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Lead-free: the future of our hunting bullets

Lead-free: the future of our hunting bullets

For Solognac, reducing our environmental impact is one of our main objectives, both in hunting practices and in the design of our products.

THE DESIGN OF OUR LEAD-FREE HUNTING BULLET

Further to the changes in legislation concerning the employment of single-use lead and plastic, our teams have been working on the design of hunting ammunition using lead substitutes. In particular, copper bullets which we are going to talk to you about today.

The legislation does not only affect lead cartridges. That's right… Bullets are also affected by the changes. Today, our teams have developed a new copper bullet which limits our environmental impact on the one hand, but also preserves game.

REMINDER OF THE LEGISLATION

For several years now, some countries have been concerned by the use of lead and its harmful effects. It is clear that in view of the ecological transition under way, the use of lead in tending to disappear, whether due to legislation or because users want it that way. But the transition must also be governed in order to protect our hunting grounds and our practices.
As you probably know, the ban on the use of these munitions will come into force in 2023, and it affects wetlands. As a reminder: the ban prohibits the use of lead ammunition in wetlands and within a perimeter of 100 m around them (buffer zone). It also means that those using lead ammunition must prove that they are not using it in the areas concerned.
Within a few years in Europe, the ban on the sale and use of lead-free ammunition should take effect. The ban on bullets will be introduced before the ban on cartridges.

Lead-free: the future of our hunting bullets

COMPOSITION: what substitutes for lead-free ammunition?

Let's look into the more technical side of a bullet so that you better understand the choice of composition and the high level of complexity that is involved.
The choice of material for a bullet is complex: It must have a high density in order to carry a large amount of energy, but must also be relatively soft so that it deforms in the barrel and follows the rifling. The ductility₁ of the bullet is also important on impact in order to release more energy in the tissues. Lead does this job wonderfully, but its impacts on health outweigh its ballistic qualities. But what can replace lead? We therefore need a material that is a dense and soft. Gold, silver and copper are the densest elements and soft enough to be deformed by the rifling. For obvious economic reasons, copper was chosen.
Copper has its advantages and disadvantages like all metals, but its use has been proven in rifle bullets for over 50 years now.

₁The degree to which a material can sustain plastic deformation

ARCHITECTURE of the bullet

In order to limit safety risks as much as possible, we opted for a bullet that petalises without fragmenting. As a reminder, there are 3 types of ammunition:
Fragmentation bullets: the front of the bullet separates into several component parts, the rear remains intact, this type of bullet is highly lethal but its use is controversial for safety reasons.
Bullets that “mushroom”: The bullet forms a dome during penetration, like the head of a mushroom. In other words, the maximum diameter of the bullet can almost double, the edges are not sharp.
Bullets that “petalise”: they form a flower with a defined number of petals (4,5,6…). These petals are as sharp as razor blades, and since the bullet turns on itself the petals inflict major wounds.

Lead-free: the future of our hunting bullets

The exergy Blue bullet is one of the bullets that petalise and we chose a configuration with 5 petals. The main complexity of this type of bullet lies in its internal geometry, which must allow expansion of the bullet in 100% of cases but which must stop in the right place so as not to lose a petal. In addition to the geometry, heat treatment is performed in order to make the front of the bullet more ductile than the rear. The heat treatment facilitates the expansion of the metal but prevents it from tearing by making the copper less brittle.

Why are there grooves on the bullet? The bullet deforms when it passes through the barrel, which can cause displacements of material which are recovered by the grooves in order to avoid the accumulation of copper in the rifling. The second advantage is that they limit the feed force of the bullet and therefore smooth the pressure peak, making it possible to optimise loadings.

No, replacing lead with another material is not that easy! Each material has specific characteristics that make each bullet unique. Here, for example, the question of the weight of the materials raised various questions. Copper being less dense than lead, for the same weight a copper bullet will automatically be longer. Being longer, it is possible that they are less stable. We therefore decided to reduce the weight of the bullets in order to maintain a length equivalent to conventional bullets and therefore to guarantee optimal stability. It is one thing to eliminate lead, but for Solognac the most important thing is to obtain an equally effective product without the constraints of lead.

WHY "BLUE"?

Blue is simply the colour of the polymer point called the “tip”. Its objective is to improve the aerodynamic profile of the bullet in order to obtain higher impact energy. In addition, it is an easily recognisable colour in game. Note that the polymer is the only part of the bullet (1%) which is lost on impact with soft tissue. On the other hand, in the case of impact on bone, it is possible to lose one or more petals. The absence of fragmentation of this bullet prevents any passage of lead into the game. In the vast majority of situations, these copper bullets behave better than a traditional Soft Point (SP) bullet.

Lead-free: the future of our hunting bullets

THE PERFORMANCE?

In order to measure the effectiveness of our bullet, we performed several tests in ballistic gel.
Would you like to know how the tests went? We'll tell you everything!

Lead-free: the future of our hunting bullets

THE TESTS

During these tests, our teams measure the kinetic energy of the bullets. Kinetic energy means the energy carried by the bullet.
To measure this energy, we measure the speed and mass of the bullet before it enters the block. Then we weigh the bullet coming out of the block and measure its speed. Thus, by calculating the energy difference between entry and exit, we obtain the deformation energy, which makes it possible to physically transcribe the lethality of the bullet.

For the following test, we compared two bullets on gel shots: The 300 SPCE bullet and the EXERGY 300 WIN LEAD-FREE bullet. To be noted:the 300 SPCE bullet contains lead.

THE RESULTS

During the various shots, all the EXERGY BLUE references dissipated more than 95% of their kinetic energy in a block of ballistic gel (density 20%) 40 cm long. The 300 SPCE bullet, for example, dissipated 94% of its energy. Similar performance can therefore be obtained without the harmful effects of lead fragmentation. Are you surprised? For Solognac, performance is one of our main objectives. Lead or Lead-free, you won't see the difference in performance.

SO WHAT'S THE DIFFERENCE?

Unlike conventional lead bullets which lose their mass during penetration (due to the fragmentation of the bullet), EXERGY BLUE bullets hardly lose any (only the polymer tip). You can also see in the comparative video the lead residues remaining in the ballistic gel.

OUR LEAD-FREE CARTRIDGES

Today, both bullets and hunting cartridges are affected by this change. We tell you a little more in this article:

Lead-free: the future of our hunting bullets

There you go, now that you know everything about this ammunition, all you have to do is try it out!