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Best Lead-Free Ammo for Hunting & Shooting [Guide]

How much consideration have you given to your ammunition — beyond full metal jacket or hollow point?

There are a lot of details to consider when choosing your ammunition.

And one such detail many gun owners don’t consider is whether their preferred brand is lead-free. 

Ruger in lead free ammo
The LCP II surrounded by lead-free goodness.

If you think lead-free is only for waterfowl hunters, guess again.

There’s a whole world of lead-free ammo out there, and performance alone makes it worth a closer look. 

And that’s exactly what we’re doing today.

I’m going to run you through lead-free ammo, its benefits, and what you might want to consider adding it to your pew-pew rotation.  

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Health Benefits of Lead-Free Ammunition

From the standpoint of a self-defense shooter who does a fair amount of training, using lead-free ammo makes sense. 

Why?

Because, quite simply, it protects your health. 

If you’re a seasoned shooter, you’re familiar with the admonitions to wash your hands after shooting and refrain from touching your face until you’ve washed up.

Shooting is messier than you might believe. And if all the ammo you run through your gun has lead in it, your lead exposure is probably higher than you realize.

In fact, a government study found that “substantial health risks are incurred by the shooters themselves in the form of lead exposure and subsequent poisoning.”

Back to the Future Lead

Bottom line, if you’re keeping up with the research — once you’re shooting regularly, the level of lead in your bloodstream stays up.

Levels eventually drop for recreational shooters, however lead levels won’t go down if you shoot consistently. 

What about competition shooters or those that tend to train frequently?

3gun shooting competition
Competition shooters train more, so what about their lead levels?

Blood lead levels will measure high

Is it going to kill you?

Probably not, but increased lead exposure is known to come with some rather big downsides. Including:

  • High blood pressure
  • Joint and muscle pain
  • Memory loss
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Headache
  • Abdominal pain
  • Reduced sperm count or abnormalities
  • Miscarriage, stillbirth, and premature birth in pregnant women
  • Kidney function problems
  • Loss of appetite
  • Unexplainable mood swings

But what about pregnant women who shoot?

pregnant woman with gun in her hand and white top

First of all, yes, you can usually keep shooting until at least the third trimester.

You can read more about that in our article Shooting While Pregnant: Is It Safe? But remember, we’re not doctors, so it’s always best to consult your OB for the best information. 

That all said, studies prove lead exposure poses a significant risk for pregnant women. 

Remember, everything you’re exposed to, your baby also gets.

So while you can still shoot, you might want to consider limiting lead exposure by shooting outdoors, wearing long sleeves and gloves, washing hands and face frequently, and using lead-free ammo whenever possible.

Wash Hands

Also, if you’re pregnant, do not clean your guns — yes, finally, a get-out-of-gun-cleaning card! 

Let someone else do it for you. 

Coincidentally, the above recommendations are also things non-pregnant shooters can do to minimize their lead exposure. 

And when it comes time to clean your guns, wear gloves. 

Lead Free Ammo Cleaning Gun
Be safe while cleaning guns!

Environmental Impact

Protecting the environment is for all shooters, not only those who hunt. 

Using lead-free ammunition drastically reduces pollution to the environment. 

That’s why waterfowl hunting has been lead-free for a long, long time. 

Lead Free Ammo Hunting
Some states have led the lead-free hunting charge for awhile.

Three decades have passed since lead shot was banned for waterfowl, but the move to make hunting and fishing lead-free in general is much newer.

Director’s Order 219, published by Dan Ashe in 2017 of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, ordered the cessation of lead ammo and tackle on land and water managed by the USFWS. 

It’s accurate that lead on public land has caused neurological and breeding issues in birds, not to mention it leads to contaminated lakes and rivers, too. 

While the order doesn’t apply to land everywhere, only USFWS-managed land and water, other states have adopted a non-lead approach to hunting. California, for example, bans lead ammo for hunting. 

Lead Free Ammo Boxes
Lead-free ammo ready for range day.

Many states are slowly phasing out lead ammo use bit by bit.

As always, before heading into the field, check your local and state laws to see what’s legal and what’s not. 

