Thursday, February 19, 2015


Zeke:  “Well, what ever happened to Two-Gun Tony?”
Bart: “He came down with lead poisoning in Sarsaparilla Springs last summer.  He’s buried in Boot Hill.”

Victim of lead poisoning - - .44 Russian

It’s common dialogue from B-grade westerns and sounds like Two –Gun Tony ran into someone faster than he was.

But if you’re a shooter lead poisoning has a more insidious meaning.  Both primers and bullets contain lead and we can ingest lead during shooting, cleaning and reloading if we are not careful.

Lead has long been known as a poison.
370BC  Hippocrates writes about health issues with lead workers.
1713  Massachusetts colony requires all stills be made from tin, not lead. (Something modern moonshiners need to remember!)
1745  Ben Franklin publishes account of lead poisoning from lead pipes used in rum still.

That’s enough history.

Symptoms of lead poisoning include:
            High blood pressure
            Joint and muscle pain
            Decline in mental function
            Memory Loss

The good news: lead poisoning, if caught in time is easy to treat.  

The best treatment is prevention. 
  • Avoid ranges with poor ventilation. 
  • Wash your hands before eating or smoking.
  • You hipsters, that means beard and mustache too.
  • Don’t eat or drink on the firing line.
  • Avoid lead dust from cleaning the range or even refurbishing the physical plant.
  • If you cast bullets, make sure you have good ventilation and stay upwind of all the vapor.
  • Same with reloading.

Even if you shoot all copper and use green, lead free components, you could be just swapping antimony for lead poisoning.  All heavy metals are poisonous to some degree.

Get a lead serum level test from your doctor.  It’s just another tube of blood when you get your cholesterol checked.

Me?  I shoot chiefly outdoors and my blood lead level is in the middle of the do-nothing range.

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