Quantitative analysis from practical hunting
Author: Nikolaj Trier
Since the introduction of lead-free ammunition for hunting, there has been some mistrust and prejudice regarding both accuracy and effectiveness. While I personally always continuously evaluate the qualitative aspects of all my hunting ammunition on both the shooting range and during hunts, I wanted to conduct a small quantitative analysis of the practical data and results while hunting with lead-free SAKO POWERHEAD BLADE ammunition.
Since the year 2000, where I started hunting with rifles, I have recorded all data for rifle shots during my hunts, however the data and conclusions mentioned in this article is from a period of 24 months of hunting and the shooting of 42 different mammals with lead-free ammunition.
Two years ago, I had the opportunity to start shooting with Sako’s new lead-free ammunition, Powerhead Blade, in .308 Win. caliber and later in 9.3 X 62 caliber.
Regarding the “shooter’s abilities”, I personally probably spend more time shooting, training and hunting with my rifles than the average Danish hunter. I train in PRS shooting, field shootings and generally enjoy shooting medium to long distances extensively. I am also a rifle instructor, originally from the military and civilian instructor for the past 10 years. During the period of this analysis, I have been sponsored with ammunition from Sako Cartridges, so I have not held back on the shooting range. However, I have tried to write the following objectively based on the perceived experience, statistics, and specific observations. I would never use or recommend ammunition that I cannot fully stand behind, regardless of the circumstances.
Sako Powerhead Blade
Sako Powerhead Blade is a lead-free ammunition which uses ductile copper as a substitute for lead. Ductile materials have a high capacity for plastic deformation, meaning they can change their shape without losing their structural integrity. With “The Blade” Sako has worked on highest possible bullet weight retention to preserve the meat with very limited risk of fragmentation. Copper provides similar ballistic performance while reducing the release of lead into the environment. The adoption of lead-free ammunition is driven by efforts to protect wildlife, prevent lead contamination in ecosystems, and reduce the risk of lead exposure for humans and wildlife that may consume game meat.
Historical Background – Precision and effect
In terms of precision, especially with .308 Win. caliber, I had previously encountered challenges in achieving a consistently tight grouping of shots with lead-free ammunition in shorter barrels of 51 cm, which I prefer for hunting. Other lead-free projectiles have provided me with for hunting “acceptable” shot patterns and have worked quite well in terms of effectiveness on game.
With the 9.3 X 62 caliber, I do not experience significant differences in precision among the brands I have tested and used for lead-free ammunition over the past 10+ years.
Shooting medium male wildboar with Sako Blade .308 Win. and Infiray thermal scope.
From July 2021 to July 2023, I have shot 42 game animals with a rifle and Sako Powerhead Blade, distributed as follows by caliber:
308 Win: 33 (Rifle: Tikka T3x CTR)
9.3 X 62: 6 (Rifle: Sauer 202 XT)
All game was shot in Denmark and Sweden.
Fallow deer: 15 (3 adult male deer – all with .308 Win)
Wild boar: 15 (4 larger male boars – all with .308 Win)
Roe deer: 8
Raccoon dog: 1
0-50 meters: 20 shots
50-100 meters: 12 shots
100-200 meters: 10 shots
Of these, game shot while moving: 10
Average shot distance: 65 meters
In terms of shooting distances during hunting, my average in the data is probably lower than most other hunters. The primary reason is that a lot of the wild boars I have shot were during night stalking, where I need to get very close to determine the gender before taking the shot. Additionally, I only shoot at game in motion at distances under 50 meters and never in full sprint.
0-5 meters: 29 shots
5-50 meters: 9 shots
50-125 meters: 2 shots
Average: 12.5 meters
Longest average fleeing distance (Game species/gender): Fallow deer – stag/trophy/spike: 39 meters
Shooting stick: 20
Sitting, tower with support: 13
Lying down: 0
Animals that required a follow-up shot: 2 (Both due to poor shot placement on the first shot).
Game with tracking by bloodhound: 1 (Primarily due to darkness and the shooter’s doubt about the point of impact).
Largest animal: Wild boar (male) weighing approximately 150 kg. – fleeing distance approximately 40 meters.
Pass-through shots: All except 1 (Wild boar, male, 90 kg.).
150 Kg. wild boar – distance 30 meters.
Regarding precision at hunting relevant distances from 0-200 meters with Sako Blade in .308 Win, I am very satisfied. The precision is close to what one would find in high-quality factory-loaded match-grade competition ammunition and significantly better than what I have previously achieved with other brands in this caliber. Hunting with lead-free Sako Powerhead Blade has given me the extra tight grouping and precision that I appreciate compared to other brands. Aim small – miss small!
In terms of effectiveness, the numbers above speak for themselves. All game I have shot at has been delivered with minimal fleeing distances, need for follow-up shots, and/or tracking.
Moreover, and very important, Sako Blade is by far the projectile with the least meat damage I have ever used in caliber .308 Win. I have had “pass-through” shots on all animals except one shot – the first one – a 90 kg. wild boar that, however, went down on the spot.
Due to legislation, there is a strong focus on the development of lead-free ammunition in Europe, and undoubtedly, there are other manufacturers that are also well ahead in producing lead-free projectiles that match their lead-containing counterparts 100% in all aspects, and perhaps more. I can recommend everyone to switch to lead-free ammunition no matter what.
In Denmark, legislation on the use of exclusively lead-free rifle ammunition for hunting will come into effect on March 1st, 2024.