gilding-metal monolithic GMX bullets. These include new 55-grain 223 Rem. and 5.56 NATO loads in the high-velocity Superformance line as well as a new 165-grain 300 Wby. Mag. load and a 139-grain 7mm Wby. Mag. load in Nosler’s Custom ammunition line.
What future advances will bring in the development of non-lead hunting ammunition is an interesting topic for conjecture, but Winchester’s efforts to reduce the prohibitive cost of “green” ammo is a clear and welcome a step in the right direction.
• MASSIVE WOUND CHANNEL - Winchester's test demonstration of a Winchester Power-Core 95/5 bullet, using 20 percent ballistic gelatin (versus the usual 10 percent), shows the early and rapid expansion of the new non-lead bullet, combined with good penetration of some 14 inches into the dense gelatin.
• IMPROVED TERMINAL PERFORMANCE - This recovered bullet demonstrates the excellent expansion and weight retention of Winchester's Power-Core 95/5 bullet. The new lead-free round is designed to deliver the same expansion and performance on game as a traditional softpoint bullet at a price that everyone can afford.