Have You Considered Going Lead-Free?

April 20, 2011 | By | 9 Replies More

Image taken from an ad for a California shooting event.

Once in a while we run across articles or op-eds like the one that appeared recently in the Des Moines Register. The points generally are that lead is no longer necessary in ammo thanks to lead alternatives, and that lead in game harms wildlife and people:

No matter how careful one is with cleaning the game, ingesting some lead cannot be avoided. Controlled experiments in England with lead-shot game birds, and in Idaho with lead-shot deer, make clear that the ammunition tends to fragment more than previously thought, and cannot be reliably cleaned from the meat.

As a hunter myself, once I realized the connection, I immediately switched to copper slugs for deer hunting and steel shot for pheasant hunting. Why take the risk with my health and that of my children?

Tough to argue against that, and for that reason in particular we’ve talked about switching to non-lead shells. But so far we haven’t.

Have you considered it? Or better yet, have you hunted or do you hunt with non-lead shot shells? If so and can recommend some, definitely let us know what’s worked for you and what gun(s) you’re using them in.

Category: Ammo/shells, Non-lead

Comments (9)

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  1. Chris Nielsen says:

    The only alternatives to lead that I know of iare steel and bismuth. If you have an old double like my Sterlingworth, that automatically eliminates steel as it is not recommended in older barrels. (Also the patterning characteristics of steel is much different then that of lead) That leaves bismuth which is cost prohibitive. So for me, its going to be lead until they come out with something that is cost effective and has the same characteristics as lead. In addition, save for use over wetlands for waterfowl, I don’t really subscribe to all the environmental arguments against lead use in upland hunting. Thats not to say, that lead isn’t bad for the environment, just that there are other man made threats to the environment and habitat that are more concerning and pose more of an identifiable threat than the use of lead shot.

  2. Joe says:

    i’ve definitely been thinking about it. there have been some scary reports lately about not only the lead that you put into your quarry, but the lead that is already in them from previous years of spent shells. one persons actions cant change the accumulated lead in the ecosystem, but i’d feel better knowing that i’m not leaving behind lead shot for a grouse’s gizzard. i will likely make the switch completely next season.

  3. David says:

    I have been using Remington HD Wingmaster #6 for my second shot. I also alternate with HEVI Shot #6. Some may see this type of load as unnecessary and overkill along with on the costly side. However, they are extremely effective. Not only are these rounds non-toxic, they are “state of the art” with regards to the engineering and manufacturing of the shell.

  4. Wink says:

    I have used Bismuth shot when Upland Hunting on Federal land. The shells worked great, easily as good as lead, that’s not the point. They cost 24 dollars for a box of 10! As for the amount of lead shot put in the environment by upland hunters it is infinitesimal compared to lead contamination that occurs naturally and from industry.
    In the example given in your article about lead fragments in deer I find that hard to believe. I’d want to know who conducted the study and were they trying to reinforce a preconceived notion, it happens. When dressing a deer aren’t most people going to cut out the damaged meat? That should take care of any stray lead fragments. I have on rare occasion been eating game and chomped down on lead shot that I missed when cleaning a bird, I simply took the shot out of my mouth and kept on eating, Picking all the shot out of birds is mostly a matter of taking your time. I’m 65 years old and like most have a few problems but lead poisoning isn’t one of them and I have the blood tests to prove it.
    The anti’s will use this lead shot hysteria to price many out of hunting. They see this as an opportunity to use a “feel good” issue to hurt hunting. Anyone want to guess what non-lead shells would add to the cost of a day of dove hunting?

  5. Ryan says:

    There are also many studies out there that show no ill effects from consuming game shot with lead based ammunition.

  6. Clinton Shaw says:

    This year in Washington State to hunt upland game on all state lands non-toxic shot is required. I am normaly a fair to good shot. This year I hit many birds and they did not go down. I patterned my loads and do not take wild shots. I have been hunting with old doubles and used Heavy Shot Classic Doubles and Fiocci Tundra Shot both in #4 for Ring Neck. I found the Fiocci Tundra Shot to be more productive. Cost aside how many shots does it take to get your limit? I hunt at least 2 time a week and 10 rounds lasts over 2 weeks. do the math how expensive is it. I would like to load my own then I would have more control over pattern. I have concluded that it is hard to beat lead. I am not convinced that there is enough lead spread over the landscape to have sugnifiant effect on the local ecosystem. I have seen no scientific based emperical data that will substantiate lead affects as described by the state wildlife people. Most of the influance comes from individuals that do not hunt. Looks like the wildlife folks are working themselves out of a job.

  7. lucas says:

    this past year in iowa, we had our first dove season. the original plan was that doves would have to be shot with steel. thanks to state rep clel baudler(awesome guy, shoots old doubles, too), that notion was shot down, as it just didn’t make sense, especially since dove season also overlaps with pheasant/quail/hun/rabbit/squirrel season.

    i wasn’t able to read the article, because the link wouldn’t work, but the Des Moines Register is a very liberal paper. was this the article where they interviewed Liz Garst? not a fan of her.

    also, it’s pretty easy to see why waterfowler’s have so many cripples and are always looking for new ammo(i know from experience). . . compare lead to iron, the main component of steel, and tell me which one is heavier…i don’t care if steel 4’s pattern similarly to lead 6’s, they don’t kill birds.

    • Vinnie says:

      I know how tempting it is to simply choose what science we want to believe…and we are right to be skeptical. I’m a researcher by profession and I know how much crap there is out there. The lead thing, however, is a done-deal. There is SO MUCH data on this from many, many different research institution over a period of many years. I am not aware of any studies that claim lead in animals is perfectly safe. Lead is highly toxic. Yes there are greater polluters out there, but at the end of the day, we as hunters need to take responsibility for conserving our hunting grounds. That includes keeping game healthy to reproduce and for our fellow hunters to eat. Yes the alternatives to lead are not quite as good and are more expensive, but we’ll adjust our tactics and bring the birds down as we always have.

  8. Jay says:

    So hunting has been going on for how many years now? How many people suffer from Lead poisoning because of eating game?

    I’m happy to shoot non toxic. I shoot Bismuth for ducks. But the cost is outrageous and I won’t shoot steel. I contend that there are many more birds wounded and lost with steel than there are killed because of lead poisoning.

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