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Article 7 – 2020 (August)

Russell Mark

Australian Shooter Magazine, Question and Answers

Article 7 – 2020 (August)

Question: There has been a lot of discussion of recent times in the United Kingdom in regard to the push towards the more environmentally friendly use of steel shot in all forms of competition clay target shooting. As you would probably be aware there are already countries in Europe such as Sweden where this is already standard practice. I personally think it’s a good move and have made a few enemies by airing my views. What are your thoughts about using steel shot here in Australia for future competitive shooting and do you think it will have any effect on scores?

Name and address supplied


Answer:   I am certainly aware of both the continued discussion about the shift towards steel in the United Kingdom and the countries that are already forced to use it. Ask any Swedish Olympic Trap shooter how they are training at home and expect a half hour answer on the difficulties they face.

If I was confronted with the fictitious real-life scenario that my existence was on the line and the only thing to keep me alive was to break a fifty metre “edge on” crossing target or face certain death and I was only able to use a shot shells that was currently “legal” in terms of shot size and shot charge then there is no chance in hell that I would choose a steel load over a lead one. Even choosing the largest permitted shot size, which in most disciplines is a number 6, the lead load will carry far greater down-range energy than its steel rival. The advantage you may argue with the steel load, and again using a 28 gram number 6 size as an example, is that with a lead load you would have 216 pellets and the steel load you would carry an extra hundred because of its lighter density. Sadly, at greater distances tickling targets or wild game will not help you. It is “knock down power” that you want to crack the edge on target in half or to fall the bird from the sky.

At closer distances such as those offered on a Skeet field for instance, I wouldn’t think it would make any difference in performance using either lead or steel. I personally would go up a shot size so for example in the domestic disciplines of Trap if I normally used 7 ½’s in lead I would use 6 ½’s in steel if possible.

To accurately answer your question about would the introduction of steel effect performances in competition then obviously it would depend on the competition. I have already mentioned of an example of a typical crossing sporting target that I believe is not perfectly suited to steel shot, but if that same target was thrown at thirty five metres with more of its “belly” presented to the shooter as opposed to being edge on then it would be perfectly fine. If steel is finally imposed on us for all clay target disciplines then events such as Sporting Clays will need some experienced target setters that are aware of steel shot’s limitations. In events like Skeet I don’t think using steel will make one bit of difference as the longest shot on offer is barely at twenty-five metres, but alternatively in events like Olympic Trap where 7 shot is the largest permissible legal shot size and forty metre edge on going away targets are the norm then steel shot is just not the ballistic answer if you are looking to win the Olympic Games hence my previous comment about Swedish Trap shooters. There have been some decent ones, but nearly all of them train and live abroad.

Whether steel shot is the long term answer “environmentally” is a whole new topic and one I admit I just don’t have the expertise to answer. There are countries where steel shot is totally banned from use. Try going hunting near a cultivated premium quality pine plantation in some parts of Europe with steel shot in your pockets and I can promise you won’t be given a great reception. Some people argue that steel has just as many problems as lead shot is alluded to cause. My personal view is that although I know the theory behind why lead shot is so bad, I am yet to have any definitive proof shown to me about how lead from a hunting activity, or even a high volume shooting range, has caused anything detrimental to the environment. There was a club closed down in Victoria a few years back that threw lead into the bay in front of them for over one hundred years, but no environmental study was ever brought forward publicly to prove the marine life had one scrap of damage caused to them by shooters. More marine life would have been damaged by scientists standing on them whilst being dug up to look for answers that were just not there. Rant over.

Let’s hope we can avoid going down the steel shot path as long as possible. I enjoy watching good shooters breaking fifty metre edge on crossers.

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