When loading lead-free bullets, one has to consider multiple factors including weight, length and pressure. The can require changes in everything from the type of powder to the weight of the bullet.
Handloading lead-free bullets is as simple as loading any other bullets. You just need to keep things like powder capacity, rifle twist rate and the individual characteristics of each bullet in mind.
If your longer, lead-free bullet is infringing on your powder capacity, consider switching to a ball type powder or a powder with a slightly faster burn rate.
Because all copper or all gilding metal bullets retain their weight better than lead-core bullets, it's safe to step down in weight and not sacrifice penetration. From a .30 Remington AR, this 110-grain Tipped Triple Shock bullet penetrated 5 inches deeper than the 125-grain AccuTip.
Lead-free bullets are longer than their lead-cored counterparts of the same weight. Keep this in mind when establishing overall cartridge length. Also, some companies suggest that their lead-free bullets be seated a certain distance from the rifling.
Barnes Tipped Triple Shock
Are lead free bullets effective? Sure. This near 200-pound boar was taken with a 110-grain Barnes Tipped Triple Shock fired from a WC 7.62 x 40 cartridge. Impact velocity was only 2,300 fps.
The author took this pronghorn at over 220 yards using the light, 80-grain, Barnes Tipped Triple Shock from his .243 Win. The buck dropped at the shot.
Whether handloaded or in the form of factory ammunition, lead-free bullets can be extremely accurate and most have a high ballistic coefficient that helps them retain velocity at long range.
Just like when handloading conventional, lead-core bullets, always keep detailed records. This will help you develop the best load possible and recreate loads in the future.
Light and Long
Lead-free bullets are long when compared to lead core bullets. The bullet on the left is a .30-caliber, 165-grain Speer Deep Curl, the one on the right a .30-caliber, 168-grain Nosler E-Tip. Not only does this impact powder capacity, it may be an issue with the twist rate of your rifle.
Short and Heavy
Notice the difference in length of these three 6 mm bullets. The bullet on the left is the shortest and the heaviest—a 100 grain Speer Grand Slam. The middle bullet is the lightest—an 80-grain Barnes Tipped Triple Shock. The bullet on the right is the longest—a 90-grain Nosler E-Tip. All will penetrate to about the same depth in 10 percent ordnance gelatin or animals.