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Old June 17, 2015, 09:25 AM   #1
109Hammer
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Is Shooting Lead in my backyard really dangerous?

After spending quite a bit of time online searching, i haven't come up with an answer i'm happy with and/or believe. Is Shooting Lead in my backyard really dangerous? I'm not looking to convince myself one way or another, just looking for some solid verifiable facts (and intelligent opinions).

I have the privilege of legally being able to shoot fire arms on my property. I mainly do it for testing reloads and sighting in firearms. But i have a lot of fun plinking away with a 22Lr as well. I mainly shoot into a large old tree stump but also at steel targets. So lead is ending up i a variety of places. To note, i have a well which is approx 60' from where i'm shooting.

From what i have read, the amount of lead actually getting into the ground and ground water is at such low levels its not really harmful. Is this true?
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Old June 17, 2015, 09:32 AM   #2
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I don't know about the lead issue but I do know that shooting into a tree of any sort is a lot more dangerous than people think. I have a friend who was hit by a round that was shot by her husband into a tree. It got turned completely around and came back out with plenty enough velocity to kill her. But she was lucky. It only grazed her cheek but fairly deeply. Another inch and she would have been planted too.
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Old June 17, 2015, 09:56 AM   #3
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My backstop on my private land consists of cottonwood stumps fronted by several layers of salvaged chip board which is regularly replaced. I've never had a bounce back.

My well is a lot farther from my backstop than yours, probably 75 yards. Even in your situation, the potential for lead to migrate into the groundwater in amounts likely to be problematic health wise is slim.

Potential is reduced if your well has an adequate surface seal. If it was drilled professionally and recently, probably it has such a seal. If it has a good surface seal - mine has concrete around the top 15 feet of casing, and is relatively deep, there should be no problem. Be sure any surface drainage goes away from the well.

My main concern is that when I get ready to sell my property, some prospective buyer may be upset with the presence of lead. I'll probably dismantle the range when that time comes.
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Old June 17, 2015, 10:00 AM   #4
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It is certainly dangerous for whatever you are shooting at.

Otherwise, it really depends on how much you are shooting.

Concentrations of lead in soil are considered hazaedous/dangerous at levels over 400 parts per million, especially to young children who may be expsed by playing in the contaminated area. Shouldn't plant a vegetable gardeon int he area either.

As for the well, lead in the soil builds up over time. Soil can "soak up lead to a certain extent, but over 600 parts per million is generally considred the point at which soil begins to become saturated and depending on the type fo soil may start to leach lead in to ground water.

If you spread your shots far and wide, it iwll take longer for the lead to concentrate but will eventually contaminate a larger area. If you concentrate your shots to one location, it may concentrate sooner but will be easier to isolate and remove.

Here is some informatin from Australia on lead in shooting ranges you may find useful
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Old June 17, 2015, 10:18 AM   #5
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I may have a solution for your problem. I have built a bullet trap that is completely inclosed with exception to where the bullets will enter. It's a simple design using a 45deg plate to knock bullets into a sand pit. The sides and bottom can be enclosed to prevent rain water from entering, splatter from exiting, while keeping the sand in place.

It's not without problems. It needs to have cleats on the back of the sloped plate to place dirt else it will ring like a bell. The further you shoot the bigger the opening needs to be. The larger the caliber you use the thicker the deflection plate needs to be.
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Old June 17, 2015, 11:45 AM   #6
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I'm in the environmental industry.

Unless you're running a commercial or club range on your property you're not contributing any impact unless your backstop is over your drinking water well and you are in an acid rain zone and your groundwater is acidic.
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Old June 17, 2015, 11:49 AM   #7
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Hello hso,,,

Quote:
I'm in the environmental industry.
Just out of curiosity,,,
Do you know how much would it cost the OP,,,
To have his well water tested regularly for lead quantity?

It seems to me this would alleviate all doubt.

