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Steel shot

Discussion in 'Shooting Related Threads' started by Hunter46spring, Feb 21, 2011.

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  1. Hunter46spring

    Hunter46spring TS Member

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    I have recently learned that my club is going to implement a steel shot only requirement for its Trap and Skeet fields.

    My club is a fairly small club in Massachusetts that has 3 trap fields and 2 skeet fields (although in reality only 1 of each feild gets any consistent use). We have been a club since the mid 1940's and do not host any ATA events. We are basically club shooters who travel to shoot ATA events. Our ranges were oriented in the 40's to shoot in the direction of a small river and its associated wetland/flood plain. I would estimate that the majority of shot lands in areas that would not be considered wetlands. The club does not have the funding to re-orient the trap feilds.

    At this time there is no steel shot only requirement in Massachusetts and the Dept. of Environmental Protection has not told the club to stop using lead.

    The board of directors at my club have taken it upon themself to implement the restriction and, much to my dismay, have not asked for input from the stotgun shooters at in the club.

    My initial reaction to this new policy is concern. However I want to be as informed as possible about the use of lead in trap shooting and at trap fields.

    My concerns are the price and availability of steel shot suitable for trap shooting. The cost and difficulty of converting to reload steel. The damage potential to expensive trap guns (specifically a Ljutic Mono with a fixed extra full choke). The effect on scores and shooting style. Converting to steel after 60+ years of lead dowrange (after "the damage is done"). Finally what the DEP or state can do to the club in the event it inspects downrange.

    From what I have heard the clubs BOD's want to take a proactive approach and "go green" so, in the event the state comes to inspect, we can say we shoot steel only. The BOD claims there will be no or minimal cost increase to shooting steel. They claim moderns shotguns will suffer no ill effects from shooting steel. They also said score wouldn't suffer.

    I would love to know how many clubs have a similar steel only requirement. What are peoples experiences have been with steel? What problems, if any, have been encountered by using steel? Have any clubs run into DEP issues by using lead?

    If anyone has any documenting support I would be very grateful for your assitance.
     
  2. mrskeet410

    mrskeet410 TS Member

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    There are a few shooter at this forum that shoot steel for trap. I hope they post here. If they do, I bet they say they do fine with steel at trap.

    I'll be interested to read how it works for skeet. In 12 gauge it should be fine other than steel tends to pattern pretty tightly, probably tighter than desired for skeet even in a cylinder choke. I'm really interested in anybody that has experience with steel for skeet in the smaller gauges.
     
  3. Dr A C Jones

    Dr A C Jones Member

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    I think you need to get some reliable "hard" information.

    When I tested steel shot shells suitable for clay shooting, I found they patterned wider than lead (the test was 70 patterns across different chokes and distances, photopgraphed and measured). This is an important point. "Everybody" says steel patterns tighter but you really need to get the data to support it. If in fact it patterns wider and does not retain energy as well, it will adversely affect trap scores.

    I'm not saying my information is definitive. You need to get more hard data and work from what that implies. I'd love to see somebody else's steel shot data and if it's different to mine then that's food for thought.

    You need to nail down other "truths" like just how durable guns are with steel shot. One of the makers used the criteria as only xx/1000" ring in the barrel after yy thousands of shells. Personally, I'd like zero sign of a ring after a million shells, give or take.

    Andrew.
     
  4. mrskeet410

    mrskeet410 TS Member

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    "When I tested steel shot shells suitable for clay shooting, I found they patterned wider than lead..."

    I never heard of that before, but it's certainly good news and bodes well for steel shot for skeet.
     
  5. scott calhoun

    scott calhoun Well-Known Member

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    Location:
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    I'm certainly no expert at steel, but that said I have (along with many of my fellow club members) nearly 10 years of experience with shooting steel shot for trap. The trap range in Naperville, Illinois converted to steel-only back in the 2000/2001 time frame (I'm not exactly sure the date, I was not involved in trap shooting at that time). I've been shooting at the club since 2002 and am also an active (5K-10K targets per year) registered trap shooter.

