European Journal of Wildlife Research

, Volume 62, Issue 6, pp 633–641 | Cite as

Non-lead rifle hunting ammunition: issues of availability and performance in Europe

  • Vernon G. Thomas
  • Carl Gremse
  • Niels Kanstrup


Non-lead hunting rifle bullets were developed to make superior quality ammunition, and the need to reduce lead exposure of wildlife and humans. European and US hunters’ concerns about non-lead bullets involve perceptions of availability, costs, efficacy, accuracy, toxicity, and barrel fouling. These concerns are politically powerful and, if not addressed, could thwart greater use of non-lead ammunition. Product availability (i.e. that which is made) of non-lead rifle ammunition in a wide range of calibres is large in Europe and is suited for all European hunting situations. At least 13 major European companies make non-lead bullets for traditional, rare, and novel rifle calibres. Local retail availability is now a function of consumer demand which relates, directly, to legal requirements for use. Costs of non-lead and equivalent lead-core hunting bullets are similar in Europe and pose no barrier to use. Efficacy of non-lead bullets is equal to that of traditional lead-core bullets. Perceptions of reduced accuracy and greater barrel fouling must be addressed by industry and hunter organizations and, if verified, resolved. Non-lead bullets are made in fragmenting and non-fragmenting versions, but there is no advice to hunters yet given on the use of these two bullet types. The non-toxicity of ingested metallic copper, the principal component of non-lead bullets, is scientifically well-established.


Bullets Ballistics Concerns Efficacy Fragmenting Fouling 



We thank the reviewers for their constructive comments and improvements to this paper. We acknowledge the support to N. Kanstrup from 15 Juni Fonden, Arboretet, Kirkegårdsvej 3A, DK-2970 Hørsholm (grant number 2013-A-88). Research of C. Gremse was supported by the German Federal Ministry for Food and Agriculture, Rochusstraße, 1, 53123 Bonn (grant number 09HS023), the State of Mecklenburg West Pomerania Ministry for Agriculture, Environment and Consumer Protection, and the State of Brandenburg Ministry of Rural Development, Environment and Agriculture. Lars Thune Anderson kindly performed the shooting tests with copper and lead-core bullets detailed in Table 2.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


The authors are not funded by any ammunition maker, government department, university, or agency promoting an end to use of lead ammunition.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Vernon G. Thomas
    • 1
  • Carl Gremse
    • 2
  • Niels Kanstrup
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Integrative Biology, College of Biological ScienceUniversity of GuelphGuelphCanada
  2. 2.Leibniz-Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research, Berlin, and Eberswalde-University, Wildlife DepartmentEberswaldeGermany
  3. 3.Danish Academy of HuntingRøndeDenmark

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