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Unleaded

Unleaded

Just when the dust bunnies had a few cartridges to keep them company on the shelves, news circulated of the Herculaneum, Mo., lead smelter closing at the end of this year. The NRA/ILA website indicates it is the last lead smelter operating in the United States, although several recycling plants will remain open. Recovering enough metal from batteries and spent cartridges probably won’t be enough to supply recreational shooters, much less fulfill Homeland Security’s 1.6 billion round order, though.

The plant’s demise really began in 2008, when the EPA changed air-quality standards for the first time since 1978. These new standards, according to the ILA report, are 10 times tougher than the ones that at the time forced cars to choke down unleaded gasoline and endangered muscle cars.

A St. Louis Post-Dispatch story in 2010 reported Doe Run, the company that owns the smelter, had hoped to open a facility nearby that complied with the new regulations. That year $933,000 in property tax revenue was paid by the firm and one official said if the plant closes residents will experience a huge increase in city water bills. A St. Louis PBS affiliate indicated in 2012 there would be no new plant and Fox News report earlier this month confirmed the doors would be shuttered and 145 people would lose their jobs on Dec. 31. The operation has been in the city for more than 100 years.

So, where will all the lead for bullets and primers come from? China produces more lead ore than any other country, with Australia a distant, second-place finisher-at less than half of the metal. The United States is third.

Where our bullet lead originates is one thing, but as of Jan. 1 nearly all of it will have been processed somewhere outside of our nation. Many bloggers are reporting they believe bullet, component and cartridge prices will increase, perhaps initiating another ammunition shortage.

Fortunately, Barnes Bullets has ironed out the wrinkles in lead-free bullet technology. Take a look at the company’s TAC-XPD loads, and more than likely you’ll find something for your self-defense needs. And the terminal performance is so good you may never go back.

So the plant closure won’t make us go defenseless, although accurate, mass-produced lead bullets (seen here being produced in a Discovery Channel video) could soon become a collector’s item. As for the Internet claims that shooters are the exclusive target, think again. Fishermen use a lot of lead in their sinkers and jig heads.

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