April 1st, 2010

New from New Zealand — Jacketless, Bio-Degradable Bullets

In recent years, environmental concerns over lead toxicity have inspired efforts to eliminate conventional lead-based ammunition. To protect endangered species from lead poisoning, California has banned hunting altogether on huge tracts of public land. In other areas which harbor protected species, hunters are forbidden to use lead-core or solid lead bullets. There is an ongoing FDA investigation into the health of venison taken with lead-core bullets. Responding to such concerns, in 2008, Barnes Bullets (now part of the Freedom Group), introduced its MPG™ (Multi-Purpose Green) lead-free bullets. These bullets are intended for hunting and for rifle training in locations where lead is restricted.

Following Barnes’ lead, BIO-Bullets, a small company in Wanganui, New Zealand has invented a jacketless bullet that is not only lead-free, but is also 100% non-toxic, and bio-degradable. The new bullets have zero lead content and are made from “all-natural”, organic compounds. Unlike conventional bullets formed in a die, the new BIO-Bullets are pressure-molded from a proprietary composite, using sintered mineral compounds in a silica matrix. The mineral compounds, interestingly enough, not only bind the bio-degradable bullet together, but they provide nutritional benefits for any game that might ingest the projectiles. If an animal eats the bullet, it won’t get sick — it will actually get healthier.

That’s right — these edible BIO-Bullets are not only non-toxic, they are actually nutritious. “When we came up with a non-toxic component mix, we realized we could actually provide a blend of flavorful nutrients in the matrix.” Said Trevor MacDiarmid, BIO-Bullets’ chief bullet designer. “It may seem far-fetched but just look at the label on a typical multi-vitamin supplement. You’ll see iron, chromium, magnesium, potassium, and zinc, among other minerals. These are all elements that can be combined into a durable bullet form that is actually healthy when ingested by an animal.” MacDiarmid, who holds a Ph.D in chemical engineering, explains that the health benefits of the BIO-Bullet came as an unexpected bonus: “Our first goal was simply to create a shootable, lead-free bullet that was non-toxic. But when our silica matrix proved more than hard enough to survive the friction, heat, and pressure of a 3500 fps trip through a rifle bore, we realized we could add additional minerals into the mix that would have a salutary effect on wildlife health.”

BIO-Bullet’s founder, Steven Williams, is a gregarious 45-year entrepreneur who earned his first millions promoting dietary supplements in his native New Zealand. Noting the growing interest in “eco-friendly” ammunition components, Williams expects a huge demand for his new BIO-Bullets. “Globally, the annual sales of hunting bullets exceed €500 million in value. And the military bullet market may be triple that number — as long as you Yanks keep fighting wars”, he joked. Williams believes his new company is in the right place at the right time: “Being based in eco-aware New Zealand gives us a strong marketing advantage in launching this new product.” Williams’ company has earned the coveted “100% Pure New Zealand” certification, signifying that Bio-Bullets are “all-natural” and organic.

A select group of New Zealand hunting guides has already been using prototype BIO-Bullets in the field. The new eco-friendly bullets have earned high praise from these tough-to-please outdoorsmen. “In terms of ballistics and knock-down power, I reckon the ‘greenies’ are as good as anything on the market”, reports veteran outfitter Bart Coutts. South Island guide and deer farmer Dennis Amon said, “I’ve used them for predator control, and, as a test I even fed them to some of our captive Red Deer. The Reds ate them up like they were candy. Ever since then we’ve been calling these BIO-bullets the ‘incredible edibles’.”

BIO-Bullets will initially be available in .224, 6mm, and .308 calibers starting at $40 (NZ) per box of 100. The varmint-grade, flat-based bullets will be finished with a day-glo green outer coating, while the longer, boat-tail match bullets will be fluorescent red. Said designer MacDiarmid: “Since our BIO-Bullets don’t use a conventional jacket, we can finish them in any color by adding non-toxic dyes to the silica matrix. It’s sort of like putting the colored shell on a jelly bean. I favored a more sedate color, but the boss wanted something bold and eye-catching. Steven’s the marketing guru, and he writes the checks, so we went with fluorescent colors. But any exterior color scheme is possible, even digital camo.”

BIO-Bullets is currently finalizing arrangements with North American distributors. The company expects its eco-friendly bullets to appear on American and Canadian store shelves in time for the traditional fall hunting season.

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