Lead Free Primers

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MaduroBU
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Lead Free Primers

#1

Post by MaduroBU » Sun Jun 03, 2018 1:34 am

I read a review article recently summarizing blood lead levels for various shooters and found that most of those tested were higher than I care to be. Shooting more, getting into USPSA and hopefully 3 gun, I want to be sure that I'm not doing anything foolish. I plan to get a lead level checked, and I'll likely follow that on a regular basis.

The biggest issue, and the most difficult to address, is lead styphnate in primers. The issue is that gun smoke has finely aerosolized lead from the primer which is very efficiently absorbed by the lung. I have started wet tumbling and discarding the wash water, but that does little to help with the lead that i breathe while shooting. I have thought of wearing a mask, and will likely start, but it got me thinking.

With jacketed bullets, the lead that concerns us is all from the primer. I decided to buy 7500 Fiocchi non-toxic primers to try out. They'll all go into practice ammo, so if they are finicky then it's not life and death. I'd like to do the same with the 7.62x40 build that I am starting, but I cannot find small rifle primers.

The long term issue is demand. Lead bullets have physical properties that are very difficult to mimic with metals of similar cost. The health effects of led projectiles virtually disappear with jacketed bullets, and possibly even plated or powder coated bullets. Primers meanwhile need only be reliable, durable and consistent. The challenge is chemistry, with several reasonable alternatives showing promise. I think that we as shooters can change how the industry thinks about lead free primers by adding our voices to the calls for them. Economic demand is a far better incentive than regulation, and being proactive in this way remove the need for more laws which will inevitably be poorly constructed.

Finally, I'm sure that some will object that shooting outside is enough. The review article breaks shooters down by indoor and outdoor ranges, and there were plenty of shooters who claimed to shoot exclusively outdoors who had very elevated levels. Washing your hands isn't effective against aerosolized lead, which is 10x more effective at entering the bloodstream and which is necessarily emitted near your face while shooting.

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Grundy1133
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Re: Lead Free Primers

#2

Post by Grundy1133 » Sun Jun 03, 2018 2:14 am

I read an article a few months back that said that for us avg joe run of the mill gun enthusiasts, the amount of lead you inhale whilst shooting is negligible UNLESS you work in a range or are around lots of gun fire on a daily basis. Now I imagine if you're getting into competition shooting I could see your concern... I'm interested to hear about these non-toxic primers... Let us know how they work out.
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WTR
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Re: Lead Free Primers

#3

Post by WTR » Sun Jun 03, 2018 8:19 am

One of my Dads best friends was the range Officer and shooting instructor for the local
Police Dept. He held this position for decades. He never exhibited any symptoms of lead poisoning .


flechero
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Re: Lead Free Primers

#4

Post by flechero » Sun Jun 03, 2018 8:37 am

MaduroBU wrote:
Sun Jun 03, 2018 1:34 am

With jacketed bullets, the lead that concerns us is all from the primer.
This is common mistake but not true with FMJ/Ball projectiles as the base is still exposed lead. THe base is the part subjected to the hot gasses and will melt/smoke.
See pic.
FMJ bullet bases.jpg
There is a great thread on lead on the 1911 forum, including medical testing protocols and real world experience here:
https://forums.1911forum.com/showthread.php?t=349466

If you reload, you can used plated or TMJ projectiles to eliminate this exposed base. JHP's have a jacketed base and are exposed inside the HP, and are c

The bottom line is that to avoid lead inhalation, you should shoot outdoors, with the wind or indoors with PROPER ventilation and practice good hygiene. D-Lead soap is cheap and works very well according to the studies.

I also wear nytrile gloves and have a small fan running beside me when I decap brass before wet tumbling... this keeps the spent primer dust and debris off and away from me.

ETA: You are correct though, in that the primers are the biggest problem


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MaduroBU
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Re: Lead Free Primers

#5

Post by MaduroBU » Sun Jun 03, 2018 9:16 am

The meta-analysis that I reviewed compared instructors using jacketed and cast bullets and found a small difference, but the n was only 2. For pistol, I load Hornady HAP, so no exposed lead at the base. I do pan to use FMJ for my carbine, so that vaporization may be an issue.

The thing that scared me was all of the outdoor shooters with levels over 10. I always assumed that shooting only outdoors relived the risk, but this data made me question that conclusion. To be fair, the studies are all over the place, but there are a lot of folks whose levels were too high.


flechero
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Re: Lead Free Primers

#6

Post by flechero » Sun Jun 03, 2018 9:44 am

Outdoor shooters with high levels are probably shooting into the wind... I worry about it too- my home range faces into the prevailing wind so I often get a breath of it. I can't afford to build a range facing another direction (not yet anyway) so I try to shoot at an angle that minimizes breathing any smoke.

I only reload plated and coated lead... not sure how much it helps, but like to think it helps some. Plus, my son like to load with me so that helps minimize/eliminate his handling of lead.


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Re: Lead Free Primers

#7

Post by K-Texas » Sun Jun 03, 2018 2:52 pm

MaduroBU wrote:
Sun Jun 03, 2018 9:16 am
The meta-analysis that I reviewed compared instructors using jacketed and cast bullets and found a small difference, but the n was only 2. For pistol, I load Hornady HAP, so no exposed lead at the base. I do pan to use FMJ for my carbine, so that vaporization may be an issue.

The thing that scared me was all of the outdoor shooters with levels over 10. I always assumed that shooting only outdoors relived the risk, but this data made me question that conclusion. To be fair, the studies are all over the place, but there are a lot of folks whose levels were too high.
You have a logical concern. My reply will only represent a sample size of 1: me. I very rarely shoot indoors. It's actually been several years since the last time I did. I get a blood test at least once a year and my doctor informs me about any particular level is high, And after 32 years of handloading my lead level is within the normal range.

