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Lead shot could be banned in the autumn of this year

After much debate, and a voluntary move away from lead ammunition by shooters, an all-out ban could be in place by the close of 2023

A ban on lead ammo is likely to affect pigeon shooters, both clay and live, the most as they tend to go through more cartridges

Sources close to the Government have told Shooting Times that the long-awaited Lead Ammunition (Restriction) Bill, which will ban lead in live quarry shooting, will be put before Parliament in the autumn. Given the broad cross-party agreement on the matter, it is very likely that the Bill will pass largely unopposed.

The only major issue left to be discussed is how long the grace period will be from the Bill being passed to it becoming law. The Health and Safety Executive’s original time limit was 18 months, but the gun trade has been lobbying hard for more time, suggesting at least another five years. The only other issues still on the table are some possible exemptions for target shooting. Once these matters are decided, the Bill will become law and lead will, by and large, be finally banned.

GMK managing director Karl Waktare said: “Let’s hope for the best outcome from the HSE report, which is a reasonable transition period and that target shooting is left alone. The move away from lead in game is under way and seems inevitable.”

The passing of the Bill will mark the end of a long-running campaign from the shooting community to keep lead in the manufacture of ammunition, with many experts still believing it to be the best material. However, lead poisoning is considered a serious risk, not only to human health but to wildlife as well, and it has increasingly seemed inevitable that this ban would come.

Most modern guns will fire steel or bismuth shot with no problem, but some older firearms will probably have to be retired. Shooting Times contributor Diggory Hadoke said: “The reality for driven game shooters using traditional British guns is that the cost of the average 200-bird day, shot with bismuth instead of lead, will go up by about £100. That should not be a game changer. For sporting clay enthusiasts and pigeon shooters, it will have a greater impact, as they consume more ammunition. 

“This is not good news for vintage gun owners but we can’t say we didn’t see it coming.”