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Danger of lead build up from target shooting?

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TheWraith Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jan-25-10 12:44 PM
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Danger of lead build up from target shooting?
I was trying to get this answered on a dedicated firearms forum, but I'd feel more comfortable getting an answer from DU, so that I know no biases against environmental concern could be interfering with the information I get.

Currently I only do target shooting on my own land, in areas upstream from my pond. For this reason, I'm very concerned about the possibility of lead getting on the ground or into the water. Nowadays I only use steel shot in my 12 gauge, and I'm trying to minimize the amount of lead I use in rifle ammo. However, that runs directly contrary to being able to buy or reload rifle ammo cheaply. Truly lead-free bullets aren't cheap, and neither are the military-grade FMJs I use right now, which are a bit safer against environmental contamination, having a layer of steel between the lead and the copper. I could fire cast lead rounds all day for dirt cheap, but that's no deal if I'm going to be poisoning my land.

I'd love to just be able to go to a shooting range and forget about this sort of concern, but the cost of joining one would wipe out my target shooting budget for a few months.
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CanonRay Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jan-25-10 12:51 PM
Response to Original message
1. I found this:

Apparently it disrupts soil functions. Not a lot of detail though.
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SteveM Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jan-25-10 01:14 PM
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2. An owner/operator of an outdoor shooting range told me...
that lead is "mined" from the berm backstops for targets at his range by "mining companies" which specialize in this sort of thing. At no cost to the range-owner, the company sifts through (I suppose) the dirt berms and extracts the lead, which is sold as a commodity to other companies.

I don't know of any requirements to seal out lead contaminants from entering ground water, or what those procedures might be.
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benEzra Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jan-25-10 03:32 PM
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3. Lead is not particularly mobile, being relatively inert and not easily dissolved.
I also believe what little dissolution that does occur is pH dependent. I may be mistaken, but I think it can leach under very acidic conditions, but not under neutral or basic conditions, but you'd want to look that up. There are books on designing and maintaining shooting ranges; if you control runoff and pH and sift the front face of the berm every few years, you can probably avoid any groundwater issues, although it is doubtful that a single shooter would put enough lead in the ground to even be detectable above natural background.

Most of the lead exposure to the shooter, of course, comes from the powder residue (which contains the combustion products of lead styphnate, the priming compound), not the bullets themselves.
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Remmah2 Donating Member (971 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jan-25-10 03:45 PM
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4. Range Management
Lead is a problem in soil w/acidic conditions. If the soil is Ph neutral or alkaline then the Pb will just sit there. Acid rain, a modern day problem, will dissolve Pb and move it into streams and groundwater. To manage the problem, the addition of lime (powder and stone) to the soil will neutralize the acid ground conditions and hold the lead in place. Engineered storm drainage from an outdoor range will also control Pb migration.

Lead is 100% recoverable. Sometimes the lead reclaim servives even cut a check to the gun club where it is mined. As of this past two years, much of that reclaimed lead was not turned back into bullets but was exported (once refined) to China and India. (Partial reason why ammo prices spiked in addition to the panic buying.)

People on the neighboring properties around my shooting club have had their well water tested and none have shown any levels of lead seeping into their water table.
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