Skip to main content

Availability and prices of non-lead gunshot cartridges in the European retail market


To analyse those factors that inhibit or facilitate the shift from lead to non-lead ammunition, it is important to evaluate the extent to which hunters can purchase suitable non-lead products. Based on an Internet search, we identified 22 European and 6 North American manufactures of non-lead shot cartridges distributed in 10 different countries. During the web search, we found non-lead shot cartridges available in retail stores with online sales of these products in 22 of 29 European countries. The most common non-lead shot type was steel shot, although bismuth, tungsten and copper were available in some countries. We conclude that non-lead shot cartridges are available to purchasers in most European countries, but in a limited variety. Availability of non-lead ammunition is not limited by production but by the demand at the national, regional, and local levels. Multiple manufacturers provide such ammunition, and their products may become available in any member state, regionally and locally, once the demand is established. The collective experience of Denmark, Canada, and the USA indicate that the demand for non-lead products will be stimulated by any intergovernmental initiatives to regulate lead ammunition for hunting and target shooting, especially when such initiatives are accomplished through well-enforced national regulation.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.





  4. Lead shot is made traditionally by dropping molten lead through sieves into cold water from a great height in shot towers, or by the “bleimeister method” where molten lead is dripped from small orifices into a hot liquid, followed by rolling along an incline to remove out-of-round pellets. Steel shot is made by hammering small pieces of low-carbon iron wire into spheres of desired diameter followed by softening (annealing) the shot in furnaces. These processes are energy intensive and more time consuming than traditional lead shot making.


  6. Personal communication: R. Cove, CEO, Kent Cartridge, Markham, Canada.


  • Kanstrup, N., J. Swift, D.A. Stroud, and M. Lewis. 2018. Hunting with Lead Ammunition is not Sustainable: European Perspectives. Ambio.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Lead Ammunition Group. 2015. Lead Ammunition, Wildlife and Human Health. A report prepared for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the Food Standards Agency in the United Kingdom.

  • Thomas, V.G. 2013. Lead-Free Hunting Rifle Ammunition: Product Availability, Price, Effectiveness, and Role in Global Wildlife Conservation. Ambio 42: 737–745.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Thomas V.G. 2015. Availability and use of lead-free shotgun and rifle cartridges in the UK, with reference to regulations in other jurisdictions. In Proceedings of the Oxford Lead Symposium. Lead ammunition: Understanding and minimizing the risks to human and environmental health, ed. R.J. Delahay, and C.J. Spray, 85–98. Oxford: The Edward Grey Institute.

  • Thomas, V.G. 2019. Chemical compositional standards for non-lead hunting ammunition and fishing weights. In Lead in hunting ammunition: Persistent problems and solutions, eds. N. Kanstrup, V.G. Thomas, and A.D. Fox, Ambio vol. 48, Special Issue.

Download references


We thank colleagues and reviewers for helpful comments on an earlier text. Funding was provided by the personal financial resources of the authors.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Niels Kanstrup.

Additional information

Publisher's Note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Kanstrup, N., Thomas, V.G. Availability and prices of non-lead gunshot cartridges in the European retail market. Ambio 48, 1039–1043 (2019).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Revised:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:


  • Ammunition
  • Availability
  • Demand
  • Gunshot
  • Non-lead
  • Steel