As a responsible air gun enthusiast, it’s important to consider your impact on the environment if you hunt or shoot outdoors. Recent studies have suggested that traditional lead air gun pellets may be harmful to wildlife and human health.
For this reason, many shooters are beginning to make the switch to lead-free pellets – a great eco-friendly alternative. In this buyer’s guide to lead-free airgun pellets, we’ll explore everything you need to know before making the switch.
What Are Lead-Free Airgun Pellets?
Historically, almost all air gun pellets have been made from lead. This is because it is a soft, heavy metal that is cheap to manufacture. Its softness prevents barrel abrasion, while its density allows it to maintain its momentum for a high-impact shot.
However, in 2021, the UK government revealed plans to phase out lead ammunition due to environmental concerns. Wild animals can die from ingesting lead pellets, and it can also pose a risk to human health. For this reason, more and more manufacturers are now beginning to add lead-free options to their ranges.
Lead-free air rifle pellets were first developed in the 1980s, offering an environmentally friendly alternative to traditional pellets. They are made from non-toxic materials and come in a wide range of calibres and styles.
What Are Lead-Free Pellets Made Of?
There are many different types of lead-free pellets. They can be made from a range of different non-toxic materials, including:
Most lead-free airgun pellets are made from non-toxic metal alloys. This is because they tend to offer superior performance than pure metals. Their composition can be tweaked and refined depending on the desired properties of the final product.
For example, tin boasts the same softness as lead. This is an important quality in airgun ammunition, as it means the pellet won’t scratch the inside of the barrel. However, tin is much less dense than lead, making it lightweight and therefore more susceptible to wind drift.
For this reason, tin is often combined with harder and denser non-toxic metals, such as bismuth or iron. This results in a lead-free pellet that is soft enough to minimize abrasion, but heavy enough to achieve high impact and penetration.
Are Lead-Free Pellets as Good as Lead Pellets?
When it was first developed, lead-free ammunition was considered too hard for low-powered air weapons. However, it has improved significantly over the years, thanks to advances in technology and the development of better non-toxic alloys. Now, many well-known brands produce high-quality lead-free options that perform well in a variety of applications.
However, lead-free pellets and lead pellets each have their own advantages and disadvantages. Their effectiveness can depend on how they are used, as well as the shooter’s skill level and personal preferences. Here is an honest appraisal of both types of airgun pellets.
Lead pellets are the traditional option, having been refined and redesigned over centuries of use. While they do have their drawbacks, this means they typically boast excellent performance.
- Higher density: Lead pellets are denser than most alternatives, allowing them to retain energy better and provide greater penetration.
- More accurate: Due to their weight, lead pellets generally provide better accuracy and more consistent performance.
- Lower cost: Lead pellets are usually cheaper than their lead-free counterparts, making them more accessible to a larger number of shooters.
- Wider selection: There is a wider variety of lead pellets available, catering to different shooting needs and preferences.
- Environmental impact: Lead is a toxic heavy metal, and the use of lead pellets can contribute to environmental contamination and harm wildlife.
- Health concerns: Lead exposure can pose health risks to humans, especially when handling pellets or consuming contaminated meat.
- Regulatory restrictions: Some regions have restrictions on lead ammunition use, limiting the availability and use of lead pellets.
The UK government is currently considering imposing a ban on lead pellets. As of April 2023, no potential dates have yet been proposed. However, this may be something to bear in mind for the future when shopping for airgun ammunition.
The lead-free pellet is a relatively recent invention. There’s currently lots of innovation around making lead-free pellets as good as they can be, but like lead pellets, they have their drawbacks.
- Environmentally friendly: Lead-free pellets are made from non-toxic materials such as tin, zinc and bismuth, reducing environmental contamination and potential harm to wildlife.
- Health benefits: Using lead-free pellets reduces the risk of lead exposure for shooters.
- Compliance with regulations: Lead-free pellets allow shooters to comply with regional restrictions on lead ammunition use.
- Lower density: Lead-free pellets are generally less dense than lead pellets, which can result in reduced energy retention and penetration.
- Less accurate: Some shooters may find lead-free pellets to be less accurate due to their lighter weight.
- Higher cost: Lead-free pellets are typically more expensive than lead pellets. While the cost difference is not extreme, this may be a deterrent for some shooters.
- Limited selection: There are fewer varieties of lead-free pellets on the market, which can limit the options for shooters with specific preferences.
So: the choice between lead-free airgun pellets and lead pellets depends on several factors. While lead pellets may offer better accuracy and performance, lead-free pellets are a more environmentally friendly and health-conscious choice.
What Are the Best Lead-Free Pellets?
There are several top brands that produce high-quality, reliable and affordable lead-free airgun ammunition. Lead-free .22 pellets and .177 pellets are available, making them compatible with most air guns. Here are some of our top choices:
- H&N Field Target Trophy Green .177: Made from a special tin alloy, H&N lead-free pellets offer excellent impact and accuracy for hunting and competition shooting.
- RWS Hypermax .177: High-velocity solid tin pellets with a pointed head shape for excellent penetration power.
- JSB Exact Jumbo Lead Free .22: These lightweight JSB lead-free pellets, like the rest of the Exact range, are carefully selected for superior performance.
- Gamo Lethal .177: Ideal for hunting, these pellets feature a strong polymer skirt for a stable trajectory and a tough copper tip for effective one-shot kills.
When choosing a lead-free pellet, it’s important to consider factors such as calibre, purpose of use, weight and shape. For more information, see our buyer’s guide to air gun pellets.
Shop The Wolfman for Lead-Free Air Rifle Pellets (UK)
Welcome to The Wolfman: the UK’s one-stop shop for air guns, ammunition, optics and shooting accessories. We stock a wide range of lead and lead-free air gun pellets from great brands such as H&N, RWS, JSB and more.
Head to our online store to browse our full collection today. If you’re struggling to decide, why not check out our lead-free sample packs?
We offer free delivery throughout the UK, plus same-day dispatch on all orders placed before 11am. If you have any questions about our products or site, contact The Wolfman through our enquiry form or call 01473 806 280.