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Copper bullets

06 Jan 2017
@ 09:19 pm (GMT)

Nigel Musto

Nathan, I have been playing with monolithic bullets for a few years now. Mainly the Barnes TTSX and LRX. I have read your views on them, and whilst I can see your point I do believe there is some middle ground if they are used correctly, especially here in the UK.

I would much rather shoot a deer with a copper bullet than a BT. Most BT's (my experience is with Nosler BT and Hornaday SST) cause massive internal damage which frequently punctures the diaphragm causing internal contamination, significant meat damage and a mess to clear up. Copper if used correctly can kill with Hydrostatic Shock without causing the same degree of damage and contamination.

In the UK there is an anti lead movement and whilst I don't believe there is much in the way of evidence for it, the way of the world is that the antis and tree huggers will finally persuade a government of the day that its a problem and the rules will be changed, much like California. It is therefore imperative that we learn how to use them.

For normal UK hunting ranges, inside 300 yds, providing the projectile is driven fast enough, they are in my experience the most effective bullet for dropping a beast on the spot, probably due to the Hydrostatic Shock theory that you are so keen on.

To achieve this in most rifles a light for calibre bullet has to be launched quickly, with a view of achieving a terminal velocity of more than 2800 fps. In my 280AI I can launch a 120 grain TTSX at 3450 fps which has devastating effects on deer out to 250 yds. In the 6.5 Lapua a 100 grain TTSX launched at 3260 fps has the same effect on the smaller deer species out to 200 yds.

I absolutely agree that for long range hunting these bullets will cause very slow and delayed kills, but in the UK over the ranges that are acceptable for deer stalking they can be used to great effect IF the correct weight of bullet is selected.

Some calibres will become marginalised - poor killers of game. Unfortunately these include calibres such as the 308 Win. Very common in the UK and around the world you need to drop to a 110 grain TSX to achieve the velocity required and then it's only effective with a TTSX to about 200yds. Many will not understand the limitations and continue to load there trusted 150 grain bullets which they will not understand will not work well on their quarry at the distances they want to shoot over. This is likely to be the cause of a great deal of suffering to a great many deer and the loss of reputation of these bullets - some of which we have already seen.

However, with proper education and clear guidelines on calibre and bullet selection the copper bullets can work very well over normal UK stalking ranges.


06 Jan 2017
@ 10:56 pm (GMT)

Nathan Foster

Re: Copper bullets

Just to be clear so that everyone understands, hydrostatic shock does not cause death, only the illusion of death. What you are describing is an animal bleeding out while unconscious.

Massive internal wounding causes fast bleeding which creates fast kills without reliance on high impact velocities as a means to create the above reaction.

Education makes no difference if the hunter is not hand loading and only has access to for example, a 168 grain factory load. It has for example, been very difficult for Irish citizens to get into hand loading. The choice of factory ammo is also somewhat limited. Education is also difficult when a bullet is labelled Long range X yet as you know, you need to load light for caliber with copper, not heavy.

Along with these factors, you have an aging generation of hunters in the UK who don't want to load fast nor stalk close anymore as they have hip and knee issues. I have several Scottish readers in this situation.

I have spoken often now of new technology- the DRT bullet which is not reliant on x, y, and z factors. Yet folk are still slow to embrace this and continue to state that less meat damage (slower bleeding) is a good thing. I should however mention that the hydraulic forces of a close range meat saver shot with a copper bullet can and will cause a gut rupture in some combinations. I have also seen gut fiber sucked into exit wounds and deposited along the flank.

Some of the harshest critics of copper I have come across are from the UK. The biggest complaint I receive is that I am too diplomatic when talking about this and that I need to be more severe in my wording.

There are certainly good copper bullet combinations out there but I do hope that we see more of the DRT type bullet designs before lunatics start pushing for law changes on mass. The worst to be effected will be the .22LR and the slower bores including BP / cast shooters.

I am confident that you will find a lot of this has been started by one or two copper bullet makers, not environmental groups. This is how I believe it all started, even if others have jumped on the band wagon. So its up to you whether you defend companies that want to force you to buy from them, rather than giving you a choice.

