Alan May, of Kingsferry Gun Club on the Isle of Sheppey, pledged to strip down to his underwear and fire a steel shot cartridge at a steel pattern plate from 20 yards, to prove steel shot is no more hazardous than lead.
His claim flies in the face of official CPSA safety advice, which states steel shot presents a special hazard and requires extra precautions.
Experts fear Mr May will be peppered with bouncing shot, which could travel fast enough to break the skin. He will wear safety glasses to protect his eyes in case the test proves him wrong.
But Paul Rendell, a CPSA instructor and safety officer, said he witnessed Mr May carry out a similar test – and the steel pellets fell harmlessly to the ground just a few feet in front of the pattern plate. Rendell told us he collected some of the spent shot, which had been significantly flattened by the impact. He sent shot samples and a report to CPSA HQ, but has received no official response.
Meanwhile in the October 2011 issue of the CPSA magazine Pull!, an article by ballistics expert Tim Woodhouse talks up the danger of ricochet with steel shot. His article, headlined “Steel shot: what shooters need to know” claims steel pellets “are especially prone to ricochets, with an inherent risk of injury to both the shooter and bystander alike”.
The article adds shooting clay rabbit targets with steel is “extremely hazardous” and in the event of a lead shot ban “with only steel shot as an affordable alternative, clay rabbit stands will have to be relegated to the history books on safety grounds”.
At Kingsferry, in Kent, members have been shooting Skeet with steel shot since 1999 and part of the club’s ground is designated as an SSSI.
Mr May said he decided to find out the facts for himself, as steel came under growing criticism for its ricochet potential. In 2008 he commissioned a report by Dr Derek Allsop, a senior lecturer at Cranfield University and expert in military weapons and forensic ballistics.
Dr Allsop conducted a series of tests at the ground, with the help of MSc student Susannah Shaw, which Mr May said were observed by Dr John Harradine of BASC, and a CPSA representative.
The report, written by Suzannah Shaw, suggests lead shot presents more of a ricochet risk than previously thought – but steel shot poses little if any extra risk. Tests showed that lead or steel shot could ricochet off the front of a Skeet high house and strike shooters on an adjacent layout. Kingsferry has since added extra screening between its Skeet layouts to prevent this.
Dr Harradine told us he attended the tests and the results did suggest the ricochet risk from steel was similar to that of lead.
Mr May said he sent a copy of the report to the CPSA for comment but to date had received no response.
The CPSA was unavailable for comment as Clay Shooting went to press.