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Old January 21, 2012, 01:05 AM   #1
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Air Quality At Indoor Ranges

I was shooting at an indoor range today and their ventilation was poor. After about 30 minutes of shooting, my throat was telling me to get out of there, and blowing my nose revealed a black colored result. I would think trace amounts of lead must be present, but I'm curious what else might be in the air. After exiting the range I was chatting with the owner, and he said they're looking into improving it. Frankly I don't think I'd shoot there again without wearing a respirator. Am I just being overly paranoid about breathing burnt gunpowder?
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Old January 21, 2012, 01:24 AM   #2
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If you happen to be talking about IL Gun Works just outside of Chicago, then I would say your concern is merited. When I lived there and used them from time to time, the air quality was definitely poor. Not much in the way of circulation and the range was always kinda pretty dirty, ie lots of dust to get kicked up from the floor and other surfaces. If you are in the Chicago area and can make it out to Lyon, the range at midwest guns is nicer.
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Old January 21, 2012, 01:26 AM   #3
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Sure you should be concerned. I used to work at an indoor range. THey had off and on problems with ventilation. Between that, and cleanup of the range and emptying the lead buckets once a week, it became a concern.

Every emplyee there had high lead levels in their blood, including me. I went to another job right after this developed. My levels went down in 3 months, and that was that for me.

Good ventilation matters. THere is another indoor range here in the area that has AWESOME ventilation. It really is noticiable, especially if the range is busy.

If you don't plan on shooting there all the time though, probably just a be careful, wash your hands/face situation.
"The price of liberty is vigilance"
America is at an awkward stage. It's too late to work within the system, but too early to shoot the bastards.
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Old January 21, 2012, 03:24 AM   #4
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lead poisoning as a hazard for shooters

I found this information in one of my files.

It came from material developed by the American Society of Law Enforcement Trainers (ASLET):

Most of the issue with lead ingestion comes from shooting on INDOOR RANGES. The ones outdoors have enough ventilation and natural "cleaning" factors to reduce the lead ingestion levels pretty easily.

Lead ingestion by shooters comes from 4 major sources, not necessarily listed in order of significance:
1. molten airborne lead particles generated during firing, melting off the back of lead bullets, and inhaled
2. particulate lead absorbed when touching/handling lead bullets
3. lead primer byproducts inhaled as a result of shooting
4. molten lead particles inhaled during casting lead bullets

Most of us don't cast our own bullets, so we can ignore #4 above as a source of lead ingestion. However...source #3 above is by FAR the BIGGEST CONTRIBUTOR to lead ingestion by shooters. (It's something like 10 times greater than the next highest source!!)

The reason here is that, most "non-corrosive" primers contain lead styphnate or something similar. When lead primers ignite, the chemical reaction creates a lead salt that is airborne, and worse yet, it hydroscopic, like all salts. It picks up moisture easily.

Guess what's in your throat and lungs? Lots of moisture, waiting for the lead salt to combine with it. Instant absorbtion.

The solution---RIGOROUS cleanliness on the range, and care when shooting indoors:

1. Don't smoke, eat, or drink on the range. You are ingesting just that much more lead in doing so.
2. Don't shoot on an indoor range that does not ventilate by pulling combustion products AWAY from the shooting line. If you MUST shoot on a range with poor ventilation (Lord knows why), use an OSHA approved mask.
3. DON'T SWEEP with a broom on an indoor range. The floor is COVERED in lead salts, and brooming puts them back in the air.
4. Once you are done shooting on an indoor range, wash your hands immediately. If you can take a shower and change clothes ASAP, all the better.
5. Lastly, DON'T go to bed after shooting indoors until you take a shower and wash your hair. You hair traps lots of lead particles that will transfer to your pillow, and then to your mouth/nose while sleeping.

People I know who have followed the above rules can sucessfully shoot indoors A LOT (like IPSC practice multiple times per week) without having excessive lead levels.

To reduce lead in your body, your doctor may recommend chelation therapy. In chelation therapy, you receive a chemical called ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid (EDTA) through injections in your veins (intravenously). The EDTA binds with the lead so that it's excreted from your body. Depending on your lead level, you may need a large number of treatments. And the therapy may not reverse damage that already has occurred in cases of severe lead intoxication.


