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Scottish Countryside Alliance responds to Deer Consultation: Bullet weights

To amend the minimum bullet weight so as to make non-lead ammunition more accessible (recommendation 4).

The Scottish Countryside Alliance welcomes the fact that the transfer to non-lead ammunition is well under way and there are plenty of options now on the market for most calibres of rifle.

You will be aware that the UK’s most popular calibre (.243) has been the focus of some difficulties when stabilising a 100-grain bullet, which is currently the minimum legal bullet weight permitted to shoot larger deer species in Scotland. The .243 is also not able to fire heavier bullets owing to it being a small to mid-range calibre. This means that very few manufacturers were able to produce a legal bullet that would be stable enough to be accurate and to have the intended effect at the terminus of its flight.

The Scottish Countryside Alliance understands that we must progress to ammunition that will not be the cause of any contamination when a carcass may enter the food chain. There remains a concern over the reduction of bullet weight when shooting larger species, such as red deer, and in particular stags. A smaller bullet will not carry the weight and power on impact that a larger bullet will, and so may create a welfare concern when aiming in the area of the heart and lungs of the deer, the typical and best practice kill shot.

There is no doubt that it will cause sufficient damage to ensure death but, a larger bullet would be more effective. 

Many stalkers will ensure a swift dispatch by aiming at the shoulder, which should cause effective and sufficient damage to vital organs too, but this has a number of drawbacks. A deflection off the shoulder (bone) by a lighter bullet is more likely, and with a non-lead bullet this is much more common than with the lead predecessor. This could ensure that the deer was killed but, may also render much of the carcass inedible if the bullet passes through the gut after deflecting, contaminating the carcass from the inside. A separate concern is that a lighter bullet may be more prone to exiting the deer at a different angle to entry, risking the injuring of other deer in the immediate vicinity behind the target deer and potentially not being caught by the intended backstop. On a positive note, the non-lead alternative is usually more likely to penetrate thick bone if hit squarely.

These are possibilities but we also understand that many more deer need to be culled over the coming years and, unless the most popular calibre of rifle is available for full use, this task will be made much greater. It is also understood that English and Welsh deer managers have had much success using the proposed 80-grain bullet, as this is the minimum bullet weight permitted. Therefore, the Scottish Countryside Alliance would support NatureScot's recommendation of a projectile of not less than 80 grains and a muzzle energy of not less than 1,750 foot pounds for use on larger deer species in Scotland.

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