Secrets About Lead Core Ammo

secrets about lead core ammo

Hunting With Lead Core Ammo

Like many things in the hunting and shooting community, the lead core vs lead-free ammunition debate can be a contentious subject. The average box of ammo you find on the shelf at a sporting goods store probably contains lead core ammo. This includes ammo using a really simple cup and core bullets (Winchester Super X, Remington Core Lokt, Federal Power Shok, etc.) as well as tougher dual-core and/or bonded bullets like the Nosler Partition & AccuBond, Swift Scirocco & A-Frame, etc. Here are some secrets about lead core ammo.

Lead Core Hunting Bullets

I’ve hunted big game with various types of ammunition loaded with lead-core bullets. This includes companies like Hornady, Nosler, Remington, and Winchester, with great results. At the same time, I’ve also done a lot of hunting with lead-free ammunition (Barnes bullets for instance) and I definitely understand also understand why other people prefer them.

So, is it a good idea to hunt with lead core ammunition?

Assuming you hunt in a place where lead-core ammunition is allowed, the answer is: maybe. I’ve personally taken game ranging in size from small feral hogs all the way up to cape buffalo and lots of stuff in-between (deer, a few BIG feral hogs, black bear, African plains game, etc.) with lead core bullets over the years with great results.

Cape Buffalo With Lead Core Ammo

In fact, lead core ammunition has delivered some of the most impressive kills on all manner of game I’ve ever seen. Lead core bullets have also worked great on a cape buffalo I shot about 10 years ago (which was one the physically biggest creatures I’ve ever taken). I could not have asked for better performance.

That bullet mushroomed to a large (approximately 2x) diameter, destroyed the heart and lungs of that buffalo, and came to rest just under the hide on the opposite side. The buffalo staggered, took 2-3 steps, stopped, and presented me with a good follow-up shot as he swayed unsteadily on his feet.

That second shot (also a lead core bullet) connected and dropped him in his tracks. You cannot ask for much better performance than that on a cape buffalo. Lots of other hunters have had similar experiences. However, it’s not all sunshine and roses and there are downsides to using lead core bullets though.

First off, lead core ammo contains lead (well duh). That’s not a problem everywhere, but it’s illegal to hunt with bullets that contain lead in some places. Even where they’re legal to use, some jurisdictions and some outfitters HIGHLY discourage using lead core ammunition.

Additionally, lead core bullets can deliver a gigantic range of terminal performance on big game. Traditional lead core ammo can work well and produce very fast kills. When things go right. However, you need to take special care when matching the bullet to the game you’re hunting. If you go that route.

Common Issues With Lead Core Ammo

While I wouldn’t say that problems are common. You also don’t have to look very hard to find stories of hunters describing severe issues with the terminal performance delivered by traditional lead-core bullets. At least on big game.

This is especially true when used on bigger animals like elk, moose, cape buffalo, and many species of African plains game. The opposite is also sometimes true when using other bullets on thin-skinned animals like deer. This is not necessarily an indictment on lead core ammo in general.

Instead, those problems are almost always due to a simple (but unfortunately too common) mistake lots of hunters make when selecting their hunting ammunition. This can result in very slow kills, long tracking jobs, and even lost animals. In short, the worst nightmare of almost every hunter.

Luckily, my Hunting Guns 101 training describes this problem in detail. It also provides easy-to-understand advice on how to avoid those issues when selecting the appropriate cartridge/bullet combination for hunting almost any species of game in the world.

This is essential information about the secrets of lead core ammo for anyone who hunts with lead core bullets. Make sure you have a thorough understanding of terminal ballistics and how to apply it to your cartridge/bullet selection. For the best results on the game, when afield. Do anything less and you increase the risk of wounding and losing the animal you’re hunting.

I’m actually running a 4th of July sale for Hunting Guns 101 right now. You can get the training for 20% off the normal price.

To take advantage of that sale (which ends TOMORROW at midnight CDT), go to:


Happy Hunting,

John McAdams