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According to this article (full disclosure: I wrote it) lead-based ammunition is a well-known threat to Condors and other scavengers, and may have negative effects on humans who unknowingly ingest bullet fragments.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that lead-free ammunition performs just as well as lead-based ammunition, without the potential side-effects, and lack of adoption is largely due to habit (we like to use what we have always used).

So, my question is two-part:

  1. Are there documented performance differences between lead-based vs lead-free ammunition?
  2. Have any hunters who have used both noticed a marked difference in performance?
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  • I'm wondering if in essence this is about firearm performance and only tangentially related to the outdoors since it seems a given that leaving lead shot in the environment is the only tie to the outdoors and not really in question.
    – bmike
    Feb 4 '12 at 18:22
  • @bmike -- I think this is about hunting, which is directly (not tangentially) "great outdoors", but that it's even more appropriately on firearms... (hence my vote to close). Lead vs. Other shot is a huge hunting debate and not so much a general firearms question. Also however a sometimes hotly argued topic which may be a bad question in general. Feb 4 '12 at 18:50
  • Controversy only makes this a bad question if there are no objective arguments. SE makes a fine platform for presenting (NOT DISCUSSING!) such arguments for and against... BTW: I'm reluctant to migrate this, as the focus seems to be primarily on hunting and environmental effects - while that doesn't make it off-topic on Firearms, it does potentially make it on-topic here... And therefore a good scope-defining question, which migration subverts.
    – Shog9
    Feb 4 '12 at 19:19
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    +1 if nothing else to counteract the -1. This is not a bad question. This is a good question which has served a useful purpose in helping decide scope. Feb 5 '12 at 1:33
  • To add to the discussion, if I may, I intentionally phrased it as to whether there are documented performance issues which makes it answerable, but also probably puts it more appropriately in the "firearms" realm (which I didn't know existed at the time). Would a more appropriate question for this site be: "What are the potential harmful effects of lead ammunition for the environment?" which is an answerable, and outdoors related, and important question / subject.
    – Lost
    Feb 5 '12 at 3:38
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The density (weight) affects ballistics.

Less dense shot will slow down at a faster rate.

Lead is a relatively cheap high density metal but is has negative health consequences.

Tungsten is dense but it is expensive.

Steel is commonly used now and is less dense than lead.

Wind resistance is only dependent on size and velocity. A heavier shot has more inertia so the same wind resistance will slow it less.
the equation is drag = mass * acceleration
acceleration = drag / mass

Lead is also relatively soft. There is concern gun barrels designed for lead may be scratched by steel.

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