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Old July 12, 2014, 03:52 AM   #1
Pond, James Pond
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When the lead runs out: what next?

I, of course, don't know what the true status is for lead extraction and prodction, but when I think of the vast quantities that are used, be it in batteries, bullets or other (particularly the middle one when I read some people's round counts on here!! ), I can't help but think: "how much is there and what happens when it is all but used?"

That is why an article on the BBC website caught my eye: I know some companies make copper projectiles, but here is a review of the metal Tungsten. It is dense but very hard: forget expansion and forget cheap shooting.

Otherwise, is there scope for this in the civilian market in the future?

And, if there is, would this be the death of things like .22LR or of .45ACP? Which calibres would thrive and which would fade away?
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Old July 12, 2014, 07:15 AM   #2
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I don't think there is much danger of us running out of lead. Much of it that is used can easily be recycled.

Copper has it's advantages and can be better than lead in many ways, especially as a hunting bullet.

I can see some advantages for tungsten for military applications, I don't see it being an option for civilian shooters and hunters.
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Old July 12, 2014, 07:40 AM   #3
jason_iowa
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The problem and one of the main reasons prices are going up is because they have shut down many lead mines and refineries. Its one of the more common metals and there is plenty floating around in asteroids as well. We don't need to worry about running out. Being phased out due to restrictions is of more concern.
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Old July 12, 2014, 08:06 AM   #4
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Your bigger problem is going to be the bunny-hugger environmentalists who are continually going after ammunition/hunting components, and OSHA types going after ranges.

If they can't get it from one direction, they will go after the other -- essentially banning its use.
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Old July 12, 2014, 08:40 AM   #5
Pond, James Pond
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Quote:
bunny-hugger environmentalists
I'm not sure why you're bundling environmentalists in with anti-gun groups. These are two different areas, even if members of one are also the other.

I am in favour of guns, but am also a proponent of environmental protection initiatives: I think this a very important things and part of the legacy to hand on to future generations...

Quote:
there is plenty floating around in asteroids as well.
This may be true, but I don't think this is an even remotely useful resource to us.
The cost of extracting from asteroids and returning to earth would be astronomical, if you'll excuse the pun.

Personally I do think that designated ranges, (rather than shooting out in the boonies) with their bullet traps, makes lead far more recoverable, thus maximising the recyclable nature of bullets!
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Old July 12, 2014, 08:58 AM   #6
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Tungsten tends to be used in vehicle-mounted anti-armor projectiles. For small arms the majority of metals used are copper and lead. What works in an anti tank round may not be the best for anti-personnel.

The ability of lead to be easily recycled is a huge benefit.
Quote:
Lead enjoys one of the highest recycling rates of all materials in common use today. This is a result of its fundamental properties, good design and the ways in which it is used, which make lead based products easily identifiable and economic to collect and recycle. As a result, over half of the lead produced and used each year throughout the world has been used before in other products. What is more, because lead is a naturally occurring element, the quality of the recycled lead is identical to that of primary metal from mining.
The "good" news is that if lead ceased to exist tomorrow, humanity's knack for inhumanity would work tirelessly till we discovered a replacement.
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Old July 12, 2014, 09:42 AM   #7
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humanity's knack for inhumanity would work tirelessly till we discovered a replacement.
How true!!
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Old July 12, 2014, 10:27 AM   #8
barnbwt
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I'm not sure why you're bundling environmentalists in with anti-gun groups. These are two different areas, even if members of one are also the other
In the US, at least, they almost unanimously flock together, politically and ideologically. Environmentalists (at least the policy-oriented kind) are almost universally opposed to hunting, gun ranges, and generally thrive on telling other people how to live their lives (typically by making things prohibited or expensive), making them completely compatible with garden-variety anti's.

In any case, tungsten is illegal for use in pistol ammunition in the US, and is not seen in shotgun or rifle ammo, either (though presumably because it is prohibitively expensive). Bismuth is the 'expensive lead-alternative' of choice, seen in the hevi-shot brand of shotgun ammunition --30$ for a box of five shells on Midway. Nice.

Now that we aren't using lead...hardly anywhere at this point, it is doubtful we'll finally outstrip the world supply any time soon, especially as the world demand moves past lead in more and more areas, as well, for pollution cost reasons. The stuff is so recyclable it will just keep circulating through our industrial systems forever, so getting new stock in the mix will become less and less important as world demand stops increasing so fast (well, unless Africa finally decides to take off as an economic powerhouse)

TCB
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Old July 12, 2014, 10:40 AM   #9
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Lead is EVIL ! There are those who want to totally remove lead from the environment ! Of course they don't understand unexpected consequences .new low lead solder is terrible .You need higher temperatures to use which makes soldering more difficult. It also promotes metal 'whiskers' a great hazard to circuits.
Another metal that could be used, and that is zinc.It has been used for bullets.
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Old July 12, 2014, 11:52 AM   #10
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Old July 12, 2014, 12:07 PM   #11
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There is less tungsten on the earth than lead. I think there is more lead than copper and tin. Lead replacements are not cheap.

