Monolithic, lead-free projectiles aren’t new. Ever since Randy Barnes turned up the prototype projectiles on his lathes and developed the famed X-bullet in 1986, many of the world’s ammunition manufacturers have followed suit.
The monolithic projectiles have their claim to fame by being able to retain almost all their weight when being recovered from either ballistics gelatin or animals while exhibiting rapid expansion and excellent knock-down power. Being made primarily from copper, they have revolutionised the hunting landscape, becoming more pertinent in countries that are phasing out ammunition containing lead.
Winchester’s Copper Impact ammunition has been designed by engineers specifically for big game hunters. Perusing its American website, it is available in 12 calibres, ranging from .243 Winchester right up to the .300 Winchester Magnum but also includes loads for the Winchester Short Magnum (WSM), Precision Rifle Cartridge (PRC) and even the .350 Legend straight-walled cartridge.
Even though in the US these calibres would be the mainstay in deer and elk hunting, for Australian hunters they would be right at home on all species of deer as well as larger game such as buffaloes, camels and scrub bulls. It’s a tough projectile made for tough hunting.
Winchester Australia sent for review several packets of the Copper Impact ammunition in .308 Winchester concurrently with a CZ600 Alpha rifle. The ammunition is loaded with the 150-grain projectile and 20 rounds are contained in a striking box with livery of a Whitetail deer on the front and the ammunition’s features and ballistics table on the rear of the packet.
The loaded rounds inside are housed in a foam insert and are polished with the striking crimson-red polymer tip in the copper projectile setting the round off perfectly. This polymer tip delivers rapid impact and trauma when striking the target and the solid copper construction of the projectile transfers striking energy supremely while retaining maximum weight.
Ballisticians at Winchester also ensured that the projectiles have a high ballistics coefficient (BC) for a flat trajectory and long-range flight stability, using a boat-tail design. The 150-grain projectile on the review ammunition has a muzzle velocity of 2810fps, energy of 2629ft-lb at the muzzle and a G1 BC of 0.387 and G7 BC of 0.193. Avid handloaders and long-range shooters know what these numbers mean but as a hunter, it’s something I take with a grain of salt.
Performance on game and how the load shoots out of my rifle are the two most telling aspects I look for when choosing a factory hunting load. For a lead-free hunting load the Winchester Copper Impact certainly impresses initially, now onto the rifle-range and field testing.
At the range
The Winchester Copper Impact in .308 Winchester, with the 150-grain projectile, was tested through a CZ600 Alpha rifle while performing accuracy testing with several other Winchester loads provided. For the Copper Impact ammunition accuracy test, three-shot groups were fired at 100 and 200 metres, with the point-of-impact initially set-up for a 200-metre zero. The CZ600 Alpha with its short, semi-heavy barrel turned in some respectable groups averaging between 1-1.25 MOA at both distances, more than enough for deer-sized game that they are undoubtedly designed for. The loaded rounds chambered easily into the CZ600 and fired cases ejected without any issues. At 100 and 200 yards, the striking energy of 2209 and 1844ft/lbs is more than enough for the quarry intended and even at 500 yards there is a tad over 1000ft/lbs of energy remaining, the bare minimum to ethically kill deer-sized targets (figures quoted from the Copper Impact carton). As they say, ‘the proof is in the pudding’ and only hunting in the field would really give the ultimate verdict.
In the field
Having been a user of monolithic projectiles in hunting ammunition for many years, quite a few hunting ‘experts’ query me as to why I use them. I have no hesitation in using traditional ‘cup-and core’ and bonded bullets, using them to good effect over many years. However, when pursuing deer that tend to bury themselves into thick scrub once shot, having a decent blood trail that a complete projectile pass-through offers (with the normal heart/lung shot) is excellent insurance indeed and I can vouch for this on many occasions. The Winchester Copper Impact loads through the CZ600 were put to the test during two sorties in autumn and winter and in both instances, fallow deer were culled for venison. Fortunately for the hunter this time, there wasn’t a need to track deer through the scrub as animals culled dropped on the spot and in all instances the copper projectile passed through the deer, with massive damage to the lungs and heart and ensuing blood trail evident. In the instance of a shoulder being clipped the projectile easily smashed bone and continued through the vitals and exited on the far side. That is what the projectile was designed to do and it performed as I expected.
Whilst the Copper Impact is offered in 12 calibres (in the USA), Winchester Australia are offering most of the popular calibres for the local marketplace. To see which calibres they are offering, peruse the Winchester Australia website for more information: winchesterausstralia.com.au