The .308 Winchester: Our Favorite North American Big Game Caliber

The .308 Winchester: Our Favorite North American Big Game Caliber

Savage by Ian Norman / CC BY-SA 2.0


If there was only one rifle caliber that you could have, what would you choose? Keep in mind, this caliber would have to be used for literally every application that you would need: big game hunting, tactical training, home defense, and so on.

While there is no one caliber that fits all purposes perfectly, meaning that no rifle caliber is truly perfect, there is one particular caliber that is arguably the most versatile centerfire rifle caliber cartridge there is: the .308 Winchester/7.62x51mm NATO, colloquially known as the "Three-Oh-Eight".

Don't worry, this isn't just another .308 Winchester vs. .30-06 Springfield argument!

If you could only own rifles in one caliber, a very strong argument can be made that your caliber of choice should be the .308 Winchester: it’s versatile, it’s practical, it’s available, and it can perform a wide variety of functions.

But what specifically makes the .308 such a solid choice? Let’s find out.

The .308 Winchester was Born from a Legend

The .308’s history can be traced back to the .30-06 Springfield, another excellent and very popular round (at least in the United States).

In World War I, the U.S Army selected the Springfield M1903 in .30-06 Springfield as its rifle and caliber of choice.

The army continued to use the .30-06 into World War II with the M1 Garand, an accurate and dependable rifle that fired from an 8-shot clip.

The M1 Garand served the United States through World War II, past Korea, and even saw limited service during Vietnam.

By the mid-1950s, however, the M1 was showing its age. Modern rifles were being fed with 20-30 round box magazines, and the M1 Garand’s 8-shot clip design was largely obsolete.

Thus, the U.S military sought out a new rifle, and with it, a new caliber. That rifle was the Springfield M1A, essentially a modified M1 Garand that fired from a detachable box magazine, and it was chambered for the .308 Winchester/7.62x51mm round, which was essentially a shortened .30-06 round.

The .308 Winchester remains a very popular round among civilians, military forces, and law enforcement units all over the world. In fact, it is quite possibly the most popular hunting caliber and rivals the 7.62x39mm (chambered for the AK-47) in terms of overall popularity for rifle rounds.

Design and Specs of the .308 Winchester

A bottlenecked, rimless, short action, cartridge, the .308 Winchester was officially born into the world in 1952.

The .308 is a common round used for sniping, thanks to its accuracy and high terminal performance. The .308 is capable of delivering velocities of 2,500 to 3,000 feet per second, and will expand and tumble when it hits impact, meaning it can deliver truly devastating wounds to targets.

Here are some basic specs of the .308 Winchester for your perusal:

  • Diameter – .308 inches
  • Length (overall) – 2.800 inches
  • Length (case) – 2.015 inches
  • Base Diameter – .4709 inches
  • Rim Diameter – .4728 inches

More data available at source

You Can do Anything with the .308  

One reason for the .308’s extraordinary popularity and worldwide success, and perhaps the only reason, is because of its versatility.

This is an excellent round to use for medium to large sized game. In North America, the .308 is routinely used for whitetail and mule deer, black bear, caribou, pronghorn, wild hogs, and elk. It is also usable on moose if you need it to be and with the right loads.

The .308 is also a popular hunting caliber in other continents such as South America, Europe, and Africa. In Africa in particular, it can bring down animals up to the eland antelope.

Another reason for the .308’s success, beyond its versatility, is that recoil is moderate and is controllable by most shooters, including new shooters, women, and anybody of a smaller stature and build.

This stands in stark contrast to larger calibers such as the .300 Win Mag or the .338 Win Mag, which produce significantly more recoil and are largely unpleasant to shoot for new or smaller shooters in particular.

Granted, the .300 Win Mag and .338 Win Mag (and other calibers like them) have longer range and greater stopping power with less drop, but for any instances where extra-long range or power is not needed, the .308 Winchester is more than sufficient for most uses.

The .308 is also an excellent round to stockpile for disaster preparedness and survival related purposes because it is readily available, relatively inexpensive, and will be a popular round for bartering and trading purposes as well.

Yet another reason the .308 is so versatile is because it can be used in each of the four major types of rifles, which we will discuss next.

It is available on nearly any platform or action

The .308 Winchester is currently available for rifles in each of the four major types of action: bolt action, semi-automatic, pump action, and lever action.

Bolt Action

  • The .308 Winchester is an extraordinarily popular caliber for bolt action rifles. In fact, major bolt action rifle companies began producing rifles chambered for the .308 almost as soon as it was introduced.

  • Practically every bolt action manufacturer today makes a rifle that will chamber and fire the .308, including the Browning A-Bolt, Ruger M77, Remington 700, and the Winchester Model 70. Budget models of rifles will also chamber and fire the .308, such as the Ruger American, Mossberg Patriot, Browning X-Bolt, Weatherby Vanguard, and the Savage Axis.


  • The .308 Winchester was originally designed for the Springfield M1A semi-automatic rifle. Today, the .308 is chambered for a number of semi-automatic rifles including the M1A, FN FAL, AR-10, or the HK G3/PTR-91/Century Arms C-308.

  • The advantage to using a .308 semi-automatic rifle is that it can be used for both big game hunting on game such as deer or elk while also being used for tactical training or defending your home and property against raiders and looters. The .308 certainly has more range and knock down power than the 5.56x45mm NATO/.223, which will definitely be a big advantage in open country.


    • Pump-action rifles are not the most popular type of rifle used for hunting, but they are still a perfectly viable option. One example of a pump action rifle that is chambered for the .308 Winchester would be the Remington Model 7600, which is essentially a rifle version of the enormously popular and proven 870 shotgun.


      • The .308 Winchester round is also chambered in lever action rifles, primarily the Browning BLR and the Henry Long Ranger. Something about .308 lever actions is the .308 can only be loaded into magazine fed lever action rifles rather than tube fed lever action rifles, because the pointy end of the .308 round can possibly cause a discharge if it strikes the primer on the round in front of it.

      Scout Rifle

        • The .308 is also the round of choice for the ‘Scout rifle’ concept. A Scout rifle is simply any carbine-length rifle (41 inches or less) chambered for a full power cartridge capable of bringing down big game, that usually accepts box magazines, and is sometimes installed with a forward optic. The Scout rifle is meant to be a highly versatile rifle that can be used as a hunting rifle, for defensive use, or as a general-purpose truck gun or brush/woods gun.

