Jumping the Gun? A Counter Argument For The Immediate Ban On Lead Ammunition

Jumping the Gun? A Counter Argument For The Immediate Ban On Lead Ammunition

Despite Covid restrictions, big steps have been made in the last year towards sustainable practices amongst the shooting community. The movement away from single-use plastics and lead shot ammunition in particular has gained a lot of traction. 

In February of this year, the UK shooting community received a proposal from the European Chemicals Agency for the near-total ban on the sale and use of lead ammunition for airguns, shotguns and rifles. The British Association for Shooting and Conservation then joined other shooting organisations to publish a joint statement expressing their support for the five-year transition towards sustainable ammunition.

At Quill Productions, like so many others in the UK Gaming industry, we are passionate about sustainability, conservation and protecting the British countryside. Being a British based independent business, we have always been passionate about limiting our carbon footprint.

It will come as no surprise then that we support the to move towards sustainable ammunition as a whole. We ourselves are looking into ways that Quill can make its own processes more environmentally friendly, as we believe every business should do what they can to help combat climate change. The transition to biodegradable cartridge shells and wadding is one that makes sense for everyone; it is cost-effective and will clearly make a huge difference.

It’s the rush to move away from lead-shot that we’re worried about.

We are concerned that for the immediate future, the move away from lead could not only cause problems for those who love to shoot, but also to the welfare of game birds. 

The culture of game shooting in the UK has been built on centuries of British heritage and is entirely unique in its nature. Although the environmental impacts of Gamekeeping and shooting have been debated in the past, it is widely agreed that if the right practises are used, British wildlife and land benefit from this style of conservation work.

According to a survey by the Game & Wild Conservation Trust, the main concerns expressed by the members of the UK shooting community so far are the potential damage of using steel shot in older guns, the increased cost and using up surplus lead shot which hasn't been used due to Coronavirus restrictions.

For many, it seems that they would rather wait for an alternative to steel shot before risking it down the barrel an older gun. Considering that other alternatives to steel are yet to be developed and tested, this rather suggests that shooting for many is going to come to a fairly abrupt stop before a solution has even been found.

At Quill Productions, for more than 20 years we have produced specialist products which have been designed to ensure that Game birds are kept in peak health for their entire lives. 

This is why we are concerned that the current lack of research for the lethality of using steel shot to quickly kill game birds is somewhat worrying.

Lead as the traditional metal choice for shot is not only proven to be extremely effective, but incredibly hard to accurately replicate.

The entirely unique qualities of lead - its density and malleability - make it perfect for Game shooting primarily for a couple of important reasons.

The first which we have already mentioned, is the maintenance of older guns. Many shotgun owners have already expressed concerns over the damage steel shot could do when it travels down the barrel of their guns. This is because the soft nature of lead allows it to bend upon impact with the inside of the barrel, whilst maintaining a high velocity.

Steel as an alternative requires a good deal more power when fired to maintain its speed through the air, which when combined with its hardness could essentially scratch and erode the barrel from the inside out.

The second argument for lead is its lethality. The unique nature of lead means that once fired, it maintains a high velocity as it travels through the air and upon impact with the bird spreads so that it quickly penetrates the vital organs and causes instant death.

Steel as the new proposed alternative requires a great deal more power to be shot and often will then lose its velocity once fired. In theory, this could mean that when the shot hits the bird, not only could it not deeply penetrate the body, but it also may get caught up in the feathers, reducing fatality rate and making it more likely that birds could be maimed rather than effectively killed quickly.

Finally, it is important that the potential damage of lead pollution from game shooting is fairly assessed. England carp fishing team manager Rob Hughes in an interview on Youtube’s Carp Cast said “I get the idea about lead shot. Birds can ingest it and that’s a problem. But they don’t eat 4oz lead.”

It’s certainly true that lead as a pollutant can do damage, but the quantity of lead from ammunition in the British countryside from game shooting is incredibly small, especially when compared to the quantities of lead being taken out of paint production and other mass manufacturing sources.

This puts forth the question of whether it is in fact the newsworthiness of lead which has led to such radical changes being pushed forward. Certainly, this seems to be the case for the fishing industry which faces a similar ban on using lead bait. When we consider the devastating effects of discarded nets, mercury poisoning and micro-plastics it puts the effects of using small scale lead bait rather in perspective.

In relation to shooting, if reports on the failure of steel shot velocity and distance turn out to be accurate, this could mean that the relatively small risk of lead pollution is being prioritised over the welfare of the actual birds.

Furthermore, Gary Thorpe, owner of Anchor Tackle has expressed concerns over how many people will start making their own lead cartridges at home. With no real alternative apart from steel shot available yet on the market, the rise of people attempting to create lead cartridges could be extremely dangerous.

It seems therefore that the BASC and other major shooting confederations pushing for an immediate lead-ammunition ban might just be pushing forwards but actually missing the mark entirely.

Without an alternative which is proven to be as effective, this rush to make the claim of being ‘lead-free’ appears to be more about following trends than practicality – which could come at the cost of the UK shooting community.

Moving forward, we think that more scientific research needs to be done testing British birds raised and shot on British soil.

What are your opinions on the move away from lead shot? Don’t forget to leave us a comment and subscribe to the Quill newsletter for more articles.

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