As a shooter I am used to being viewed as a social outcast – I only shoot at targets but even this could become socially unacceptable if our government have their way despite the UK having some of the tightest gun laws in the world. So my eye is always drawn to news articles relating to shooting, whatever the reason.
And this is on the face of it a bizarre story – bullets that are less harmful (to the environment).
Every year millions of lead bullets are fired around the world in combat and at firing ranges. But is there an alternative to using toxic lead? Armies in Scandinavia are so concerned about the pollution caused by lead bullets that they are replacing their entire stock with non-toxic versions, and the manufacturers are encouraging the British armed forces to do the same.
The idea of a bullet designed both to kill the enemy and be kind to the environment might sound like a sick joke, but significant use is made of ammo in practice situations and there is evidence that the lead leaches into the soil and the water table – this can also be an issue in war zones like Afganistan.
In 1995, the Swedish government requested alternative ammunition. Four years later, the first lead-free bullets were delivered. Since then Nammo has made 360 million at its plant on the shores of Lake Vattern in southern Sweden. To the untrained eye there’s nothing to mark out the green bullets as different, from the pointed, copper-coloured tip, down the shining cartridge to the ridged base. But Nammo claims each green round is designed to “minimise the impact on users’ health” and on the environment. The company also trumpets that the new design shows “improved lethality”.
Nammo claims that over the past decade it has prevented 1,200 tonnes of lead being put into the environment.
But is there really a case to go lead-free?
If you’re getting killed by a lead bullet or lead-free it doesn’t really matter, but most ammunition is used for training anyway, so probably yes.
The British military don’t use lead-free rounds, and the Ministry of Defence says it has no plans to introduce them. It says the make-up of the ammunition is “dictated by the target effect required to incapacitate/kill an enemy at specified ranges”. There are no accurate figures for how many are used on firing ranges in the UK, but over the past year in Afghanistan, British troops fired almost four million. At the end of the day it comes down to cost – so it may be some time before the UK forces start using ‘green ammo’