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The Lead Issue Will Continue Dogging Us

This study on lead exposure, which was highlighted by Bloomberg’s propaganda mouthpiece “The Trace,” is more of a compilation than original work, but I have little doubt that people who frequent indoor shooting ranges have higher blood lead levels than people who don’t. Just because these studies are being pushed by people who would love to shut down every shooting range in the country doesn’t mean the issue is fake. Here are the facts we face:

  • There are no good alternatives for lead in bullets. There are other metals with similar properties, but they are considerably more scarce. It probably wouldn’t take the shooting community long to shoot up, for instance, all the bismuth that can be dug out of the earth, assuming we could even afford it.
  • Bullets with steel cores, and cores made up of other less malleable but more common metals are problematic because they can be classified as armor piercing under the law. Additionally, they will tend to tear up range equipment more readily than softer lead core bullets. Typically lead free bullets are made of copper and copper alloys, but copper is more expensive and doesn’t perform as well as lead.
  • There is currently no reliable alternative to lead styphnate and lead azide in primers. Well, there is one: good old mercury fulminate and potassium chlorate. But obviously mercury isn’t any better regarded for its environmental friendliness than lead, and these types of primers are corrosive. There have been advances in Non-Toxic (NT) primers, and they are getting better. The typical NT primers use Diazodinitrophenol (DDNP) instead of lead styphnate or lead azide. The big issue with NT primers has been shelf stability and reliability.

Atomic lead is not nearly as dangerous as compounds of lead. The byproducts of primer combustion is vaporized atomic lead, and lead oxide. Lead oxide is readily absorbed by the human body and is mobile in soils. To the best of my knowledge, no one has ever done a study to determine whether increases in blood lead levels or range contamination was primarily from primer byproducts, or from atomic lead found in bullets. I’d wager that most, and probably the vast majority of the lead exposure is coming from the primers. I think in the future it will be important to know because lead in primers is probably a solvable problem.  The military is doing the bulk of the work trying to develop and study the performance of lead-free primers, and I expect in a few decades, there’s a good chance we’ll all be doing most of our shooting with NT primers, even if carry ammo still uses lead-based primers. The problem of elemental lead in bullets I believe can be successfully managed with good range practices. I suspect the primers are actually the bigger health and environmental issue.

That Didn’t Take Long: Obama Lead Ammo Ban Gone

On his first day, Trump’s Interior Secretary overturned the last-minute Obama Administration ban on lead ammunition on public lands. This will not be the last you hear of the lead issue. It’s going to come back. If we’re going to ban lead as a core material for bullets, the feds have to repeal the armor piercing ammunition law. Most of the other alternate materials bullets can be made from would qualify it as “armor piercing” under the law. Typically hunters have used pure copper bullets in jurisdictions like California, which ban lead ammunition. Pure copper bullets aren’t considered armor piercing, but they are very expensive, and not an option for shooters who go through hundreds of rounds in a shooting session.

New Range Opening in Delco

Good news for those of you who live in Delaware County: there’s a new range opening in Upland, Race Street Range. Delco desperately needs more places to shoot that are mostly available to the general public (as opposed to private clubs that are hard to get into if you don’t know someone). Currently, there are public ranges in Yeadon (Double Action) and Chadds Ford (Targetmaster). I’ve never been to Double Action, but Targetmaster isn’t a place I’d go anymore. One of my visits there, I saw a staff member part-way down range fixing a jammed target hanger while people on the far end were still using the range. When the staff don’t follow basic safety rules, that’s bad news. Maybe they’ve cleaned up their act since then, but that was enough for me. Upland is a good location. It’s close enough to the market without having too many soccer moms. Chadds Ford is practically soccer mom central, and I remember Targetmaster had a terrible time opening back in the late 80s/early 90s.

Having this new range succeed in Upland will be a huge boon for the shooting culture in Pennsylvania. When I lived back home, if I wanted to shoot I used to drive all the way up to Classic Pistol, closer to where I live now. There are half a million people who live in Delaware County, and now shooting will be more accessible for them. Of the suburban counties, only Bucks County and Chester County have a reasonable number of public ranges of the kind that service people just getting into the culture.

Segregation and the Shooting Sports

Shooting competitions from club to collegiate level are rarely segregated by gender, so why do the international shooting groups always insist the little ladies be put in a special category?

This is something I’ve wondered, but never really looked into. I’d love to see the actual arguments of the decision makers, but I’m not quite sure how many original records are really available from the International Olympic Committee or where they could even be found if they are accessible.

However, a few stories I found indicate that I’m definitely not the only one to take notice. And while it’s only a couple of anecdotal incidents that seem to make the news is, the trend does appear to be that when a woman wins over a man, various nations get together and demand that women be booted from the sport. They were largely mix gendered from 1968 until 1980 for most disciplines, though that lasted until 1992 for shotgun.

The WSJ highlighted gender segregation in the shooting sports back in 2012, and they pointed to 1976 in Montreal when Margaret Thompson Murdock tied with her male American teammate in smallbore. He requested a shoot-off, but they weren’t allowed under the rules of the time and the judges declared him the winner. She took silver, but she still holds the title of being the first woman to win a medal in shooting at the Olympics. After that, the article notes that it was primarily European teams who wanted women cut from the competition against men.

