There are two big advantages to using lead as a basis for ammunition. It has a low melting point and is a soft metal.
Lead has a melting point of 621.5ºF. This is one of the lowest melting points for a metal, making it easy for many private individuals to melt lead and pour it into molds, especially molds for bullets and fishing weights.
If you are familiar with any of the Clint Eastwood Dirty Harry movies, there is a scene in one that prompted a friend and me to make our own bullets. In the movie, Dirty Harry is at the firing range, shooting his .44 magnum when several younger policemen noticed that it had very little visible kick or recoil. When they asked, Dirty Harry told them that he was shooting a very light load, a 110-grain slug. If you’re not familiar with shooting, the heavier the lead bullet, the more kick or recoil there will be when fired. My friend and I were very familiar with shooting a .44 magnum and most of our loads were eight 180 or 240 grain loads. So, we began tooling down some .44 bullets till we got some down to 150-grain and others down to 112-grains. We molded some forms, melted some lead and poured a number of lightweight bullets. After loading them in a home reloader, we test fired the new lighter bullets and wow, the kick was a lot less, muzzle velocity and accuracy a lot higher. I’ve also helped melt lead to pour for .30-06, .30-30 and .357 bullets.
Thousands of hunters and target shooters melt lead and form many of their own bullets. That’s what many of our fore-fathers did for hundreds of years. If you do a lot of hunting and shooting, pouring your own lead bullets can be a whole lot cheaper than buying them already made.
The same holds true for fishing weights. It’s easy to make or obtain different molds for different weights of fishing weights, melt the lead, pour it into the molds and then finish off the weights. I’ve made thousands of 1/4oz, 1/2oz, 3/4 oz and 1 oz fishing weights. If you do a lot of fishing, it can be a whole lot cheaper than constantly buying them.
The softness and pliability of lead also helped make it possible for shotgun manufactures to make different chokes for the end of the barrel. A choke is a constriction at the end of the barrel. With no constriction, the lead shot spreads out quickly after leaving the barrel, making it good for close range but less effective for longer ranges. A full choke is a greater restriction that causes the lead shot to be squeezed together as it leaves the barrel. The tighter grouping of shot will travel further with more accuracy before spreading out and slowing down.
Duck and goose hunters often use a full choke in order to reach the birds flying at higher altitudes. A moderate or improved choke is used for birds and game at intermediate ranges. No choke is used for birds and game at closer ranges. They measure chokes by the percentage of shot lands inside a 30-inch circle at a distance of 40 yards. No choke, also called cylinder bore, results in about 40% of the shot hitting within the 30-inch circle. An improved choke results in about 50% of the shot hitting with the circle. A modified choke is 60% and a full choke is 70% of the shot hitting within the 30-inch circle.
When lead shot was first banned several decades ago, I saw a number of shotguns that had barrel bands caused by the use of steel shot. The steel shot does not compress like the led shot does, so a lot of shooting resulted in the steel shot slowly pushing the metal of the barrel at the choke, outward. Some of this has been overcome, but it can still be a problem.
Why was lead shot banned in many areas? Because many birds were ingesting spent lead shot on the ground and in shallow water. This caused a number of health problems for the birds, so the solution was banning the lead shot.
In a move to make it impossible for most home loaders and shooters to make their own bullets and shot, Barack Obama’s anti-gun administration issued a last-minute order with the purpose of banning lead bullets and fishing weights.
Issued by the Department of the Interior, Director’s Order No. 219 states in part:
“Subject: USE OF NONTOXIC AMMUNITION AND FISHING TACKLE
Sec. 1 What is the purpose of this Order? The purpose of this Order is to establish procedures and a timeline for expanding the use of nontoxic ammunition and fishing tackle on Service lands, waters, and facilities and for certain types of hunting and fishing regulated by the Service outside of Service lands, waters, and facilities.”
The NRA Institute for Legislative Action reacted to the ban on lead ammo, stating:
“Gun owners knew that Barack Obama would not leave quietly. The only question was what else was coming.”
“An answer came late in the day on January 19. With his successor’s inauguration only hours away, he completed his final assault on gun owners’ and sportsmen’s rights, this time in the form of Director’s Order No. 219 of the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS). The order seeks to expand ‘the use of nontoxic ammunition and fishing tackle on Service lands, waters and facilities and for certain types of hunting and fishing regulated by the Service’ outside of those areas…’
“The order goes on to outline a series of steps the FWS will take to implement the policy, first and foremost of which is the favored gun control tactic of using ‘science’ to re-enforce pre-existing policy goals, rather than to guide those goals in the first place. Rather humorously, the order states, ‘The Service will continue to support targeted research to understand the human, fish, and wildlife health benefits of using nontoxic ammunition and fishing tackle.’”
“And if science were to discover lead wasn’t so bad or non-lead ammunition and fishing tackle could actually lead to adverse health effects of their own? Well, that wouldn’t be ‘targeted.’…”
“To be sure, this latest development further demonstrates the petty, partisan tendencies of the former president and is as aggravating as it was predictable.”
If Obama can’t ban guns or ammunition, then he tried to ban the use of lead bullets in hopes of destroying the entire firearm industry. However, it’s not doomsday yet for hunters, target shooters or fishermen/women, as the same NRA-ILA concluded:
“But it should do little to dampen the high spirits of sportsmen and sportswomen as Donald J. Trump takes the oath of office, for it sharpens the contrast between the outgoing and incoming administrations. Like so much of what Barack Obama claimed as ‘accomplishments,’ it will hopefully amount to little more than a symbolic act of defiance by a president with little of substance to show for his eight years in office.”
“In the meantime, it is yet another reminder that a long, trying epoch for America’s gun owners is finally at an end, and a new day with a new outlook is at hand.”