Unleaded hunting: Are copper bullets and lead-based bullets equally effective for killing big game?
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Semi-jacketed lead-cored or copper-based homogenous rifle bullets are commonly used for hunting big game. Ever since their introduction in the 1990’s, copper-based bullets have not been widely accepted by hunters due to limited supply, higher expense, and the perception that they exhibit inferior killing efficiency and correspondingly higher wounding rates. Here, we present data showing that animal flight distances for roe deer, red deer, brown bear, and moose dispatched with lead- or copper-based hunting bullets did not significantly differ from an animal welfare standardized animal flight distance based on body mass. Lead-cored bullets typical fragment on impact, whereas copper-based bullets retain more mass and expand more than their leaden counterparts. Our data demonstrate that the relative killing efficiency of lead and copper bullets is similar in terms of animal flight distance after fatal shots. Hunters that traditionally use lead bullets should consider switching to copper bullets to enhance human and environmental health.