Moving forward for the future of shooting

In 2020, a commitment was made by BASC and others to embark on a voluntary transition away from lead shot and single-use plastics for live quarry shooting. Terry Behan looks at the progress so far.

As we enter the fifth year of the eight major shooting organisations’ voluntary transition away from lead shot and single-use plastics, it seems a good time to reflect on the significant achievements made over the past four years.

However, before I get into where we are now, I think its worth revisiting why the organisations agreed that the voluntary transition was the right thing to do in the first place.

Looking at lead

Lead is a toxic material and there is an abundance of research, including from the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust, which sets out the negative impacts lead exposure has on wildlife. This applies in particular to birds such as waterfowl, waders, and raptors. 

In humans, lead has long-term effects and is a zero-threshold neurotoxin, especially dangerous for pregnant women and children.

Demonstrating the benefits of shooting is easy, and we have got better at doing this over the years. Moving away from lead shot is another example of the sector’s drive to follow best practice in light of the evidence. 

After all, we are conservationists, and when science identifies that we can do things better, we look to innovate, adapt, and overcome challenges that face us.

Ammunition innovation

Anyone involved in shooting wants to avoid a situation where they cannot continue to do what they love. And so, while initiating the voluntary transition was the right thing to do, it was vital for all involved that it also provided a catalyst for the development of non-lead, sustainable, ammunition to allow shooting activities to go on. 

Product innovation has seen the introduction of biodegradable wads, giving us the ability to use steel shot without single use plastics. This is a significant step forward for the future of shooting.

Bismuth has always been an alternative option, but due to the high cost few people used it. Steel shot on the other hand is much more cost effective, ensuring that everyone continues to have access to affordable shooting.

At the time of the statement back in 2020 there was much deliberation as to whether steel shot was effective. Conversations also centred around the capacity of manufacturers to develop the cartridges needed at the rate required, and if old guns would become obsolete. 

In response, we have overcome all of these challenges. For example, modern side-by-sides suitable for high performance steel are now being made, proofed with a fleur-de-lis, giving users a greater choice of cartridges. 

There are now more than 140 types of sustainable cartridge available, ranging from 12 gauge to 16 gauge. Smaller gauge cartridges are on the horizon, and bismuth and alternative shot products are suitable for the few guns that cannot use steel shot. 

This is great progress, and the cartridge manufactures must be commended for the efforts made and their continued innovation.

More to come

In terms of the end product, many shoots are now lead-free and their game is being sold in supermarkets across the UK; a truly significant step in the right direction. 

In terms of making the change yourself, thousands of people have attended BASC’s sustainable ammunition events since 2020, before then switching to lead-free ammunition themselves.

At BASC, we continue to encourage shoots and shooters to make the transition away from lead shot and single use plastics. BASC’s chief executive, Ian Bell, summed this up, saying: “BASC is committed to the transition away from lead shot and single use plastics; outstanding progress from the manufacturers has delivered a range of viable alternatives.

“The shooting sector is demonstrating leadership and future-proofing our way of life while providing the very best of wild game for the table. This is irrefutable evidence that our community can innovate and adapt.

“To continue shaping the countryside in a positive manner, BASC encourages all shoots and shots to continue the move away from lead and single-use plastics.” 

So, as we move into our fifth year of the voluntary transition, I’d encourage you to try sustainable ammunition for yourself, if you haven’t done so already. 

If you’d like some advice, or to attend one of our sustainable ammunition days, please get in touch with your local BASC office. You can also find a sustainable ammunition event near you here.