        • The Scout rifle is generally thought of as being a bolt action but it can also be a lever action or a semi-automatic. Examples of popular bolt action Scout rifles chambered for the .308 include the Ruger Gunsite Scout Rifle, the Mossberg MVP, the Savage Scout rifle, and the Steyr Scout rifle.

        • Examples a semi-automatic Scout rifle would be the Springfield M1A Scout Squad and the Springfield M1A SOCOM.

        It's Benefited from a Virtuous Cycle

        As a government adopts a caliber (especially when that gov't is the United States), a market expands due to increased demand.  Manufacturers compete and prices go down, which makes the arms and ammo available for that caliber available to the larger commercial market.  

        The .308 Winchester benefited from being adopted by US government and then as a NATO round in the form of 7.62x51mm.  Since it was such a hit with the commercial market, once there, more manufacturers entered creating new rifles and more types of ammo.  

        Today, the options for both ammo and rifles in .30-06 Springfield pale in comparison to the .308 Winchester.

        It is One of the Few Calibers that Gives you Access to the Most Innovative Ammo  

        Along with the 9MM, .45 ACP, 12 Gauge Shotgun, .223/5.56 NATO, and the 7.62x39MM, the .308 Winchester is part of the small club of calibers that get access to the newest and most technologically advanced ammo, such as G2 Research's Trident Rifle Ammo.  This is partially due to the fact that it is lower risk to experiment in these calibers because of the available market.

        Notice that this is the only true big game caliber on the list. In the world of hunting big game, anything that allows us to better harvest game in a more humane way not only increases our success, but also increases the return on investment (ROI) of our time, money spent on gear, trips, license, etc.  To us, here at Clark Armory, that's worth it.  We spend as much time as we can outdoors and sometimes at great cost in trips to experience new frontiers.   

        But, it isn't without cost, more innovative ammo is more expensive because of research and design (manufacturers have to recoup their costs, right?) and because of higher manufacturing costs because they are produced in smaller batches.

        Yes, the most technologically advanced ammunition is more expensive, but all costs combined, it is small percentage of your total overall spend.


        As you can hopefully tell by this article, the .308 Winchester is a truly excellent all-around rifle cartridge. Is it the only rifle cartridge that you should own? No, but if you can only have one at the present moment due to financial constraints the .308 will overall be the best choice because it’s very effective for long range target shooting, big game hunting, and tactical training or tactical use.

        Yes, there are other great calibers out there. Many will claim that the 5.56x45mm NATO, 7.62x39mm, .270 Winchester, or the .30-06 Springfield are superior calibers that you should choose first.

        Each of those are a great choice, but the .308 is still arguably the better choice because it can bring down larger game that 5.56x45mm NATO or 7.62x39mm cannot while also being cheaper and generally more common than .270 or .30-06 Springfield.

        The .308 may not be the absolute greatest caliber ever made, but it is certainly one of the most versatile for long guns. If there was only one rifle caliber that you could own, there are ultimately more arguments in favor of the .308 being that caliber than there are arguments against it being the .308.

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        5 Important Calibers That Cover Any Situation

        5 Important Calibers That Cover Any Situation

        When deciding which guns you would like to have in your arsenal, you have to also think about which calibers you would like those guns to be in. 

        In fact, the decision as to which calibers you will own and stock up on is equally as important as the type, make, and model of firearms you will buy.

        Not all calibers are equal, and some are far more useful and versatile than others. It’s also a good idea to go with calibers that are more popular or common, because the more common calibers will be significantly less expensive to buy (ammo isn’t cheap), not to mention that it will also be easier to find in the event of an ammunition shortage or disaster scenario.


        What Qualities Do Your Chosen Calibers Need To Have? 

        Since we’re limiting ourselves to just five separate calibers to have in your arsenal, it’s important to have an idea of what qualities those calibers need to meet.

        What you need to do is ask yourself for what purposes you need to own firearms for. Most people would probably answer that they need firearms for the following purposes (or any combination of them):

        • Casual Target Shooting
        • Small Game Hunting
        • Bird Hunting
        • Big Game Hunting
        • Personal Defense/Home Defense/Property Defense
        • Long Distance Shooting
        • Tactical Training

        Therefore, your five calibers (together) need to allow you to do each of the above tasks.

        Additional qualities that your chosen calibers should meet include the following:

        • Be Relatively Inexpensive
        • Be Readily Available
        • Be Versatile (able to perform multiple different tasks if possible)
        • Be Easy For You To Shoot

        Now let’s talk about some calibers that effortlessly meet each of these qualities.

        Here are the top five most important calibers to have for your gun arsenal.


        .22 Long Rifle (LR)

        The first caliber to own is the classic .22 LR. No gun collection is complete without at least some type of .22 rifle or pistol in it. 

        There are many benefits to owning a weapon chambered in .22 LR. This is one of the most versatile calibers on the planet, and it can fulfill many purposes that other calibers cannot.

        One such advantage to the .22 LR is how small it is. You can buy .22 ammunition in bulk and it will take up very little space.

        .22 LR also has low noise and preciously limited felt recoil when fired. This serves multiple purposes: it’s a great round for casual plinking and keeping your shooting skills up, for shooting when you have neighbors or other people nearby, and for introducing new people to shooting with.

        .22 LR is also the perfect caliber for small game hunting and pest control for homesteading.

        Overall, .22 LR is definitely one of the five most important calibers that you can have. It will be most effective when used in a semi-automatic rifle such as the Ruger 10/22, Marlin 60, or the Smith & Wesson M&P15-22.

        If you would rather go with a semi-automatic handgun for your .22 firearm, examples you can choose from include the Ruger Mark III/Mark IV, the Ruger SR22, the Browning Buckmark, the Smith & Wesson Victory, and the Walther P22.

        For a revolver .22 handgun, your top choices will be the Ruger Single Six, the Ruger SP101 or GP100 in .22 caliber, the Smith & Wesson Model 63, or the Taurus Model 94.

        All in all, the benefits of .22 LR can be summarized as follows:

        • Cheap and Plentiful
        • Can Be Stored In Bulk With Limited Space
        • Great For Target Shooting
        • Great For Introducing New People To Shooting
        • Low Noise
        • Minimal Recoil
        • Great For Small Game Hunting and Pest Control


        12 Gauge 

        Next up is the 12 Gauge. Every gun arsenal needs to have a pump action shotgun in it, and as far as calibers are concerned, the 12 gauge is your best choice.

