Lead ammunition

Lead ammunition can be toxic to birds and animals and can cause land contamination.

Lead shot

The use of lead shot throughout the UK is restricted to protect waterbirds from lead poisoning.

What you must do

You must not use lead shot when shooting with a shotgun on or over wetlands. Wetlands include:

  • rivers and canals
  • reservoirs, loughs and lochs
  • pools and ponds
  • marine and coastal wetlands
  • inland flight pools
  • farmland that is regularly flooded.

The Environmental Protection (Restriction on Use of Lead Shot) (Scotland) (No.2) Regulations 2004 - gov.scot (www.gov.scot)

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Proposed restrictions on the use of lead ammunition

On 6 May 2022 the Health and Safety Executive published proposals to restrict the use of lead ammunition. It is expected that legislation will come into effect in 2024.

Lead Shot

The proposals include a ban on the use of lead shot, with an 18 month transition period. If its use on shooting ranges is permitted, then this would involve a 5 year transition period, to allow ranges to construct recovery systems for lead shot. Licences would also be introduced for ranges that continue to use lead shot.

 Large calibre lead bullets

A transition period of 18 months ins proposed for the ban on the use of large calibre lead bullets for hunting. Alternatives to lead are available. This transition period applies to sport shooting on ranges as well.

Small Calibre lead bullets

A transition period of 5 years is proposed for the use of small calibre lead bullets for hunting (including airguns) to allow for the development and testing of alternatives. This transition period applies to the use of small calibre lead bullets on shooting ranges as well.

There will be requirements for labelling of small calibre lead ammunition, to raise awareness of the dangers of using lead and the progress being made towards the availability of alternatives.

The public consultation on these proposals has now closed

Current restrictions on lead shot

In Northern Ireland the lead shot regulations are based on the Scottish approach and prohibit the use of lead shot on or over any area of wetland for any shooting activity. Wetlands are defined as, regardless of size, any areas of foreshore, marsh, fen, peatland with standing water, regularly or seasonally flooded fields, and other water sources wheter they be natural or man-made, static or flowing, fresh, brackish or salt.

Good practice

Use non-lead shot if it is appropriate. Lead shot can cause contamination if it accumulates in the ground. It is therefore good practice to avoid using lead shot wherever possible.

If you do use lead shot, you should collect spent shot and bullets from the shot-fall area to help avoid causing contamination. If you are setting up a new shooting range you can underlay the shot-fall area with concrete and enclose the drainage to prevent contamination.

If you think your land could be contaminated, or if you think you could cause land contamination, see our guidance on contaminated land.

Further information

BASC: The code of good shooting practice (Adobe PDF - 1.6MB)

Other relevant NetRegs guidance

Land contamination 

Nature conservation

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