    We have found that steel patterning tighter than lead is a myth. I can't confirim Dr. Jones comments about it patterning wider, but what I can tell you is that we suggest that shooters use the pattern board and find out what choke works best with their gun and their load.

    We have not had any issues with modern firearms, either with choke tubes or fixed chokes. We have a wide array of fireams in use at our club, from Browning and Beretta up thru the more expensive K and P guns. I'm sure no one has a million rounds thru any one of them, but there are plenty of guys who shoot on a weekly basis and have done so for many years without issue.

    I wouldn't classify the changeover from lead to steel reloading as simple, but it's also not terribly difficult. Most common loaders will convert to steel with just a few changes and some adjustments. I have two 9000G, one for lead and one for steel, just because I didn't like spending the time to go back and forth on a single machine - but there is no reason you can't do it.

    The trick to reloading with steel and keeping the cost down is sourcing the components. We are fortunate to be in the midwest and very close to the supplier of steel shot. You can buy steel shot in 2000 pound drums, and in our area it works about to about $1.30 per pound. Loading steel requires wads made for steel shot, but otherwise the hulls, primers and powder are the same as with lead and are widely available. Economy of scale is also important for wads, as prices can be pretty high if you try to buy only 1 or 2 thousand (or even 10K for that matter). You have to buy in bulk, combine with other members, to get better prices on those components. Ballistic Products stocks wads for steel (although right now our preferred wad, the Vagnerplast VP60, is out of stock due to issues with the manufacturing equipment).

    As for shooting and scoring with steel . . . flat out it's not as good as lead. However, at 16-yards I don't beliee there is any difference. Handicap shooting is where the differences show, the relative weight of the shot decreases steel's effectiveness compared to lead as the distance increases. If everyone at the club is shooting steel then it really doesn't matter, the playing field is level - but handicap scores will be lower.

    You can PM me if you want more information.

    Scott Calhoun
     
  6. timberfaller

    timberfaller Well-Known Member

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    Location:
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    Lead is bad,
    climate change,
    spotted owl,
    reintroduce wolves
    reintroduce grizzly's,
    Steel only.

    When is it going to end? Do we keep rolling over every time the Fed's say Boooo!
     
  7. mrskeet410

    mrskeet410 TS Member

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    Probably sooner than we want steel shot will be much cheaper than lead shot.
     
  8. Dr A C Jones

    Dr A C Jones Member

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    Now I'm back at my main PC, the graph below shows how steel shot patterned relative to hard lead. Steel patterned wider for all chokes and distances. (Actually only 60 patterns for steel not 70 as stated earlier.)

    [​IMG]

    I shoot B25s and there's no way I'd put steel through them. If I was at your club I would look for alternative venues before changing guns.

    I'd punt it back to the boys who want to change and tell them when they can show (that is prove) steel is equal they can suggest a change.

    Andrew.
     
  9. mrskeet410

    mrskeet410 TS Member

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    But AC, what if the boys that really make the changes don't care about your B25 or whether steel or lead is better. Or what if supply and demand gives us the choice of a tiny group of super-rich playing with lead (and you ain't in it), or a much larger middle class playing with steel?

    Or having a perfectly preserved, but unused B25 taken by your grandchildren to "The Antiques Roadshow", only to find out lead only gun is worthless.
     
  10. grl

    grl Member

    Joined:
    Feb 3, 2011
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    101
    We shoot steel at our club in Florida, all gauges. I think the consensus is that steel produces lower scores. really noticeable at longer handicap distances. Guys use all type of wads. I use a VP 53 in 12 ga, but regular wads in smaller bores, however, I take care not to load above the wad. Other folks, not so much. No real difference in loading once you adjust the shot bar. 1oz of steel will give you more pellets and take more space than lead. Think volume rather than weight. It does make a .410 a challenge, 25s are rare....
     
  11. Dr A C Jones

    Dr A C Jones Member

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    First they came for the B25s, then they came for the etc etc etc. Chip away at your support base at your peril.

    Personally, I think gun clubs could make a lot more of how they can recycle lead. You might have seen the pictures of the place in Italy with the lead recovery system. Shooting can be an almost zero environmental impact sport. It's not going to happen in this particular case because of not wanting to change any layouts, but in general, I'd rather shoot lead and I believe in many cases it can be done with little/no environmental impact.