        For one thing, the 12 gauge is the most common shotgun round there is, which means it is incredibly cheap and easy to find. You should easily be able to acquire a box of twenty-five rounds of 12 gauge for only five dollars or so.

        12 gauge is available in three primary ammo types: birdshot, buckshot, and slugs. Between these three, birdshot can be used for bird hunting and small game hunting, buckshot for combat and self-defense, and slugs for big game hunting at moderate distances.

        If you think about it, the twelve gauge shotgun technically fulfills every possible need that you would have for a firearm, other than concealed carry or long-distance shooting.

        Examples of common shotguns chambered for the 12 gauge include the Mossberg 500/590/590A1, the Remington 870, and the Winchester SXP.

        All in all, the benefits of the 12 gauge can be summarized as follows: 

        • Great for bird hunting with birdshot
        • Great for big game hunting at moderate distances with slugs
        • Great for home defense with buckshot
        • Readily Available
        • Inexpensive


        9mm Luger 

        The single most important pistol or handgun caliber that you can own, without a doubt, is 9mm Luger. This is the pistol ammunition to stockpile if you can only stockpile one.

        The reason why is because the 9mm is easily the most common pistol round on the planet. It’s inexpensive and readily available, at ten to twelve dollars for a box of fifty rounds in most areas. 

        The 9mm Luger also has a number of advantages beyond its popularity. It has moderate to low recoil in comparison to other pistol calibers such as .40 S&W or .45 ACP. This means that fast and accurate follow up shots are more than possible, and it’s also a round that women or smaller statured shooters can easily control.

        Another advantage to the 9mm is the fact that many pistols chambered for it carry a lot of bullets: 15, 16, 17, 18, or even 19 rounds and beyond in some weapons. This will minimize the amount of reloading that you will have to do should you get in a firefight. 

        Examples of common and reliable pistols chambered for the 9mm include the Browning Hi-Power, Beretta 92FS, Beretta Px4, Glock 17/19, Heckler & Koch P30, Smith & Wesson M&P, SIG Sauer P226/P229, Springfield XD, Taurus PT92, and the Walther P99/PPQ.

        All in all, here are the summarized benefits to owning a pistol in 9mm:

        • Cheap To Shoot
        • Lesser Recoil
        • Carries A Lot Of Bullets In The Magazine
        • Readily Available
        • Sufficient Stopping Power With Self-Defense Loads


        5.56x45mm NATO

        One of the guns in your arsenal will need to be a semi-automatic, military-style, defensive rifle, and the best caliber for this task will be the 5.56x45mm NATO/.223 Remington. Examples of semi-auto rifles chambered for this round include the AR-15, Ruger Mini-14, and the IWI Tavor.

        The 5.56x45mm NATO is a great combat round thanks to its overall effectiveness and moderate recoil. It can also be used for hunting small to moderately sized game as well, such as hogs or deer.

        5.56x45mm NATO is also widely available across the United States and is reasonably priced as well, usually coming in at five to six dollars for a box of twenty (and sometimes less than that when bought in bulk).

        The primary benefits of the 5.56x45mm NATO are as follows:

        • Greater velocity and greater range than a pistol round
        • Low Recoil/Easy To Control
        • Greater range and less recoil than a shotgun
        • Carries A Lot Of Bullets In The Magazine, Which Means Less Reloading
        • Inexpensive and Abundantly Plentiful


        .308 Winchester  

        Finally, you’re going to need a caliber that bring down larger game and tap targets at long distances. While there are a wide variety of different popular calibers that could easily fulfill this role for you, the most common and available is the is the .308 Winchester/7.62x51mm NATO.

        The .308 is a little more reasonably priced than some of its closest competitors such as .30-06 Springfield, and as a round used by the military and law enforcement will likely be more available in a disaster scenario as well. 

        The .308 also has more than enough range and power to drop almost any kind of large game in North America.

        Examples of popular semi-automatic rifles chambered for the .308 include the AR-10, Springfield M1A, HK G3/PTR91, and the FN FAL.

        Examples of popular bolt-action rifles chambered for the .308 include the Remington Model 700, Ruger Model 77 Hawkeye, and the Winchester Model 70.

        Overall, here are the primary benefits to the .308 Winchester round:

        • Sufficient For Most North American Big Game
        • Greater Range than the 5.56x45mm NATO
        • Greater Power Than The 5.56x45mm NATO
        • Common and Readily Available


        Alternative Calibers

        These are just the top five suggestions for calibers to have in your arsenal, if you could limit yourself to only five.

        However, there are alternatives that you can go with for each one as well. For example, as an alternative to the 12 Gauge, you could go with the 20 Gauge. 20 Gauge is a fairly popular and inexpensive round, and it offers tremendously less recoil (so long as the shotgun itself is not lighter), which would make it preferable for women, children, and smaller statured shooters.

        You may believe that you’re sacrificing a lot of power with the 20 gauge, but the truth is that it is more than sufficient for personal defense needs. One 20 gauge buckshot round at close distance, for example, has stopping power equal to two .44 Magnum bullets going off at once.

        Two alternatives to the 9mm would be the .40 S&W and the .45 ACP. The 9mm is cheaper than either of those options, which is why it is more recommended, but both the .40 and the .45 are readily available. They don’t carry quite as many bullets in the magazine and do have greater recoil, but they also undoubtedly have superior stopping power.

        An alternative to the 5.56x45mm NATO would be the 7.62x39mm, which is chambered for rifles such as the AK-47 and the SKS. The 7.62x39mm actually has greater stopping power than the 5.56x45mm NATO (roughly equal to a .30-30), but is also slightly less accurate. If the AK-47 style of rifle would be your choice for a defensive rifle, then the 7.62x39mm would be your caliber of choice here as well.

        There is an abundance of alternatives to the .308 Winchester, ranging from the .270 Winchester to the 7mm Remington Magnum to the .30-06 Springfield to the .300 Win Mag and the .338 Win Mag. Each of these calibers are also common and easy to find, but they also tend to be more expensive than the .308. The .308 is currently the most popular hunting cartridge in the United States as well as worldwide, which is why it comes recommended first.



        In conclusion, all of your possible needs for owning firearms will be fulfilled by the .22 LR, 12 Gauge, 9mm Luger, 5.56x45mm NATO, and the .308 Winchester. However, you still do have plenty of alternatives like we just discussed, so don’t feel that you have to be fully limited to only these five calibers that we have suggested.