I was never much into loading FMJ because the prices are just too close to JHPs. And, aerodynamically, JHPs have proven slightly more accurate and why Hornady introduced the HAP. But for those who do want to shoot FMJ, not all of them have open bases, you just have to look around. Since I've never loaded them, maybe that's how my lead blood level has remained within the norm.

For plinking ammo, I've always loaded hard cast lead bullets until a few years ago when poly-coated came along. That's all I load today outside of JHPs. The coating vastly decreases your exposure to lead and they are a good bit lower in price vs plated. That's not a knock against plated for those who like them. The article I mentioned elsewhere here was about 4 different 147 gr. Hollow-points I've been working with for defense loads. One of them is the Berry's Hybrid Hollow-point (HHP) where the plating gets bonded to the core. I've found that they work very nicely so long as you don't push them above 1000 FPS and my particular test load was 976 FPS.

Hopefully, you have been using a chrono log. And if you don't have a chronograph, you need to get one. Here's how I would conduct testing. I would compare average velocity, extreme spread and particularly Standard Deviation for identical loads using standard primers and compare them to the loads you make with the lead free primers, where the only part of the loads that are different are the primers. Velocity may not change that much, extreme spreads may and the most important stat will be standard deviation. If your lead-free primer loads match very closely, then your question is answered. There are also some new generation powders that might hepl with your testing process. For faster loads like self defense loads, Hodgdon CFE has additives to help it burn cleaner and help deter copper fouling. A couple of newer ones have come out more recently that are better suited to target loads and lower power factors typical of USPSA and IDPA. Those would be Alliant Sport Pistol and Winchester W244. ;-)
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Re: Lead Free Primers

#8

Post by MaduroBU » Sun Jun 03, 2018 8:28 pm

I'll definitely watch velocities. The other issue is ignition delay, and it's hard to measure that. Finally, sure reports call them sensitive to temperature and humidity variation.


K-Texas
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Re: Lead Free Primers

#9

Post by K-Texas » Sun Jun 03, 2018 9:13 pm

MaduroBU wrote:
Sun Jun 03, 2018 8:28 pm
I'll definitely watch velocities. The other issue is ignition delay, and it's hard to measure that. Finally, sure reports call them sensitive to temperature and humidity variation.
All things that will be evidenced by higher standard deviation from otherwise identical loads. Unfortunately, I don't know of anyone that has put this to the test. As far as Fiocchi standard primers, a very reliable source has shown me some data and is testing for more. If your chrono doesn't calculate SD for you, there are calculators on the web that will.;-)
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Re: Lead Free Primers

#10

Post by AndyC » Sun Jun 03, 2018 10:13 pm

Had my lead levels checked in 2013 as I do a lot of shooting and bullet-casting - results were 3.3, which is very decent.

I rarely shoot indoors and when I'm casting I don't eat or smoke (and I definitely scrub my hands very well right afterwards). I also use some of those tumble-dryer anti-static things in my vibratory case-cleaner to keep the dust down, because there can be a lot of airborne lead particles stirred up by tumbling fired cases.
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MaduroBU
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Re: Lead Free Primers

#11

Post by MaduroBU » Mon Jun 04, 2018 12:27 am

Edited for double post.

Both of my chronos calculate SDs, though I generally use a stats program on my phone by typing in the readouts. I agree that ignition delay should be apparent in velocity variation, but some studies have shown a consistent 50-75ms delay that only really varies with temperature. ARXIV did a neat paper on it, and another is available from McDonnel Douglas via dtic.mil. Not sure how those compositions relate to what Im getting from Fiocchi.


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Re: Lead Free Primers

#12

Post by K-Texas » Mon Jun 04, 2018 2:51 pm

MaduroBU wrote:
Mon Jun 04, 2018 12:27 am
Edited for double post.

Both of my chronos calculate SDs, though I generally use a stats program on my phone by typing in the readouts. I agree that ignition delay should be apparent in velocity variation, but some studies have shown a consistent 50-75ms delay that only really varies with temperature. ARXIV did a neat paper on it, and another is available from McDonnel Douglas via dtic.mil. Not sure how those compositions relate to what Im getting from Fiocchi.
It is a very interesting subject. This is really the first time I've seen anyone talking about it. In the delay you mentioned, is that milliseconds or microseconds? I'm hoping it's microseconds. 50 -75 milliseconds would be quite a delay considering the total time from pulling the trigger to the bullet leaving the muzzle. Considering there are variations in the delay that are temp sensitive, I'm not sure I could use lead-free primers.

They are, however, a rather recent development, as far as availability to handloaders vs only being used in "clean" factory ammo. I'd certainly be interested in your chrono findings. What powder are you planning to start with? Since most "clean" loads are target level, velocity may be lower than typical. You would have the option of using a faster burning powder to help offset the primer delay. In the case of W244, it is the result of Winchester "Winclean" ammo. ;-)
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Re: Lead Free Primers

#13

Post by MaduroBU » Mon Jun 04, 2018 11:00 pm

I have tons of Longshot and a bit of 800X. My usual target load is a 115 gr HDY HAP over 8.5 of Longshot. I'll also try my .40 S&W match loads (135 gr Nosler JHP over 9.5 of Lonhshot, which just makes Major PF).

The paper complaining if ignition delay claimed at 4ms is the military limit, and that they measured many NT primers that were far longer. They used a sound meter to record the delay between firing pin strike and the pressure spike on a pressure transducer, but i can only record "perceptible delay or not".

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