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The Lead Ban - Is alloy the future of Airguns?

Updated: Oct 7, 2023


Outline

So by now I'm sure you have read about the HSE (Health and Safety Executive) review on lead use for ammunition. Currently the HSE are half way through their 2 year review tasked to them by the UK’s post-Brexit chemical regulations referred to as UK REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and restriction of Chemicals).


Whats happening

What the HSE appear to be looking at, is the impact on lead on the environment and as a result the health of the general population and planet. This means that they are not doing this to upset the sport, but instead are building on pre-existing findings of lead as a hazardous material... Heard of lead poisoning? That's the thing they are looking at.


At present they are looking to consider the following proposals that may be put forward to government:


  • A possible ban on the sale of lead shot

  • A ban on the use of all types of lead ammunition for live quarry shooting including lead shot, shotgun slugs, lead bullets and airgun pellets.

  • Ban on the use of lead shot for outdoor target shooting with possible exemptions for licensed athletes at licensed ranges with appropriate environmental protection measures.

  • Ban on the use of lead bullets for outdoor target shooting with possible exemptions for shooting at licensed ranges with appropriate environmental protection measures.

  • Mandatory labelling of the packaging of lead ammunition regarding the hazards and risks of lead.

Curent findings

So what have they found then? Well initial findings have reported on localised testing where lead use appears to have an unacceptable level of negative effects on the environment. Most of these proposals have seemingly come from lead degrading and finding itself into water ways.


It is worth stating that at present these proposals are not law yet. The HSE are stating these proposals as form of Hail Mary as the answer to the scenario that the findings describe not just an inadequate impact but a catastrophic situation. That being said seldom does the HSE not get what it wants.


Speculation

At present it is very hard to say what will come out of these findings as they will have to peer reviewed and then put forward in a dossier to be scrutinised by the REACH pannel whilst considering public comments. It is fair to say that if the shooting community begin ranting and raving about these, those who would ban lead outright are likely to react to the uproar.


Many have stated such things as "They couldn't police it". Well with our speculation hat on, as a retailer we can see how they would. RFDs, wholesalers and importers could be expected to be licensed for the sale and import of lead with a possible regulatory body to ensure we carry out due diligence in sales to the general public. So yes it will be policed.


What now then?

Well, that is a difficult question. Many are saying "stock up" and that may well be the answer for the short term, as if the restrictions do hit the RFDs; REACH have proposed the idea of a buy back scheme in which we would be lawfully compelled to take part in.


In the long term it will be worth considering trying lead-free pellets to get a feel of how well your gun will work with them. It is also worth noting that "Coated Lead" such as copper coat will still be subject to the ban. With this being said, there are not many pellet manufacturers who produce quantities of lead-free pellets. Those that do such as JSB don't even appear to be imported into the UK by the big wholesalers. This scarcity of lead-free is what has lead to the "Alloys aren't cheap" argument. If there is little desire for a product, the manufacturers have to put prices up to offset production costs.


We have heard a lot of push back to the use of lead-free pellets, so we have been in contact with manufacturers who are now looking to work lead-free pellets into the R&D phases of airgun and barrel production. However, the UK is a considerably small market for airgun manufacture, especially when the EU has not imposed any of these sanctions in Europe yet, some manufacturers may decide to pull out of the UK indeffinatly.


Our thoughts

As a new age company we consider ourselves to be at the forefront of adapting the industry. With this we are also a family business, so protecting the future for our children is of a massive importance. Therefore rather than argue with this statement, we are looking to operate around it, hopefully to find a happy medium where shooters do not have to loose their sport, and one where the environment is not needlessly harmed.


If you are worried about the future of the sport just look to the Airsoft industry in which sanctions were imposed multiple times, originally the sport was unregulated, then the VCRA came in 2006. This called for the ban of all replica imitation firearms however a regulatory body for defence of ownership was born out of a group of retailers who wanted to keep the sport going, thus UKARA was born. It happened again when sites started banning the use of non-biodegradable BB's. Bio BB's were incredibly expensive however soon after demand had climbed; the price came down. Now Airsoft is one of the fastest growing sports in the world.


So yes, the future is uncertain. However this has happened before and is bound to happen again. But the industry will respond and a new age will rise. In the meantime, try some lead-free pellets, you may be surprised. Or if all else fails and you are looking for a new shooting hobby, try Airsoft it's good fun.








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