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Lead Ban Chronicles – CA DFW Requesting Hunter Input

April 16, 2014

Lead Ban ChroncilesJust because it’s the law, doesn’t necessarily mean everything is a done deal.  There’s still time for input, and the CA Dept. of Fish and Wildlife is asking for your feedback now.  Still having trouble finding ammo that meets the law’s requirements?  Do you shoot something for which there is no lead alternative?

Then get your comments in, and attend the meetings when they occur.  I know it may seem hard to believe, with HSUS embedded in the Fish and Wildlife bureaucracy, but your voices are still critical in making sure this is a law you can live with.  Or, you’ll take what you get.  Your choice, CA sportsmen.

Here’s the release from CA-DFW:

Attention Hunters: Your input is needed!

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is seeking your assistance regarding the development of the “phase-in” regulation for the use of non-lead ammunition for the take of wildlife as required under Fish and Game Code Section 3004.5(i). The law requires that this regulation be established by the Fish and Game Commission (Commission) no later than July 1, 2015, with full implementation to be effective no later than July 1, 2019. Governor Brown has directed CDFW and the Commission to work with all interested parties in order to produce a regulation that is least disruptive.

CDFW presented a draft regulatory proposal to the Commission’s Wildlife Resources Committee (WRC) in January 2014 (a copy of this presentation is available at http://www.dfg.ca.gov/Hunting/ under the “Alerts” section entitled “Non-lead Implementation”). Uncertainty about ammunition supply and availability forms the basis for the proposal, which preliminarily proposes the following implementation schedule:

  • 2015 – Require the use of non-lead ammunition for all hunting on wildlife areas and ecological reserves. Require the use of non-lead ammunition for bighorn sheep hunting;
  • 2016 – Require the use of non-lead ammunition for larger (waterfowl sized) birds, and for small mammals, non-game species, furbearers and for depredation purposes when using a shotgun;
  • 2019 – Full implementation; use of non-lead ammunition required for dove, quail and snipe; small game mammals (including rifle/handgun); non-game species, furbearers and depredation (including rifle/handgun); all big-game species including those hunted with muzzle-loading firearms.

In order to meet the statutory deadline for adoption, CDFW is seeking to propose a final draft regulation to the WRC at its September 2014 meeting. Because we are anticipating a large number of comments, CDFW is requesting that all comments be received by August 1, 2014.

Individuals and organizations may email comments to wildlifemgmt@wildlife.ca.gov (please use “Non-lead implementation” in the subject line) or hard copy correspondence to the following address:

CDFW, Wildlife Branch

Attn: Non-lead implementation

1812 9th Street Sacramento, CA 95811

 

Lead Ban Chronicles – Lead Levels Down In AZ and UT Condors

March 20, 2014

Lead Ban ChroncilesBeen a little while since I did a Lead Ban Chronicles. As I’ve said before, it’s not because there’s nothing going on… only that there’s been very little new going on.

In general, the campaign to vilify hunters and demonize lead ammo is still underway as evidenced by ongoing editorials and columns (some posing as “articles”) around the country.  It’s still the same misinformation and implications (lead ammo is “wiping out” birds”), and supported by the same tired arguments (it’s easy to switch from lead to lead-free ammo).  And then there’s the unfortunate, counter-arguments that are too often weighed down by weak or misdirected rhetoric (there’s no “proof”… this is a “gun grab”).  The resulting mistrust and general signal-to-noise-ratio turns the whole thing into a net loss, particularly for folks like myself who’d like to see an honest, but positive, discussion with some realistic and balanced outcomes.

One of the things that I have supported all along is an effort to increase voluntary adoption of lead free ammo through education.  I honestly believe that many hunters (Most?  I dunno.), when provided with the facts about lead’s impact on scavenging birds and the truth about lead free ammo performance will make the change… if they can, A.) afford it, and B.) find it.  Aside from the myths and misinformation and the handful of guns that simply don’t like copper bullets, cost and availability continue to be the biggest sticking points to a wider acceptance of lead-free ammo.