    If somebody makes a genuine lead substitute (or better), then I would have no emotional attachment to lead.

    The problem with steel is that the clay games will become very much closer disciplines - unless we move to much heavier payloads and heavier guns to accommodate the recoil.

    For game shooting there's no way I'm using steel. I chomped on a pellet in a mouthful of pheasant a couple of months ago. If that had been steel it would have been a broken tooth.

    Andrew.
     
  12. spitter

    spitter Well-Known Member TS Supporters

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    Following up on Scott Calhoun's post, I was president of our Club during its 32 month shutdown in 1998-2001. Be aware, that while steel is considered non-toxic, technically from a CWA perspective, steel shot can still be considered a "pollutant".

    Our NPDES permit (1st and only one ever issued to a shooting range) requires the use of non-lead shot. We took it one step further and limited ourselves to steel.

    Modern firearms built in the last 30 years using a modified or more open choke should experience no problems digesting steel shot #7s. Many folks using modern guns with fixed or tubed "full" (#1) chokes find that a true "full" choke can pattern better than modified/improved modified chokes claiming to pattern "full"... we have had no instances of bulging barrels with the use of steel. That said, you should contact your manufacturer and pattern your firearms for guidance.

    Those with "vintage" firearms (I own a '65 Superposed) need to contact their manufacturer for guidance. Some guns were not developed for use with steel ammo - B25s/Superposed as an example...

    Steel can be self-loaded economically. Steel, as was mentioned, can be purchase in bulk. Wads are the biggest issue of contention. Steel wads exist, but are more expensive. Traditional wads used with lead have been loaded successfuly, but load capacity, speed and pressure place unexpected burdens on thinner plastic, so limitations on recipes should be observed. A variety of traditional powders/primers crossover for use with steel.

    Scores will initially drop, but rebound within a relatively short period of time. Steel has a different dynamic that can't be put to paper, but is experienced on the field. After a brief learning curve - steel breaks targets as well as any other shot type when on the birds at our distances. We shoot games where targets can fly 60 yards or more and we use factory 7s at 1300 fps and break plenty.

    #7 Steel is approved for ATA programs.

    As Scott offered, please contact either of us for more information.

    Kind regards,

    Jay Spitz
     
  13. joe kuhn

    joe kuhn Furry Lives Matter TS Supporters

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    A couple of points to add - At Naperville, we can shoot #6 shot and it does pretty well at yardage. Many shoot #7s up close, either loaded by ourselves, or we purchase 1325 fps loads at the club counter or local discount stores that carry them. They're $6 to $7 a box. A good one to try is an ounce and 1/8 of 7s at 1200 fps. I think you'd be happy with the smoke you get up close. It's a Win shell.

    I'd research the price of steel chokes for your gun. This to insure there's no stretching. Full chokes work just fine. The wads for steel will protect your bore. They have thicker petals.

    Anyone selling wads will have recipes. Ballistic Products has them and as Scott mentioned, we're waiting for a correction on the VP60 from Europe. When corrected we'll probably order in volume again depending on price. Last time we ordered 2 pallets from overseas. BP selling in the states makes it much easier now.

    To convert a 9000 to steel all I needed was a steel charge bar (1 oz), the correct powder bushings, and a 16 ga rammer tube for the wad station. The smaller tube is needed because you can sometimes drag the wad out on the upstroke. This will minimize the problem. You'll need to do some tweaking of the rammer position because the wads are different length compared to wads for lead. I may have tweaked the wad guide as well.

    Guys tend to up the speed when going to steel. I don't think you have to, but that's just me. Mine are about 1240 fps. I'm a minimalist when it comes to recoil. I hear the club is getting some Federal 1375 fps steel loads. I'm concerned about the impact on new folks.

    Sounds like your management is willing to trade the future for the past. Can you deal with it more directly and mine the shot?

    Why go through the trouble unless you have to?

    Good luck.
     
