Lead has long been the material of choice for ammunition production. The reason for lead’s wide adoption and use in ammunition is due to the cheap availability of the metal as well as its advantageous physical properties. Such physical properties of lead that have made it universally acceptable as a metal of choice for ammunition include: it is soft, malleable, ductile, easy to harvest, and has a low melting temperature. Other fields of use for lead include hospitals in which it is used as x-ray shields, portable batteries, in addition to other uses. Lead truly is a versatile material because of these physical properties.
Despite these advantages, lead is nevertheless a toxic material and has been ranked number two on the U.S. EPA list of hazardous materials. Unfortunately, only recently are we fully understanding the many health risks regarding lead exposure, which include lead poisoning and a number of health illnesses and ailments. As a result of this newfound understanding of the health risks posed by lead, companies which manufacture or process lead are now being forced to take extreme measures to limit lead exposure and minimize the health risks of such, all at great cost. Beyond human health risks, lead also causes environmental hazards in that it is not easily degradable plus is also contaminates soil and water. This is why there is the need for lead free ammunition.
The risks posed by lead in the form of bullets or ammunition are also evident during use when firing a weapon with lead based ammo. This occurs because the discharge of the round releases airborne lead which contaminates the air supply, a particularly severe issue for indoor ranges. There is also the issue of discharged rounds which at ranges can pile up and damage soil and water, and which also pose health risks to the employees charged with cleaning them up. These factors and more are responsible for the push and increased demand for lead-free ammunition. In other words, a bullet that performs identically to a lead round but without any toxic constituents.
There are a variety of types of lead free ammunition in the marketplace today. Most of these lead alternatives are produced from a composite material, such as a metal composite like tin and copper, or a polymer composite of plastic and metal powders known as a thermoplastic composite material. The most unfortunate thing about lead is its cheap cost which prevents faster adoption of these alternatives, but the market for a lead substitute otherwise known as green ammo is growing.
What can be used as lead substitute?
There are a few different lead substitutes however one of the more outstanding materials in this respect is tungsten. Tungsten is often used as a lead substitute due to the fact that it is even denser than lead. However, one issue is that the higher melting temperature of tungsten as compared to lead makes it harder and more costly for it to be molded and processed.
Factors that make lead substitutes better than lead ammunition.
Another noteworthy aspect of some lead free ammunition is that they are completely frangible, meaning they powderize upon impact and don’t ricochet like their lead counterparts, making them particularly useful for close-quarters combat. Lead substitutes as noted turn into powder when they collide with a hard object preventing issues of ricocheting and otherwise stray bullets hitting unwanted targets. Additionally lead substitutes don’t contaminate kills or hunting grounds for game hunters.
Lead substitutes can be produced in a variety of calibers including 5.56mm, 9mm, 40 cal and 40mm DBR, and are readily available in Walmart, Cabela’s as well as the Academy. Lead free ammunition will forge forward towards a future of ammunition innovation.