I also believe that legislating a ban, as CA has done, only deepens the distrust and resistance from hunters.  (The credibility gap between CA sportsmen and the Fish and Wildlife Commission is already stretched pretty wide… in most cases, rightfully so.)  On the other hand, Arizona and Utah have adopted a more productive, “let’s work together” approach and encourage voluntary use of lead-free ammo… even to the point of giving it away to hunters in specific areas.  What’s more is that AZ (I don’t know about UT) also provided incentives for hunters who are using lead to bring out and properly dispose of carcasses and gut piles, which mitigated the amount of lead-laced carrion in the field.

The results?

Well, this definitely doesn’t imply a valid, cause-and-effect relationship, but over the past few weeks I’ve seen several articles about the decline in lead toxicity among condors in AZ and UT.  We’re not talking little drops either, but a significant change.  According to one article, published in the Grand Canyon News, only about 16% of trapped condors showed “extreme exposure” to lead.  That’s still not perfect, but it’s a big step from the 42% showing lead toxicity the previous year.  Of course, it will take several more years to establish any real trends, or to know if this is simply an anomalous year or if the reduced amount of hunters’ lead in the environment really is making a difference.  Considering that lead levels appeared to be higher in CA since the lead ban was instituted in the “Condor Zone”, there could certainly be other factors at work.  Time will tell.

But it’s promising, and like some of the folks from the various condor projects, I choose to be heartened by the news.  If AZ and UT can demonstrate that voluntary compliance, along with other mitigation efforts (removing carrion) are as effective as legislated ammo bans, we could be on the right road to reducing the impacts of lead ammo across the country without creating new laws and more barriers to sportsmen and gun owners.

 

Lead Ban Chronicles – Is Lead Smelter Closure An Anti-Gun Conspiracy?

December 4, 2013

Lead Ban ChroncilesNo.

It is nothing of the sort.

I wasn’t going to bother with this one, but it’s been really bothering me.

Some of you may remember that, a few weeks back, I posted about the closure of the last US primary lead smelting facility.  Based on what I was reading at the time, it sounded like it could have an impact on lead prices, not just for ammo but for many products and my post reflected that concern.  Since then, I’ve had the opportunity to read a little more, and it became pretty clear that this closure wasn’t such a big deal… at least not as far as the ammo supply and prices are concerned.  I figured the uproar would die down quickly enough, once folks realized this really wasn’t as significant an event as it appeared.

It didn’t die down.

Let’s just pause here for a second, and be clear.  I’m never eager to make sorties into the realm of politics, or even the “gun rights” discussion.  That’s a place where truth and logic go to die a quick, violent (and generally senseless) death, and I have little patience for it.

While I certainly recognize that antipathy between Republican and Democrat has a long history, I believe the current situation in this country plumbs the very depths of that enmity… especially as pertains to the  attitude of the “Extreme Right” toward the current President.  So, maybe it shouldn’t be a surprise that a segment of the political right-wing declared that the closure of the Doe Run smelting operation was actually a back-door ploy by the Obama administration to hamper the availability of ammunition.  And truthfully, it didn’t shock me to hear that accusation from a couple of the more extremist, “gun rights” conspiracy theorists and rabble-rousing web sites.  But then it kept spreading… the flames fanned by the NRA, whose Institute for Legislative Action group stated the following (in typically panic-inducing tones):

What is clear is that after the Herculaneum smelter closes its doors in December, entirely domestic manufacture of conventional ammunition, from raw ore to finished cartridge, will be impossible.

So let’s follow this conspiracist train of thought for a minute.

  1. The EPA, under the direction of the President, leveraged the Clean Air Act to force Doe Run to shut down, thus; eliminating the last domestic, primary lead smelter in the United States.
  2. This action forces industries that utilize primary lead (lead smelted directly from natural ore) to find other sources, most of which are now offshore.
  3. This reduces supply and increases cost.
  4. As a result, gun owners will not be able to find or afford ammunition for their guns… effectively removing those guns from circulation.

Before I even bother to apply facts to this theory, can anyone spot some logical flaws?

