Article 5 – 2015
Question: I recently walked out onto the flat lands in front of a shooting range I was visiting in rural New South Wales and was amazed how much lead shot was laying on top of the ground. The locals tell me this will soon be reclaimed by a machine. This process is great for the environment I guess, but it made me think can this shot simply be scooped up and reloaded again for use a second time? It looked OK to me. Some of it seemed a little out of colour and slightly distorted, but will that matter? Sorry if it is a stupid question.
Rob Dyson, Junee, NSW
Answer: It is far from a stupid question Rob. It is one I get asked all the time. The lead reclaiming that will soon take place at the club you visited will not be for the recycling into shot for future shot shell use. It will be probably be melted down and used again for some industrial purpose or it could even be washed and dried and end up in ballast bags for large boats and ships. To my knowledge no manufacturers repurchase second hand shot. Virtually every new trap and skeet shooting range in Europe has shade clothe layed out on the ground about 125 metres from the shooting positions to easily reclaim the pellets.
In answer to your specific question could you wash and reload the shot you are picking off the soil? Yes of course you could, but would you? One reason why this is not a common practice is from the simple observation you have already made. Distortion. This is the biggest enemy of the effective range to your shot shells payload. Once the shot becomes anything but a perfectly round hard spherical ball then its effectiveness at any great distance weakens. The variable that distinguishes good and bad shotgun cartridges, and the cost, is quite often the quality of shot that the shell contains.
Expensive ammunition, particularly quality competition trap shot shells, will often contain an expensive additive called antimony. About five to six per cent is added to the mixture of lead before it is made into round shot. This antimony keeps the shot hard and if the actual pellet has been made perfectly round the hardness will increase the shot shells effective range and therefore performance. For events like trap shooting where shots of over forty metres are common place then quality shot is recommended. Distorted, uneven shot will not hold its line or “pattern” anywhere near as good as perfectly round hard shot.
However, and this is a huge however, for shots that are very close such as station number eight in skeet (where the target flies straight back towards the shooter and is broken only a few metres away) there is a massive argument that distorted shot will give a greater pattern width which will be a definite advantage on these very close range shots as pattern density at such short distances will not be an issue. In saying that the negatives out weigh the positives. Leave the shot on the ground and let the powers to be recycle it. Chances are the next time you watch an ocean liner sail past you in the harbor its hull may be containing some of your previous trap and skeet loads.