I discovered that French ammo maker FOB has been marketing an entire line of copper loaded shells called Sweet Copper since 2013 and another French company, Vouzelaud just announced similar shells loaded with copper shot and a bio-degradable wad. In Germany, Rottweil is now selling a shell called "Copper Unlimited".
So I wasn't suprised to see that Italian ammo giant Baschieri & Pellargi are also getting into the pure copper shot game now. Here's a company rep at an outdoor/hunting fair in Germany announcing their new 'Dual Shock' shells that contain a half-and-half mix of pure copper #6 shot and zinc-coated copper #4 shot.
Naturally, with all the buzz around copper shot in Europe, I have to wonder if it will ever make its way over to this side of the ocean. But that brings up a whole slew of other questions. Here are a few I can think of, and my best guesses as to what the answers might be.
- Copper-clad iron: copper cladding can be up to 44.1% of the shot mass
- Tungsten-bronze: can contain up to 44.4% copper
- Tungsten-iron-copper-nickel: can be 9–16% copper
Is pure copper shot toxic? There is no such thing as a completely non-toxic metal suitable for use in shotgun shells. So it comes down to figuring out which is the least toxic. And copper seems to have relatively low toxicity, especially when compared to lead. When copper is just one ingredient mixed with other things like tungsten, studies indicate that "the rate of copper release from tungsten bronze shot was 30 to 50 times lower than that from the copper shot, depending on pH". And other studies indicate that the "mortality among mallards fed iron, copper, zinc-coated iron or molybdenum-coated iron shot was significantly less than in birds fed lead shot, and was not significantly greater than the controls."
I am sure there are many more studies out there, all of which undoubtedly reveal at least some level of toxicity, but what is important to note is that regulators in Europe, where environmental regulations tend to be far stricter than in the US or Canada, have determined that pure copper shot can be used where lead is banned. And that means they've chosen it (and other metals like bismuth and tungsten) as the 'least bad' alternatives to lead.
|Copper is harder than lead, but softer than ITX and Tungsten Matrix shot|
|Copper shot is nearly15% denser than steel shot|
|Copper is more expensive than lead and steel, but way cheaper than all the other lead alternatives|
So, will we ever see pure copper shot loads over here? Only time will tell.
An article with test results of 8 different pure copper loads appeared in a French magazine called "Armes de Chasse" (Hunting Guns) recently. I finally had a chance to read it today and here are some of the results.
NOTE: tests were done with a 12 gauge Beretta A400 with a 28 inch barrel and modified choke. The results in the magazine were given in metric, I've made approx. conversions to imperial.
Re Patterns: They ranged from 79% to 87% in a 30 inch (76cm) circle at 40-ish yards (35 meters)
These two loads are said to be safe to shoot in any gun. See my previous article "After Lead" to read about CIP's specifications for loads specifically formulated to reduce (if not completely eliminate) the risks of shooting them in older guns not approved for steel shot.
Load: Sweet Copper
Pressure: 683 bars
Velocity: 1204 f/s
Pressure: 778 bars
Velocity: 1272 f/s
The loads below are designed to be shot only out of guns approved for steel shot and having a fleur de lys proof mark (ie: able to handle higher pressures).
Load: Ultimate 34 HP
Pressure: 767 bars,
Load Sweet Copper HP
Pressure: 914 bars
Load: Dual Shock
Pressure 1043 bars
Load: Sweet Copper Magnum
Pressure: 767 bars
Pressure: 1050 bars
PRessure: 957 bars
And finally, I came across an interesing tidbit in the comment section of the B+P youtube video posted above. A viewer asked: "...Will that ammo be available in the States??" and the video poster relpied: "B&P assured me that in 2016 the three cartridges of the Dual Shock line will be available for US market."
So, once again....will we ever see pure copper shot loads over here? Only time will tell.
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