On behalf of the Hungarian Blackpowder Shooters and Hunters Association we would submitted the following points to the consultation of the amendment of the REACH regulation associated with the use of lead projectiles for hunting and sports shooting.
In our previous papers submitted, we pointed out that
- There are currently no known materials that can substitute the lead for historical firearms and their reproductions designed for black powder and lead projectiles.
- Replacing the lead with harder materials in firearms designed and proofed for black powder and lead projectiles may cause structural gun damage, cause human injury and raises liability and legal questions.
- Firearms proofed and manufactured to be used with soft lead projectiles cannot be operated safely with harder-than-lead projectiles.
- Banning lead will certainly kill all recreational shooting and hunting activities with muzzle loading and breech loading black powder firearms.
We understand that sports shooting on shooting ranges with proper bullets stops are under a conditional derogation meaning the use of lead projectiles will be possible in the future for this purpose. However, hunting with muzzle and breech loading historical black powder firearms and their reproduction shall not be possible.
What is black powder hunting?
Hunting with muzzle and breech loading vintage style firearms designed for black powder and lead projectiles is an ethical hunting method with important cultural and traditional values. In numbers it is significantly less compared to hunting with modern firearms. Due to the technical parameters of these firearms, the hunt itself is more challenging and adventurous, while the ethical killing capabilities of such arms is unquestionable. Hunting with black powder firearms is a traditional hunting method, that is closely related to common European culture and heritage, while it has also close ties to scientific researches, like experimental archaeology, history. The muzzle and breech loading firearms used for both activities are originals and reproduction of originals designed and CIP proof tested for black powder loads and lead projectiles. Vast majority of these weapons cannot handle lead-free projectiles due to complete system incompatibility. More information about this aspect:
Study of the Hungarian CIP proof house regarding the incompatibility of historical arms and lead-free projectiles: http://pklv.hu/ECHA_lead_ban_on_black_powder_guns-Study_of_the_Hungarian_Proof_House.pdf
Study of the Hungarian Blackpowder Shooters and Hunters Association regarding lead projectiles and historical arms, including the study of the Italian CIP proof house regarding the replaceability of lead as a projectile material in case of historical arms: https://kapszli.hu/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/hungarian-muzzle-loaders-association-report-on-lead-restrictions-2021-05-04.pdf
How much lead is used for black powder hunting yearly?
We already submitted statistics about the estimation on lead used yearly in black powder muzzle loading and breech loading arms for hunting purposes. The number cannot be more than 2348 kg yearly, that is a very small value compared to any other uses.
Number of black powder hunters and shooters in Europe previously submitted to ECHA, including rough estimation of their lead consumption: https://capandball.com/how-many-muzzle-loading-shooters-and-hunters-are-in-the-eu-and-how-much-lead-they-use-yearly/
What will happen to black powder hunting if lead projectiles shall be banned entirely?
Original and reproduction black powder muzzle loading and breech loading arms do not have an alternative projectile material then lead. Based on the paper submitted previously to ECHA by the Hungarian and Italian CIP offices there no materials than can replace lead currently, therefore if black powder arms shall not be under a derogation, this historical hunting method shall be eliminated with its values, with its traditions.
Examples for derogation in the current consultation stage
The use of historical muzzle and breech loading arms designed for black powder and lead projectiles for hunting shares the same technical problems as hunting with small calibre lead projectiles (22LR and other members of the .22 calibre family.) The projectile material black powder firearms need is soft as the easy deformation of the projectile is necessary for the proper and safe use of the arms. Substitution with harder alloys is not possible due to technical reasons described in our previous papers submitted.
The small calibre lead projectiles for hunting are under a conditional derogation according to the last proposed amendments of the REACH regulation, understanding that although alternatives to lead ammunition in small calibres are available, there is uncertainty whether their technical performance (in terms of precision) is adequate for hunting. The proposed transition period will allow industry to
further develop alternatives.” The initial proposal was a 5 year transitional period, the new proposal is ”a five-year transition period, the duration of which needs to be reviewed before the ban enters into force.”
Our proposal for conditional derogation based on the derogation for small calibre lead hunting projectiles
Hunting with antique and reproduction muzzle and breech loading firearms designed for black powder and lead projectiles shares the same problems as in the case of the small calibre lead projectiles for hunting, therefore we suggest to use the same derogation as in case of the .22 calibre.
We propose therefore the following:
A five-year transition period for the use of lead projectiles in muzzle and breech loading firearms designed for black powder and lead projectiles, the duration of which needs to be reviewed before the ban enters into force.
This will allow time for the industry to search for valid substitutes for lead, and is also flexible enough to not terminate a hunting method with such cultural, historical and recreational values.
We also suggest a solution to distinguish antique firearms and their reproductions from any modern design firearms. This will secure that only those firearms and their bullets shall be under the derogation that follow the spirit of traditional hunting.
Therefore, we propose to us the terminology of the UN Palermo Treaty (Protocol against the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms, Their Parts and Components and Ammunition, supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime). This derogation should only cover firearms made before 1899 and their reproductions.
Hunting with black powder muzzle and breech loading arms have historical, cultural and scientifical values that are based on common European values. This heritage is important part of common European culture therefore it must not disappear. Banning lead ammunition shall necessarily result the complete ban of muzzle loading hunting as well, as only very few types of black powder arms are capable of firing lead-free bullets.
The weight of lead used for hunting with such firearms is only a marginal percent of the total, therefore the environmental impact of such hunting method is negligible.
Hunting with such firearms shall always be a marginal part of practical hunting activities as these arms require much more skill, a more specific knowledge than hunting with modern firearms.
Balázs Németh, PhD
member of the board
Hungarian Blackpowder Shooters and Hunters Association