But, just go to DTIC and look for documents on lead, lead reclamation, lead toxicity, etc. The Army is a large organization with a large problem when it comes to cleaning up the lead at their ranges, and whether you agree or not that this is real, the Armed Forces are spending money to remove the lead from bullets and primers.
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Old July 12, 2014, 12:27 PM   #12
Pond, James Pond
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In the US, at least, they almost unanimously flock together, politically and ideologically.
That may true, but environmentalism and gun control advocacy are still two different movements, even if they are often seen together. I prefer to keep distinctions in place so that one is not tarred with the brush of the other.

Otherwise, before we know it, people will be saying that guns cause crime just because they are often in the same place and time as the crime or some such craziness!!

As Skans pointed out, lead is toxic, accumulates up the food chain and tough to eliminate: in that respect, containing it at ranges is no bad thing
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Old July 12, 2014, 03:30 PM   #13
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There are rational environmentalists and then there are the rabid, bunny-hugger types who revel in bad science. This latter sort generally makes the most noise toward legislative bodies.
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Old July 12, 2014, 05:09 PM   #14
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The prices are going up because we, as Americans LOVE Chinese stuff. Now that we have created the largest middle class on Earth over there, they all want cars............and, oh gee, so does the emerging middle classes in India and Brazil - add a billion folks wanting cars and lead is in demand - bullets are low on the priority list for us civilians........
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Old July 12, 2014, 08:57 PM   #15
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Why are we running out of lead? Did you know ranges have to "reclaim" their lead?

My uncle has several trap ranges, etc. He will eventually have to shut the range down, call a company that specializes in this sort of thing in, they'll sift all the top level of soil, extract all the lead shot, and ironically sell it back to people to make more shotgun shells. At least, that's the process as I fleetingly understand it. The gist is there, if the details aren't. The gist being, the lead isn't gone, it's just still in use for a while.

The two indoor ranges out here have bullet traps. They don't reclaim lead the same way, they trap it when it's fired, and empty the bullet traps to reclaim the lead. Before the new bullet traps one range had a big giant sand pile, and they did the same process my uncle will eventually do, close down, sift the dirt, etc.

We only long-term "lose" lead when it gets used up in the woods where people don't have to reclaim it- as such, fishermen with lead tackle lose more lead than we do.
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Old July 13, 2014, 04:07 PM   #16
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The modern Chinese state is seeing a building expansion, both industrial and commercial that is starting to dwarf what the U.S. went through post WWII.
If you need a lot of glass, paint, batteries, roads, and other building materials, and you need them, quick, cheap, and of reasonable quality; lead is your go to element.

Oh yeah, the Chinese government also would frown on anyone protesting outside of Tienanmen Square about Silent Spring type stuff.

If it weren't for our nation's early adoption of an almost rabid, anti-lead environment, commercial, and residential policy, we might have been in a trade war over scarce resources right now.
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Old July 14, 2014, 06:24 PM   #17
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Quote:
I'm not sure why you're bundling environmentalists in with anti-gun groups. These are two different areas, even if members of one are also the other.

I am in favour of guns, but am also a proponent of environmental protection initiatives: I think this a very important things and part of the legacy to hand on to future generations.
+1. Hear hear.

Oh, we WILL run out - it's when, not if. Might be 1000 years or 10,000 years, but..... We will also run out of everything else too - iron, copper, aluminum, magnesium, cobalt, tin, lithium, gold, silver, platinum, and all the others. Coal & oil too (sooner rather than later). Again, re-cyclable or not, it eventually all runs out... but it might be hundreds, thousands or tens of thousands of years - you just have to analyze each resource on a case by case basis. I'm not sure how much lead is left based upon anticipated population and economy growth worldwide, or even upon current consumption rates.

Chances are that a global pandemic, global acidity / co2 poisoning / warming dieoff, supervolcano, or earth-crossing meteor impact will kill of mankind first (greatly aided by war related to post-peak-oil / post-peak-coal era tensions), so I suppose it's possible "we" won't run out, since if "we" are no longer present here, "we" by definition cannot run out. But on the current course of population growth, or even much much less growth than actual, if continuing unabated, everything runs out. Heck, even with zero net growth, just staying at 7 billion, we'll run out eventually, but that 7 billion is growing exponentially.

Maybe some day, we will use earth moving equipment to take all the lead-filled dirt from all the gun ranges, replace it with "pure" dirt, and then send the lead-dirt to the recycling plant, to be sifted and reclaimed. Problem with that is, if it's more than a couple hundred years henceforth, we won't have any oil left to make gasoline with to run the equipment, so I suppose it won't matter a great deal.

