Expect to pay more for clay targets this spring. Prices of pitch-based targets may increase as much as $1.25 per case of 135 birds. Biodegradable target prices will also rise due to increased raw material costs, but not by as much.
According to this press release from the National Sporting Clays Association/National Skeet Shooting Association, increases in aluminum production in the past six months have had an unintended side effect: higher clay target prices.
Most clays are made of pitch and ground limestone. Pitch is also an important ingredient in the aluminum smelting process.
As U.S. and European aluminum production has increased recently, demand for pitch has increased, too. Refineries have not been able to keep up with increased demand. The result is that you will pay more for your clay birds, both at the store and at the gun club.
Biodegradable targets substitute sulphur for pitch, and won’t be affected as much. Manufacturers say those bio target prices should increase slightly as other raw material costs rise.
As the release mentions, target manufacturers have reduced prices in the past when the cost of materials fell, so there’s a chance that the increase may only last until pitch production in the U.S. increases. On the other hand, if the current administration’s plans to enact a tariff on aluminum have the desired effect, domestic aluminum production may continue to rise, and pitch, and therefore target prices, may remain high.
There are a variety of products that fall under the label of “pitch,” but the kind used in clays is a petroleum-based hot pitch. Once it is combined with the milled limestone, the two ingredients are hot-molded together. Clay composition varies from 60 to 80 percent limestone.
Pitch can be defined as a “thick, dark colored bituminous substances obtained as a result of industrial destructive distillation processes, obtained as deposits on the earth surface.”
It is used as a binder in the aluminum smelting process.