Aarond

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Old June 17, 2015, 11:54 AM   #8
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Cheap
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Old June 17, 2015, 01:05 PM   #9
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Thanks for all the info. I've thought about making a bullet trap. Maybe now is a good time. Even though it doesn't seem to be an issue, it will make the wife feel better.
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Old June 17, 2015, 01:15 PM   #10
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If it will make the wife feel better, it's usually an issue.
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Old June 17, 2015, 02:00 PM   #11
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"...never had a bounce back..." That's because your bullets are going right through.
Highly unlikely you'll ever see any issues with lead in your water, but it'll depend on the soil. However, your stump is going to get filled with bullets, eventually.
A big pile of dirt/sand is better. That can be dug out and screened for reuse.
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Old June 17, 2015, 02:06 PM   #12
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Quote:
My backstop on my private land consists of cottonwood stumps fronted by several layers of salvaged chip board which is regularly replaced. I've never had a bounce back.
I don't think it's a common thing to get a bullet coming back at you but they aren't really bounce backs. If they were it wouldn't be nearly as much of an issue. It's more like the bullet gets turned around without losing nearly as much velocity as bounce backs lose. I've seen people shooting steel at the gun club from 7 yards with .45's and they never have a problem. But again I have a good friend that nearly died from a bullet coming back out of a tree. It likely isn't common but I know it does happen. The guy who shot the tree was in the military at the time. According to him someone else in the military told him it was a bad idea to shoot into a tree. But that isn't the only place I've heard this. All I really know for sure is that both the soldier and his wife told me she was nearly killed by the incident.
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Old June 17, 2015, 10:29 PM   #13
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Build a bullet catcher. Mine is a wood box 4' x 3' X 24" deep .
Stack scrap wood in it . I've never had a bullet penetrate the back, shooting 223 and 308 and 30-06.

I empty it every couple of years and smelt he lead back into ingots, then cast boolits for reloading.
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Old June 18, 2015, 10:22 AM   #14
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Refined lead is very stable, they store nuclear waste in the stuff! If it can withstand high levels of radiation for 10's of thousands of years, I don't think I would worry much about a few lead bullets breaking down in my yard. (I shoot on my property too.)
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Old June 18, 2015, 10:29 AM   #15
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Biggest danger is for whoever/whatever is downrange.

I was shooting my first cap&ball revolver back in the late '70s, using a huge dead oak tree as a backstop. As I shot from about 15 yards away, I kept hearing this odd 'plop' sound in front of me. Started forward to check my target, and saw the six deformed lead balls a few feet ahead of me, on the ground...... RuhRoh! They rebounded off that old spongy wood and came back at me! Would have stung had they hit me.
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Old June 20, 2015, 08:00 PM   #16
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Do you know how much would it cost the OP,,,
To have his well water tested regularly for lead quantity?

Thank you sir.

Aarond

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Old June 22, 2015, 01:10 AM   #17
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It would require very acidic surface water that leaches lead into the groundwater system. There was a fairly long running issue at a gun club in PA over this issue. There was a swamp where lead shot from the shot gun range collected. Eventually it was demonstrated that there was no harmful impact as I recall. But the action cost the club many thousands of dollars to fight, hire consultants, collect samples and so forth. I think the government should cover all of their expenses and pay for the place being shout down for a few years.

Metals samples are pretty cheap by the way. Lead is commonly an analyte where private drinking water wells are present when a property is sold. It is not just bacteria (fecal coliforms and so forth).
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Old June 22, 2015, 07:46 AM   #18
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You need to worry more about the lead leaching from your pipe joints in your home water system than what you shoot into the ground. That lead bullet is condensed into a small surface area so it has low potential to leach out. The lead that really bothers is a fine ore that is spread out in the soil with lots of surface area. That is the same stuff in the dross you smelt off the top of the lead pot that you use when casting bullets. It is hazardous.
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Old June 22, 2015, 09:48 AM   #19
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I'd check into do-it-yourself spiral bullet traps. They're pretty cheap, even if you have them professionally made.

The "spiral" need not be a smooth curve. Even flat plates welded into a spiral-like shape will do.

One of the advantages is that when the bullet enters, it is hitting a very acutely-angled surface, so the energy/impact/whatever delivered to that part is less than if it hit a perpendicular surface. Then the bullet ricochets or slides internally all the way around the spiral, dissipating its energy gradually. Some might even go around twice.

Thus, the quality and thickness of the steel required is not that big a factor in the cost.

And there's near zero possibility of bounce-back at you. (Had that happen with a .22 at an old tire. A real sphincter-shrinker of an event as the bullet clipped a branch right near my head.)

Here's an example of a flat-plate "spiral" before it is welded up. The shoe in the low right corner is not necessary to the actual construction.



Then you can collect your lead and sell it or cast bullets from it instead of worrying about it.

See also:
http://s19.photobucket.com/user/Jail...trap5.jpg.html

Terry, 230RN

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Old June 22, 2015, 01:43 PM   #20
hso
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Quote:
they store nuclear waste in the stuff! If it can withstand high levels of radiation for 10's of thousands of years, I don't think I would worry much about a few lead bullets breaking down in my yard.
What he's concerned about is leaching from the environment (which has been demonstrated for sites with high concentrations of lead) into his well. A lead cask in a storage faciltiy has no relationship to open environmental conditions.
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Old June 22, 2015, 09:55 PM   #21
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If you're concerned, just sample the water. Try to collect a clear sample as a turbid sample tends to show higher levels of metals unless you normally have turbid water. I would start with a tap water sample personally. That would tend to be worst case relative to the typical water you may be drinking and bathing in.
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Old June 22, 2015, 11:30 PM   #22
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The kits provide instructions on how to sample and from where.
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Old June 22, 2015, 11:55 PM   #23
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"If you're concerned, just sample the water."

The problem with that is: so one day the lead concentration in your well water jumps to a dangerous level. At that point, you can't just stop shooting and have the level drop right back down.

n.b. - I'm not taking any position on whether backyard shooting presents a contamination problem (although I suspect not) - just that waiting until your well is contaminated is too late.

FWIW my teenage home was on the site of a minor Civil War battlefield. You could occasionally find Minie balls. AFAIK, there weren't problems with lead in the local wells. But soil chemistry, subsurface water flow, etc could vary.
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Old June 23, 2015, 12:32 AM   #24
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Originally Posted by pintler View Post
The problem with that is: so one day the lead concentration in your well water jumps to a dangerous level. At that point, you can't just stop shooting and have the level drop right back down.
That's true of any environmental contaminant, chemical, metallic, or biological. Generally the process goes this way..... purge and collect sample and analyze; if results are slightly elevated, re-sample after a significant purging of the well like letting the water run for 30 minutes and collect the sample directly from the well. if still elevated, you begin looking for a source and that usually means collecting soil samples. It begins to get expensive at this point. Your looking for significantly elevated lead levels in the soil above residential guidelines at this point. It takes a lot of lead to be a problem.

Most people would simply shift to using bottled water for drinking and use the well water for everything else. You would likely re-sample after a month or so.
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Old June 23, 2015, 02:59 PM   #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 230RN View Post
I'd check into do-it-yourself spiral bullet traps. They're pretty cheap, even if you have them professionally made.

The "spiral" need not be a smooth curve. Even flat plates welded into a spiral-like shape will do.

One of the advantages is that when the bullet enters, it is hitting a very acutely-angled surface, so the energy/impact/whatever delivered to that part is less than if it hit a perpendicular surface. Then the bullet ricochets or slides internally all the way around the spiral, dissipating its energy gradually. Some might even go around twice.

Thus, the quality and thickness of the steel required is not that big a factor in the cost.

And there's near zero possibility of bounce-back at you.



Then you can collect your lead and sell it or cast bullets from it instead of worrying about it.

See also:
http://s19.photobucket.com/user/Jail...trap5.jpg.html

Terry, 230RN

(Pic credit in Properties.)
I have one of those. It does save most of my lead,
But in all honesty it's probably worse for keeping lead out of the soil than a simple sandpile backstop.
There is a good amount of splash back from mine in the form of a very fine spray of lead particles. These end up all over a wide area in front of the trap. I can't mount a target to the front because it's shredded by splash back after a few shots.
They are very small particles, and will leach into the soil easier than an intact bullet.
Same reason I dont shoot steel in certain areas of the property any more.
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