But to answer your question, yes, fast and small rounds that rely upon expansion for terminal damage will become less useful and popular, and big and slow ones will become more useful and popular (so no, .45 acp will be more, not less, useful, relative to others like say, 9x19, which rely more upon expansion. As for .22, yes, any small bore would be of less killing power). Rifled "shotguns" would become extremely popular for hunting & defense, range limitations notwithstanding. Wider is better.
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Old July 14, 2014, 11:39 PM   #18
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http://www.statista.com/statistics/2...ted-countries/

There is lots of lead in Australia. Since we quit using lead in gasoline the mining industry has relegated lead to a lesser status. I have a good friend that worked for AMAX Lead in Missouri in the 80's when the EPA directive about leaded fuels was enacted. The mine he was working was closed in a month. We have lead.
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Old July 15, 2014, 09:05 AM   #19
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I have a lot to worry about but on the bottom of my list is running out of lead.

My biggest lead problem is getting people to help clean out the bullet traps at our local indoor range.

I try, but there is no way in He!! I could ever use all that lead. I probably have enough stored right now to last me a life time, yet I still have to clean the traps.

I really doubt I'll see lead being banned for hunting in my state but lets assume it is banned for hunting.

I hunt a lot, last year I shot two antelope, two deer and an elk. I shot 5 rounds but lets double that.

If I had to buy a box of non-lead hunting rounds a year, whats the most that would cost, $50 (not sure, never bought any), that wont slow down my hunting one bit.

Most of my shooting is on my property or at our private range in town. I haven't heard of any where that bans lead bullets on private property.

Plus, didn't congress just pass or is passing a law that in part protects hunters from lead bullet bands. Not sure but I thought I read something about it.

Look at it this way, there have been internet talks about the largest army in the world is the American hunter, one or two states alone out number all the major armies in the world, and that was just two states. Wis and PA I think.

If that's true, and you add the other 48 states that's a lot of hunters which means a lot of voters. Those who wish to run for office do not want to PO that many voters.

In short, in stead of worrying about this non-existent problem, go shooting, create a lead mine in your back stop.
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Old July 15, 2014, 07:35 PM   #20
mboylan
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Too much misinformation on this thread. We are not running out of lead. The price of lead has fallen over the last 3 years.

It is cheaper to mine and smelt lead ore overseas and ship it here. There are plenty of secondary smelters in the US that recycle lead.

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Old July 15, 2014, 08:48 PM   #21
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A few thoughts

Lead is highly recyclable. My range "mines" all the shot from the trap club field, and the berms on the rifle side of the range. They sell it for a profit and there are always more donors lining up at the firing line.

I have noticed a disturbing trend in radical environmentalism being used as a back door gun control angle - eliminate bullets = defacto gun ban.

If the lead does run out for whatever reason... I'm hoping I'll be able to pick up a ray gun by then. I could adapt to a zap instead of a bang if I had to.

I'm not too worried about running out of lead.
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Old July 16, 2014, 03:11 AM   #22
Pond, James Pond
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Too much misinformation on this thread.
And too much jumping to conclusions.

It's all been very interesting to read, but it looks like most people have read the title but not the post at a whopping seven lines of prose, and not certainly the link embedded in my tome.

The question was first a hypothetical "What happens if lead runs out?", not "Will it?"

Secondly, the question that followed that premise was which calibres would suffer and which would survive as a result of new materials such as Tungsten.

Only one poster really addressed those questions. (You know who you are!! )
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Old July 17, 2014, 03:01 AM   #23
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Once we run out of lead, there will only be one solution left for shooting. We will have to go back to the old Blunderbuss. Just load that bad boy with your wife's old jewelry and have at it.


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Old July 17, 2014, 07:59 AM   #24
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Lead is abundant. Scrap lead is abundant. I'm not worrying about lead running out.

On the other hand, for about 4 cents/round, you could simply melt zinc pennies on your stovetop and make cast zinc projectiles. Messy, but feasible.

Or, you could just melt down your Lorcins and make ZAMAC bullets.
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Old July 28, 2014, 09:23 AM   #25
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I am fortunate that I have enough property to shoot out to 200 yards safely and use a retired freezer to reclaim 99% of my lead. Lay a retired freezer or refrigerator down with the top as the target and the door facing up. Place a spare piece of plywood over the top, now in a vertical position, and staple your paper targets onto the plywood. Open the door, now facing up, and fill with dirt then close the door. You now have a backstop with 5-6 feet of dirt for your bullets to go into and no round many use will ever get past the first 2 feet of soil. I do have a huge steel backstop behind the freezer but shoot at 1" targets and have never come close to the edge of the plywood. I replace the plywood about twice a year and get scraps for free at the local lumber yard.
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