        What’s more important than the specific caliber(s) that you choose is how many bullets you stockpile. The time may come where you can no longer buy ammunition directly off the shelves (at least not inexpensively), and in a true long term/large scale disaster scenario ammunition will become a rare trading commodity.

        The golden rule to follow is to store a minimum of one thousand rounds of ammunition per caliber. Yes, that’s a lot of ammo, but you can minimize costs by buying only 1-2 boxes a week or buying ammo in bulk packs where the price per bullet will be a little less.

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        4 Rules For Cleaning Your Gun

        4 Rules For Cleaning Your Gun

        As every responsible gun owner knows, or at least should know, keeping your gun clean is extremely important. Without regular maintenance, guns tend to get full of unburnt primer, and can be damaged by water and humidity. In the worst case scenario, unloved guns can develop rust and corrosion, and ultimately become unusable.

        There is a great deal of debate about how often you should clean your gun. Some people swear by cleaning their weapons every time they are used. Others say that you can get by cleaning a weapon every month, or after a specified number of rounds have been put through it.

        To my mind, the frequency with which you need to clean your gun depends to a great degree on what kind of ammunition you are using. Good quality rounds fire pretty clean, whereas junk ammunition will quickly lead to a build up of primer and other gunk which you really need to get rid of.

        I also think that for most people it makes sense to set a timetable for cleaning your firearm which depends on how much you normally use it. Giving all of your weapons a thorough clean once a month, for instance, is a good way of keeping them all in good condition, and can actually be a fun activity if you set aside a lazy Sunday afternoon.

        Once you’ve decided to clean your weapon, there are a few key rules that should be followed. Cleaning your gun incorrectly can lead to damage, which is the opposite outcome to what you want.

        Be Prepared

        The most important thing when cleaning your gun, as with most other tasks, is to be prepared. This means not only having the right kit, but also having a work area that is suitable for the job.

        If you are lucky enough to live in a part of the country with good weather, the best idea is to work outside. For most of us, however, that is not practical. If you have to work inside, choose an area that is well ventilated – ideally, you want your work area to be in a large room, and have a good sized window.

        Get a sturdy table that does not move or flex when you lean on it. Avoid tables with casters or wheels, because they tend to move around at just the wrong moment, and this can lead to you accidentally dinging your gun. Do not use your kitchen table – remember that a lot of the chemicals you are working with are pretty poisonous, and you don’t want to contaminate your food with cleaning fluid or gun oil.

        It’s also worth investing in a good gun cleaning kit. A set that is specifically designed for your weapon is best, although there is also a good range of generic kits that will do the job equally as well.

        Work Safely

        Once you are sat at your work table, take all of the ammunition out of your gun, and from your workspace. Clear away any boxes of ammunition or loose cartridges, and put them in their proper place. Check your gun is totally unloaded. Then check again.

        Next, take a look at the manual for your weapon. This is a step that many old hands overlook, because they think they already know everything there is to know about their weapon. To my mind, this is both arrogant and counter-productive. The manual for your gun was written by an engineer who knows the weapon inside out, and will explain how to safely and thoroughly disassemble and clean your gun.

        If you’ve got an older weapon, it’s likely that you have lost the manual. Don’t worry. Nowadays, you can get the manual for almost any gun online, and for free. Who knows, you might even learn something about your weapon that you never knew before.

        A cleaning cradle and a non-slip mat can greatly improve the safety of working on your gun. These items will hold your gun steady while you work on it, and reduce the possibility of damage to your weapon, or – worse – accidental discharge.

        Be Patient

        Cleaning your gun should be a relaxing task, not a chore. When taking apart your weapon, and when cleaning each part, work methodically and slowly. Rushing this process will only mean that it will not be done properly, and you will have to clean the weapon again.

        A good idea is to keep a couple of containers on hand, for keeping track of the small parts of your weapon. You can store the parts waiting to be cleaned in one tray, and those that are already clean in another. This helps you to keep track of where you are, and will mean that you won’t miss anything when you put the gun back together.

        Be especially careful when cleaning the bore. The rifling here is critical to the operation and accuracy of your weapon, and is easily damaged by incorrect cleaning. Clean from breech to muzzle wherever possible, though on some guns this is impossible.

        Store Your Weapons Properly

        Although cleaning your gun is an important part of maintaining it, don’t stop there. Storing your guns properly, especially in the winter months when there is a lot of humidity, is critical for keeping them in good condition. Getting a decent gun safe is a good way of keeping your weapons dry and protected.

        On the other hand, you should also take special care of your weapons if you live in a particularly hot climate, or have hot summers. The heat can lead to gun oil and lubricants quickly evaporating, and this can leave your gun unprotected. In hot climates, dust can also be an issue, but again one that is solved by buying or constructing a safe and sturdy gun cabinet.

        Cleaning your weapons regularly, and keeping them safe in between, are the two most important aspects of maintaining any firearm. A gun stored in a protected environment, and not used, can last for quite a time before needing a clean, though you should always check all of your guns for signs of damage regularly. 


        In the end, it's not really different from any other rules for safe interactions with firearms or, for that matter, life.  Be prepared, ensure you can work cleanly and don't rush yourself, and take the appropriate precautions when dealing with potentially hazardous items.  Good luck and keep those barrels and actions clean.

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        3 Reasons Why you want a Flashlight for Personal Defense

        3 Reasons Why you want a Flashlight for Personal Defense

        In recent months, Clark Armory has had a lot of inquiry and conversation concerning the use of flash lights in personal defense situations. It is a fact that flashlights are a proven, essential tool in law enforcement and military tactical practice. So, we have done some extensive research on tactical flashlights, and the two main categories we will focus on are handgun mounted flashlight, and separate carry flashlights. We have information on what to look for in a flash light for each type, how to use and mount each type of light, and some information on how they “fit” in different styles of open and concealed carry profiles.

        Some people might say, “Why would I EVER want to carry a flashlight, or mount one on my favorite handgun?” Silly! Right!   Well, there are three very sound reasons why you would want to have a flashlight ready.