Besides fast and effective game killing, what I want for hunters, is the power to choose. You guys can argue all you like here, both for against- but always remember that its good to have more choices, not less. I would hope that this one point would put your arguments to rest. Yes, one combo may work well in one situation, but it may not suit another person or game species in another hunting situation. I very much dislike it when a person posts with the belief that their situation is the only situation, being completely and utterly self absorbed. Do not take your freedoms for granted. You come from a country where it is difficult to legally obtain firearms yet relatively straight forwards to illegally purchase a Tokarev in South London. I had to wear a bullet proof vest to work in your country and have a certificate in bomb detection.

Nosler are just starting down the path of new tech with the release of their powder core varmint BT bullets. Perhaps others will follow in time. We will just have to wait and see.

06 Jan 2017
@ 11:48 pm (GMT)

Bob Mavin

Re: Copper bullets
Well said Nathan.

Nigel. I agree, at 3450fps a 280 AI will do heaps of damage with a BT projectile under 300yds. I'd be using a different caliber and keep the 280AI for extended ranges.

07 Jan 2017
@ 01:37 am (GMT)

Mike Davis

Re: Copper bullets
full circle amost........ go back 50 years here in NZ and a great deal of our big game was shot with .303british with fmj milserp ammo.
THAT wasnt the best but it was cheap or all there was,guys learnt to shoulder shoot and hit bone or wound and track....not a good option.
we also learnt to "doctor up" rounds to make them open up quicker.... dum dums they were called a miss used term as that was a place where some of it was made it turns out.
sure all copper will kill (my 50 grn ttsx in the .223 prooves that) but its not "better" than a cup and core type in the larger calibres...heck you poke a cup n core 120grn out of your .280 at those ranges and your animal will be deader than dead too. it may well be messier than an all copper but thats shot placement for you.
the longer range guys DO have a valid reason to bitch about the change over being forced upon them....... without expansion/fragmentation at reduced velocity its going to be harder to ethically kill out long.
lets hope these other types Nathan has mentioned take off.

the lehigh type projectiles have a following with the subsonic crowd as they work well at low speed (all be it at a high $$$$ price) so lets hope someone can crack this walnut and produce whats needed....but even as I typed that I saw the issue....... guys DONT READ LABELS current LR projectiles are having shite thrown at them as they blow up at close range/high velocity....oh doah thats why they are called LR projectiles.

oh well it wont bother this bush Hobbit kiwi too much, if worst comes to worst I will buy a rifled barrel for the .12ga and use all copper sabots as they will group almost as good as my current bush rifle and .50 cal hole is still a .50 cal hole...lets the daylight in and the redstuff out.....range will be down to sub hundred yards but if thats what we have to do...thats what we will do.
wont be able to fit a suppressor to it though as I dont fancy lugging around something the size of a down pipe around in the bush LOL.
20+ years ago I bought a copy of Remington sportsman magazine when they first brought out copper sabots for the .12ga the projectiles were .50 calibre all copper with 4 petals in x shape at front...... my my we havent graduated very far really have we?????

maybe we will all end up wearing eye masks and casting our projectiles out of silver....should take care of the warewolves and zombies while we at it I suppose???
07 Jan 2017
@ 03:58 pm (GMT)

Lane Salvato

Re: Copper bullets
I agree with Nathan, that different situations require different equipment, different options, etc. and you want as much freedom as you can to choose. As for me, if I find out that any ammo company has lobbied to reduce my choices of ammunition or projectiles, I'll never buy from them again. As a related side note, if you can get your hands on DRT bullets, they work:

07 Jan 2017
@ 08:22 pm (GMT)

Nathan Foster

Re: Copper bullets
I have been avoiding posting this however it needs to be said. I take no pleasure in the following,

Every now and then (with regularity at the moment), I have "lead free hunting educators" contact me. The emails are much the same, asking me how this or that brand of copper bullet works on game or how the DRT works on game. In other words, these people set themselves up as authorities on the subject (as per their mail signature)- then ask me how the bullets work because they have not tested them or in many cases, have shot just a handful of animals at close to moderate ranges with one rifle.

Steph deletes these emails.

I have said this before about shooting schools and now here I am saying the same about lead free educators: Be very careful when looking for expert advice on these matters as the subject of terminal ballistics is poorly understood among most ''experts''. I recently had a veterinarian friend give a brief overview of humane game killing (as per the info I teach on this site) at a vet convention. This information was for the most part new to members of this peer group. Many vets are involved in the subject meat works killing methods and euthanizing pets etc. Few understand terminal ballistics which is perfectly understandable. In any case, the information presented was greatly needed.

