Ban of lead in ammunition: ISSF and  FITASC are now asking for an exemption on the use of lead for clay target sport shooting

Banning lead would cause most shooting ranges to close because they would not meet ECHA's requirements.

For our uninformed readers, a quick summary of the previous episodes of the “lead ban” saga may be helpful: our “beloved EU” is tirelessly campaigning through the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) for a total ban on the use of lead in ammunition. In fact, ECHA duly included lead metal in its draft recommendation for REACH (the European Regulation on chemicals and their safe use) authorization – a process designed to facilitate the substitution of “Substances of Very High Concern” and ultimately establish an end date for its current use. This against all scientific evidence and common sense, and in full disregard of the interests of shooters, hunters, economy, society and – ultimately – the environment itself. 

The general position of ISSF and FITASC on lead in ammunition: There is no equivalent alternative to lead

“ISSF and FITASC, as two major international shooting sport federations, regulate shooting sport around the world and therefore must manage and reconcile the rules of the sport considering the differences in social and environmental conditions in different parts of the world,” the joint communiqué dated September 1, 2023 reads. “The history and consistency of the disciplines of our sport are based on technical standards that apply worldwide. These include the type of firearms and ammunition to ensure the best and equal conditions in international but also national competitions. Adhering to the health and environmental objectives pursued by the European Commission, ISSF/FITASC must ensure that the clay target sport shooting disciplines are sustainable in the long term.” 

Stressing how major international shooting sport championships such as Olympic Games, World Championships, World Cups etc. take place in large shooting sport centers that could meet some of the requirements of the ECHA derogations, ISSF and FITAS also point out that there are only a few such centers in Europe while “an essential prerequisite for the continued success of our sport is a complex network of different sized shooting ranges with different disciplines, which are used by sports shooters at different levels.”

Luciano Rossi, President of the International Shooting Sports Federation, expressed concern that an attack on lead could lead to the demise of clay target sport shooting as we know it today.

In the opinion of Luciano Rossi (ISSF President) and Jean-François Palinkas (FITASC President), “The requirements proposed by ECHA are neither practicable nor necessary given the risks they pose” because “in several European countries, most clay target shooting ranges are small to medium-sized and are run by local shooting, hunting or reserve clubs on a voluntary basis,” they explain. “Therefore, ISSF/FITASC have grave concerns regarding the currently proposed restrictions on the use of lead ammunition for clay target shooting sport prepared by ECHA and now submitted to the European Commission: The proposed restrictions provide some derogation conditions which are not scientifically justified and will end competitive sports shooting and will conduct to many clay target range bankrupts.”

ISSF / FITASC official statement on the ban of lead in ammunition from September 2023:

- Based on current knowledge, only lead meets the ballistic and economic requirements necessary for the practice of all clay target sport shooting disciplines. Ammunition made of other materials, due to their different ballistic and/or economic properties, are today unsuitable to clay target sport shooting, including a lack of the necessary precision for our sport, ensured safety of the athletes, financial challenges for the range owners etc.

- Clay target sport shooting absolutely need an enduring exemption to continue to allow the use of lead thus securing the industry's investment and the ability of the sports facilities to operate;

- ISSF/FITASC support that the exemption on the use of lead for the clay target sport shooting, be coupled with the implementation of agreed to, site-specific risk management measures, throughout Europe. 

In their joint statement, ISSF / FITASC also say that they “commit to continuing research to find material/ technology alternative to lead, with equivalent or very close ballistic and economic properties and without negative effects for health and environment”. You can't use lead? Well, find another material, they say from the EU. But it's not that simple:

Why the industry has no real alternative on lead for shot shells for sport shooters?

It should be considered that not all countries in the world, fortunately for them, follow the EU regulations. No problem for them, indeed.

Unfortunately, the matter is more complex than appears at first sight. The use of steel shot has not gained international acceptance for safety reasons (dangerous ricochets due to the hard material) for Trap and Skeet. Copper, for example, is one of the candidates as a substitute for lead in ammo in other areas like hunting. But copper is a strategic material also for the future of electric mobility, and will, long term, become too expensive for the ammunition industry. Moreover, ECHA will do everything to further discredit copper as a material for outdoor use when lead is banned, and we all know that there are some reasons, since the aquatoxicity of copper is well known. In any case, copper is not an alternative for many areas of civilian ammunition and in no way an alternative for Olympic disciplines like Trap and Skeet. 

So: no lead, no steel, no copper... What else should the Industry use? After all, the periodic table only has 118 elements. The naked truth is that hunting and sport shooting will be reduced dramatically and banned in many areas – which is probably the ultimate political goal of the lead ban crusade. 

Our conclusion: lobbying for lead preservation is probably our best – if not the only – option right now.

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