Double-Blind Study: No Difference in Lethality of Lead or Steel Shot

Nathan S
by Nathan S

At the end of 2014, The State of Texas completed a 2-year study to, “evaluate the effectiveness of lead vs. non-toxic shot should ammunition regulations change in the future.” As a result of its double-blind methodology, there was “virtually no difference between lead and non-toxic shot.”

I, for one, am very happy to see such detailed study going into the debate of shot selection. Armed with this information, those looking to move to alternative shot materials should be able to rest easy that the performance of the shot will meet lead’s high standards.

For a full official debrief, Texas Parks and Wildlife has posted the results to the public. They can be found here.

Press Release at Completion:

TPWD Releases Dove Lethality Study Findings

AUSTIN – Texas leads the nation in dove hunting with roughly a quarter million hunters bagging 5 million mourning doves each fall. Their success afield should not change with the type of shot used, according to the results of a just-released study examining the lethality of lead versus non-toxic shot for mourning dove.

The field collection phase of the study was conducted in Brown, Coleman and McCulloch counties during the 2008 and 2009 Texas dove hunting seasons. After recording more than 5,000 shots fired by Texas hunters during the two-year project, and then necropsying 1,100 mourning dove, researchers determined no statistical significant difference in harvest efficiencies between the three loads tested, regardless of distance.

Non-toxic shot has been required for hunting waterfowl for more than two decades. Despite studies that have demonstrated the effectiveness of non-toxic shot for waterfowl and other game birds, the results of this study were not a foregone conclusion, at least not in the perceptions of dove hunters. Recent dove hunter surveys indicate that some hunters still believe non-toxic shot to be inferior to lead.

“Our findings address the efficiency of lead and non-toxic shot on mourning dove,” said Corey Mason, a TPWD wildlife biologist and one of the authors of the report. “There continues to be a spirited national discussion on the use of lead and other types of shot and these results help inform one aspect of the conversation.”

This study is the first on the lethality of lead versus non-toxic shot under typical hunting conditions for mourning dove to be published in a scientific journal. The Institute of Renewable Natural Resources at Texas A&M University, Thomas Roster, and Texas Parks and Wildlife authored report will be published in the March 2015 issue of The Wildlife Society Bulletin, a peer-reviewed, scientific publication containing papers related to wildlife management, conservation law enforcement, conservation education, economics, administration, philosophy, ethics, and contemporary resource problems. An advance release of the report is available online at http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/huntwild/wild/game_management/dove_summary/

TPWD officials believe the research findings may be useful to Texas hunters as they make decisions on the type of loads they choose for dove hunting.

“We absolutely believe in hunter choice and we also want hunters to be as informed as possible on matters affecting their outdoor pursuits,” said Carter Smith, TPWD Executive Director. “Dove are a shared international resource, and the question about whether or not lead shot should be banned for dove hunting is not something Texas is prepared to make independent of other jurisdictions and based solely on the findings of this study. This research offers an important data point in the larger discussion, but there are many other factors to consider.”

An internationally recognized shotgun ballistics expert, who has authored more than a dozen similar studies involving waterfowl and upland game birds, designed the study. The study examined three, 12-gauge, 2 ¾-inch loads designed and manufactured to mirror loads that are used most often by dove hunters. The different load types included: 1 ⅛ ounce of No. 7 ½ lead shot, 1 ounce of No. 6 steel shot, and 1 ounce of No. 7 steel shot.

The cost of the study was approximately $500,000 and was funded with dedicated Migratory Game Bird and Texas White-winged Dove stamp revenue.

Nathan S
Nathan S

One of TFB's resident Jarheads, Nathan now works within the firearms industry. A consecutive Marine rifle and pistol expert, he enjoys local 3-gun, NFA, gunsmithing, MSR's, & high-speed gear. Nathan has traveled to over 30 countries working with US DoD & foreign MoDs.The above post is my opinion and does not reflect the views of any company or organization.

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  • Noob Noob on Jul 29, 2015

    Ha. A double-blind study that actually involves shooting from a blind. I see what you did there.

  • Southerner Southerner on Jul 29, 2015

    It appears the basis of this study revolves around the ability of the "average" dove hunter to actually hit doves in flight. Since most hunters are arguably not highly skilled in the art of wingshooting, it follows that such shooters will be most successful in placing a shot pattern on swift and erratic flying birds only at the short ranges where steel shot remains effective. Given the apparent conceptual foundation of this study, the lack of a discernible difference in in the number of birds bagged with lead or steel shot would be an understandable conclusion.

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