Get it through your heads- most folk do not understand this subject well enough to speak on it with any true authority.

Quite often I find myself asking- what is my agenda here. Am I just another gorilla beating his chest, wanting attention. Am I that person, the one who wants to be the expert- look at me everybody, look how great I am. At times I feel that my work is so far removed from what others are doing / believing / pushing that I hit a wall. I do not want to go on pushing ahead - just to be right as a means to validate my existence. I want to be sure that what I am studying and teaching is correct and in the best interests of both hunter and quarry. So it is very important that I stop to question my own motivations. It can however become uncomfortable at times when I find myself so far removed from the crowd that I feel completely alienated. I hold the rifle differently, I treat the rifle differently (bedding etc), I use different bullets, I think differently and so it goes on.

At such times I will ask Steph- "what the hell am I doing. Am I just another attention seeker on his soap box who won't get with the program". And again we go back through the data and look at the results, the many thousands of emails and so forth. Off we go into the field again, retesting various rifles and loads. These results must speak for themselves.

A while ago I had one of these experts tell me that as long as you get close and aim at the right place, X bullet will get the job done and that if folk were not shooting long, they would not need Y bullets (another bash my head against the wall moment). Those who have read my books will see within the first pages of the shooting book, a pig that has been shot in the ham by one of my clients (when I was a guide and prior to teaching). It was a moderate range shot, the rifle sighted dead on. The pig ran while the client had no hope of achieving a clean follow up kill shot. I dropped the pig when it paused at 600 yards. If I had not shot the pig, it would have taken days to die.

Most of my students are much better shooters at 400 to 600 yards than the so called average hunter at 100 to 300 yards. The average hunter has it tough because without any help, he may have no idea of what good accuracy actually is (many thousands of hunters would consider 3-4" at 100 yards fine). He may also struggle to determine whether poor accuracy is as a result of his technique or whether it has been caused by the rifle. He will also react badly to being told that he is a poor shot and few people like to be labelled as average. There is more to this than simply education. The hunter must have the right information in order to move forwards.

For these so called experts to come forwards and tell me- "well as long as people are taught to shoot straight all will be well" is nonsense. Because as far as I can see, I am one of the very few who are actually teaching people to shoot straight and how to accurize rifles- not them. And even when people are taught to shoot straight, mistakes still happen due to animal movements and so forth. The cartridges book is based on the premise that mistakes will be made- not on the fantastical basis that humans are perfect.

So to you experts who wonder why you have not received an answer, there it is. If you want to be an expert, get experience- hunt, kill and keep doing this until you know the subject inside and out. Look at what you are doing, get your hands into the carcass and take notice of what is going on. Study long and hard. Make sure that you do question your own motivations so that you are putting others first. To ask me for advice yet have the word educator in your signature is ludicrous. Either you have the expertise to educate or you do not. If you do not, remove the word educator from your email signature, then ask me questions. But know this- the answers I give are no substitute for direct experience. Those who read my books are asked to test everything, not simply take my word on information given.

This entire subject annoys me because we end up polarized. As I said earlier and elsewhere, a homogeneous copper bullet can be very useful and there are some very interesting copper bullets on the market at the moment. But no, we have to have some dictator declare that this is the only type of bullet we should ever use and so we end up taking opposed view points as a matter of defense.

The Dalai Lama suggests that in the west, much misery is caused as a result of people no longer feeling needed. A person can achieve financial safety but if he or she feels unneeded or separated, this can cause (based on scientific research) great feelings of anxiety and powerlessness. There is however a very fine line between wanting to be involved and to contribute, versus wanting to dictate and to control. Middle management and micro management are certainly sicknesses of the west.