How about the reality that, even with the last serious ammo “shortage” in 2012/2013, gun sales took place at the highest rate in history?  Ammo shortages don’t necessarily equate to reductions in gun ownership.

Or, if Obama was really interested in banning lead ammunition, he could direct the EPA to override the tenets of the Toxic Substances Control Act and simply ban lead bullets outright.

Or, and this is just a thought… We’re talking about an administration that can’t even manage to launch a website properly, much less keep the activities of our national spy organization out of the public domain.  This President has struggled just to push low-level appointees past the roadblocks set by his Republican opponents.  Do we really believe that this government could pull off such a Machiavellian subterfuge?

Do people never even stop to consider the implications of the bullshit they’re being fed?

Of course, once you apply the facts, as several fact-checking organizations have now done, none of this speculation is even relevant.

To begin with, Doe Run’s issues with the EPA regulators predates the Obama administration by several years (at least 2001).  The final straw was a 2008 tightening of the Clean Air Act regulation (a change enacted during the Bush administration), and the decision to halt smelting operations at the Herculaneum plant by the end of 2013 was officially made in 2010.

Even more telling, though, is the reaction from the ammunition industry itself.  The NSSF (in something of a break from its lockstep with the NRA) has stepped forward to let people know that primary lead is not critical to the manufacture of ammunition.  Most ammo is made from secondary sources, such as recycled lead and recovered scrap from other industrial manufacturing processes.  The NSSF and several ammunition manufacturers have clearly stated that the closure of the Herculaneum smelter will not impact the supply of lead for bullets.

No one is willing to say that, in the very long run, this plant closure won’t have some residual impact on the cost and availability of lead for ammunition.  That’s a fair, albeit distant concern.  But what’s more important, and should be abundantly clear, is that nothing about this shut down has anything to do with back-door machinations to stop the production and availability of ammo… whether led by the Obama administration or anyone else.

 

Lead Ban Chronicles – Last US Lead Smelter Closing

October 29, 2013

Lead Ban ChroncilesJust a note that is related and not related to the lead ammo ban discussion.  However, what it does suggest is that lead ammo prices won’t be coming down any time soon, and will probably continue to increase.  Copper may start to look pretty darned good.

What am I talking about?  The news came out last week, but it wasn’t until I read the stories that I realized the implications of the last US lead smelter shutting its doors.  Due to increased regulatory restrictions, the company in Herculaneum, MO has realized that it can’t meet the emissions rules.

There are still recycled lead smelters operating in the country, but with the loss of this major facility, lead bullion for ammunition manufacture is bound to be more difficult (and expensive) to acquire.  Seriously, it might be time to start looking at lead alternatives for a whole new reason… it may be as cheap as, or cheaper than, lead.

Funny how things happen.

Lead Ban Chronicles – And Now It Is Complete. AB711 Is Law.

October 14, 2013

Lead Ban ChroncilesThis is gonna be a long one… please bear with me.

It’s all over but the crying (and lord knows there’s plenty of that).  California Governor Brown signed Ab711 into law last week, and with the 2019 hunting seasons, lead ammunition will be illegal for hunting in the Golden State.

It’s not a good thing.

Let’s reiterate what I’ve been reiterating for a long time now.  AB711 will not provide any valid conservation or environmental benefit in California.  The health risk to humans is extremely minute (and debatable), and has always been limited to hunters and those who eat wild game meat killed by hunters.  AB711 provides absolutely zero protection to the general public… because there was never any risk to the general public in the first place.

What this law will do is increase the burden on California hunters by generally increasing the cost of the hunt, as well as creating a real challenge for many hunters to find useable ammunition.

Nevertheless, it’s law now.

So it’s not a good thing, but it’s not the end of the world.  There are, rightfully, a lot of angry hunters right now.  The rhetoric is pretty negative, and I think that’s to be expected.  I’m hearing a constant litany of “oh, this is the end of hunting in California!”

But once the dust settles a bit, I’m fairly certain that we’re not going to see a massive rate of attrition among CA hunters.  Hunters love hunting, and the majority of us will do what it takes to keep pursuing the sport… even if that means adjusting the ammo budget or even retiring Grandpa’s old carbine.

