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09 Dec '17

Waterfowl ammunition requirements

Posted by S. Sosa

Traditionally, waterfowls have been hunted using lead ammunition due to its consistency, effectiveness and shooting patterns; however during the last decades of the XX century a critical increase of waterfowls lead poisoning was detected, probably related with the consumption of lead pellets from the bottom of water bodies.

On this regard, with the aim to reduce such problem, non-toxic ammunition is mandatory on waterfowl hunting. After this regulation manufacturers had to find an alternative and they found it on steel; however it was not popular among hunters because of many inconveniences.

Since steel density is lower than lead's, the energy transferred to the bird by the same size ammunition is less; so the effective range is reduced; moreover, High speed steel ammoshooting pattern of steel ammo is unpredictable and less accurate than lead, probably related to its density; but there were no choice; non-toxic ammo is mandatory now.

To deal with client's complaints about steel pellets, manufacturers add extra powder to the cartridge, so the lack of density was compensated with an increase of firepower and now ammo leaves gun barrel at 1400-1500 feet per second, increasing accuracy and effectiveness, but also inconveniences.

Since the explosion is more powerful with extra powder, the use of high velocity, steel ammunition requires to use an extra thick barrel gun built in special hardened material in order to resist the extra energy amount but also leading to heavier, hard to carry on guns.

Obviously, even when things get better, hunters were not happy at all with this new type of ammo, thus new higher than lead density, non-toxic ammo was developed using tungsten and bismuth. These new pellets are more accurate and have a shooting pattern even better than lead; however, best ammunition does not tend to be the cheapest option, so hunters wishing high performance shells will have to expend around 30US$ per box to use these new shells.

Regardless the price, non-toxic ammunition came to stay, so it's necessary to choose and option and master its use to keep high waterfowls success rates.


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