At levels above 80 µg/dL, serious, permanent health damage may occur.
Above 50 µg/dL, serious health damage may occur.
At lead levels between 30 and 50 µg/dL, health damage may be occurring, even if there are no symptoms.
From 20-30 µg/dL, regular exposure is occurring. There is some evidence of potential physiologic problems.
From 1-20 µg/dL, lead is building up in the body and some exposure is occurring.
6 micrograms is the typical level for U.S. adults. Some exposure is occurring.
Normal blood lead levels for children are 0-10 µg/dL with 3 being typical.


The following is a partial list of common symptoms of lead poisoning, and symptoms that appear in any individual will vary. Furthermore, a lead level that produces only moderate problems in one individual may prove lethal to another:
1. Loss of memory, and difficulty in concentration. This is frequently the first symptom seen.
2. Fatigue. This can become profound and incapacitating.
3. Irritability and aggressiveness.
4. Loss of sexual interest. Impotence.
5. Insomnia. (Which greatly complicates the fatigue.)
6. Depression.
7. Headaches.
8. Neurological symptoms, such as hand twitching.
9. Encephalopathy. This is the medical term for major brain dysfunction (actually, all of the above are symptoms of central nervous system problems). This can manifest itself as loss of function or paralysis in a limb, confusion, disorientation, loss of coordination, or the symptoms of several forms of insanity. (Lead poisoning probably contributed to the insanity of several of the Roman Ceasars, and contributed to the fall of the empire. The Roman upper classes boiled their wine in lead-lined pots. This sweetened the wine, and made it resistant to souring by yeast. Bones recovered from graves of Roman nobility have shown phenomenal lead contents.)
10. Elevated blood pressure.
11. Digestive difficulties and abdominal pains.
12. Weight loss.
13. Joint pains, particularly in the joints of the long bones, like the wrists.
14. Anemia.
15. In women, menstrual irregularity and decreased fertility. (Again, lead poisoning may have been responsible for the documented dramatic decrease in fertility among the Roman nobility and upper classes.)
16. Kidney damage and/or liver damage.
17. Sore or bleeding gums around the margin of the gum and tooth.
18. In children, retarded intellectual development, behavioral problems, as well as most of the other problems listed above.
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Old January 21, 2012, 08:25 AM   #5
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It should also be mentioned that vitamin C helps flush small amounts of lead from the body. If you shoot indoors, some doctors recommend 500-1000mg/day.
Sometimes it’s nice not to destroy the world for a change.
--Randall Munroe
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Old January 21, 2012, 09:02 AM   #6
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I've only shot at an indoor range a few times. I don't plan on going back.

I had the best little range as a kid out in the country. It was so enjoyable, i'd usually just shoot a little, then walk around in the prairie grass and forest, along the creek.

The Army ranges were enjoyable in a different way as they were pretty fun with popup targets out to 300 or 500m, very organized and safe.

I've shot at an indoor range about 2-3 times now and it's just gross. I guess it's a decent one, nice enough staff and reasonably clean, I feel the fans so I suppose they have adequate ventilation. It's just not an enjoyable experience at all. I'm done going there.

Going to join one of the big ranges out in the country.

Last edited by checkmyswag; January 21, 2012 at 10:08 AM.
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Old January 21, 2012, 09:31 AM   #7
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Answer: yes, be concerned.
A proper range has good ventilation and pulls fresh air from behind the shooter and out some where down range.
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Old January 21, 2012, 09:35 AM   #8
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Wow. I guess the farm boys are gone forever.

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Old January 21, 2012, 11:55 AM   #9
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What farm boys? You lost me.

Meanwhile, I'll worry about indoor ranges as soon as I finish burning 96 years worth of paint off my house shutters. I've finished 6 of the 8 on the front side. That reminds me, I need to order some shutter dogs.

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Old January 21, 2012, 02:05 PM   #10
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Farms=dust. Lead is kinda heavy, remember? To be airborne, the micro particles would have to be aloft in a carrier gas the same weight or lighter than oxygen. That's why they have lead traps in the ends of the lanes. The expelled combustive gases from fired cartridges are what you're breathing. Sulfur in the nitro mixture stays with you for a while, but I doubt if any conclusive tests have been conducted on a new sport like indoor shooting.