I remember the uproar in the 80s when lead shot was banned for waterfowl hunting.  I remember using some of that early ammunition, and how lousy it could be.  But we learned to adapt.  The industry improved their offerings.  We upped our shot size, adjusted for the faster loads, cut back on the long shots, and waterfowl hunting continued… especially as the populations rebounded.  Yes, it still costs more than lead.  Yes, older guns can’t handle steel and must shoot Bismuth or Hevi-shot Classic (which are both extremely expensive).  But the droves of hunters never left the sport, and waterfowling is alive and quite well.

Now we’re going to have to make similar adjustments for the rest of our hunting.  We’ll need to budget more for ammunition, re-zero our rifles (lead free generally does not shoot to the same point of aim as your lead bullets), change our preferred bullet weight (Barnes recommends a 15 grain drop from your lead…e.g. go from 180gr to 165), and possibly learn to handload.  We’ll probably alter our range protocol, shooting lead ammo for trigger control and muscle memory, and shooting our hunting ammo to zero and maintain accuracy… because, face it, who can afford to shoot 20 or 50 rounds at the price of copper ammo?

We’re also going to have to get past the anti-copper mythology.

Copper doesn’t fragment like some lead bullets, and it generally passes clean through…even when it hits heavy bones.  That’s a given.  But the argument that it passes through without adequate terminal effect is largely unfounded.  The horror stories of pinhole exits and no blood trail are mostly based on the old, monolithic Barnes X (which has evolved nicely), or they’re re-tellings of someone’s adulterated, second-hand experience that can usually be traced back to a poorly placed bullet.  These stories most commonly revolve around wild hogs, which are notorious for poor blood trails no matter what bullet is used.

In my experience, which is modestly extensive, the terminal performance of copper bullets has been completely and consistently proven on both large and small game.  I have personally hunted with lead free ammo in .17hmr (excellent), .22lr (poor), .22wmr (excellent), .223 (good), .243 (excellent), .270 (excellent), .308 (very good), 30-06 (excellent), and .325wsm (awesome)… as well as the .44 mag revolver (very good).  With that range of ammo and caliber, I’ve taken pretty much every thing from squirrels and rabbits to hogs and exotics.  I’ve also guided or accompanied dozens of other hunters who have used lead-free bullets in many other calibers.  What I saw was pretty convincing… that almost any game shot well, at reasonable range for the caliber, went down quickly and cleanly.  I disassembled a majority of these animals, and while I’m not a doctor or wildlife biologist, there wasn’t much doubt about terminal performance when I looked inside those body cavities.  In the relatively few cases where I’ve had to pursue blood trails, they have been sufficient to find the animal.

Are there exceptions?  There are always exceptions.  The same is true for any bullet material from any manufacturer.  I’ve seen a .30 caliber, 180gr Speer boat tail deflect off an elk rib and trace the rib cage under the skin all the way around to the shoulder.  I saw a 140gr Nosler Partition in 7mm Remington Magnum deflect off of a 150lb boar’s skull at less than 100 yards.  My brother shot a whitetail doe with a 180gr Sierra Game King and had the bullet enter and exit on the same side.  Ejecting a relatively tiny piece of metal at nearly Mach3 is bound to result in occasional anomalies.

When it comes to positive results with lead-free ammo, the only real exception is the .22lr.  Unfortunately, it is apparently a steep challenge to develop an affordable, lead-free bullet that provides consistent accuracy and terminal performance for this cartridge.  I’ve shot hundreds of rounds of both CCI and Winchester .22lr, lead free at small game as well as targets, and the experience has been pretty disappointing.  I’m also finding that the lead-free ammo doesn’t cycle in either of my semi-automatics (Marlin 60 and Walther P-22).  I’m hoping that Winchester and CCI are on top of these issues, and will soon have a new .22lr round available.

