This is Quirky, but still Green

This may be quirky, but it’s something I know something about.

Bullets, and what makes them tick, ah bang.

When most people think of ‘bullets,’ their mind immediately visualises something like the small collection to the right.

The majority of people don’t think about components.

A bullet has four basic components; the case (usually made from extruded brass), the primer (that contains the sensitive initiator explosive), the propellant (that most people think of as gunpowder, but those days are long gone) and the projectile (usually made of a copper alloy with lead inside, or just a lead alloy).

Cross section showing the four components

Now lead is poisonous, as we know. Each year millions of rounds are fired by hunters, shooting sports clubs and the military; with the military being by far the biggest user. To give you an idea, as a soldier I had annual allotments for training and sport; my allotments amounted to 11,000 rounds (a military term for bullets) per year, admittedly my allotments were big because of my jobs. Now you multiply that by the number of soldiers in the world, we are talking a lot of bullets.

Lead is the biggest problem. All that lead accumulates on firing ranges throughout the world, although responsible users de-lead ranges regularly, mainly because of the possibility of ricochets, not any green ideology, at least not in my day. But recovering the shrapnel was a good source of club funds for shooting clubs.

Then there’s the gases produced by the propellant.

Have a read of this article:

Should armies use lead-free bullets?

Every year millions of lead bullets are fired around the world in combat and at firing ranges. But is there an alternative to using toxic lead?

The idea of a bullet designed both to kill the enemy and be kind to the environment might sound like a macabre joke. In combat, soldiers don’t usually worry about the green credentials of the enemy.

But armies in Scandinavia are so concerned about the pollution caused by lead bullets they’re replacing their entire stock with non-toxic versions. The manufacturers are encouraging the British armed forces to do the same.

But is there really a case to go lead-free?

“If you’re getting killed by a lead bullet or lead-free it doesn’t really matter, but most ammunition is used for training anyway,” explains Urban Oholm, senior vice-president of Swedish arms manufacturer Nammo.

His firm has pioneered the development of “green” ammunition.

“Once you decide that weapons and ammunition is needed in the world as it is today, you have to design them in as environmentally friendly way as possible,” says Oholm.

Lead is toxic and there have been studies that have suggested it can leach from firing ranges into ground water. The US Environmental Protection Agency provides guidelines for firing ranges to avoid lead contamination.

There have also been concerns that gases given off during firing are bad for the health of soldiers, especially to women of child-bearing age. Five per cent of Sweden’s soldiers are female.

In 1995, the Swedish government requested alternative ammunition. Four years later, the first lead-free bullets were delivered. Since then Nammo has made 360 million at its plant on the shores of Lake Vattern in southern Sweden.

To the untrained eye there’s nothing to mark out the green bullets as different, from the pointed, copper-coloured tip, down the shining cartridge to the ridged base.

Lead is toxic and there have been studies that have suggested it can leach from firing ranges into ground water. The US Environmental Protection Agency provides guidelines for firing ranges to avoid lead contamination.

There have also been concerns that gases given off during firing are bad for the health of soldiers, especially to women of child-bearing age. Five per cent of Sweden’s soldiers are female.

In 1995, the Swedish government requested alternative ammunition. Four years later, the first lead-free bullets were delivered. Since then Nammo has made 360 million at its plant on the shores of Lake Vattern in southern Sweden.

To the untrained eye there’s nothing to mark out the green bullets as different, from the pointed, copper-coloured tip, down the shining cartridge to the ridged base.

Read more

Opinion:

From a technical point of view, lead is used for three reasons, firstly it’s easy to work,  second being a very dense material it made the most of the kinetic (stored) energy need to carry the projectile through the air, and thirdly it deformed on impact which enhanced the killing power.

New ‘steel’ bullets, will be harder (more expensive) to produce, have lesser range, and not have the same killing power, leading to more injuries and less death.

The gas emissions, I can’t comment on, because I never studied them. My problem was getting the projectile out of the barrel. The chemical reaction of the explosion and it’s toxic products were not my field, although I can understand that problems exist.

Certainly, the greening of the military, in this sense, makes sense.

I never thought about it before.

Advertisements

4 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Alex Jones on August 7, 2012 at 3:02 pm

    My town of Colchester is an army town, they are firing every day on the firing ranges.

    Like

    Reply

    • >Alex, the same on military ranges where I lived. The regulars during the week, cadets and sports clubs at the weekend, the ranges were non-stop. Then many clubs had their own ranges as well.

      AV

      Like

      Reply

  2. Posted by smallftprints on August 8, 2012 at 8:25 pm

    Wow … it somehow seems perverse to talk about green living and bullets in the same breath. But the reality is that war is very hard on the environment. I never thought about bullets or what they are made of … or that they pollute. Maybe saving the earth should be reason enough to end all wars.

    Like

    Reply

    • >SF, perverse it maybe, but it is nevertheless a fact of life, and a major pollutant. Like you, and many ‘greenie’ types, this aspect of life is little known. It is only when one stops to think that you realise more and more, that all human activities are pollutants, some more grave than others.

      AV

      Like

      Reply

Be green, say something

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: