respirator for indoor range use


30 cal slob
May 9, 2007, 01:39 PM
anybody here who shoots with a respirator in an indoor range?

care to recommend one so that my family jewels don't fall off?

thank you.


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May 9, 2007, 01:51 PM
anybody here who shoots with a respirator in an indoor range?

care to recommend one so that my family jewels don't fall off?

How exactly do you breathe, sir? :uhoh:

Seriously, the only system I've used was a positive-pressure full facemask when cleaning the lanes, and I was very glad to have the fresh air constantly blowing on my face keeping the nasties out.

Good question.

May 9, 2007, 06:51 PM
Are you looking for a real respirator, or just a "dust" mask. Either way I think people will look at you real strange! I'd just find a range that has good ventilation.

Jorg Nysgerrig
May 9, 2007, 06:53 PM
I've seen people using those. However, a range has poor enough ventilation to require one, I'd look for another range.

May 9, 2007, 06:58 PM
For what it's worth, I too am looking for the right mask. I found one at Home Depot designed to block lead dust but it was cheap - the stap broke the first day I used it.

Also, at the indoor Bulls Eye match I shoot every Wednesday, there are several guys with masks. I really don't care if it looks strange, I don't want that **** in my lungs! Certainly a well venelated range helps, but you're still breathing in lead. I also want to use the mask when I'm cleaning brass, especially when I'm separating it from the medium.

May 9, 2007, 07:39 PM
Respiratory protection should be the last measure to take after engineering controls are considered an implemented. If you suspect hazardous Pb levels, you should discuss it with the range owner. The problems with respirators are: they require a fit test to ensure proper size and fit; the filters have a limited lifetime and require periodic replacement, they are uncomfortable and can cause safety problems in and of themselves; they cause an additional respiratory load that may present a hazard to those that have pulmonary or cardiac risk factors.

I understand your concern for your health, but you should investigate other options first. If you decide that you need a respirator, get a quality half face (MSA, Draeger, 3M, etc). Filtering facepieces ("surgeon's mask") are not what you want.

You can always have your physican prescribe a blood lead level test to see if it is real issue for you right now.

May 9, 2007, 08:31 PM
You would have to be shooting a lot and everyday in a nearly unventilated range to have a level of exposure high enough to be concerned with. Just wash your hands before you put them near your mouth and change your clothes when you go home. If you are really that concerned, get a blood test. But the risk is virtually nil.

May 9, 2007, 08:33 PM
You can always have your physican prescribe a blood lead level test to see if it is real issue for you right now.

That's a good idea in general. They're cheap, and as heavy metal content is accumulative (though there are ways to detoxify your body) and cancer-causing, it's important to know what you're dealing with. Doubly so if you reload w/ lead projectiles.

May 9, 2007, 08:38 PM
You would have to be shooting a lot and everyday in a nearly unventilated range to have a level of exposure high enough to be concerned with.

Not true. A friend of mine on another board recently found out he had a BLL of 39, and he doesn't shoot very often at all. In fact, shooting even a day or two every few weeks at an indoor range can be very, very detrimental to one's health. That's facts. Even the best indoor ranges will never be able to completely scrub the air to the point of OSHA compliance, and even if they could, not everyone has access to multiple ranges.

I'm with the OP and some of the other commenters - I don't care WHAT I look like. I want to be able to keep shooting for as long as I can, and if it takes a silly looking mask to do it, show me where to sign up.

May 9, 2007, 08:47 PM
You will need a P100 rated respirator. They can be had in either the disposable type of the cartridge type.

If my only option was shooting indoors I would wear one.

May 9, 2007, 09:21 PM
How exactly do you breathe, sir?

HA! Had to laugh out loud at that one!


May 9, 2007, 09:26 PM
Cheap half face respirator will run you around $35 at Lowes. What you are looking for are the N95 cartridges (dust and small particles) which are used for asbestos and mold type work. They make expensive dust masks with the breathing valve in which are the N95 type. Probably what you are looking for and they are also sold at Lowes/Home Depot or the large companies which specialize in commercial respirators. They are better than nothing, but not great. I can't see wearing a respirator in an indoor shooting range. I rather not shoot in that case. They need to increase the air flow and replacements. In which case, there will almost be a breeze indoors.