  14. southjblue

    southjblue Active Member

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    I'd rather not go to steel til I have to---Hope thats not in my lifetime---SJB---
     
  15. Dickgshot

    Dickgshot Well-Known Member

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    Our club makes a lot of money mining the shot, but not every club can do that.
    It depends on the terrain, soil, weather and other factors.
     
  16. Hunter46spring

    Hunter46spring TS Member

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    We would not be able to mine the shot. I think my main question is "why now" we have been shooting lead for the 60+ years the club has been operating. I have a hard time believing that if the DEP or EPA shows up they will look past the 60+ years of lead and say "Well at least your shooting non-toxic now. All is forgiven"
     
  17. spitter

    spitter Well-Known Member TS Supporters

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    Its not a matter of "all forgiven"... it really concerns "activity"; let me try to explain how it affected my range....

    We shot and discharged lead into a "navigable waterway" and adjacent wetlands. We did this for 60 years. Lead shot was found by the court to be a pollutant as defined in the Clean Water Act.

    By stopping future discharges, we negated the regulatory aspects of the Clean Water Act. However, to do any shooting, the judge found we required an EPA National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit.

    The USEPA would not consider issuing a permit for lead. Our permit allows only non-toxic shot, subsequently limited further to steel (by us). So... even non-toxic shot can be considered a "pollutant", as it is non-naturally occuring material in its used state while being discharged into water.

    Now... since our case in 1998 (Stone v. Naperville Park District), there have been later cases which have clarified the definition of "navigable water" and "Waters of the US" and while our range operation might be able to have its case reviewed and overturned - politically and financially, it will not happen...

    Now what about existing lead deposits?!. Under EPA guidelines, the court found that lead shot was not abandoned waste. Further, lead shot and pitch target clean up was not classified as waste management, so while discharging and depositing lead shot are connected, they are governed separately.

    And, by the way - its not just shot, target debris, shot wads are all potential issues for any range...

    I share the above information, solely from my personal recollection and it is not meant to be relied upon. If anyone has any particular questions, I would be glad to answer what I can, but I would refer you to Leo Dombrowski at Wildman Harrold in Chicago.

    Leo is a partner and represented us and the Naperville Park District. Leo and WH act as the resource database for the National Shooting Sports foundation... a phone call to Leo wont cost you a nickel... and he could save some sleepless nights if you're having issues.

    respectfully offered,

    Jay Spitz
     
  18. EEB

    EEB Member

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    These recent discussions on steel have been very informative, especially since there are people here with real world experience - thank you Jay Spitz and others. My knowledge of steel shot is largely anecdotal since I do not shoot steel for targets, and do very little waterfowling. The topic of steel in vintage guns seems to be a matter of opinion to a degree, but if the wad protects the bore, and shot size is no more than #7 I don't see how scoring or other damage could occur. I understand larger shot sizes have the potential to "bridge" at the muzzle causing a bulge, but can this happen with small shot sizes like #7?

    Ed
     
  19. benniesdad

    benniesdad TS Member

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    Messages:
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    I can’t speak to trap with steel, but I can offer the following about skeet and sporting clays. When I was in Europe years back, I used steel shot for skeet and didn’t see a great difference but I am not a competitive skeet shooter. Locally, one of the sporting clays courses mandates use of steel. They control it by selling the ammunition (12 and 20 gauge only) as part of the cost and requiring that you use their ammunition. They purchase it in bulk and the cost works out to around $5.00 a box that is passed on to the shooter. Not bad, all things considered. The course was designed to use steel from the beginning so rather than offering long shots, they instead tend to throw shorter more difficult targets where any advantage of lead over steel is negated. Believe me, there are no lollipop targets thrown. It is one of my favorite courses because you will not see the same target thrown on any two stations. I use SK and IC Comp-n-Choke tubes in my O/U and they are sufficient to break any target there with #7 steel shot.
     
  20. Beni

    Beni Member

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    we had a guy in our club try steel for trap it ended up disasterous for him,he dropped at least 10 targets off his score. As for your board wanting to get ahead of the issue the lead is already in the ground and going to steel now will not prevent the EPA from coming down on your club. You should look into money makers to move your fields positions,before you implement something that may result in a loss of shooters. Just my opinion beni
     
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