Military Moves Toward Lead-Free Ammunition

The United States military has decided to move to a non-lead version of their 7.62 millimeter bullet, which will hopefully prompt hunters to do the same.

Lead bullets kill millions of birds in the US each year when they eat spent ammunition, mistaking it for grit or seeds.

"If non-lead ammunition is good enough for the U.S. military, with all their ballistics and performance testing, it should be good enough for hunters," says George Fenwick, President of American Bird Conservancy. 

The organization is encouraging hunters to voluntarily switch from traditional lead-based ammunition to non-lead alternatives. Hundreds of peer-reviewed studies show that birds are poisoned, including Bald Eagles, hawks, vultures, California Condors, and Mourning Doves.

The California condor, the largest bird in North America, was saved from extinction by a captive breeding program that increased its numbers in the wild. But now the condor is facing a new and pernicious threat – lead from bullets used by game hunters, says Yale University’s Environment 360.

California Condor:

California Condor

Hunters and manufacturers say non-lead ammunition costs more, but with the military adopting it, that could bring down costs. "The quantities of ammo required by the military will no doubt require that ammo producers acquire the new equipment to not only produce non-lead ammo, but also produce it in large quantities at much lower costs," says Fenwick. "This is a game-changer because it provides a signal to the ammunition manufacturing industry that the non-lead market is increasing, and provides some assurances that necessary capital investments will be safe financial risks."

In 2010, the military converted the 5.56 millimeter a non-lead bullet, eliminating nearly 2,000 tons of lead from the environment. An additional 4,000 tons of lead will be gone from this latest decision.

Lead is a problem in more ways. It is also in fishing weights used by fisherman, the most common cause of death for common loons.

Conference This Month

If you are interested in bird conservation, an international conference, 5th International Partners in Flight, takes place August 25-28 in Snowbird, Utah.

Formed in 1990, Partners in Flight is a collaboration among 400 organizations. The goal of this meeting is to develop a set of "conservation business plans" to prioritize actions needed to improve migratory bird habitats and the status of their species across the Americas. Here is the website:

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Comments on “Military Moves Toward Lead-Free Ammunition”

  1. Eric Mills

    There should be a nationwide ban on the use of lead for ALL hunting and fishing. Not only do many scavengers suffer and die from secondary lead poisoning (coyotes, badgers, foxes, eagles, jays, magpies, et al.). Many waterfowl also succumb after ingesting lost lead fishing weights (sinkers): swans, loons, cormorants, diving ducks, and others.

    Were sport hunters & fishers the true conservationists they claim to be (and many are), then they would be leading this effort.

    It’s a “no-brainer,” folks. Get the lead out.

  2. Hank Alvarez

    I have no problem hunting with copper ammo, except that it’s hard to find and very expensive. My copper jacketed Winchester 30-06 ammo costs $19.98 at Walmart for twenty rounds. The same twenty rounds in all copper is almost $45. It’s more than double the cost of jacketed lead core ammo.
    What worried me recently was an article I read recommending that if you use lead ammo regularly, which I do for target shooting and competition, that you have an annual blood test for lead.
    I don’t doubt that non-lead ammo is better for the environment I just think it was very poor timing on the part of the environmentalists. The gun grabbers got on the band wagon with this issue and most of the serious shooters I know are against it. If we are truly judged by the company we keep then the resistance to it is understandable and doesn’t surprise me.

  3. Mark Edward

    The present ammo industry is resistant to change when their presently making billions with lead cored bullets. However, with new technology in environmentally friendly powdered and solid constructed metal bullets, the tradition is changing. Education and government legislation is also required to force the use of this new paradigm shift. Lead cored bullet are old business, we can change!

  4. Hunter04

    I too agree with Hank. If lead free ammo were more available and cost the same as lead, then I would definitely use it, but it doesn’t. I consider myself a conservationist, but I do not own a money tree to pay for all of these changes. I am an avid hunter and fisherman and can’t afford all of the high dollar, environmentally friendly options. I really think that if you guy’s want things to start changing then you need to start investing into the ammo companies and start helping pay for the lead free bullets, so people can actually afford them. You can’t expect people like me to start paying triple the amount of money on something that does the same job. If hunters were to start spending all that extra money on lead free things, they are less likely to have any money left over to pay for conservation projects. So what I am trying to say, is that you guys can’t judge us or be mad at the hunters for not wanting to use lead free bullets, or force this upon us, that just makes things worse. You can’t all of a sudden ban lead on us, when it has been used for centuries and then try and make us pay more for our hobby’s. I predict that when lead free ammo becomes more abundant, available, and less costly, people like me will start wanting to make those changes. ***On another note, making lead ammunition illegal is just wrong. People like me that have been buying lead for a long time and spending our hard earned money should have the right to a refund or exchange of other ammo. Because now the people with all of this extra lead ammo laying around would be considered criminals, when they actually bought the ammunition legally and now have no use for it. So don’t expect us to be happy when you are trying to ban our freedom, turn us into criminals, make us pay ridiculous prices, judge us buy wanting to save hard earned money, and take away our legally bought items.

  5. Greg

    I’m calling BS! The only lead ammo shown to have a significant impact of any kind, is shotgun shot. We Californians are already required to hunt with steel shot, which causes a huge reduction in ballistic effect I might add. So what you’re saying is, our whole State should have to shift to a lead free bullet, at an appreciable price increase, to protect 230 stupid ass birds, who would eat glass on the side of the highway and die, if not lead? Somethings were meant to become extinct! This is PC run-a-muck and I for one am offended at the notion.

  6. Lenard Shikoby

    Non lead is doing what the tree huggers want. I stopped hunting waterfowl because of non lead. Lead is the most lethal projectile, period. The truth will come out in the future. After they have priced us out of hunting.

  7. Made in USA

    I have been shooting and fishing for 40+ years. I have feel bad when I loose a sinker in the ocean. Popular fishing areas must be covered in lead sinkers. I think that the liberal minded people should try and find a replacement material and let the market take care of the demand. We don’t need more regulation. We need a material that will replace the lead and be comparable in price. Banning lead is just another way to control guns.
    Find a new product and I will switch in a heartbeat!

  8. Richard long

    I am for lead-free bullets but what are we going to do with the bullets we have in stock should we shoot them, trade them in, or just don’t shoot them at all?

  9. Richard long

    Also if these conservationist we’re worried about their environment and the Animals within it why don’t they keep the animals from getting on the roadways and becoming casualties of mankind more than just deer are casualty each and every day that we live.


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