Lapua Mega and Naturalis
Being eco-friendly seems to be affecting just about everyone these days. Probably the biggest impact on the hunting world a few years ago was the fact you cannot use lead shot on waterfowl. So steel, bismuth and other non-lead alternatives became mandatory for wildfowlers. Recently in certain European countries this prohibition has and is extending to big game shooting too. In this case one can only assume that this has to do more with the environment than the fact that waterfowl can and do ingest spent lead shot as they feed from the bottom of ponds etc.
Lapua of Finland seem to have the answer with their new Naturalis bullet, which offers a non-lead alternative to the more familiar jacketed soft point (JSP) and even ballistic tipped bulleted we know and use in the UK. They supplied a 170-grain load in 30-06.
The Naturalis uses an all-copper design with a long hollow point cavity in the nose. Into this they insert a polycarbonate ball that on impact sets back to expand the bullet into a mushroom twice the original diameter. Data indicates that the process starts between 20-35mm after entry into the animal and offers near 100% mass retention. Being all one metal the expansion appears far more controlled with less of the blow-up effect of a traditional lead-cored design. Shooting live game with it I discovered that it acts more like the Winchester Supreme Fail Safe, which offers a similar build apart from the expander system.
This gives good knock down and pass through abilities yet appears to do less peripheral tissue damage to the animal on say a heart/lung shot. Quite often with this sort of point of aim using a ballistic tip or JSP, one if not both shoulders of small to medium deer can be written off, as they are turned into red jelly and little else.
Pulling a selection of cartridges showed that the Naturalis bullet is very consistent for weight, with the 170-grainers coming in at a maximum deviation of .02-grain. Hardly surprising I suppose as the projectile is made from one solid piece of copper, whereas a separate copper jacket and lead core design is probably harder to make as consistently.
Bigger by Design
However, to get the weight without using a heavy lead core, the Naturalis bullet is as big as the 200-grain Mega of the same calibre. But this gives a long projectile, which really does carry and penetrate well. The bullet is boat tailed with a long bearing surface and un-fluted crimping cannelure. The nose will hardly win any awards for the most efficient ballistic coefficient (BC) with its truncated polycarbonate tip, but for hunting needs it proved accurate at normal ranges from 100-400 yards. Lapua quote a speed of 830 mps (2723 fps) for this load. Average velocity from the test rifle came in at 2697 fps, which gives a muzzle energy figure of 2745 ft/lbs.
How you feel about non-lead hunting bullets is down to you, but I suppose that there must be an awful lot of expanding projectiles laying around in Europe and the UK. How much damage that does to the environment remains to be seen, but the Lapua Naturalis is a solution to a potential problem and one that offers good performance above and beyond being just eco-friendly. It is also available as just bullets for the reloader.
Now let’s get back to basics as despite the Naturalis Lapua still offers the hunter traditional soft tip ammo in the form of their Mega range. Though an avid reloader, I have used Mega ammunition in my rifles over the years and found their 100-grain 243 and 150-grain 308 to be excellent performers. The build goes for what I would call an enclosed, flat-nosed soft point. It does not offer an amazing BC but is accurate for all sensible hunting ranges. It shows a flat/bevel edged base and a decent length of bearing surface.
Inspection of the ogive shows small cuts around the edge to help primary expansion and Lapua say that the mechanically-bonded lead core design gives 97% weight retention. Again terminal effect, penetration and pass throughs are good. Weight deviation is around .04-5-grains, not as tight as the Natuarlis, but most animals I’ve shot have never noticed the difference.
I had two calibres here 30-06 (200-grain) and 300 Win Mag 185-grain. Quoted speeds ran to 775 mps/2542 fps for the 06 and 830 mps/2723 fps withy the 300. Again both were down around 20/30 fps from the figure quoted but good enough with 2775 ft/lbs from the 06 and 3045 ft/lbs from the 300. It’s interesting to note here that the 170-grain Naturalis only gives away 30 ft/lbs to the heavier 200-grain Mega in a bullet style that’s tough and effective.
Checking out the Lapua website shows that they offer the following calibre options
300 Win Mag
338 Lapua Magnum
300 Win Mag
Plus of course you have various bullet weights for the reloader too.
What I rather liked about the Naturalis is that the ammunition comes in individual packs of five, with four to a standard 20-round box. This I found was most convenient for the hunter as two packets is more than enough and easily slips into your pocket as opposed to a big box of 20. The 30-06 Mega offers the usual 20-round box with plastic divider, but the 300 Win Mag comes in packs of 10, which are equally useful.
It goes without saying that Lapua brass is second to none. Boxer-primed it’s ideal for the realoader and I use it myself for my 30-06 Mauser M 03. The non-lead Naturalis adds to a proven range of ammunition by giving a cartridge that is as effective as anything else out their of similar quality but can be used in those countries who no longer allow lead for live animal shooting.
170-grain 30-06 Naturalis (code N317202 £45 per 20
200-grain 30-06 Mega (code 4317567) £26 per 20
185-grain 300 Win Mag (code 4317312) £43 per 20
All Prices Are Guides Due to the Changes in US & European Exchange Rates