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Non-lead rifle ammunition put to the test

It's time to celebrate a positive of going lead-free - the delight of testing new ammo that turns out to be more accurate than your normal load, writes Alasdair Mitchell

lead free bullets

Switching to lead-free bullets will have an impact on accuracy

Oh, the joys of moving to non-lead rifle ammunition. No, I’m not being sarcastic. I had forgotten how much fun testing new ammunition can be. Especially when it goes well.

Testing non-lead rifle ammunition

I have been trying out some new stuff for my 7mm-08 deer rifle. First, I searched the barn and found my old Chrony F1 chronograph. I worked out that it was last used about 18 years ago, when I used to home-load for my .30-06. On opening it and blowing out the dust, I found the remains of a battery that had died in unfortunate circumstances. With a new battery, the thing came alive and proved to be in full working order. Amazing.

I took it, with some paper targets, to the zeroing range I have set up in a gulley on the farm. The ammunition I was testing carries a Fox Classic Hunter bullet, designed and made in Slovenia. The complete rounds are factory-loaded in the UK by Edinburgh Rifles, which is, of course, based in Sturgeonia. The 7mm-08 brass cases are head-stamped RP, which I believe stands for Remington Peters, and are of good quality.

After an initial fouling shot, I proceeded to fire my first three-round group. I use three rounds rather than five because my rifle has a very light, fluted barrel that heats up easily. I’m after acceptable hunting accuracy, not fancy benchrest performance. Whenever I am tempted to believe my own PR, I am reminded of the time in Canada when I missed a moose. The bullet deflected on a spruce branch. Or, at least, that’s my story.

Anyway, I was startled when the first group came in at only half a minute-of-angle (MOA). Hallelujah. Further groups widened slightly as the barrel heated, but by no more than MOA. As for the velocity, the chronograph showed it averaging only 15fps slower than the manufacturer’s data. This is highly encouraging, because my rifle has a 19in barrel, whereas official test barrels tend to be at least 22in.

The Fox Classic Hunter is made of monolithic copper/zinc alloy. My customary lead-based 7mm-08 ammunition uses a 140gr bullet, whereas the Fox, being made of less dense material, is 130gr. The barrel of my gun, having a relatively fast one-in-nine rifling twist, has no problem stabilising the Fox bullet. As for copper fouling, I haven’t noticed any. This might be due, in part, to the shank of the Fox bullet having driving bands, which reduce friction.

So, this particular rifle and ammunition combination works very well on paper. It is demonstrably more accurate than my normal factory lead load. But how will the new stuff work on deer? Fox bullets have a good reputation and I have no reason to suspect that they won’t expand properly at normal deerstalking distances. I simply want to see for myself.

Non-lead rifle ammunition for Scottish stalkers

While at Edinburgh Rifles, I was shown a box of .243 rounds they have loaded with Peregrine bullets. These come from South Africa, where they are machine-turned from copper, with brass ballistic tips. The .243 ammunition is awaiting proof certification. The key thing is that it has 100gr bullets and thus satisfies Scottish deer legislation. It might be worth a try for anybody worrying about the non-lead future of their .243.