THE “NON-TOXIC” SHOT CONTROVERSY
THE “NON-TOXIC” SHOT CONTROVERSY
Lead is a heavy, malleable, durable elemental metal with a low melting point actively used by humans for thousands of years: It is both boon and bane to humankind. Like other metallic elements, lead has properties that, in excess, can cause physiological and neurological damage (plumbism) to humans and other mammals. There is scientific evidence that ancient Romans suffered neurological injury by drinking water and wine containing lead solutions leached out of pipes and vessels. Roman upper classes sweetened their wines with “sugar of lead” (lead acetate) and the bones of ancient Romans analyzed in modern pathological laboratories contained levels of lead high enough to support the theories that emperors such as Nero and Caligula were not so much mad as suffering from the classic symptoms of lead poisoning—colic, headaches, loss of muscular tone, weight loss, irritability, blindness—and insanity.
Recently, British scientists have suggested that England’s King George III was a victim of plumbism. George was fond of sauerkraut, and at the time of his reign sauerkraut was prepared in lead-glazed crockery. Acids produced in preparing sauerkraut dissolve lead from the glaze: Perhaps George III ingested enough lead to trigger the dementia that marked his later life, when among other things he helped precipitate the American Revolution.
These vignettes are not to dissuade you from drinking water from lead pipes or eating sauerkraut (most domestic water today is piped through copper, cast iron or plastic, and lead-glazed cooking vessels are no longer manufactured), but to emphasize that ingestion of lead can have serious health effects. New parents are cautioned their infants should never be exposed to lead-based paints, and fishermen are well aware of the ban on lead sinkers in fresh water lakes and rivers because of the dangers lead ingestion poses to loons.
More to the point, this article examines lead versus “nontoxic” shot in shotshells used for hunting waterfowl, other birds and small game, and how the use of “non-toxic” shot affects our firearms and hunting and outdoor sports activities. In 1987 the Remington Gun Club of Lordship, Connecticut was closed by the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection due to the Department’s opinion that lead shot created a potential for harm to the environment. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service mandated that “non-toxic” shot had to be used for all waterfowl hunting beginning with the 1991-92 hunting seasons. The mandate was premised on the Service’s no doubt sincere belief that waterfowl ingested lead shot that had fallen into wetlands, and ingestion led to plumbism and waterfowl deaths.
Documents released by the Fish and Wildlife Service in response to a Freedom of Information Act request demonstrated intense opposition to the lead shot ban from many state fish and wildlife agencies—including the State of California—on the bases that data to correlate waterfowl deaths to lead shot falling into marshes were statistically insignificant and “scientifically dubious”. (Waterfowl mortality initially attributed to ingestion of expended lead shot was subsequently found to have been caused by starvation, avian cholera, parasites, botulism, and poisoning from insecticides and herbicides carried by rain water run-off into lakes and estuaries frequented by waterfowl.)
The major American ammunition manufacturers, proceeding on the assumption that they would profit in any event from the sales of lead and “non-toxic” shotshells, interposed no objections to the mandate. While “animal welfare” and “anti-hunting” organizations ostensibly took no part in the lead shot ban, they greeted the mandate as “meaning waterfowl hunters might find their sport too expensive to pursue”.
The first “non-toxic” shot (pellets not containing lead) was “steel shot”, which, despite the name is actually iron. Lead shot is very compressible when the lead pellets (generally encased in a plastic cup) are forced together in the choke restrictions of a shotgun barrel. Steel shot is not compressible, and when the shot column reaches the choke restriction something has to give—the steel of the barrel moves outward, and produces a distinctive “ring” at the beginning of the choke restriction. Barrel pressures also increase, frequently to dangerous levels that can burst barrels. Shotgun barrels could be “ringed” by the firing of just one steel shotshell, or as many as several boxes. The resulting “ringed barrels” would be dangerous for continued use, and unfortunately many fine vintage side-by-side shotguns were ruined when fired with steel shot when the “ringed” barrels separated from their central ribs.
