Who makes zinc bullets? What are they used for and how long have they been around? Firearms expert Andrew Venables answers these questions and more.

History of bullet development by Andrew Venables

Why do we cling to the pre-1900 lead bullet design when the 20th and even 21st centuries have given us so much more? The last 80 years has seen new bullet shapes and, crucially, new bullet materials, argues Andrew Venables.

It became clear within the first years of the 20th century that we were asking too much of lead bullets. We wanted them to go faster and do more damage on impact. Lead – says Andrew – simply wasn’t cutting it.

In 1947, Nosler came out with the Nosler partition design, similar to the RWS ‘H’ design, which divided the bullet into two. the top half was collapsible soft lead, while the bottom, separated by a partition, was a harder, higher antimony lead.

During the 1980s, Fred barnes of the Barnes Bullet Company began more experiments which ended with a monolithic copper or brass design. he found that lead couldn;t cope with the pressures he demanded of his bullets. 

After that, the field for new materials was wide open. Several companies make zinc bullets today, following an initial launch of the material in the early 2000s.   

A great varmint round

Compressed powdered zinc bullets explode on impact. Barnes shows a video of one of its Varmint Grenade  bullets hitting a blueberry. That makes them ideal for varminting – but not so good for game such as deer, which require deeper penetration to reach the heart.

The Winchester VarmintX lead-free rifle ammunition is designed specifically with sleek, lead-free, zinc core bullets that are explosive on impact. The zinc core and hollow point promote rapid expansion. The thin, alloy jacket with engineered sidewall profile allows for explosive fragmentation.

Developed alongside Italian special forces, Fiocchi’s Perfecta rifle bullets are for long-range target-shooters and are made of a 28/30 zinc-copper binary brass alloy.

Launched in 2007, the Barnes Varmint Grenade is the best known zince bullet. Here it is in action in a Barnes corporate film:

Click here for all our films with Andrew

For more from Andrew, visit WMSFirearmstraining.co.uk

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