07 Jan 2017
@ 08:44 pm (GMT)

Mike Davis

Re: Copper bullets
lovely trophy Lane
well said as always Nathan,I do listen to what you say and take it on board...being one of the type you mention above ( 3-4" at hundred will do) when Im bush stalking and yes when my grouping on paper isnt good the why is often hard to grasp (as was the red spiker missed at 30 yards in pooring rain the other day)
I do use all copper projectiles in my .223 and are very happy with the results,in this David vs Goliath equation I have more confidence as they will penertrate more than other types..... are they 'better" ??? well driven at 3000fps or above and range kept under 200 yards and shot placed well they are "more than adequate" the same results could well be achieved with a std type projectile,Ive shot a fair few of those into animals over the years too.
I traded some 130 grn ballistic tips for some 110grn tsx to try in my .270 just because I could...... havent given them a fair trial yet but my old tired rifle seems to handle them ok.
.308 sitting on floor infront of me as I type this waiting to head out for a hunt, the 10 rounds going along for a walk are 5 x 125grn nosler ballistic tips (rifle puts this load into just under an inch) and 5x winchester factory 180s
thats my 250-300 yards lookout spot taken care of with the 125s and the 180s take care of the bush stalking where range will be short.
for me at the end of the day its all about confidence in the gear Im using,confidence I can hit where its needed and confidence the projectile will do the damage needed....thats why I dont hunt with subsonic cast loads for deer...... I like my animals to go down quickly and not travel more than 25 yards as I hate trying to track them in crappy thick bush with naasty wasp nests just waiting to nab you.
variety is the spice of life...long may we continue to have choices.
07 Jan 2017
@ 08:52 pm (GMT)

Mike Davis

Re: Copper bullets
if you took out the fourth paragraph of the origonal post in this thread it would be a solid statement/point/argument/reasonable discussion
BUT to put in they are "the most effective for dropping on the spot"
makes it laughable........ my money would go on a partition for that title everyday of the week. and if you take out both the front wheels well its going down and wont get up no matter what you can and will move off without back wheels but cant do so with front ones unusable.
maybe the .50 BMG with these all copper projectiles will be the long range rig of the future....... gee I hope not as at $7 a shot now they will be costly beasts to sight in and practise with LOL.
07 Jan 2017
@ 11:20 pm (GMT)

Lane Salvato

Re: Copper bullets
Well stated Nathan.
08 Jan 2017
@ 08:33 am (GMT)

Mike Davis

Re: Copper bullets
well my dog did her thing and led us unto a red stag in the deep bush, the 180grn winchester did the rest....through and through chest,took out thick part of both lungs and just nicked the heart.....he went 24.75 yards spraypainting the crown fern as he went and was DOA. when Meg lept on it from the ferns to make sure..... lost exzachary ZERO meat from the bullet channel,farside ribs had 2" hole...missed major shoulder bones so my daybag was bursting at the seems for the 90 minute trudge out to the wagon.
rifle cleaned and back in the cabinet,smelling ever so nice coated with youngs .303...think of Nathans aftershave everytime I use it.
life is make that is great.
08 Jan 2017
@ 03:03 pm (GMT)

Paul Leverman

Re: Copper bullets
Nathan - as usual, you call it like it is. We've all run into the "experts". They find us out no matter how hard we try to avoid them. It is extremely troubling to deal with them. A quote from an anonymous source:

"Those of you who think you know what you are talking about really annoy those of us that do."

16 Jan 2017
@ 12:34 pm (GMT)

Nigel Musto

Re: Copper bullets

All the comments above understood and appreciated. The original post talked about UK stalking ranges (inside 200 yds most of the time) and the fact that copper bullets had to have a high TV to be effective. I made it clear that I agreed they would not work for any sort of Long Range hunting.

Agreed that it is wrong that we be forced to use them in place of lead and the evidence of an issue with lead is almost non existent, but the anti shooting / anti lead lobby is pretty strong in our part of the world and if we want to keep shooting deer humanely we have to learn how to use copper bullets.

I will continue to use copper bullets in the UK as I have found them extremely effective over the ranges we shoot if delivered fast enough. However, I will not be using them for any LR work.
16 Jan 2017
@ 05:25 pm (GMT)

Luke Lahdenranta

Re: Copper bullets
Nathan, you mentioned your suspicion about the copper bullets manufacturer(s) in your cartridges 2nd edition as well, I can only say it's very troubling especially in our highly politicized age.

Terminal ballistics isnt exactly a crowded field of research, that's what makes your work both interesting and valuable. If you had wanted to just go along with the crowd (and line your pockets from the public purse) perhaps 'global warming/climate change expert' would be both more popular and lucrative... but I digress.

You must be at the SHOT show by now so keep your chin up, as the old proverb says "wrong is still wrong even if everyone is doing it, and right is still right even if nobody is doing it".