        A bright flashlight can act as a deterrent to an attacker

        Attackers like the element of surprise! They always want to have the upper hand at first engagement with their would-be victims. Take away the darkness, and you level the playing field, forcing attackers to rethink, or hopefully entirely give up on, their plan. Use a tactical flashlight before an attack by keeping one on you for those times when you find you are in a low light setting or area. If you use it to illuminate any shadow cover, under cars, or entryways while you are walking, effectively remove the element of surprise. The common profile for most attackers is that they are braien enough to attack when they have the advantage, take away the advantage of darkness, and they are forced to face you on more common terms. When faced with such adversity you deminish, or completely erase their motivation to act, thereby saving yourself from harm.

        You want to be able to definitively identify the threat in low light or complete darkness

        In the event that your attacker does NOT get deterred by the bright light, AND there are innocent by standers (A.K.A. you friend and family) in your field of view, a flashlight will help you in those low light situations, positively identify and track the movements of the attacker.

        Most modern tactical flashlights are an effective alternative weapon when necessary

        These flashlights are “TACTICAL.” They are designed to take a beating. Whether they are being dropped by accident, or VERY PURPOSELY Bashing the against the head or hands of anyone trying to assault you. Many of the tactical flashlights available are lightweight and easy to grip in any scenerio. Light with a bezel option to add additional striking power.

        Tactical flashlights are reasonable in price and easy to use. They serve a wide variety of purposes beyond self-defense. Should you prefer to carrying concealed, a flashlight at the ready will give you better aim in low light, and they will provide your advisories some second thoughts when considering you a waiting victim. 

        Tactical Flashlight Styles

        Using the three reasons as a guide, we have defined three styles of flashlights and have highlighted the pros and cons of each type. The debate around mounted vs. handheld tactical flashlights is long standing. While there are pros and cons to all the options, in the end, it is all a matter of personal preference. That being the case, we have collected the following information for the reader’s education and understanding. 

        Styles we have reviewed:

        • Pistol mounted flashlights
        • “Offhand” or separate carry flashlights
        • Modern-day “Stun gun" flashlights

        Pistol mounted flashlights


        • It is ready as soon as your gun is drawn. Several models light up as soon as your hand grabs the gun. It is ready to go
        • You have the ability to shoot with both hands. You do not have to hold the flashlight with your off hand


        • The light is a “target” for you opponent. Pistol mounted lights are set in position. No matter the style of mount, they are always in close proximity to the barrel. The opponent(s) can simply aim at the general area of the light and have a good chance of hitting whatever is pulling the trigger
        •  You have to find a holster that fits the light as readily as it fits the handgun. There are many options out there. However, some would say that the concealed carry connoisseur is already at odds trying to find an acceptable holster WITHOUT having to deal with the mounted light. The “perfect” holster search, which is a chore for the most discerning concealed carrier, could be even more epic

        “Offhand” or separate carry flashlights


        • You can “redirect” your opponent’s aim point. With practice, you can use the flashlight with your offhand to make your opponent think you are in a position 2-3 foot away from where you “actually” are 
        • It can act as a “back up” or secondary defensive measure. If you end up in “close quarters” with your opponent, you have a means of smacking them or jabbing them in the head or some other body part to introduce discomfort, distraction, or even disable them


        • With a flashlight in your offhand, you HAVE to shoot one-handed. This is an impossibility for some shooters, so it deserves consideration in the decision-making process. However, with practice, it is not completely impossible to overcome
        •  You have to carry and plan for, extra gear. Like the mounted flashlight, for the concealed carries, this is often a serious hindrance. Thereby, make it worthy of consideration

        Modern-day “Stun Gun” Flashlights

        “Stun gun” flashlights have come a long way in a short period of time. They pretty much carry the same pros and cons as the offhand flashlights because we were not able to locate “stun gun” flashlights that were designed for pistol-mounts, nor could we imagine a scenerio where such a set up would be value-added or even logical.

        Additional considerations, specific to stun gun flashlights include:


        • It takes the whole “extra weapon” concept to the next level. So much so that it is a REALLY solid, non- lethal alternative to your trusty sidearm.
        • Inexpensive and easy to learn. They are, on average, comparable in price to standard tactical flashlights. Additionally, a lot of recent studies say they are more reliable than pepper sprays.


        • There is ALWAYS a risk that you might “zap” yourself Like pepper spray, you have to be AWARE of your surroundings. This is a Segway into the stun gun flashlight’s other con…
        • It requires additional, specific training/education for stun gun use. As is true with ANY self- defense tool. Responsible ownership demands proper training and education.


        Types of Mounts for a tactical light:

        “Rail” mounts:

        Most modern tactical semi-automatic pistols come from the manufacturer equipped with a rail. Typically, you can buy specific rail-mount lights that will universally fit these modern rails with a simple “screw/clamp-type” mounting bracket.

        The number of brands of rail mount type flashlights is wide in scope. Moreover, the price is just as diverse. The Firefield (pictured above) runs between $35 and $50. It can be mounted and “dialed in” in about 15 minutes. You could also get a rail mount light like the SureFire M600 Ultramount for $275-$500. The reason for the price difference is debatable, depending on your background, experience, and general budget. The “average” user could get an acceptable rail mount flashtlight spending not more than $100 and still get a good measure of respect from your gun-wielding, shooting range buddies.

        Like it is a semi-auto sidearm, revolvers have made leaps and bounds regarding the ability to accessorize. You can get rail mounts, grip mounts, and scope type mounts. Which one to choose, is personal preference in conjunction with the size of your handgun, and what fits your style of shooting and how you chose to carry and holster the weapon.

        Other mounting options:

        Pretty much any universal mount you would buy for a laser dot or scope, can be fitted with a flashlight. The most expensive route for any option would be to have a gunsmith custom make a mount. That being said, “You get what you pay for” is very applicable. Customization is expensive, but should you decide to go that route, a reputable gunsmith will size you up and truly fit the flashlight you chose to your favorite handgun. It is also a good idea to contact the manufacture of your handgun of choice and inquire if they already have a flashlight mount designed for your model.

        Selecting an “Offhand” flashlight

        The selection process for using an “offhand flashlight,” like choosing a mounted light, requires any user to make some decisions.

        • How big/bright do you want or need the flashlight to be?
        • How will you hold the flashlight when in use with your handgun?
        • How will you carry the flashlight when it is not in use? (Or maybe it is just for use with the trusty sidearm you keep at your bedside at night.) 

        Once you answer all these questions, the most important aspect of utilizing an off-hand flashlight carry method is of course... Practice!