In 1992, a Chinese woman took the first ever gold medal in a mixed skeet competition. Not only did the IOC move to segregate the sport in reaction to this result, but they refused to offer skeet to women at all in the next Olympics. It is interesting that the two times that women actually do well and the first reaction of the international body is to kick them out of the boys’ club.

I have seen some people argue that women may have an advantage in shooting rifle standing because of their hips. I’m kind of mixed on my feelings there because, just like men, women don’t all have the same shape. But, I’m open to the argument since I’m far from an expert on that type of competition.

But those issues don’t apply in shotgun or pistol. In this updated article on the topic, the WSJ quotes Kim Rhode, “I’d love to compete against men.” They note that she regularly competes against men here in the US.

The International Shooting Sport Federation defends the segregation in the article by claiming that female participation has skyrocketed. But that kind of seems absurd. If it’s a mixed competition cut into two separate competitions, then of course female participation will increase – so will that of men! You have more spots to fill that must be filled by gender rather than strictly by scores. When they are allowed to compete together and only the top shooters are allowed to move on, then fewer members of both genders will be present.

Even if you want to say that they meant more women are participating at lower levels of competition than the Olympics, I would point out that it’s true across the board and not just for internationally sanctioned disciplines. Every shooting sport in the United States is seeing increased female involvement and it has nothing to do with some international bureaucrat deciding that little ladies need to be put into their own class to keep them from taking medals from the boys. There’s no reason these types of increases can’t happen in other countries.

Back when I was shooting silhouette, some of the longtime shooters would talk about how it wouldn’t take much for me to set a women’s long run record for air gun on at least one animal. Here I was just goofing off at club shoots only some of the time, and when I looked up the records, all it would have taken was one good day to get one. That actually made me feel a bit worse rather than better once I thought about it. They had to show incredible dedication to the sport to even imagine setting a record, but I could have put in only a little more practice to hold the women’s version of the title. It just seemed very unfair that a new female in the sport could achieve so much more than a male who started at the same level. But, hey, since it’s a domestic competition, at least the rules did allow the male and female to compete against one another in the first place. Women can beat men, and vice versa, in the meaningful competition.

Olympic Shooting Snub

USA Shooting has been pitching the story of Kim Rhode to mainstream media because she’s broken some pretty unique Olympic records during her years of competing. She’s the only American to win individual medals in five straight Olympics – only American at all, not just the only American shooter. Her presence in Rio also makes her the only American Olympian to compete on 5 continents. Beyond American records, she is the only woman to win three Olympic golds in shooting.

In addition to holding records, she’s overcome challenges that many Olympians would find it hard to overcome – like having her specialized sport discontinued and being forced to take up a new one. Her prized equipment was stolen at one point. Yet she makes news for keeping such an upbeat attitude about her sport and life’s many challenges.

With these kinds of records, this news story from May highlighted that the US Olympic team members have never recognized Kim Rhode with the honor of carrying the American flag during opening or closing ceremonies.

Instead, news came today that US swimmer Michael Phelps will carry the flag. He was chosen because he has won multiple medals in various swimming sports that are largely just swimming different distances in the same discipline. Oh, and the other headlines he has generated for the US Olympic team include an underage DUI arrest to which he pled guilty and being photographed with drug paraphernalia. And then there’s the second DUI arrest since he apparently didn’t learn the first time. As this article notes, after every single medal-winning games Phelps has competed in, he follows up with headline-making illegal activities.

Sure, let’s choose that guy because he holds an Olympic record to represent the United States in the ceremonies.

That said, I’m going to try and watch the Olympic shooting events if I can figure out how to stream it. (I think the NBC sports channel on Roku may have all the sports airing if I have read things correctly.) It’s a fairly minor show of support, but our Olympic shooters could probably use a little more support.

AR Bleg

I’ve been wanting to build a custom AR for a couple of years now, but a distinct lack of disposable income has been a real drag on my plans. At this point I don’t know much about what the current goodies are. The rifle would be primarily used for target shooting, possibly in matches (if I decide to get back into that kind of shooting). I’m looking for recommendations on:

  • Barrels. I dot know much about barrels and twist rates, etc. It’ll be a .223 AR, probably mostly shooting your standard 55gr XM193 at distances out to 200 yards 99% of the time.
  • Triggers. I’ve looked at the Geissele triggers, but they are spendy. Worth it though? Geissele is a local company, so it would be nice to support them.
  • Stocks. Magpul makes an adjustable stock I think might work.
  • Uppers. I notice they have uppers that allow the charging handle to operate on the left side of the upper instead of the traditional straight pull back. I’d tend to lean against this since I prefer to stick with a more standard AR, but I’m wondering if anyone has any feedback on that style of upper.
  • Parts Kits. I’d get the trigger separately, but is there any quality difference in the non-trigger parts? I would tend to imagine there wouldn’t be much difference.

I’ll probably build this slowly over time, when I can come up with some spare coin to grab a needed component. Any advice one can offer would be appreciated.