Good luck at the show Nathan!
16 Jan 2017
@ 05:54 pm (GMT)

Nathan Foster

Re: Copper bullets
Thanks Luke, interesting. Dave Manson said pretty much the same to me as I stood and looked over the SHOT floor last night and thought WTF have I gotten into.
20 Jan 2017
@ 02:57 pm (GMT)

mark korte

Re: Copper bullets
I think we forget that there is a significant body of evidence out there that proves quite clearly that there is collateral damage to scavengers consuming lead. The lead induced deaths are frequently slow and are not generally in plain site. Its a lot easier to forget this when the carcasses are not scattered around in the open. The methods suggested to limit this (carrying out offal, burying same etc.) are often not practical in cold climates and in any case should not be expected from the average guy who just wants to get their meat out of the brush and into the freezer (or at least away from bears, scavengers etc.) What we all must do is balance this evidence against Nathan's well documented argument for humane killing - I certainly take his word for it. To this I would simply echo that copper bullets are not suitable for long range killing and each of us has to balance that desire for the 600 yard kill that may endanger other creatures against the equally challenging but different skill set that forces the hunter to make the real decision that he or she must get closer. Think of it as long range archery. The animal is 500 yards, but I need to get to <200 yards or I don't take the shot. Period. Very different, but at times equally demanding skill set. At this point its a personal choice, like nearly everything else we do out there when it comes time to pull the trigger. If we don't as a group start showing some initiative here it may well be forced upon us. And who wants to be forced into something personal like ethics?
As for choice and ammunition companies - I have little respect for US companies (I don't know the scene in other parts of the world) that have fed off (and encouraged) the stupid hysteria surrounding the hoarding and availability/price of .22 (and other) ammunition. Its a travesty and they are taking us to the cleaners for no reason other than greed. To a degree, we are taking ourselves there with our own hysteria by encouraging them.
All due respect to all of your views out there - this is a good conversation to have and hopefully one that will help us all become more humane when we decide to shoot. Or not.
20 Jan 2017
@ 03:33 pm (GMT)

Joshua Mayfield

Re: Copper bullets
In my work I directly supervise a couple dozen employees who are supervisors in their own right. I am not of the opinion that I am the greatest boss in the world - although I'd proudly accept a cheesy coffee mug that stated such - but there are a couple aspects of supervision that I think I do well in. One is that when an employee comes to me with a problem, whether it be personnel related or system/program related, I try hard to not just hand them what I think is the right answer. Rather, I try to coach them into sound methodology of reasoning out the best solution.

This is why I am Nathan and Steph Foster's biggest fan in the South-Central U.S. The articles and books lay out vital, foundational principles and then help you learn sound methodology that can be applied across the caliber spectrum, around the world. This approach is unique in the field, in my experience, and has helped me move a little further away from the mindset of wanting someone to tell me what the best option or product is and closer to a place where I understand how to apply sound principles to my setting and discern the best answers to the questions that inevitably arise with more time spent in the field.

Copper bullets? Sure, they have their place. Lead? It has its place too and both bring collateral considerations. We hunters, as a community, need to strive less to defend a preferred product and more to model good practice and sound methodology.

Nathan, though I speculate that you and Steph may feel a bit like two fish out of water at SHOT, I am really glad you are there. The hunting community needs your voices more and a lot less of the trend chasing and expensive marketing that no doubt is around you.
20 Jan 2017
@ 07:38 pm (GMT)

Martin Taylor

Re: Copper bullets
Some really interesting reading guys!

Nigel is correct in that copper projectiles are being shown/pushed as the only ethical way forward in many countries/states and already law in many so yes the understanding of and more importantly their development of is critical.
Having used these at range (see Nathans videos) & close quarters on large bodied Sambar deer the currant designs need further work though offer reasonable performance if used with speed & placement as said. Giving little margin for a misplaced shot. Being totally unethical at even medium for calibre ranges and should never have been marketed as "long range".

Discussing with Nathan & Steph their work with DRT shows great promise though l'm yet to see any pills here in OZ to try personally. Possibly a combination of the 2 designs, hollow cup with petals & the "powder" core internal....... or maybe a Partition style with a steel/heavy plug in the rear powder in front........

Food for thought!


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