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A comparison of fragmenting lead-based and lead-free bullets for aerial shooting of wild pigs

Woźniakowski, G., Hampton, J.O., Eccles, G., Hunt, R., Bengsen, A.J., Perry, A.L., Parker, S., Miller, C. J., Joslyn, S.K., Stokke, S., Arnemo, J.M. and Hart, Q. (2021) A comparison of fragmenting lead-based and lead-free bullets for aerial shooting of wild pigs. PLoS ONE, 16 (3). Art. e0247785.

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In response to the health threats posed by toxic lead to humans, scavenging wildlife and the environment, there is currently a focus on transitioning from lead-based to lead-free bullets for shooting of wild animals. We compared efficiency metrics and terminal ballistic performance for lead-based and lead-free (non-lead) bullets for aerial shooting of wild pigs (Sus scrofa) in eastern Australia. Ballistic testing revealed that lead-based and lead-free bullets achieved similar performance in precision and muzzle kinetic energy (E0) levels (3337.2 J and 3345.7 J, respectively). An aerial shooting trial was conducted with wild pigs shot with one type of lead-based and one type of lead-free bullets under identical conditions. Observations were made from 859 shooting events (n = 430 and 429 respectively), with a sub-set of pigs examined via gross post-mortem (n = 100 and 108 respectively), and a further sub-set examined via radiography (n = 94 and 101 respectively). The mean number of bullets fired per pig killed did not differ greatly between lead-based and lead-free bullets respectively (4.09 vs 3.91), nor did the mean number of bullet wound tracts in each animal via post-mortem inspection (3.29 vs 2.98). However, radiography revealed a higher average number of fragments per animal (median >300 vs median = 55) and a broader distribution of fragments with lead-based bullets. Our results suggest that lead-based and lead-free bullets are similarly effective for aerial shooting of wild pigs, but that the bullet types behave differently, with lead-based bullets displaying a higher degree of fragmentation. These results suggest that aerial shooting may be a particularly important contributor to scavenging wildlife being exposed to lead and that investigation of lead-free bullets for this use should continue.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Veterinary and Life Sciences
Publisher: Public Library of Science
Copyright: © 2021 Hampton et al.
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