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Old January 21, 2012, 02:59 PM   #11
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However...source #3 above is by FAR the BIGGEST CONTRIBUTOR to lead ingestion by shooters. (It's something like 10 times greater than the next highest source!!)
small pistol primers do not contain led stypenate. hes the non toxic stamp and the switch on 45 acp rounds to the small pistol primers. its to conform to exposed lead and lead free ammo for indoor ranges.
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Old January 21, 2012, 03:04 PM   #12
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Article II GunWorld just opened in Lombard, and they had some significant delays due to having to put in fairly beefy ventalation systems and the clean air requirments that they had to meet.

I will say it's a clean range to breath in.

When they were still waiting for the village to approve their permit, I talked to Barry the owner and I mentioned to him that I had gone shooting in McHenry and the air was so smoky - I could barley see my target past 25'. What Barry told me was that ranges only have to meet the standards that were in existence at the time they were built. So when Barry relocated from Bensenville to Lombard - he had to invest way more in the ventalation system than he ever spent building his previous range in Bensonville.

I used to shoot at JR's in Aurora - and I had a pretty bad gun powder taste in my mouth for days, until I found a regimin that made it go away.
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Old January 22, 2012, 04:25 AM   #13
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I can tell you that burning off a bit of leftover rifle or pistol powder will set off my CO detector in a hurry.
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Old January 22, 2012, 09:31 AM   #14
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"Farms=dust. Lead is kinda heavy, remember? To be airborne, the micro particles would have to be aloft in a carrier gas the same weight or lighter than oxygen. That's why they have lead traps in the ends of the lanes. The expelled combustive gases from fired cartridges are what you're breathing. Sulfur in the nitro mixture stays with you for a while, but I doubt if any conclusive tests have been conducted on a new sport like indoor shooting."

Mercury is heavy too, yet when you burn coal it and other heavy metals go airborne well enough to make it into fish hundreds of miles away; this is why children and pregnant women must now limit intake of large predatory fish (ie tuna, swordfish). It can and has led to mercury poisoning.

Lead that has been put into a hot, gaseous form by being stripped off a bullet during the heat of a shot does not just drop to the floor like a rock.
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Old January 22, 2012, 05:02 PM   #15
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I'd just be happy with a cheap ten dollar box fan mounted behind me off the ceiling that I could turn on to provide some air movement.

Most I've ever gone to have no air movement at all.
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Old January 22, 2012, 05:19 PM   #16
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It's my opinion that if an indoor range is exchanging enough air, it's going to be almost the same temperature in the range as outside. Otherwise heating or AC costs are going to be too high for me to pay the range fees. Basically, it's only going to be comfortable in the store/showroom/office area in the summer and winter.

So, to me, an indoor range only offers protection from wind and precipitation, and that does help.

The range I'm a member of has radiant heaters in the lanes.
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Old January 24, 2012, 11:53 PM   #17
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There are two somewhat similar indoor ranges in my area. At one of them I can shoot for a couple of hours and leave feeling pretty decent. At the other, after putting 50 rounds downrange, I leave feeling like I've been inhaling smoke.

I can't tell the difference while I'm at the range, but there must be a significant difference in the ventilation at the two ranges.
small pistol primers do not contain led stypenate.
I don't know where you got that information, but they certainly do in the general case. It's possible to purchase ammunition specifically made with non-toxic primers and that ammunition will be clearly labeled as such. For the most part, unless the label states otherwise, all primers have lead compounds in them.
if any conclusive tests have been conducted on a new sport like indoor shooting.
I've seen the results of some testing (seems like it was from an article available online) which compared the lead found in shooter's blood samples to determine if it originated from the primers or the bullets. The primers were the main source.
Did you know that there is a TEXAS State Rifle Association?
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Old January 27, 2012, 04:11 PM   #18
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Having dealt with lead in various forms, fume, ingot and powder in industrial settings I can assure that airborne lead is a siginificant inhalation hazard.

high blood lead levels should be dealt with by a qualified Industrial Health Professional.

A properly designed indoor range should have a ventilation system which sweeps the air from behind the shooters, toward the target, and exit the range above and behind the bullet trap.

For those of you who are intrested in building an indoor range you should consult an Industrial Hygienist. The ACIGH has a design standard for Indoor firing ranges.
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