        One of the cons mentioned in this article, related to using an off-hand flashlight, You HAVE to shoot one- handed. While you could use your “flashlight side” forearm as a stabilizing point, you are still only gripping the handgun with one hand. It is not a standard position for the novice shooter. Live fire and dry fire practice are recommended, and a requirement for responsible gun owners, no matter what your decision is regarding the use of a flashlight. Using the offhand flashlight will just require the user to focus some range time on dialing in their skills with the flashlight in hand.

        “Stun Gun” Tactical Flashlights:

        Stun gun flashlights are quickly gaining in popularity in the self-defense circles. The basic carrying methods for use, in conjunction with your handgun, mirror those we covered with the standard offhand flashlight. However, there is one very important add-on. If you end up in a “bad-way” in a self-defense situation, you have the additional stopping power of a stun gun. The pricing on these, like every other flashlight option, can vary widely from $25 to $250. The sizes are typically similar to a small to “lower” medium size (Double AA battery to Double C battery size). Like the other options before don’t buy low, but you don’t have to break the bank either. $50-100 will get you a reputable Stun gun flashlight. With this flashlight option, LEARN HOW to USE it! Not REALLY getting to understand how it works could really ruin your day with a “SHOCKING” result. You do not want to end up like so many of those people who managed to lunch the pepper spray while standing downwind.

        Some of the most common Stun Gun Flashlights with consistently good reviews are Sabre, Taser, and Vipertek.

        It is all up to the user

        In this session, we have shared a lot of information related to using a flashlight with your handgun. While it is a lot of information, it is NOT the be all end all regarding the “How, what, and what” concerning the use of tactical flashlights with handguns. The one thing that is a solid take away from this information is the reasoning behind using tactical flashlights.

        • A bright flashlight can act as a deterrent to an attacker
        • You want to be able to definitively identify the threat in low light or complete darkness
        • Most modern tactical flashlights are an effective alternative weapon when necessary

        Having the flashlight at the ready will improve your ability to defend yourself and those important to you. When choosing what is “best” for you personally, like choosing to use lead-free ammunition, you have to take the time to decide on what the best option is for your choice in tactical flashlights. The type/brand of the flashlight, the size and style of light, and how you carry/use the flashlight are all personal choices. Even if you just choose to have that “dollar store”, basic, “plastic special” flashlight after reading all this, you will be better prepared for a low-light self-defense posture, then having no flashlight at all.

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        7 Reasons Why I Choose to Use Lead-free Ammunition

        7 Reasons Why I Choose to Use Lead-free Ammunition


        Regardless of the lead ammunition bans that are starting to occur across the country, my perspective is that there are enough reasons to thoroughly convince me to choose to use lead-free ammunition. Over the past few years, lead exposure has become a hot topic, particularly in our drinking water. We aren't going to touch on the politics of those issues, but rather take a long look at the benefits of using lead free ammunition compared to traditional lead ammo. We'll investigate topics such as lead exposure, projectile performance, and a few other ways to compare the differences between the two types of bullets. Our perspective is that there is a legitimate reason to choose lead-free ammunition in most, if not all, shooting activities.


        Protecting My Family: Lead Exposure in Hunter-Harvested Wild Game 

        Let's start with what I perceive as likely being one of the major reasons why folks currently purchase firearms & ammunition: hunting. I am a hunter. Starting as early as I can remember I awaited the day that I could suit up on the first day of buck season and anxiously wait for an antlered beast to come into my view. I also recall my father taking a "four point" buck on the first day in the Eighties and marveling at the harvested animal. We ate well that winter, and we ate everything we killed. All game we took back in those days was taken with lead bullets. No big deal, right? 

        Since then, it appears that there is significant evidence to suggest that consumption of wild game harvested by traditional lead bullets increases lead levels. Studies by both the North Dakota Department of Health (you may need to copy/paste this link: and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources specifically recommend that children and pregnant women should not eat venison harvested with lead bullets. This is because younger children & pregnant women are especially vulnerable to lead exposure - according to the CDC, "No safe blood lead level in children has been identified."

        Taking these two items into consideration - that lead isn't safe and eating game taken with lead bullets increases levels of lead in the blood - it makes it really hard to continue to use lead bullets when hunting. I'm not saying that this choice is clear to anyone. Even if the research above overestimates the risk, if my family is planning on eating with me, I'm going to use lead free ammo. Just ponder this thought for a second… how much would you spend to limit the lead exposure to your family? We’ll talk about the costs in a bit, but I can assure you that this is one of the absolute cheapest ways to do so.

        One of the arguments I've heard against this risk is that since hunters traditionally cut out the wound channel because the meat from the wound channel isn't usable, doesn't that mean that they are cutting out the lead fragments? The answer is no. Most hunting bullets are traveling at such a high speed that when they hit the target, traditional lead bullets often lose >50% of its weight during impact, splintering into incredibly small pieces. In the Minnesota Bullet Fragmentation Study, they found that, on average, lead bullet fragments were found up to 11 inches away from the wound channel. Because these particles are incredibly small, they are not noticeable during normal eating or inspection of the meat. 

        I'm not sure there is any way to totally eliminate the lead in your harvested game unless, of course, you are using lead-free ammo.


        Lead-free Ammunition Performs Well

        I’ve heard a lot of stories that lead-free ammunition doesn’t provide the same level of performance as traditional lead ammo.  I’d argue that on all fronts, lead-free ammo is as good as, if not a better option, in most situations.

        Lead bullets are effective because lead is heavy and malleable - it hits something and it deforms. The unfortunate reality is that is doesn’t deform uniformly every single time. Additionally, during impact the lead bullets fragment, losing most of their mass. Neither of those are a big deal alone. When compared to many lead-free projectiles, however, it makes a difference. 

        Other than the hollow-point, the ammunition industry hasn’t seen a lot of innovation over the last hundred years.  In recent years, the advances in projectile design in the lead-free ammunition space has been truly revolutionary.  I’d argue that the lead-free bullets fit into two categories: Traditional Design and Innovative Self-Defense rounds.  In most of the new rounds, copper is often used as the lead substitute, which is much harder.  

        In the traditional design, copper rounds & copper hollow points don’t fragment the same way lead does because of the increased hardness.  By not fragmenting as much, the projectiles retain most of their bullet weight at impact.   Because of this, you can use a lighter bullet. Copper has about 3/4 the density of lead, contributing to a lighter bullet that is the same size of a lead bullet. This enables one to craft much higher velocity rounds.  Some side-effects of both of these characteristics are that there is less recoil with a lighter bullet, allowing you to follow-up an initial shot with a more accurate second shot.  Hollow points function better at higher speeds, too.  And, one could make the case that a lighter, faster bullet is more effective in self-defense situations, though that point is controversial.  There are enough benefits without that added bonus.