It is one of the reasons I left my membership lapse at an indoor range. The fumes were awful when there were a lot of people shooting. I think the fumes consisted of gun powder which irritate me after being around them at high levels. You will not notice anything physcial without testing from airborne lead. And, as stated, more lead exposure occur with the folks that cast their own bullets.

May 9, 2007, 10:33 PM
Here is a link

May 9, 2007, 11:51 PM
Your friend's level more than likely comes from something other than range exposure. If he is making his own lead bullets, that is the most common way. Another is smoking or eating before washing your hands. As long as you aren't sweeping up the dust without a respirator you should be fine. Most ranges have to meet OSHA standards and do. Most also require lead level tests for employees. Most employees don't have elevated lead levels.

I worked at indoor ranges for several years with no problem. Until we remodeled. Then three of us had extremely high levels (we moved some props above the baffles w/out respirators). Blood lead is measured in Ul or ull but I can't remember what it stands for. < 5 is acceptable. My level was 83, one of the other guy's was 99 and the third was 110. None of us were hospitalized, but the poison control center used to call me once a week for about 6 weeks just to see how I was doing. None of us iirc were treated with chelation therapy (I know I wasn't). Within 6 months my level was down to 18 3 months later it was 2. I worked at the indoor range for 2 years after that and never had an elevated lead level. Nor have I suffered any long term damage from it.

May 10, 2007, 12:13 AM

Judging by that, I'd say you're pretty lucky. The first level OSHA considered "elevated" in adults and used by most medical labs is 40 mcg/dl.

By your own admission, you and your co-workers were far above that level.

OSHA requires continuous medical monitoring of employees who have tested at this level.

The lack of chelation therapy/medical monitoring seems like a breach of OSHA protocol by whoever ran your range, something you might want to look into. Your health is an important issue, and if they caused you damage they need to pay for it.

At a level of about 75 mcg/dl, or if symptoms are severe, many physicians will want to intervene with a procedure called "chelation therapy".

I'm not trying to call you a liar, but the assertion that most indoor ranges meet/exceed OSHA standards is something I'd like a source on to believe it.

Whether or not the friend I referred to earlier had been exposed to a seperate source of lead is, in a way, irrelevant - the quotes I've provided, as well as many other sources of info on the subject show that indoor ranges are a significant enough source of lead that they can and do cause dangerous blood lead levels in even casual shooters.

May 10, 2007, 12:31 AM
It never occured to me. The range I go to has a ventilation system that will practically suck anything out of the room that isn't nailed down. I've never even smelled gunpowder there. Only problem is that in the winter you'd better bundle up or risk freezing your tail off.

May 10, 2007, 12:40 AM
That was in 1986. I have had no ill effects. We were all under a physicians care and chelation was discussed, but never implemented. The range was located in VA and when it was constructed OSHA iirc came out to sample the are quality and measure the air flow. One of the things they used to do about annually was use big smoke bombs to test the air flow and take samples where the air was exhausted.

NIOSH has standards for ranges and I believe OSHA does as well. You can probably find them on their websites.

30 cal slob
May 10, 2007, 08:43 AM
*cough* *hack*

seriously, i am shooting a lot more now. minimum 500 rounds a week (part of this is a subgun that was recently clocked at a 1,464 rpm cyclic rate - there were witnesses, lol). gas money allocated for fishing trips now being diverted to ammo and range time.

i figure it's better to be safe than sorry. could care less if i look like a mutant on the line.

i wonder if you get a lot of lead exposure through the skin. hands get all smutty while shooting. i wear latex gloves while cleaning guns, and am diligent about washing hands and showering after shooting.

gloves while shooting? hmmm.

good idea to get tested for heavy metals.

