We made an estimation about the number of black powder shooters and their yearly lead consumption for target shooting and hunting purposes within the EU.
Key points in understanding the collected data:
- The data of competitive and recreational muzzle loading shooters and hunters were collected from the member national associations of Muzzle Loaders International Confederation.
- In many countries muzzle loading weapons are not registered or licensed, therefore large of the possible shooters, collectors and hunters are not visible for statistics.
- These figures include only muzzle loading shooters. The users of historical breech loading arms designed for lead projectiles and black powder charges can be a multiply of these values, and are not included in our statistics.
- Bullet weight and shot count are pure estimations as trade values cannot be accessed, because most of the shooters and hunters cast their own lead projectiles, mainly from scrap lead collected from old buildings.
- The number of occasional muzzle loading shooters/collectors is nearly impossible to estimate as these shooters are not recognized by national organizations, and their weapons are not registered or licensed.
- The data we collected are rough estomations surely not accurate values, but we do think the total represents the situation of EU well.
Number of competitive muzzle loading shooters
The number of competitive shooters is the most accurate number of all data provided, as these shooters participate frequently on national and international level competitions. They are recognized by national associations; they are members of gun clubs. They visit the shooting range at least once a week, firing an average of 60 shots per occasion.
Competitive shooters do practice. In black powder shooting, according to the rules of MLAIC each competition consists of 13 shots fired in a 30-minute time frame. Additional fouling shot can be fired into the backstop before the competitive shots, and also there is a chance to fire one additional shot into the bullet stop in case of a loading procedure problem. In Germany the national rules use 15 shots relay. We calculated a weekly 60 shots quantity for the competitive shooters, with an average bullet weight of 200 grains (13 g).
Number of recreational muzzle loading shooters
Recreational shooters visit the shooting ranges approximately once a month. They are recognized by gun clubs, but they seldom attend shooting matches. Their estimated shot count is 15 shots weekly. Lead consumption of recreational shooters is calculated with an average bullet weight of 200 grains (13 g).
Number of occasional muzzle loading shooters / collectors
Occasional shooters are mainly collectors, who try their guns not more than 2-3 times a year. As muzzle loading weapons are not registered or licensed in many countries, these shooters are mostly invisible to statistics, they do not participate on competitions. Their numbers can only be estimated very roughly. We estimate their numbers to be 10 times more than the number of the sum of competitive and recreational shooters. In case of Poland the national organization indicated 80,000 persons as collectors/occasional shooters, this was the only case when we did not calculate this data, but used the original data provided by the Polish contact.
The yearly lead consumption of this class is estimated 52 shots / person, the average bullet weight used is 200 grains (13 g).
Number of muzzle loading hunters
Muzzle loading hunting is a new phenomenon in Europe. One of the first countries to legalize these arms for all the accessible hunting methods was Hungary in 2016. Muzzle loading hunting is a licensed activity. The total number of muzzle loading hunters in the EU is not more than 1000-1200 today. Their yearly shot count for target practice and hunting estimated is 150 shots yearly. Lead consumption is calculated with an average projectile weight of 400 grains (26 g).
The total number of muzzle loading shooters and collectors within the EU according to our estimation is c340,000 women and men, out of which c27,000 are frequent shooters. The number of muzzle loading hunters is c600 based on the data provided by the national associations, but as large number of muzzle loading hunters are not visible for the statistics, we assume that the exact number can be around 1000-1200 persons.
The estimated yearly lead consumption of muzzle loading shooters in the EU is c683 tons, out of which c682 tones are fired on licensed shooting ranges, and only 0.8 ton fired for hunting purposes. (We assumed that the muzzle loading hunter fires 2/3 of his shots at shooting ranges for practice and only 1/3 in the nature for hunting).
Thanks for all the shooter friends who helped with the figures!
Balász Németh, 2021.
Table 1.: Number of muzzle loading shooters and hunters in the EU
|Number of users|
|Competition shooters||Recreational shooters||Occasional shooters / Collectors||Black powder hunters||Total|
Table 2.: Yearly lead consumption of muzzle loading shooters and hunters in the EU
|Lead consumption yearly estimation (kg)||Total lead consumption by country (kg)||Total lead consumption by country (kg)|
|Competition shoothers (3120 shots/year, 13g bullet weight)||Recreational shooters (780 shots/year, 13g bullet weight)||Occasional shooters / Collectors (52 shots/year, 13g bullet weight)||Black powder hunters (150 shots/year, 26g bullet weight)|
 Exact data was provied by Polish shooters, in the case of all other EU members estimated values are calculated.
 One third of this value is fired in the nature for hunting, 2/3 at shooting ranges for practice