Wisconsin Proposing Range Rule Changes

From the Star Tribune:

DNR officials plan to present a wide-ranging package of regulations to their board next month that would prohibit the possession and consumption of alcohol on the ranges as well as prohibit shooters from using fully automatic weapons and tracer ammunition. Incendiary, exploding and breakable targets would be banned, although clay trap targets would be allowed. Shooters would have to unload their weapons when they’re off the firing line.

I don’t have an issue with prohibiting alcohol at the ranges. I’m surprised that isn’t already a rule. But do they really have issue with people shooting up public ranges with machine guns? I can see a rule prohibiting shooting glass and other items that could junk up a public range and create a hazard. Incendiary targets pose a fire hazard, so I can see that too. Exploding targets, well, that just sounds like fun to me, but I could see where you’d get people who abuse it. What do you think? Most of these rule changes, save the machine gun ban and maybe the rule about explosive targets, don’t sound too objectionable. What do you think?

Another Northampton County Club in Trouble

I wrote not long ago about Stockerton Rod and Gun Club being in trouble over accusations that rounds were leaving the range. Now it seems another ther club in the area is coming under scrutiny over errant rounds. This time it’s Belfast Edelman Sportsman Association. The local news station reports:

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Not all complaints against gun ranges represent anti-gun or NIMBY sentiment. People who build or buy houses next to ranges should expect to live with noise, but bullets leaving a range at dangerous velocities and trajectories are a different beast entirely. The setup of Belfast Edelman looks similar to Stockerton. I decided to Google the club’s location, start up street view, and “drive” down the road downrange of the club. Sure enough, I found the house in this report right where I worried I’d find it:

DownrangeEdelmanBelfast

She’s about 1000 yards downrange, which is close enough for bullets to strike her house at sufficient velocity to maim or kill. A 7.62x51mm (.308 Win) round would still be traveling in excess of 1000ft/sec at that range, and with about the muzzle energy of 425ft-lb. This woman isn’t exaggerating. If she’s being hit by the kinds of rounds typically used for hunting, it is as big a deal as if someone fired a 9mm into her house from the street.

The club made the right decision to close their range. Hopefully they have the funds to make needed safety improvements. If you’re ever involved in a club that ends up in a situation like this, NRA does offer range consulting to clubs in trouble. They can also offer grants and whatnot to make the needed safety improvements so that struggling clubs can stay open. I’m very sympathetic to clubs that end up in this kind of trouble, but residents do have a right to expect clubs will maintain safety standards such that rounds will not leave the range in a dangerous manner such as this.

Bang, Bang, Click?

I finally made it out to the range for the first time in (mumblemumble). Had fun, but of the 100 rounds of 9mm Remington UMC expended, I had 3 failure to fire. The weird thing is, they all happened out of the same string in one magazine (of the 10 rounds loaded, 7 went bang, 3 went click), were not adjacent, and the next 10 rounds out of the same magazine were fine. I recovered the rounds and took a picture.IMG_20150923_152859017

Since I’m actually somewhat inexperienced at actually shooting, I figured I’d ask here: did I just get unlucky, or is there something I did or failed to do here?

Pistol is a G17L, with probably somewhat less than a thousand rounds down the pipe since I’ve owned it, and it was allegedly new when I purchased it. I’ll run a boresnake after a range session and usually take the slide assembly apart and scrub the places the book says I should – range sessions are 100-150 rounds. It’s sat unfired for a couple years since last session. Magazine is OEM 10-round.

Steel Gong Bleg

A few months ago, our club started putting in gongs for members to shoot at on both the 100 yard and 200 yard rages. I thought this was a great idea, because I’m a big fan of reactive targets and getting people exiting about putting bullets on steel. But we’ve had problems with the frames getting shot up on the 100 yard gong. There have been suggestions that people are using AP ammo on the gongs. I have some experience shooting steel, but mostly with pistols and .22LR. I’m pretty sure AP will punch through 3/8 AR500 steel. Plus, AP just isn’t very common. The most common is M2 AP, and it’s not so common you’d want to target shoot with it. It’s my opinion the craters on the gong are from steel core ammo, and the small divots are from regular old 5.56x45mm. The gong is made of AR500 steel, 3/8″ thick.

Gong Pitting

The frame holding the gongs up is mild steel bar, about 1/2 inch, and took this damage:

FrameDamage

I asked Joe Huffman, who has a lot more experience with this kind of thing than I do what the damage looked like to him, and he was kind enough to run an experiment. Sure enough, regular old .223 rounds will shoot right through mild steel, while pistol ammunition will just polish it. Looks to me like these are rifle hits, with just ordinary ammunition. I’m thinking we may want to acquire one of these armored stands from Salute Targets. We expected this to be a maintenance items, but so are wooden target frames, and people like to shoot the gongs. There’s also speculation among club leadership that some of the damage is deliberate. I’ll admit the tight group on the bar right where the straps were is suspicious, but I’d hate to see someone brought up on charges and booted from the club for poor marksmanship. I’m also thinking we might need to ask members not to shoot at the gongs with steel core ammunition.

If anyone else can offer their experience, I’d be appreciative.

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