Fiocchi’s proposed Little Rock primer factory was intended to alleviate the shortage of recreational ammunition while providing the world’s only supply of lead-free primers.
The company’s decision to locate its plant here reinforces Arkansas’ reputation as a firearms manufacturing hub. We’re quietly becoming what Connecticut once was and it complements our outdoor image.
There are many conspiracy theories to explain the scarcity of ammo and reloading components, but the reason is the simple law of supply, demand, and market prioritization. Ammunition companies have been manufacturing products for years without a break, but lead, brass and primers have been prioritized for military ammunition.
Federal, state, county, and local law enforcement contracts must also be completed. This includes both practice ammunition and service ammunition, and law enforcement officers use a lot of ammunition for practice.
The recreational market gets the scraps, and it doesn’t help that the supply of lead for bullets is limited by the fact that only one lead smelter is currently operating in the United States.
The already scarce lead is the conspicuous ingredient for projectiles, but is also used for the production of primers.
Fiocchi America Chief Executive Officer Anthony Acitelli said traditional primers contain lead, barium and other heavy metals that act as thickeners and stabilizers. Upon detonation, the explosion releases a toxic mist into the air containing these elements. It is a health hazard for shooters indoors at shooting ranges. It is also a source of pollution, although the amount is insignificant.
Because it is a known toxin, lead is being phased out in the shooting and hunting industries. Every bullet manufacturer offers lead-free alternatives. Once the exclusive domain of reloaders, now every commercial manufacturer offers lead-free options.
The Obama administration banned all lead ammunition in all states on its final day. The Trump administration reversed that order on day one, but the US Fish and Wildlife Service has quietly expanded restrictions on lead ammunition in some national wildlife sanctuaries. Some states, such as South Dakota, prohibit lead shot in state hunting areas.
This trend will continue as public acceptance increases, and it will increase. I remember well the outcry when non-toxic shot was mandated for waterfowl hunting in the 1980s. Hunters have adapted, and now we have non-toxic alternatives that are better than lead. They’re also a lot more expensive, but waterfowl will shoot them as if cost doesn’t matter.
This trend will also accelerate in the single projectile world. It is accepted science that lead poisoning kills birds that prey on lead-shot animal carcasses. When a lead bullet penetrates an animal, it sheds particles as the bullet deforms and flakes backwards. It sheds a lot more particles when it hits bones. Humans also ingest lead from wildlife, so it’s a legitimate human health concern.
Hunters scoff, pointing out that wind power generators kill many more birds – and a greater variety of bird species – than die from eating lead shot carcasses. It is also true that domestic cats kill many more birds, and a greater variety of birds, than die from lead shot carcasses.
The weakness of these arguments is that the value society places on wind power and domestic animals justifies their impact on wildlife.
It’s hypocritical, but these trends drive hunting and shooting sports. We can complain and resist our path to insignificance, or we can adapt to keep the hunt and target shooting alive and relevant.
Now that you know what’s floating around in that cloud of smoke at your local indoor space, are you ready to inhale it? Do you eat meat with lead strips? Would you knowingly eat a deer infected with the chronic wasting disease?
Hunters and marksmen evolve as we gain more knowledge of traditional practices that may not be healthy. Fiocchi is sufficiently committed to reality to invest $41.5 million to make lead-free primers in our beautiful city. 125 employees will benefit directly from this and hunters and sport shooters will receive safer products.