        When it comes to innovative self-defense round, there are many options.  Because copper is harder than lead, in order to cause maximum damage, we need the bullet to fully expand. In order to accomplish this, some manufacturers often machine fault lines or build the bullets for specific ballistics, such as mushrooming or splitting deliberately and then spinning end over end throughout the wound channel. This can be effective at causing larger wound channels than normal lead bullets.  Coupled with lighter, faster rounds & one can get incredible penetration along with multiple wound channels, always a benefit when trying to incapacitate an attacker.

        Black Butterfly Buzz Saw

        On top of all these self-defense implications, more often it is the hunting use of lead-free ammo that garners the most attention.  There are some fantastic options out there. Because of the reasons listed above, i.e. a lighter, faster bullet, lead-free ammunition can be the perfect component to your hunt.  A faster bullet gets to your game faster.  Simple.  That means if you are shooting a moving animal from even a mid-range distance (<100 yards), you will have to lead the animal by significantly less.  That translates to higher precision and more humane kills - easy to lead by one foot vs. two feet. 

        But, don’t just take our word for it!  A study was done to check the efficacy of multiple copper rounds vs. a traditional lead round. It appears that the ammunition matters a lot. Two of the copper rounds didn’t perform as well as the lead one, but the other copper round performed in line with the lead round. What does this suggest? Probably not much right now because there was only one lead round. However, it could mean that when choosing lead-free ammunition, there are wider variances the consumer has to consider.  Finding the correct round for your weapon probably means more than anything else, too! And, that is traditional guidance when choosing ammunition.


        Isn’t Lead-Free Ammunition Expensive?

        Because lead-free ammo is not as common as traditional ammo, lead-free ammo is “small batch”, which drives up the cost per unit. They cannot be compared to traditional lead cartridges that are made by the billions (exaggeration). It’s simply not an apples to apples comparison.  You wouldn’t compare Pappy Van Winkle with Old Crow, would you?

        Because of the smaller quantities, there is often more precision in the manufacturing process, much like what is done for premium lead ammunition. Lead-free ammo will almost always cost more than the cheapest lead ammo, but when comparing premium lead ammo to lead-free ammo, they are very closely aligned. All in all, us hunters spend a lot of money on our gear, but often don’t spend much thought on ammunition or just buy what’s on the shelf at Walmart.  

        Think about it, we buy blinds, guns, gear (add extra for cold weather gear), some of us buy guided hunts, even hunting licenses are expensive these days.  If I start spending an extra 10-20 cents per round on my hunting ammunition, that’s not going to even be a drop in the bucket.  It’s just another opportunity for sportsmen to further optimize their hunting experience, whether using premium lead or lead-free ammo.  And, consider all the benefits to having cleaner harvested game that’s safer for your family.  You are spending a lot of money to make sure your hunt goes well, why not invest in higher quality, cleaner ammunition.

        But, some of you might pause here…  and think: “I don’t hunt”.  Why would I care about using more expensive ammunition for plinking?  How much does a box of 50 9MM rounds cost at your local Cabela’s or Bass Pro?  I just did a quick search on Cabela’s and, for a 50 9MM round box, I couldn’t find anything cheaper than $13.99.  Funny, we have some Zinc ammunition made by high-quality manufacturers Alchemist Ammunition for $13.75.  While it currently isn’t available in all calibers, it’s a realistic option for available calibers.  And, Polycase has started to product the PolyCase Inceptor RNP.  It’s a training round, meant to perform like the ARX and it comes in at a super reasonable price for 50 rounds - $15.99.  That’s the same range of your traditional lead ammo, even the base varieties.  Furthermore, if your preferred defensive round is the Inceptor ARX (which is a great choice), why not try shooting the RNP to see if your gun shoots them similarly?  That way, you can train with a round that is handled comparatively to your non-training round, which isn’t what we can say about all other training rounds.

        While cost may have been a significant hurdle in the past, the reality is that today lead-free ammunition has some incredibly affordable options.  And, when comparing hunting ammunition, understand that the higher quality the ammo, the more you’ll generally pay for that ammo - whether that ammo is lead-free or not.  And, if you happen to compare similar quality ammunition, you’ll find that lead-free ammo isn’t much different than traditional ammo.

         Alchemist Ammunition Z-Clean at the range

        It’s Safer for Everyone Involved

        Let’s say that you go the local range pretty often, you make some friends, especially the folks that work there.  That’s what the shooting sports are all about.  Seems normal.  Well, did you know that folks who work at the shooting ranges are at a much higher risk for lead exposure because of lead in the air?   The reason is that when you shoot traditional lead ammo, you are putting small lead particles into the air in many ways:

        • Vaporized via the primer, which often contain lead compounds
        • The friction between the barrel and the bullet
        • When the powder explodes against the base of the lead bullet
        • When the bullet fragments at the point of impact

        We’ve all been the range, and the ventilation systems are one of the most noticeable experiences for an indoor range.  They are there to minimize a lot of the exposure for both the shooters and range cleaners.  But, it doesn’t do a perfect job.  Even with great ventilation, the air around shooters is often above toxic lead levels (over 50mg/m3), with ranges as low as 14mg/m3 to about 35,000mg/m3!  That means, by shooting lead bullets at the range, you are putting your friends at the range at risk.  Not a really hard conclusion to make.  That said, it is their choice to work there - they probably enjoy the comradery and the knowledge that they are helping folks improve their ability to defend themselves. 

        On top of that, you also put yourself at risk when using the range, but unless you are there as much as the workers (or even police officers), you probably don’t have to worry as much.  But, maybe you should at least get yourself evaluated if you are at the range often, even if you are shooting lead-free ammo.  And, if you are taking youngsters to the range, remember the CDC says that there is no safe blood level for children.  So, potentially think twice about taking your child or take extra precautions when going to the range.

        I’m not trying to scare you away from lead ammunition… people have been using it for years!  That said, the dangers due to lead exposure are real.  You can lower your risk for lead exposure by using lead-free ammo (your direct breathing space will be cleaner).