You are certainly familiar with the injunction “don’t shoot steel shot in any shotgun unless you are absolutely certain the barrel was made to accommodate steel shot”. Initially, manufacturers asserted that no American shotgun made before 1976 should ever be fired with steel shot; then one manufacturer asserted that its shotguns made in America since World War II were safe when fired with factory-loaded steel shotshells. Another manufacturer asserted that its shotguns were safe for steel shot—but recommended that the larger sizes of steel shot not be used. There were also problems with shot lethality: Being less dense that lead, steel shot was ballistically inefficient, and ammunition manufacturers had to redesign hulls and shot cups, and formulate new powders—costly endeavors. With such conflicting information, what was a shotgunner to do?
There were calls for the banning of lead shot for all applications, from skeet and trap shooting to upland game such as pheasant and grouse. Several shooting preserves in the Northeast specified steel shot onlycould be used on their properties—and saw steep business declines because shot sizes suitable for upland game and the shotgun sports (shot sizes 6—9) were simply not available, or were extremely expensive. How many skeet and trap and sporting clays shooters would have continued with their sports if the price of a box of shotshells increased fourfold?
Fortunately, regardless of whether “non-toxic” shot was foisted upon American shotgunners via fatally flawed studies—or as a conspiracy by anti-firearms/anti-hunting proponents to increase the costs of shooting to the point that many hunters and shooters would leave their sport—the situation today is much improved. Lead shot is still legal for all shotgun sports and will remain so for the foreseeable future. Ammunition manufacturers in the United States and elsewhere have developed “non-toxic” shot alternatives in the various forms of Bismuth or Tin or Tungsten-polymer metallic substitutes—and the economies of scale in manufacture have resulted in cost reductions per box of “non-toxic” shotshells.
Well-intentioned but misguided, “non-toxic” shot is now a significant legal presence in waterfowl hunting. But hunters and people who enjoy the shotgun sports are on notice they must resist any further encroachment of “non-toxic” shot beyond its current mandate.
A Friend of RenArms
A Primer on Primers
Behold the primer—like Rodney Dangerfield, the simple primer does not get the respect it deserves, but the primer is the most critical component of metallic cartridges or shotshells, for it is the primer that ignites the powder charge that sends the bullet or pellets toward their targets.
Women and Firearms - The More the Better
There are myriad reasons why more and more American women are demonstrating increased interest in firearms, with perhaps the most urgent reason being the dramatic increase in civil unrest, prolonged urban rioting and general lawlessness. Increasingly, women are participating in greater numbers in the shooting sports, particularly the shotgun sports.
223 vs 5.56
The answer to the above question is a resounding NO, though far too many shooters are confused over the difference. The parent cartridge of the.223 Remington is the .222 Remington introduced in 1950 as a completely new rimless center-fire cartridge in .22 caliber.
THE “NON-TOXIC” SHOT CONTROVERSY
Lead is a heavy, malleable, durable elemental metal with a low melting point actively used by humans for thousands of years: It is both boon and bane to humankind. Like other metallic elements, lead has properties that, in excess, can cause physiological and neurological damage (plumbism) to humans and other mammals. There is scientific evidence that ancient Romans suffered neurological injury by drinking water and wine containing lead solutions leached out of pipes and vessels.
The Origins of the Second Amendment
Ponder the meaning and origin of these words: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” Though it has been criticized for poor syntax, this straightforward statement has generated millions of words in defense of, ridicule of, and opposition to the premise that people of a free State have the right to own firearms. We shall examine this statement closely.
Blog is back up! So lets start... at the beginning!
Jean Samuel Pauly Was an innovator in the early decades of the 19thCentury whose seminal contributions to firearms and ammunition developments are largely unknown and unheralded. But in truth, we salute Pauly every time we fire a cartridge, and had another of his innovations come to earlier fruition, we might today be using a vastly different ammunition ignition system.