Can I use solid non-expanding solid (safari type) bullets for this project?
No; non-expanding solid “safari” type bullets will not be allowed for this removal project. These non-expanding bullets were designed for increased penetration (due to weight retention) when expanding lead-core bullets could not achieve penetration into vitals on large species because they lost weight in tissue too early. The advent of non-lead expanding bullets achieved the dual goals of deep penetration via high weight retention, and more effective internal damage through the tip expansion, giving shooters effective bullets for large game that will combine larger wound channels and deep penetration.
What is the effective range of non-lead bullets?
All bullets, regardless of material, have a window of functional performance, beyond which the bullet may not operate effectively. This window of effectiveness is different for every bullet and these limits should be researched and known by the shooter before heading into the field. Similar to bonded lead-core bullets, most non-lead bullets require a velocity at the target of about 1800 fps or faster in order to expand properly, although some non-lead bullets are designed to operate at lower velocities. The distance that a bullet can still achieve those velocities will differ based on the cartridge, bullet grain weight, and muzzle velocity, so effective yardage will be different for different rifles. Check manufacturer data on your particular bullet to know what your effective minimum velocity is and confirm bullet velocities in your rifle to determine at what distance that will correspond. Consider that your personal accuracy from field shooting positions is another factor of your effective range, and this may not match with your bullet’s effective range. Never shoot beyond the lower of these two factors to ensure efficient, ethical kills.
Isn’t non-lead ammo much more expensive?
Not necessarily. The majority of non-lead bullets are loaded in premium tier hunting ammunition and you can expect to pay the same for non-lead or lead-core bullets in these premium priced loads. Many manufacturer’s product lines will cost the same whether they are loaded with a premium lead or non-lead bullet. Prices of all non-lead ammunition have decreased in past years to be comparable with corresponding lead-core loads, and new non-lead options have become available even in more budget-focused lines of ammunition.
How do I choose the best non-lead ammunition?
Choosing non-lead ammunition utilizes the same process as choosing lead ammunition. The ammunition you eventually choose will be based on how well your rifle shoots that particular round. If possible, try multiple brands and grain weights to find what bullet is the most accurate from your rifle. If your rifle currently shoots one manufacturer’s ammunition well, consider trying non-lead ammunition from the same manufacturer first. Due to the density differences between lead and copper, dropping your grain weight about 15-20 percent when switching to non-lead is a good place to start. This will get a similar length bullet to what was working in your rifle before. When choosing any new bullet, trying multiple options will increase your ability to find the best bullet for your individual rifle.
What grain weight is best?
Bullet grain weight choice depends on a number of variables including the species of interest, bullet velocity at expected ranges, bullet length limitations, and rifle barrel interactions. Most rifles will have a particular bullet that groups the best at your expected range and that is usually the best way to choose a bullet grain weight as this ensures confidence in repeatable point of impact. When switching from lead to non-lead most shooters find that dropping to a grain weight about 15%-20% will result in similar performance but try different brands and weights to find the best fit for your individual rifle. When considering especially large species such as bison you should determine a minimum expected energy delivery by your bullet. We recommend a minimum of 2500 foot-pounds at the barrel, and typically a bullet of 165 grains or heavier will achieve the needed energy for bison.
Are non-lead bullets bad for the rifle’s barrel?
Copper and copper alloys are softer than the steel of your rifle’s barrel and are designed to work with the barrel’s rifling. Monolithic copper or copper alloy bullets will interact with your barrel the same way the jacket on lead bullets do. Some companies even make their non-lead bullets from the exact same material they used for their lead-core jackets instead of developing something new. You may still choose to use a copper solvent when cleaning your barrel but should not need to use it any more often than when shooting copper jacketed bullets. Be sure to follow all manufacturer recommendations when using copper solvent cleaners, as they have the potential to damage your barrel if not used as directed.
Should I do anything different when I switch to non-lead ammunition?
Clean your rifle before testing different types of ammunition to start with a clean barrel.
Follow the same procedure you would when changing to any new ammunition regardless of bullet material. Spend time trying different ammunition to find which one will group the best from your rifle. Don’t expect any new bullet to have the same point of impact as past ammunition, this stage is just to establish group size so don’t adjust your scope’s zero. Once you know which bullet gives you the tightest group, put a 3- or 5-shot group on paper, find the center of the group, and then adjust your scope to your new point of impact. For some it will be a barely noticeable shift, but for others it may be inches away. Then test at multiple distances to confirm your expected bullet drop so that you can confidently take shots at variable ranges.
Shot placement is always an important factor and an added benefit of non-lead bullets is their impressive weight retention, typically 95% or higher. This means that shooters can target thick bones with less concern that penetration will be insufficient. Due to the lack of fragmentation in non-lead bullets far less meat will be damaged by bullet fragments along the wound channel as well, so shoulder shots can be used to anchor animals with less risk of extensive meat loss.
What ammunition will be approved for use?
Ammunition must be non-lead and of an expanding or fracturing design, no frangible designs will be allowed.
Bullets must be 165 grains or heavier.
Hand-loads or Custom-loads are allowed as long as manufacturer guidelines have been followed and the bullet is from the park’s approved list.
If you do not see a non-lead option on the Approved List that you think would still qualify based on our listed requirements, you may petition for a waiver by sending the specific details of the ammunition or bullet to e-mail us. This will be reviewed for suitability for bison removal and you will either receive a waiver or a reason for its rejection.
What will the rifle proficiency qualification be like?
The qualification for all shooters of each operational period will be held at an outdoor range on the first day of that period. You must show that you can handle your rifle safely while following instructions from a rangemaster, and you will present your rifle and ammunition for inspection. You must use the ammunition and rifle you plan to use in the field. You will be required to have 3 of 5 shots hit inside a 4-inch circular target at a distance of 100 yards. You will have time to check your rifle’s zero and take practice shots before you begin your qualification period. You will have adequate time to check your zero and perform your proficiency test.
Can I use a bipod or other rifle rest during the qualification?
You may shoot in the field position that you are most comfortable and can use any type of rest or stabilizing equipment that you will pack into the field. Examples include bipods, shooting sticks, foam pads, backpacks, lightweight shooting bags, etc. This qualification is designed to mimic real-world conditions as much as possible so bring what you plan to actually use in the field.
Can I bring more than one firearm?
Yes, you may bring a backup firearm and ammunition as long as it meets the same requirements and you have submitted the rifle and ammunition information to the park along with your primary firearm and ammunition information. You may only qualify with one rifle and must use that rifle for the remainder of the operational period.
What happens if I fail the qualification?
If you fail the rifle qualification you may not participate as a shooter on this project, but you may continue to participate as a Support Volunteer if you desire.
Can I test my rifle before my actual qualification?
Yes, all shooters will have time immediately before the qualification at the range to briefly practice and check your rifle’s zero and make any adjustments necessary. You will have adequate time (within reason) to test you rifle.
What are the conditions like at the range?
The entire range is at an elevation of 8400 feet and targets will be set at 100 yards. The range is uncovered and outdoors and is not open to the public. Volunteers will be required to bring and wear their own ear and eye protection.
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