        While using lead-free ammo will reduce your impact, you’ll still want to take proper precautions when using or returning from the range (indoor or outdoor), such as:

        • Use lead-free ammunition (of course)
        • Do not eat, drink or smoke while at the range
        • Wear gloves while shooting
        • Have dedicated ‘range clothing’ to wear for each trip
        • Always wash your hands after shooting
        • Take a shower immediately after using the range
        • Wash your clothes immediately after using the range

        And, it isn’t just indoor ranges.  You are at similar risks outdoors, depending on a number of factors, such as wind direction (in an indoor range, the ventilation system should be pulling the toxic air away from the shooters.

        Because of all the issues with lead exposure, and the large cost that some ranges pay to reduce that exposure to their employees and customers, some ranges are opting for a lead-free only policy.  We don’t necessarily advocate for that - we think that choice is the best option out there, but we do see the merits of it.  If we were to establish a new shooting range (outdoor or indoor), we’d probably take that lead-free option because of the peace of mind for our employees.


        It’s Better for Specialized Training and Realistic Self-Defense Training

        When I was recently looking into purchasing some heavy steel targets to set up a permanent outdoor range (for personal use).  I noticed some warnings from manufacturers that I shouldn’t shoot within 50 yards or more sometimes.  Apparently, ricochets are a real problem and that is why they recommend shooting at heavy steel targets from distance.


        There is an option for safer shooting at short distances, even at less than five yards.  It’s called frangible ammo & it happens to be lead-free! Simply, most frangible ammunition is a compressed copper powder projectile.  Heavy duty presses combined with some bonding additives allow for a usable projectile to be created.  Because the round is copper powder, it basically disintegrates whenever it impacts something harder than itself.  No ricochet, no deflection, just powder.  How cool is that?  So, you can shoot at incredibly close ranges with no risk of being hit by a ricochet from a lead fragment or copper jacket.  I haven’t personally experienced it, but folks with experience shooting at close ranges tell me that ricocheted copper jackets hitting their hands is not out of the ordinary.  

        Most rooms in homes are less than 30 feet long (10 yards).  I don’t really expect to have many situations where I have to defend myself against someone who is greater than 10 yards away.  Why not train in close quarters?  Using frangible ammunition enables you to have more realistic self-defense training:  It’s not just as good as traditional ammo, it’s actually better.

        Keep in mind, quality matters here (like always). There may be some drawbacks from lower quality frangible rounds, such as losing projectile material in the barrel, causing uneven trajectory.  By using higher quality frangible rounds, you can mitigate this risk. Then, you can have an incredibly exciting shooting experience and improve your ability to defend yourself in more realistic self-defense scenarios - something you can’t get reliably with traditional lead ammo. 


        The Impact to our Environment

        I often tell my non-hunting friends that hunters were the first conservationists (I used to have a bumper sticker that said the same thing).  They laugh and think that is the funniest thing in the world because they think that killing animals is the opposite of preserving them.  Then, I go on to explain how hunting licenses started and that our plentiful game in the US is a results of hunters wanting to self-regulated.  Then I share some facts about whitetail deer population in North America around 1900 vs. today (500K vs 30M+) and some of these other reasons.  It is often an interesting lesson for them.  I'm of the thought that we need to continue to preserve our own legacy as hunters, and I think that means being great stewards of our landscape.  Traditional lead ammunition has an impact on our environment, whether we want to believe it or not.  And, the cost to stop that isn't outrageous.

        The berm behind my house has thousands of lead bullets in it.  While that seems like a lot, consider places where folks actually shoot often, like outdoor ranges.  For safety reasons, a lot of outdoor ranges have built up dirt backgrounds to absorb most fire.  Consider how much lead has actually been deposited in that hill?  Whether or not the lead has leached into groundwater (it can), that’s probably not an area that I’d like to reclaim and plant my garden in there.  

        Furthermore, let’s think about one of the reasons why the army has abandoned traditional lead ammo.  Cleaning up the berms used as shooting backstops is costly if done right. They’ve also found that the new, lead-free round is more effective!  

        Taking it one step further, the military has called for biodegradable bullets.  How incredible of an idea is that? Why would the military go to those lengths if the traditional lead ammo didn’t have ill effects for the environment?   


        Lead Bullets Unintentionally Kill Bald Eagles and Other Wildlife

        As a hunter and lover of nature, it hurts me when animals are put at risk due to actions taken by humans that are easily and cheaply preventable.  Again, as a hunter, I often think we can only count on hunters to make the right choices because we are often those that get the most utility out of nature and the outdoors.

        People always reach out to me to tell me about every lead-poisoned bald eagle they hear about.  In 2011, 21 eagles with measurable levels of lead (6 with toxic levels) were admitted to the Wildlife Center of Virginia.

        I’m sure that throughout the US, hundreds of Bald Eagles are sickened by lead every year and perhaps hundreds die of lead poisoning.  It is believed that the majority of these birds get the lead poisoning because they eat the entrails & carcasses of hunter-harvested game taken with lead bullets.  It’s sad – that’s our national symbol, and there is nothing more American than a bald eagle. That’s all I can say.

        The Bald Eagle: Our National Symbol at risk due to lead poisoning

        California instituted its lead bullet hunting ban to protect the condors.  It’d be a shame if, just by using lead-free ammunition, we’d be able to get better return for our investment in saving these incredible birds.

        Since 1991, there has been a ban of lead shot for use in waterfowl hunting because of the toxicity to the waterfowl.  It’s been estimated that since that ban, one to one-and-a-half million waterfowl have been saved annually.  Think about how many more hunters get into hunting because of the excellent experiences they have out in the field - I’m sure a million extra waterfowl per year has increased that number.  While there have been some hiccups, the ban has largely been successful.  

        All in all, if using lead-free ammunition increases the opportunities for all of us to experience the majesty of nature even better, then count me in.



        We’ve covered a lot here.  I think the issues around my family’s health are the most important to me.  And, given it isn’t substantially more expensive to shoot with lead-free ammunition, that’s an easy choice to make because I still get to spend time in the hobby I enjoy.  It’s also important to me that the performance of the rounds is just as good.  The research clearly shows that there is no drop-off in performance on both the hunting and self-defense front. Another incredibly compelling reason is the impact lead ammunition has on the environment & wildlife (the ones you don’t intend to harvest).  Forget about the bans & the politics, that doesn’t change the fact that lead-free ammunition is simply better for most all scenarios.  And, because of that, I choose to use ammunition that is lead-free.


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