Tungsten shot is to be banned in Denmark after a study in the US raised concerns about its toxicity.
In accordance with proposals made by the Danish Environmental Protection Agency (Miljøstyrelsen), tungsten will be phased out over the course of this year. As of 1 March 2014, it will no longer be legal to use tungsten to shoot game, but it will still be legal to purchase cartridges filled with tungsten shot and to use them for clayshooting until 31 August. After that, tungsten shot will be banned in all forms of shooting.
A 2005 US study suggested that the metal can be highly carcinogenic when it enters wounds. As part of the study, pellets made from weaponsgrade tungsten were implanted into surgically created wounds in rats, all of which went on to develop cancerous tumours. A control group of rats, which were implanted with pellets made from the inert metal tantalum, did not develop tumours.
Tungsten is one of the best performing of the ?non-toxic? alternatives to lead and its prohibition will leave sportsmen in Denmark ? where there is already a complete ban on lead shot ? with a further restriction on what is an already limited ammunition choice. In spite of this, the Danish Hunters? Association (Jaegerforbundet) has publicly voiced its support for the measures, giving its views in a magazine article in 2013 and saying that the health risks are too serious to be ignored in the context of Danish shooting.
For the Danish Hunters? Association, this is a pragmatic approach: these latest restrictions promise to be less problematic in practice than those which banned lead because tungsten is not as widely used. In spite of its good record when it comes to performance in the field, its popularity in Denmark has been hampered by its high cost compared with steel.
In the UK, as in Denmark, tungsten is one of the more expensive alternatives to lead. A box of 25 12-bore Tungsten Matrix cartridges can cost from £25 to more than £60, depending on gauge, weight and shot size, compared with between £5 and £20 for the equivalent steel shot cartridges. However, significantly for those shooting in the UK, tungsten is suitable for use in old English guns, whose thin walls and tightly choked barrels are not equipped to deal safely with steel loads.