The only area in which I don’t have experience, and where I think there are justifiable concerns, is with lead-free shotgun slugs and muzzleloader bullets.  The ballistics available for both shotguns and modern muzzleloaders have enabled these traditionally short-range firearms to reach way out past the old limitations.  In general, I find this troubling for a few reasons.  It just stands to reason that a large, hard projectile moving at relatively low velocity isn’t going to expand particularly well.  Again, though, I believe this applies as much to lead as to copper.  On top of this, the further away the animal when you shoot it, the more difficult it will be to pick up a trail.  I have shot deer inside of 50 yards with a .50 caliber muzzleloader bullet (lead), and watched them run off as if unharmed without leaving a drop of blood to trail them by.  It just makes sense that the odds of this increase with distance.  It also makes sense that copper, since it is harder than lead, will also increase the odds of seeing this type of performance.

I don’t have the perfect solution, except to suggest that you ignore the marketing hype and keep your shotgun or muzzleloader shots to more traditional distances… usually inside 100 yards.  Make sure your gun is accurate with the loads you’ll use (don’t just stick some slugs in your bird gun and expect MOA accuracy), and then practice enough to maintain mastery, so that when you do get that shot, you make it good.

Regardless of these challenges, the lead ban is the law.  Or, more accurately, it will be the law.  The CA Fish and Wildlife Commission have until July 1, 2015 to develop an implementation plan, and until July 1, 2019 to fully roll out the regulations.  What this means, or should mean, to CA hunters is that you have time to lobby for a plan that will address real concerns and challenges.  And you should definitely be doing that… inundating the Fish and Game Commission with emails and calls to make sure that the plan they implement is workable.

One of the first areas of concern that would be in my mind, if I were still a CA resident, is the strong likelihood that certain ammunition will not be available by the 2019 deadline.  This would include obscure or archaic calibers, as well as things like smoothbore slugs.  It should also include viable offerings for the .22lr.  Five years is a good bit of time for the industry to adjust, and there are some pretty smart folks who visit this blog and feel that the industry, once forced, will adjust in time.  And I’m sure that there’s truth to their arguments.  But I still have strong doubts that all the gaps will be filled.  In fact, I’m reasonably certain that some ammo won’t be available at all… at least not from the major manufacturers.   It just doesn’t make sense that they’re going to go through the process of loading certain cartridges for calibers that account for a tiny fraction of overall sales.

There was an exception drafted into the law that allowed for firearms that had no commercially available, lead-free ammo.  Unfortunately, by the time the final bill was passed, this exception had been narrowed down to account only for the possibility (ridiculously unlikely) that the BATF would find lead-free bullets “armor piercing”, and thus ban them from the marketplace.  Here’s the language from the bill that Governor Brown signed:

(j) (1) The prohibition in subdivision (b) shall be temporarily suspended for a specific hunting season and caliber upon a finding by the director that nonlead ammunition of a specific caliber is not commercially available from any manufacturer because of federal prohibitions relating to armor-piercing ammunition pursuant to Chapter 44 (commencing with Section 921) of Title 18 of the United States Code.

CA hunters should be pushing hard to get this revised, or at least clarified, so that it addresses any case where factory loaded, non-lead ammunition is unavailable.  Barnes may manufacture any number of odd-sized bullets, but it shouldn’t be enough to simply have the components.  It’s one thing to force someone to switch ammunition.  It’s another thing altogether to require them to take up handloading.

Another section/subsection in the law has been there since the original in 2007, and calls on the State to provide support in the way of vouchers or coupons for lead-free ammunition “if funding is available.”

(d) (1) To the extent that funding is available, the commission shall establish a process that will provide hunters with nonlead ammunition at no or reduced charge. The process shall provide that the offer for nonlead ammunition at no or reduced charge may be redeemed through a coupon sent to a permitholder with the appropriate permit tag. If available funding is not sufficient to provide nonlead ammunition at no charge, the commission shall set the value of the reduced charge coupon at the maximum value possible through available funding, up to the average cost within this state for nonlead ammunition, as determined by the commission.

(2) The nonlead ammunition coupon program described in paragraph (1) shall be implemented only to the extent that sufficient funding, as determined by the Department of Finance, is obtained from local, federal, public, or other nonstate sources in order to implement the program.

