Monday, April 11, 2011

Lead Issue Heating Back Up | Shooting Wire

Lead Issue Heating Back Up | Shooting Wire:

Jim Shepherd of the Shooting Wire notes that the effect of lead ammunition on animal toxicity has been revised by Animal-Right organizations (and wildlife conservators):

"Last year, the Environmental Protection Agency denied a petition from the American Bird Conservancy and a group of animal-rights based organizations asking that the EPA broaden its mandate to outlaw lead as a component of ammunition. It is not in the EPA's purview to regulate ammunition, but the petition had suggested the EPA use its authority to ban lead as a component in both ammunition and fishing tackle.

In the end, the EPA denied both components of the petition, citing several reasons, including a lack of comprehensive evidence to support the petition.

On Friday, the American Bird Conservancy issued a press release outlining a new survey announced at the Society of Toxicology's annual meeting in Washington. That survey, the ABC contends, points to lead ammunition 'as a primary factor limiting the survival and recovery of one of the country's most imperiled birds, the California Condor.' (Editor's Note: You can read the ABC release here)."

Reading the whole article, and the original release, might lead one to ask questions about the validity of the claims, and the over-all effect on society whether or not the clams are indeed valid.

For example, a study comparing the lead toxicity of "Free-Flying" California Condors vs those which were reared in captivity apparently shows that those birds which were not raised in a protected environment were found to have significantly greater amounts of lead in blood samples. Since Condors are both predators and scavengers, the assumption is that they they they acquired their food supply from animals which had been shot, but not removed.

No way of proving that assumption, of course, but it seems intuitively acceptable as a talking point.

Also, venison (Deer, Elk, and other game animals) donated to Food Banks were often found to have lead fragments in their meat. Several tons of donated venison were rejected due to tests on the meat.

I can personally attest to developing a distaste for Pheasant, because I kept biting into shotgun pellets at dinner. However, all of the venison I have personally consumed ... must be a ton or more of the critters in more than at half-century of People Eating Tasty Animals slain with a gun ... has failed to support this argument. Very few Deer or Antelope in my experience were heavy enough to even slow down a .30-30, .25-06, 6mm-284, 7mm Remington Magnum or .30-06 bullet on the way to splash against a cliff-face on the far horizon. In Oregon, it's illegal to hunt 'major game animals' with ammunition of less than .25 caliber. Could this be the answer to at least part of the problem.

As for the Condor Problem, perhaps this is largely due to having small game (including rodents and varmints) hunted by sub-caliber ammunition, most likely .22 rimfire, or shotguns. Both of these firearm types are typically more likely to not completely pass through the bodies of the critters.


I note that lead shot is forbidden in many states in bird hunting, both upland and especially waterfowl. Instead, steel shot is the best obvious replacement since tungsten is too expensive for shooting birds on the wing. There is a "down side" on this, as the lighter steel shot is not as effective as lead shot beyond a relatively short distance. This results in more wounded birds; but at least when they eventually die and are eaten by scavengers, there is zero chance that lead is re-introduced into the environment from which it came (although, in nature, not ordinarily introduced into the bodies of carrion).

The attempt by these 'conservancy' types to eliminate the use of lead bullets, though, seems to be "Industry wide", and here is where my resistance starts.

That would not necessarily restricted to ammunition used to take game, or kill varmints.

it would apply to ANY ammunition, even those calibers used for non-hunting purposes.

Self defense ammunition would necessarily be less powerful: not previous comments on lowered lethality on game birds.

Target shooting ammunition would necessarily be less accurate at other than very short range.

And it's as likely that whatever metal used as a substitute for lead would be more expensive.

Further, in the context of IPSC-type competition, using bullets with a steel core would put the entire concept of engaging steel targets (e.g. plates, pepper-poppers, US poppers, etc.) would be impossible. Steel-core ammunition destroys steel targets for the purpose of competition with as few as one single shot either dishing or penetrating the target ... rendering it useless for competition.

"Hey, I hit the plate"
"(No, you didn't; it would have gone down or left a mark.)"
"Sure I did, I guess the bullet went through the bullet hole!"

Economic and Competition Consequences:

Based on the millions of rounds fired annually just in the USPSA competition matches every year, the cost of competition would rise exponentially; especially when one considers the cost of retooling for bullet manufacturer which will be passed on to the consumer.

Actually, although there may be a legitimate point in this effort to eliminate lead in bullets which are fired at game, in fact it is an exercise which will make shooting so expensive that the people who shoot the most rounds (competition) will bear the greatest burden, and will be most negatively affected.

Meat Hunters will be affected marginally, in economic terms. Sure, they will lose some meat due to reduced effectiveness and accuracy at distance, but their usage of bullets will be numbered in the hundreds.

Competition shooters, who do NOT demonstrable contribute the the cited problem, often fire tens of thousands of rounds per year. There is no documentation, in the literature alluding to this "Free Lead" movement, which suggests that there may be a waiver in the case of ammunition which is used in competition.

Skeet? Trap? Bulls-eye? IPSC? Speed Steel? Cowboy Shooting (SAS)? Gallery Rifle? Bench-rest? Wimbledon Cup and other Long-Range Shooting?

ALL of these competition firearms activities would be negatively impacted by a ban on Lead Bullets. Between the economic impact and the affect on stability/accuracy on long ranges of the less dense material, all of these forms of shooting competition would be either so expensive or so disheartening in the resulting accuracy degradation that the Shooting Sports would effectively disappear.

The effort is perhaps well meant, and it may even (if enacted reasonable) be acceptable ... if meat-hunters and varmint shooters are willing to accept that their kill ration will decrease significantly. That is to say, if they're willing to let wounded animals live, although tortured by not-quite-fatal wounds.

No hunters, and no varmint shooters that I know are happy about leaving a wounded animal to be lost, to die in pain after an experienced period of time.

And no competition shooter I know is willing to spend an exorbitant amount of money for ammunition which may or may not reliably be expected to consistently hit The Elusive "Perfect Double".

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