I have an older shotgun designed for lead shot, by law I can only fire steel shot.

Can I fire steel shot, or do I need get a new shotgun?

If I can use steel shot, what additional maintenance is required?

  • From a question I wrote at The Armory on Area 51 Commented Nov 11, 2015 at 15:26
  • 3
    Hmm, that looks like a duplicate site to here
    – user2766
    Commented Nov 11, 2015 at 17:29
  • @Liam maybe? There could be a lot of questions about guns that don't relate to their outdoor use. Is bicycles.stackexchange also a duplicate? Commented Nov 11, 2015 at 17:40
  • 1
    @ChrisMendez bicycles.stackexchange is for the religion of bicycling, Outdoors is for questions about bicycling where there is not an expectation you will spend several thousand dollars on equipment. Commented Nov 11, 2015 at 17:47
  • 1
    Lots of overlap with The Great Outdoors
    – user2766
    Commented Nov 12, 2015 at 8:45

2 Answers 2


You shouldn't shoot steel shot through a shotgun barrel that isn't designed for it. Steel shot builds higher pressure than lead and could seriously damage both your gun and your face if the manufacturer didn't design for it. This kind of warning will be written on any box of steel shot ammunition you buy.

You say "by law I can only fire steel shot", but is steel specifically mentioned or does the law require "non-toxic"? If non-toxic you have other non-steel options but I don't know if other shot types carry the same risk as steel.

Your best option by far is to ask in a gun store, preferably one with an in-house gunsmith. They'll likely want to sell you a new shotgun regardless but should still give solid and safe advice.

  • 2
    To add to this though, shotguns don't have to be expensive. If you have s nice old gun that you really enjoy, then put it up on the wall and bring it down when you have an opportunity to use it.
    – Escoce
    Commented Nov 13, 2015 at 15:29
  • @Escoce Agreed. In the US where I've hunted it is mostly waterfowl like ducks that must be hunted with steel/non-toxic shot. There are plenty of opportunities to hunt game where lead shot is legal, and buying a second shotgun designed for steel shot isn't unreasonably expensive. I'd wholeheartedly recommend the two shotgun approach.
    – Erik
    Commented Nov 14, 2015 at 3:09

In addition, it isn't only the gun itself you should worry about with steel shot. For instance, my turkey plug is only for lead shot. I believe my shotgun can take either, but the specific plug I am using for turkey specifically said no steel.

For additional maintenance, I don't think there would be as much extra lead residue in your barrel (obviously), but you will probably find more residue from the powder to get the higher pressured shot out.

Check with the manufacturer of the gun to see what they recommend for that particular model. If is it really old, then definitely consult a gunsmith or someone whose job it is to know more about guns than us common folk.

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