Of course, we all know that funding was never available and this was never implemented under the original Ridley-Tree Condor Act, but it is part of the law.  Since the law is now statewide and impacts all CA hunters, I believe there’s justification to push for some version of this program, at least in need-based cases where the cost of lead-free ammo is prohibitive.  The State should be on the hook to encourage adoption of the new law through non-punitive methods.  Otherwise, I know for a fact that there are hunters out there who won’t drop $50 for a box of bullets when they can take the chance (a good chance) of getting away with just using that $12 box of lead.

Which brings up a third critical concern… enforcement.

Do you know how the wardens check your ammunition right now?  They look at the box, if you have it, and if not, and if it’s not obviously lead (e.g. exposed soft point), they ask you if it’s lead-free.  They might have a photo guide to go by if they’re diligent.  Some manufacturers of tipped bullets use color-coded tips to designate the bullet type.  But there’s no metal test, either in the field or the lab.  And unlike the wardens who check your shotshells at the refuge, they can’t check it with a magnet.  In other words, it isn’t that hard to get away with using the wrong ammo.  I’m not saying this to encourage disobedience, but to point out just how toothless this legislation is.

To make it even less effective, the odds of getting field checked in most parts of California are practically nil.  With around 200 law enforcement officers to cover about 164,000 square miles (not including coastal waters), CA is woefully understaffed to police the state’s hunters down to the individual bullet.

So how does CA plan to fairly enforce the lead ban?

There are a lot of questions and challenges here, and hunters should be pushing for answers sooner, rather than later.  Not only should you be pushing the agencies, you should also be beating down the doors of your hunting and gun rights advocacy organizations to support your positions.  The only way to be heard is to have an organized and coordinated front with logical, fact-based arguments.  And it may take legal action, which is where you’ll need the strength and funding of the organizations that claim to support your interests.

Or you can sit on your asses, bicker amongst yourselves, and take what you get.  That appears to have worked so well for CA hunters in the past.

(And I recognize as I write this strongly worded admonition, that I’m probably fortunate to have five CA hunters actually reading this blog.  Ah, well…)

So moving on… I expect that there are some folks out there who find themselves wondering what to do about selecting lead-free ammo.  For whatever reason, you never thought this law would pass and find yourself hopelessly hooked on your PowerPoints, Core-Lokt, or Partitions.  I can offer some thoughts, based on my experience with a few of the main options out there.  But after you read this, I strongly suggest you get out and try these for yourself.  Every gun is different, and nowhere have I found more truth in this than with copper ammo.

Oh, and these reviews are of bullets and ammo with which I am directly familiar.  There’s a bunch of stuff out there I haven’t used, particularly varmint and predator bullets.  I also haven’t reviewed any lead-free shotgun slugs (yet).  As far as lead-free shot, that’s a big topic and one that I’m not ready to approach since I don’t do enough bird hunting to have formed much of an opinion.

Keep reading if you want to see some bullet recommendations and personal experiences. Read more

Lead Ban Chronicles – AB711 Is Now A Law

October 12, 2013

Lead Ban ChroncilesWell, he did it.

Governor Brown signed AB711 on Friday, 10/11 to make it officially the law. 

Here’s his justification for signing,  I recommend giving it a gander:  AB_711_2013_Signing_Message.pdf0

Lead Ban Chronicles – AB711 Coming Down To The Wire

October 4, 2013

Lead Ban ChroncilesBeen a while since I did one of these, but I’d be remiss to let the weekend come without an update… not that most of you in CA need it.

AB711 is sitting on Governor Brown’s desk right now, awaiting his signature to make it law.  The deadline for signing is October 13, which is about 9 days away.  Like many people, I think it’s probably as good as done, but Brown has surprised gun owners and sportsmen before.  The point is, including today, you have six business days to send your comments to Brown, either to ask him not to sign (I hope), or to cheer the bill along (you’re free to your opinions).

