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High Tech Bullets and Slugs

Copper and other “monolithic” ammo: Lethal on deer and good for conservation

By Gordon Batcheller, Chief Wildlife Biologist, NYS DEC

article-author_Cornell-Polson-Tract-Dec.-20b_opt.pngWhen I dropped the hammer, the deer dropped in her tracks. I witnessed the same performance four times last fall. One shot: a clean, quick kill. I was impressed with my new copper slugs and bullets. They did the job. Ammo manufacturers are now producing high-tech bullets and slugs to meet a growing market in non-lead rounds for big game hunting. My 20 gauge shotgun and .308 rifle are loaded with pure copper ammo. Other manufacturers are producing similar “monolithic” bullets from alloys, all of which share one thing in common: they contain no lead. And, they work. As New York’s Chief Wildlife Biologist, I am encouraging New York’s deer hunters to take a look at options for high-tech ammo. You’ll be impressed with the performance of these non-lead rounds. There are other benefits from making the switch to copper and other monolithic bullets and slugs—you will produce more high-quality venison with less meat damage, and you will eliminate the risk that scavenging wildlife, particularly eagles, will get sick or die from eating lead fragments. Non-lead: Good for hunting; good for high quality venison; good for conservation.

To learn more about alternatives to lead ammo, see and

E-mail us your comments or experiences with nonlead ammo: email to; type “nonlead ammo” in the subject line.


Barnes95_opt.pngHigh tech copper and similar monolithic solid bullets are available in many popular cartridges at prices comparable to premium lead ammo. They produce near perfect mushrooms that are deadly for big game hunting.




Copper ammo is also available for shotguns in both 12 and 20 gauge. Copper slugs (right) form perfect mushrooms and are an excellent choice for New York deer hunters.





Compare92_opt.pngCopper and other monolithic bullets (right) are harder and don’t break apart like lead bullets (left). Because they stay intact throughout the wound channel, they produce massive shock for clean, quick kills.




Muzzel81_opt.pngCopper bullets in sabots (left) are available for modern muzzleloading rifles. They are nearly identical to lead bullets in sabots (right).






Lead79_opt.pngTraditional muzzleloading bullets travel slower than high-speed rifle ammo, and remain largely intact when shot at big game. This means there is less risk of lead fragments being eaten by scavenging wildlife.






leadfrag_opt.pngLead bullets begin breaking apart as soon as they enter a deer. The bullet fragments reduce the amount of clean venison available to hunters, and increase the chances that scavenging wildlife, including bald eagles, may eat lead and get sick when they feed on the gut pile or find a wounded deer. Image courtesy of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.



The picture is from 2010, NY#68 Pond Eddy (Delaware River), taken February 22 while they were setting up for the breeding season. They were successful in fledging one young. The photo was taken by Scott Rando, a long-time volunteer.

Bald eagles have recovered in New York, and their population continues to grow. However, since 2010, DEC examined 14 eagles that died of lead poisoning after eating lead ammo fragments. Hunters who choose to switch to the new high tech bullets and slugs will know that they are not contributing to the potential death of our national bird.


Regulations in red are new this year.

Purple text indicates an important note.

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