In recent years, concern over the use of lead-based ammunition for hunting has been growing, primarily due to consumption of discarded offal by scavengers and donated game meat for human consumption. While there are alternative bullet technologies on the market that are suitable for hunting, these alternatives have not been adequately researched and tested for use in professional wildlife damage management (WDM). Differences between hunting and WDM include an increased level of precision necessary for safe WDM work, potentially greater distances for shots fired at targets, a need for instant incapacitation, and overall cost-effectiveness. To determine the applicability of lead-free bullets for WDM, we reviewed current lead-free bullet technologies and examined their limitations and benefits based on ballistic theory and available research. We found that there has not been sufficient research or experience with lead-free ammunition in the unique shooting scenarios used in WDM. Some of the issues identified by our review include a reduced theoretical precision of lead-free bullets due to a mismatch between bullet length and twist rate of the rifle barrel, lower performance of lead-free ammunition at greater ranges compared with lead-based bullets, and greater chance of bullets passing through targets and striking a nontarget object or animal. While some of these deficiencies may be overcome with new equipment and decreased target ranges, there are still situations where lead-based ammunition may be the safest and most practical option.
Caudell, Joe N.; Stopak, Scott R.; and Wolf, Paul C.
"Lead-Free, High-Powered Rifle Bullets and their Applicability in Wildlife Management,"
Human–Wildlife Interactions: Vol. 6
, Article 12.
Available at: http://digitalcommons.usu.edu/hwi/vol6/iss1/12