I’m not going to rehash all of my arguments against the bill now.  I neither have time, nor inclination.  I’ve repeated myself so many times here and on other sites (blogs, newspaper editorial sections, Huffington Post, etc.) that I just don’t even want to see it again.  You can scroll back through the Lead Ban Chronicles posts here, and on the old Hog Blog to see any number of points, counterpoints, and outright rages during the history of this and the previous lead ammo bans.

But I will say this to hunters and hunting advocates in other states.  Please, pay attention.  Get informed by going out and reading up on the research for yourselves.  What you’ll find isn’t always pretty, and can sometimes be a little tough to analyze without a background in science and biology, but the truth is out there.  Distance yourself from anything published by the NRA, Center for Biological Diversity, HSUS, or other extreme organizations and look to the science.

Be willing to put this discussion on the table before the talk of bans and restrictions turns it into a political donnybrook.  Think as an outdoorsman, as a conservationist, but be practical.  And then consider how to take back the reins of this wagon and get out ahead of the lead ammo conversation.

Lead Ban Chronicles – California’s Yurok Tribe Takes The Right Approach

September 3, 2013

Lead Ban ChroncilesI know, everybody’s sick of hearing about the lead ammo ban, AB711, and condors.  Too bad.  Unless you’re perfectly happy with the likelihood of bans on the use of lead ammo (and some people certainly are), then it’s pretty important to stay informed.  Hell, even if you think you’re perfectly happy with it, it would do you good to be informed.  Some folks who’ve gone along so far may be in for some rude surprises, especially when the time comes to look outside of your own little bubble (“I don’t care.  I have lead-free ammo for my rifle, so let them ban away!”)

I’ve said, all along, that what this discussion needs is education and reasoned conversation.  What we’ve got, for the most part, has been political angling, propaganda, misinformation, and lots of knee-jerk reaction.  Hunters don’t trust environmentalists, and environmentalists don’t trust gun nuts.  Fear has been sown, deep and wide, and that harvest is going to last a long time. 

But if you look at the facts, at the real science, and (for many of us) at your own conscience, there’s a very good reason that we should be taking a closer look at the use of lead ammo.  There are enough unanswered questions there that any thinking person should at least consider the value of making the switch.  Some of those same unanswered questions should, at least, make any thinking person understand and respect the challenges to the switch. 

Education.  Outreach.  Awareness.

That’s the way to get the message out, and to come to some solutions that will serve everyone’s purposes.  And that’s the route the Yurok tribe is taking, according to this article from the Indian Country Today Media Network.

“When presented with accurate information and shown how well non-lead ammunition performs, most hunters decide to give it a try in an effort to clean up the food on their dinner table and the environment,” said Mike Palermo, who is a biologist for the Yurok Tribe Wildlife Program and an avid hunter. “We invite hunters to bring their lead ammunition and bullets for exchange, and their most difficult questions about lead and non-lead ammo to the free event.”…

… Although there have been pushes in the past to ban lead bullets, the Yurok does not support such legislation, preferring to trust that hunters, “if provided with the most accurate information about the ill-health effects of lead to their families and the food web, will voluntarily switch to non-toxic ammo,” the Yurok said.

 If you’re up that way…

The Yurok Tribe in California will sponsor a seminar, “Alternatives to Lead,” on Thursday September 5 at the Sequoia Park Zoo to educate the public about non-lead ammunition. The 30-minute presentation will begin at 6:30 p.m., followed by a question-and-answer period. The event will also include an ammo trade-in so hunters can ditch their lead ammunition and reloading bullets in return for copper ammunition, the tribe said in a press release.

 

Lead Ban Chronicles – AB711 Goes To A Vote

August 30, 2013

Lead Ban ChroncilesIt’s time.

AB711 is supposed to go to a vote today.  If it passes, there’s no question that Governor Brown will sign it into law.  Honestly, I’m not hopeful that common sense and reason will carry the day… but who knows?  Stranger things have happened.

Anyway, there’s still time, California sportsmen, to get on the phones and call your representatives.  Tell them that this law is ill-formed and will serve no positive ends.  It will not help the environment.  It will not protect human health.  And it will do nothing to further the survival of the California condor or any other wildlife populations.

