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Non-lead Ammunition

Knowing your target and what lies beyond has long been a golden rule of responsible hunting, but before pulling the trigger, today’s hunters should also consider what kind of ammo they are using.

Lead is toxic and, as they expand, lead bullets scatter fragments well beyond the point of entry. Wildlife can, in turn, ingest these fragments when they scavenge on leftover carcasses and gut piles. Birds, such as bald eagles and other raptors, are particularly vulnerable and even small amounts of lead can cause multiple health problems and even death. Although causing few animal deaths in Vermont, hunting with lead ammunition leaves the door open to accidently taking more than the intended animal.

Fortunately, there is an easy fix: the voluntarily use of lead-free ammunition. Without sacrificing performance, going lead-free prevents unintentional harm to wildlife. Knowing that lead particles in game meat are often too tiny to detect by sight, feel and taste, some hunters have also decided to make the switch because they are concerned they might be exposing family and friends to lead. Non-lead bullets and shot are often more effective than their traditional counterparts, and can also help hunters maximize the amount of meat they enjoy from their harvests.

Vermont Fish & Wildlife encourages hunters to voluntarily use non-lead ammunition. The department knows finding any hunting ammunition can, at times, be challenging.

Biting the Non-Lead Bullet is Easy

  • Non-fragmenting solid copper and copper alloy bullets are factory loaded by most manufacturers in most popular big game hunting calibers.
  • Solid copper and copper alloy bullets offer consistent expansion and excellent weight retention and, as a result, deliver deep penetration.
  • Less fragmentation means less meat loss.
  • Non-lead bullets are longer. Experts recommend reducing bullet grain size by 15–20% for comparable performance to your current lead bullet.
  • Highly frangible (brittle), non-lead small caliber bullets are available for both centerfire and rimfire cartridges.
  • Required for waterfowl hunting for over thirty years, non-lead shotshells now cover everything from woodcock to wild turkey. This includes .410.

To learn more about switching to non-lead ammunition and for tips to finding the right non-lead ammunition visit: and

A recovered .270 caliber copper jacket lead-core bullet (left) is heavily fragmented compared to the solid copper bullet (right) that retained its original shape upon impact.

Deer chest X-ray illustrating lead fragmentation of a rifle bullet.