Non- Lead Bullets for Elk?

by Dave, Elk Hunting Tips.Net
(Garrison, MT)

What do you ballistics guys think about the use of non-lead bullets for elk? According to this story , nearly half of successful elk "hunters participating in Grand Teton National Park's elk reduction program this fall used non-lead bullets."

I need some education on this topic. What do you know?

Comments for Non- Lead Bullets for Elk?

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Apr 01, 2015
by: Passin Thru

If you really want to test copper and lead, buy 2 hog quarters and hang them in a tree. Get back 350 to 400 yd and let them have it, 1 with lead and 1 with copper. I'm stuck on Barnes TSX and use 140 gr but I have no trouble waiting for the right shot and passing up the biggest bull in favor of a better shot at him. It should be a patience and "Pick the Right One" hunt to me.

Jun 15, 2014
New to Barnes
by: Ancient Hunter

I've shot many deer and a couple of elk with lead core bullets in the 80's and 90's before I started bowhunting; Hornady Interlocks, Nosler Partitions were my favorites. All were broadside or slightly angled shots through both lungs and I never found a trace of lead in meat because there is little meat in the ribs. All bullets were never found, but left 1 to 2 inch exit holes. I never took shoulder shots because Jack O'conner preferred lung shots and I followed his writings religiously. All animals left good blood trails that a blind fool could follow. This year I've switched to Barnes TTSX. I've read the are excellent and also that they are too tough for deer; meaning they don't have the shock effect of the above bullets. This year I'm going back to the rifle hunting and I'm going to find out for myself.

Dec 04, 2013
Lead Bullets in America
by: Dave,

I just read yesterday that Obama's out of control EPA pressured the only lead smelter in America to close down. I forget where it was. That means lead will have to be imported now, until those regulations are lifted.

Dec 04, 2013
non-lead bullets
by: Judy

Arizona went to non-lead bullets years ago without any issues of success rates. Also, I know many of the condor...peregrine folks personally and they All hunt with copper bullets for every species out there.
Go to their website and look for performance reports. If it is not there, e-mail them and they would be happy to inform you of the best bullets for each type of gun or species.

Utah is likely to go to copper bullets only in the next 5 years as they are seeing devasting results of the Condors moving into Utah and receiving lead poisoning.

FYI, they did a study up in WY(I think, see their website) where they shot animals with all types of leadbullets and calibers as part of an animal control project and every single animal, except headshots was littered with lead fragments.

Nov 12, 2013
Sold on the coppers
by: Tskinn1

My first year Elk hunting, so I picked Dave’s brain about several topics, which included his opinion on copper bullets. Dave said he had heard good result, so in the end I went with a Ted Nugent 300 Win Mag load These full copper bullets did the job, dropped a nice 6x5 bull in his tracks at about 100 yards. The bull was up hill with a slight quarter away shot. I hit him in the ribs. The TSX blew up his lungs and was found just under his skin above his left shoulder blade. Needless to say this Wisconsin boy is planning on switching his 25/06 over to full coppers. You can find pictures of both my bull and the TSX right here on

Sep 18, 2012
No lead? No problem.... ;-D
by: WyoElkNut

I switched to all-copper bullets in both my .30-06 and .300 Weatherby 4 seasons ago. Results: 7 dead elk (2 in each of the last 3 seasons). Shot distances ranged from 65yds to just under 325, all one-shot kills. All bullets were either the Barnes TSX or Hornady GMX, all 165gr. Most shots were through-and-through with excellent wound channels. Recovered 3 bullets, tho, and all had near-perfect expansion and mass retention. Two of them weighed 163gr, the third 164gr. Pretty amazing. Studies show that a lead-core bullet that strikes bone and disintegrates sprays tiny lead particles through the meat in up to a 3ft diameter circle beyond the wound cavity. Why take the risk of feeding your friends and family lead micro-particles when the tool exists to avoid it?
I look forward to many, many more lead-free one-shot kills on elk and other big game.

Mar 10, 2012
7mm Rem Mag: HSM 168Gr Berger Hunting VLD
by: Anonymous

I use Berger Hunting VLD in 7mm Rem Mag loaded by HSM and I shot two elk at 50 to 60 yards last season & both shots made it through the lungs & ribs and out the other side.

I was more concerned with not piercing the bladder when gutting them than lead in the meat. The jacketed hollow point bullets stayed together.

Jan 30, 2012
Copper Bullets
by: Dave, Elk Hunting Tips (MT)

I knew you'd weigh in, Pat. So, Barnes X are all copper? I'm showing my ignorance.

You're right. I'm just not into rifle hunting that much any more. I shot an elk at 35 yards with a 300 Win Mag this year. What a waste of noise! By the end of rifle season I was not practicing my bow. It was way too darn cold. Besides, once rifle season is open, I'm not carrying a bow anymore.

I once picked up (literally) a lead-drunken hawk. I gave it to a raptor rescue lady. I'm sure most lead poisonings are from shotgun and probably few and far between, rare with rifle lead. Bottom line is, it just doesn't matter. There are plenty of raptors.

Jan 29, 2012
Lead exposure in raptors
by: Pat Cassidy

This study concentrated on eagles.

One common factor in both articles I posted seemed to be lead fragments found in gut piles. This seems to me to indicate a low level of marksmanship on the part of the hunters.

If you're gonna use lead aim for the lungs! Actually I think that is best for all bullets.

Any other thoughts out there? I think Dave is gonna vote for an arrow!! Pat

Jan 29, 2012
Carnivore lead exposure
by: Pat Cassidy

I found this site that you may find interesting.


Jan 29, 2012
Copper bullets
by: Pat Cassidy

Dave, you may remember from some of my earlier posts that I prefer a bullet that has great penetration potential along with minimal bloodshot and meat loss.

In my experience and observation Barnes X-bullets meet my preferences better than any lead/copper bullet I have seen. Their penetration is phenomenal as is their weight retention ... 95-99%. Finding an X-bullet in game is very unusual but I have seen a couple.

The other difference in performance is that "conventional" jacketed bullets do not penetrate as well at closer ranges as they do at long ranges. All copper X-bullets actually penetrate further at close range and just as far at long range. If you doubt this, do some testing at near and long ranges with a variety of bullets. Another excuse to shoot!

While I have not tried other brands of all-copper bullets I think they may be just as good. However, I never use a new bullet on Elk until I have tested it in my two-bucket water test.

I would like to see some rigorous test results on the poisoning dangers of big game bullets in the field. It seem to me that they would be so widely spread as to pose little danger. I plan on checking this out.

Thanks for a great site, Pat

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