May 10, 2007, 08:58 AM
Answering the original question. I use a mask from a local industrial supply house. The 3M brand N100 or P100 (I use the N100) less than $10 each. They come in a box of 20 but they can sell them separate. Last the season, no problem. While at a big match I worry more about the powder smoke than I do the lead. I find it gives me a headache by the 45 phase of a 2700 match.

May 10, 2007, 10:58 AM
If you check the THR Library you will find a link to an article on Minimizing Lead Exposure that goes to

If you are concerned about lead exposure have your physician perform a BLL with ZPP. If you find that they are elevated then consider changing where you shoot or ask the range to bypass the filters and use all fresh air when you're on the range. It may make things hot or cold, but fresh air beats contaminated air. This is far preferable to using a respirator.

If you decide to use a respirator go to 29CFR1910.134 App C ( and complete the questionnaire and have your doctor look it over to determine if a tight fitting half face respirator is safe for you to use under the conditions you intend to use it. Essentially it is used to find out if it's safe for you to wear a respirator since wearing one puts a strain on the heart and lungs. If your blood pressure is high you should especially get your doctor's input on whether a respirator is safe for you to wear and how often.

If you do get one be sure that as a minimum you get a low maintenance or no maintenance N95 half face and be sure to keep it clean. They don't do you any good if you allow the lead inside the facepiece and then strap the thing over your nose and mouth. You can get the disposable respirators as well, but the fit factor isn't as good. Be sure to shave before you use it because you need a good face seal to keep from sucking contaminated air around the edges of the facepiece.

30 cal slob
May 10, 2007, 11:05 AM
find out if it's safe for you to wear a respirator since wearing one puts a strain on the heart and lungs.

I was not aware of this. Glad I asked. Thanks for all the info.

May 10, 2007, 12:25 PM
Folks that wear respirators or are required to in a work environment are all required to be tested by the doctor. It does put stress on your lungs and heart. In a work environment, you also have to be fit tested for the respirator that you are wearing. Keeping it clean is very important.

I was just looking at a catalog with lots of different choices of respirators. The name of the place is Airgas ( There are many places that sell safety equipment. This is just one. Of interest to me is the wide selection of safety glasses.

It is tough to get a good seal with the disposable face masks similar to what many people buy to wear mowing the grass or painting. If the environment is bad, I wear a half-face respirator with combination cartridges. The N95 or greater cartridges are sufficient for lead exposures.

Pat McCoy
May 10, 2007, 12:44 PM
If you have a beard the respirator will not seal properly, and actually cause greater harm due to the accelerated speed of the air comming past the respirator.

Also, Vitamin C is a chelating agent, and helps lower levels of lead in the blood.

May 10, 2007, 08:14 PM
I used to wear an inexpensive filter mask for indoor shooting and I found that it helped. It is certainly worth a try.

Also, I liked to believe that when I left the range, folks would ask "Who was that masked man?" :evil:

May 10, 2007, 08:40 PM
In my younger days I used to shoot at an indoor range about a mile from our home. Ammo was cheap so I used to do quite a bit of shooting. Most of the time when I was done shooting I didn't feel well. At first I blew it off, but finally wised up and haven't been to an indoor range since. Now that I have said that this happened about 20 years ago and I am sure that range has made improvements to its venetalation system. I can't say what made me sick - lead, heavy metals, powder or all, but I learned my lesson. Back then I shot a lot of lead bullets too as they were cheaper. I did have my blood tested for lead and it was within normal limits.

No more indoor ranges for me not only for air quality, but the quality of other shooters. You know, the ones that hold their pistols sideways. Nuff said.

May 10, 2007, 08:58 PM
I am A HAZMAT certified asbestos removal pro... Big words meaning I get to play with really nasty stuff. I am now a First Aid and Safety rep. Wearing a respirator for long periods of time will cause fatigue. If you are not healthy I.E. lungs/heart you should NOT be wearing a mask. Dont buy the cheap paper masks. They do more harm than good as has been discussed. A fit test is essential if you choose to wear a respirator. If you are not clean shaven when you have to wear a mask a good standby is vaseline. I have used it during a fit test back in the day of OC gas and it worked very well...

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