Best Lead-Free Hunting Ammo

In reality, the best lead-free hunting rounds also tend to be the best lead-free rounds for self-defense and training. 

Lead Free Ammo Hunting
Hunting or training, lead free ammo can be used for both.

There’s a lot of crossover in my ammo collection because I like my ammo to perform well. I’ve found several lead-free brands that consistently exceed my expectations. 

So let’s look at some of those brands. 

1. Barnes TTSX

Barnes manufactures several lead-free rounds, and they all rock. 

The Tipped TSX rifle bullets are 100% lead-free, have better than 99% weight retention – yes, really, I’ve tested them – a stellar ballistic coefficient and fantastic accuracy. 

Thanks to the recognizable blue tip, Barnes Tipped TSX expands = rapidly, driving four cutting petals into whatever you’re hunting faster and more effectively. 

It comes in everything from .22 caliber to 6.5 to .338 to 458 SOCOM. 

More than likely, Barnes has your rifle covered.

29
at Sportsman's Warehouse

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

2. Barnes XPB

On the other hand, if you’re a handgun hunter, Barnes has you covered there, too, with the XPB.

Another lead-free, copper bullet option, the XPB, delivers superior weight retention and accuracy, just like their Tipped TSX. 

If you’re a reloader, you can grab the XPB to add to your own loads.

18
at Sportsman's Warehouse

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Alternatively, if you just want the XPB performance without the hassle of reloading, you can find XPB in the Barnes’ VOR-TX Handgun Ammo series.

If you haven’t tried handgun hunting, you definitely should. In fact, check out my article on Hunting Turkeys with Handguns for more tips and tricks.

But back to Barnes, in general, the company yields high-quality ammo.

3. Sinterfire

The largest single-largest supplier of frangible bullets in the gun industry, Sinterfire bullets are used by companies like Remington and Honor Defense. They also happen to be lead-free. 

Using sintered copper with tin as a binding agent, these frangibles are excellent and more than capable of dropping game or defending your life.

I once dropped a 255-pound feral hog with a single shot of .40 Smith and Wesson.

Of all the frangible on the market, Sinterfire is the most widely recognized and one of the top performers — if not the top performer. 

18
at Lucky Gunner

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

4. Browning TSS Tungsten Turkey

Browning Ammunition manufacturers lead-free rifle and shotgun rounds, but the TSS line of tungsten turkey loads takes the cake!

Available in .410, 20-, and 12-gauge, the company also makes steel loads for dove in 20-gauge and 12-gauge. 

Browning offers well-made, reliable, and accurate ammo — among the best across the board.

34
at Palmetto State Armory

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

5. Federal Ammunition Premium Trophy Copper

Federal Ammunition delivers a full line of lead-free ammo worth considering. 

First up, the Premium Trophy Copper line. This lineup includes everything from .223 Rem to .338 Lapua Magnum. Not to mention, it’s a solid performer on hunts. 

Federal also doles out lead-free love to muzzleloaders, handguns, and shotguns. 

The lead-free shotgun lines are quite extensive and even include 10-gauge and 16-gauge, if you’re so inclined.

Honorable Mentions

While the brands above are some of my favorites, other companies also divvy up lead-free ammo to hunters and recreational shooters. 

Other companies manufacturing quality lead-free ammunition include Inceptor, Double Tap Ammunition, Sig Sauer, Nosler, and Norma. 

Lead Free Ammo
Some Remington ammo.

As with anything gun-related, you’ll find out there are many options on the market, with more added regularly.

Conclusion

When you are a serious shooter with significant trigger time, lead adds up. It might not seem to matter today, but eventually, your blood lead levels are going to affect you in some way.

The easiest way to prevent health issues down the road is using lead-free ammo when you can. 

Lead Free Ammo Walther PPQ and Target
The Walther PPQ and some lead-free ammo.

Lead-free ammunition is increasingly affordable and a solid choice for your EDC, too. 

Why not try it?

What are your thoughts on lead-free ammo? Have you made the switch? Let us know in the comments below. Ready to dive into more ammo articles? Check out the Best Places to Buy Ammo Online, as well as our Definitive Resource on Ammo & Reloading and ALL of our Ammo Reviews.

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