Yesterday, Breitbart News ran two stories related to the closure of the Doe Run primary lead smelter in Herculaneum, Missouri. Doe Run was the last primary smelter in the United States, which turned galena ore into the purest form of lead. The facility was unable to meet tightening EPA demands, and chose to shut down.
Allen West—a patriot I greatly admire—claimed that the closure amounted to backdoor gun control from the EPA, which certainly feels right considering the rogue nature of the agency and the rogue nature of our current President. Unfortunately, his claim is incorrect.
AWR Hawkins, a very prolific and talented writer, then claimed that the price of lead ammunition was going to rise as a result of the Doe Run primary smelter closing. This assertion is also inaccurate according to three levels of industry sources contacted by Bearing Arms.
Last month, we contacted one of the nation’s largest lead foundries, along with several bullet makers and ammunition companies. The results of our investigation were published on November 8. To summarize it, the ammunition industry doesn’t use much lead from primary smelters, if any. Pure lead like that produced from Doe Run’s primary smelter is used for sensitive “specialty” products (certain electronics, medical devices, etc), not ammunition. Lead for ammunition comes almost exclusively from recycled lead, the bulk of which comes from recycled batteries.
Ammunition makes up just 3% of U.S. lead usage, and what is interesting about the entire lead market is that many companies who manufacture products that use lead are—where they can—trying to find lead substitutes, or are producing products in such a way as to reduce the amount of lead they are using because of the associated headaches (both regulatory and public relations-related). There are some ammunition industry experts that suggest that if this trend continues, the recycled lead used for ammunition might actually decrease in price, through with the potential for rising prices in other ammunition components (brass, copper, powder, primers, etc), that might not translate into cheaper ammunition.
There simply is no evidence that the closure of Doe Run’s primary smelter will have any near-term impact on ammunition production in the United States. You don’t have to take our word on it. The industry has said so itself.
Update: Emily Miller of the Washington Times confirms.
Lawrence Keane is the senior vice president and general counsel for the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), which represents the ammunitions and firearms industry.
“Manufacturers use recycled lead to make ammunition. They don’t buy from smelters,” Mr. Keane told me Monday. “The EPA closing, which has been in the works for a while, will have no impact on production, supply or cost to the consumers.”