Scientists of the University Hospital RWTH in Aachen, the German Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (IZW) and the University of Applied Sciences Eberswalde (HNEE) analysed the characteristics of bullets during impact, penetration or piercing of a target in a terminal ballistic experiment. The results have been published in the scientific online journal PLOS ONE. This study, which is supported by the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture and the Ministry for Agriculture, Environment and Consumer Protection of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, enhances the research on the effect of notably lead-free hunting bullets. A detailed comparison revealed that lead-free bullets differ in their terminal ballistic behaviour. One type of lead-free bullets (deforming bullet) exhibited a terminal ballistic behaviour that was in accordance with the lead-containing reference bullet. The scientists further observed the diffusion of hundreds of tiny lead fragments during firing with lead-containing ammunition, whereas only a few fragments occurred while using lead-free bullets.
For their study the researchers compared the terminal ballistic data of four different commonly used hunting bullet types – one containing a lead-core and three made of homogenous copper alloy. The bullets were shot in a block of ballistic soap with a speed that represents typical hunting settings in the field. Each block of ballistic soap (25 cm x 25 cm x 40 cm; ~ 27 kg mass) was shot once and examined via two different measuring systems. After shooting, each soap block was scanned using computer tomography (CT) and evaluated with software developed by the RWTH Aachen. The CT visualised the resulting cavity as well as parameters like volume, depth of damage and deflection angle. Furthermore, bullet fragments can be counted and visualised three-dimensionally. Afterwards each block was cut lengthways by a usual standard procedure in order to be photographed and measured.
The results of both methods correlated strongly. However, the computed tomography provides additional information while avoiding the elaborate cutting of the soap blocks. This way, the examination of new types of lead-free ammunition concerning their hunting practicability can be improved.
Lead is known to be poisonous since ancient times; today it is one of the best known environmental pollutants.
Lead-containing ammunition has a strong effect on humans, animals and the environment. At present, the input of lead into the environment through lead-containing ammunition (estimably several tons per year) is tremendous. Minor traces of lead abrasion or small fragments are already sufficient to be toxic for an organism. Especially for animals who are at the end of the food chain, like large birds of prey and scavengers, particularly the white-tailed sea eagles, lead poisoning is one of the most common causes of death. For humans a minor amount of lead can be toxic and lead to damages of the central nervous system. The intake of lead also causes developmental disorders, particularly in children.
“The results of our study are a further step of knowledge on the way to abandonment of lead in hunting ammunition. It is a process that is already been running since ten years and is mutually supported by policy-makers, hunters and research facilities”, says Carl Gremse; scientific assistant at the University of Applied Sciences Eberswalde; Department of Wildlife Biology, Wildlife Management and Hunting Technology.
The applied results of research offer a solid knowledge base for political and private decisions concerning the application of lead-free hunting ammunition.
Gremse F, Krone O, Thamm M, Kiessling F, Tolba RH, Rieger S, Gremse C (2014): Performance of lead-free versus lead-based hunting ammunition in ballistic soap. PLOS ONE DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0102015.
Prof. Dr. Siegfried Rieger
Wildlife biology, wildlife management & hunting technology
University of Applied Sciences Eberswalde
Phone: +49 3334 657196
Head of department
Phone: +49 3334 657188
University Hospital RWTH in Aachen
Phone: +49 241 80-80254
Dr. Oliver Krone
Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (IZW)
in the Forschungsverbund Berlin e.V.
Phone: +49 30 51 68 405
Phone: +49 30 51 68 125; Mobile: +49 177 857 26 73
Prof. Dr. Dr. Andreas Hensel (President)
Federal Institute for Risk Assessment
Phone: +49 30-18412-3001
Federal Institute for Property Assignments
Department production, sale
Grellstraße 18 – 24
Phone: +49 30 481-636
(Regierungsdirektor, Referatsleiter N I 3 „Artenschutz“)
Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conversation, Building and Nuclear Safety
Phone: +49 30 183050
Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture
MinR, Referat 533 Nationale Waldpolitik, Jagd
Phone: +49 228 99 529-4342
Tim Scherer (Director)
Phone: +49 4321 55920
Deutsche Versuchs- und Prüf-Anstalt für Jagd- und Sportwaffen e.V. (DEVA)
Phone: +49 5255 – 734