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Steel shot vs lead – why I switched a while ago

There will be issues and anomalies along the way, but anyone now resisting the switch from lead to steel is simply howling at the moon says Alasdair Mitchell in Shooting Times

Eley VIP Steel Pro Eco

Eley Pro Eco Steel made the decision for Alasdair Mitchell

Steel shot vs lead

I suspect that most shooters realise that lead is dead. It’s only a matter of when. I am not going to reiterate the arguments for steel shot vs lead, they have been done to death.

The inexorable tightening of the legal noose around lead was widely predicted. As for the game dealers, you can’t buck the market. Complaining about consumer preference is simply howling at the moon.

Wildfowlers made the move away from lead many years ago. For game and rough shooting, I changed to steel the season before last. The deciding factor for me was the emergence of biodegradable shotcups. I now use Eley Pro Eco steel loads in an English shotgun with chokes of improved cylinder and quarter. All I can say is that, for me, the new stuff seems to work as well as the Eley Impax loads that I used to favour.

Steel shot cartridges review

Steel shot cartridges: Can steel shot be used for pigeon shooting? Lewis Potter tests a variety from his cartridge bag.

Non-lead options for rifle

I am shortly going to start testing a new non-lead load for my deer rifle. Fortunately, there are an increasing number of non-lead deer rounds available. Less fortunately, my rifle is chambered for 7mm-08, which is an unusual calibre in the UK. A decade ago, a friend and I both bought the same make of rifle — Steyr Scout — but he ordered his in .308. With the benefit of hindsight, I might have been better off choosing that very common calibre, as there is a host of non-lead options for it.

The new load I have found for my 7mm-08 entails dropping the bullet weight from 140-gr to 130-gr. This sort of reduction is typical of non-lead alternatives.

In Scotland, some stalkers are worried about the future of the . 243.  This high-velocity calibre has built up a considerable following since it was introduced by Winchester in 1955. With soft recoil and a flat trajectory, it has proved to be an excellent all-rounder and a favourite for red hinds on the open hill.

However, Scottish deer legislation specifies minimum thresholds for bullet weight, muzzle velocity and energy. The problem is that non-lead .243 bullets tend to weigh 80-gr at most, whereas the Scottish legal minimum for red, fallow and sika deer is 100-gr. A change to that part of the law might seem the obvious solution, yet we all know that may be problematic.

Look at the demise of the 6.5×54 Mannlicher-Schönauer. This highly effective light rifle was once extremely popular for all British deer species. Yet its factory loads failed to meet the minimum legal velocity for deer when the new law was enacted, so that was that. The paradox is that the 6.5×54 round, which has a 160-gr bullet with exceptional sectional density, was widely used in Africa on big game. I suspect that most shooters realise that lead is dead. It’s only a matter of when.