And then hope for the best.

Lead Ban Chronicles – Are Copper Bullets A Wildfire Risk?

August 29, 2013

Lead Ban ChroncilesHere’s a thinker for ya… A friend shared a link to a column about how copper bullets pose a greater risk of starting wildfires than lead-core and jacketed bullets.

My initial response was to blow this off as more of the paranoia-mongering from the gun rights organizations.  But as I read the piece, it didn’t really incorporate most of the elements of propaganda I’ve become so familiar with in this discussion.  First of all, the author, Michelle Orrock, doesn’t appear to be writing as a member of a gun rights organization or a hunter advocacy group.  She’s an elected member of a community services district in Sacramento.  The district is responsible, among other things for fire safety planning.  Also, the piece doesn’t stray into the political arguments or spend time setting up or breaking down specious constructs.  She’s completely focused on one thing, the possibility that the lead ammo ban (AB711) could result in an increased risk of wildfires across a state that is annually ravaged by fire.  And you really have to understand this… in California and several other western states, wildfire is a real and significant concern.  In short, the more I thought about what I’d just read, the more I felt like Orrock’s concerns are sincere.

As reference, Orrock points to a research paper  released just this month by the US Forest Service.  Keep in mind that this study had nothing to do with the proposed lead ammunition ban.  It was initiated because several major wildfires over the past few years have been attributed to target shooters.  While there has been general agreement that the steel-core, military surplus ammunition has been the culprit, the Forest Service decided to test several different bullet types to see what the different risk levels were.  A surprising result is that the copper solid bullets (Barnes TSX) consistently achieved ignition in the test medium (oven-dried peat moss).  Here’s part of the Results section of the paper:

Bullet construction materials were important factors in producing ignition (Table 1) (Figure 2). The only type of bullet that consistently did not produce ignitions was made with a lead core and copper jacket, although a single ignition was observed from a Nosler partition bullet. Two other ignitions resulting from lead core and copper jacketed bullets occurred immediately after shots involving solid copper bullets and were probably undetected hold-over ignitions from that test given their location in the collector that coincided with large areas of smoldering peat (Appendix). Solid copper bullets were the most consistent in producing ignitions at all angles and all targets.

Of course, that snip from a 36 page report doesn’t provide much context, and I think context is the critical thing before we jump to conclusions and raise “fire danger” as the new, anti-AB711 rallying cry.

First, you have to look at the methods used in the experiment.  The researchers created a very specific set of conditions, including a very narrow range of temperature, relative humidity, and moisture content (of the peat).  Even the angle of the target (a steel sheet, and a section of granite counter-top) was critical in getting the results reported.  As any of those criteria went outside of the established parameters, the incidence of ignition went down.  The odds of a hunter’s bullet replicating those exact criteria in a way that results in wildfire are pretty slim… as evidenced by the fact that after seven years of lead ammo ban in the condor zone, there have been no reported fires caused by a hunter’s stray bullets.  I would say, based on what I read in that report, that those odds might increase for target shooters using copper bullets based on the simplistic fact that more shots equal more opportunities for ignition.

The paper dives pretty deeply into the physics involved in the transfer of energy from high velocity objects (bullets) to stationary objects (targets).  I won’t pretend to understand all of the math involved.  But the results were sort of eye opening.

I don’t necessarily think that this report, in itself, would provide strong grounds for blocking the passage of AB711 or other lead ammo bans, but I do think it is worth consideration.  As Orrock correctly points out, the speed at which this legislation is being pushed through the system pretty much negates any opportunity for deep review of possible unintended consequences.  At the very least, I would think more research would be valuable… if for no better reason than mitigating risk.

For anyone planning to leverage this information, either for discussion or as ammunition in the fight against AB711, I very strongly recommend reading the full report first.  At least you should know exactly what you’re talking about before you go off making it sound like every copper bullet is a potential wildfire.  I’m still not sure if it’s a valid argument or not.  What do ya’ll think?

 

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