How to Avoid Lead Poisoning After Shooting

How to Avoid Lead Poisoning After Shooting
How to Avoid Lead Poisoning After Shooting

Whether you shoot every day, once a week, or once a month, I want to show you how to avoid lead poisoning and explain to you why this is so important. The fact is, far too many shooters are unaware of the dangers of lead, which was proved to me recently when a group I was talking with didn’t even know ammo still contains lead these days.

So first off, let me explain how you’re exposed to lead every time you shoot. Lead is contained in the primer of each round, so when you fire your gun all of the residue and powder from the explosion lands on your hands, face and shirt and you’re essentially covered in lead particles. (It’s even worse if you use lead bullets without a copper jacket.)

In addition, if you clean your firearm when you get home, that firearm is covered in lead dust. When you’re shoving the cleaning rod down the barrel that dust is shooting out of the barrel into your house.

And lastly, if you happen to walk around and pick up your brass after you shoot, then you’re picking up brass covered in lead. And if you put that brass in your pocket or scoop it up in a hat, then you have a pocket or hat covered in lead dust.

So why is this such a big deal?

Well, as I’m sure you’re aware, lead isn’t good for the body. It gets absorbed in the nervous system and kidneys, and causes headaches, muscle pain, loss of appetite, seizures… and every guy’s favorite… impotence.

What’s more, it’s especially dangerous for children to be exposed to lead. Adults absorb about 20% of the lead they ingest, whereas, children absorb over three times that amount… 70% of the lead they ingest.

In fact, when I was with the Agency I knew a guy who’s children were showing developmental problems. He and his family were tested for lead and showed extremely high levels.

What happened is that when he’d get home from the shooting range he would walk all through the house and track lead all over the house from his shoes. Then, he would pick up his children and they’d get lead all over them from the shirt he was wearing.

So here’s what I do to make sure that my family and myself doesn’t get lead poisoning.

1. I have a pair of shoes that are dedicated to the shooting range. I take them off before I even enter my house.

2. When I get home from the range I fully undress in the garage. I take off all of my clothes and put them in the wash.

3. Even though I’ve taken off all of my clothes I still don’t touch my daughter or my wife until I’ve had a chance to shower. When I first get in the shower I wash my face with cold water (hot water causes the pores to open and you’ll absorb more lead.)

4. When I clean my guns, I make sure that I am using cleaning rags underneath and that the lead dust isn’t falling on my carpet. I also make sure I’m alone and that my daughter isn’t anywhere near me. (Obviously, I wouldn’t have anyone around me when I clean guns anyway.)

So from now on when you get home from shooting, please take the proper precautions so you’re not putting yourself, children, or grandchildren at unnecessary risk of lead exposure.

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Jason Hanson is a former CIA Officer and author of The Covert Guide to Concealed Carry. He is also the creator of the Ultimate Concealed Carry Experience, which allows you to take your concealed carry training without leaving home. For full details about this training, please visit Concealed Carry Academy. You can also follow him on Google+ and Twitter.
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Olis Copasetic

I know of several friends that have had higher than normal levels of lead. One guy had actual symptoms. I have always washed my hands after shooting and was careful not to set my range bag on the table at home. These tips seem a little over the top at first read, but if you shoot a lot or just 2 or 3 times a week (at an indoor range) like I do, they are something to consider.

Adelbert Waldron

One of the simplest things we did in Special Forces was use baby wipes after tactical shooting at the range. The work great on the face, hands and for some the ass.


Excellent article, kudos!

Christopher Embardino

i would have never known this at all!! great article!

Bill from Boomhower, Texas

Hey guys, my first post here. I understand all the big deal about lead, however, when I was a kid, I remember my dad having an old brass white gas torch, a ladle, and bullet and sinker molds, and using that stuff in the house. This was back in the ’50s, and I still have all that stuff. I’ve never tried it, but have collected old deformed sinkers, wheel weights, and even some lead plumbing P-traps and clean-outs. Of my many tackle boxes, my live bait box is so heavy a child probably couldn’t pick it up from the weight of the weights. I have .50 cal ammo boxes full of lead, stuff I’ve been collecting since I was a teenager, almost fifty years. I also have a bottle of mercury that was my dad’s. It’s very heavy also, but liquid, and shiny chrome. If you drop or spill any of it, the molecules split it up into many many tiny shiny liquid chrome BBs, some barely visible. If youforcefully shove them back together, they will re-gather into one big puddle of chrome liquid. I never found a use for it, but just didn’t want to throw it away. I also have a lot of lead solder which I’ve kept and used for years. I think the wet-nap is a good idea, also handy when gutting a deer.

Pistol Packing Santa

Just a word of advice. I regularly see guys with alcohol based hand sanitizer at the range, using it to clean their hands after shooting. Although the alcohol is great for killing germs, it does absolutely nothing to remove lead residue from your hands. All they do is kill bacteria and leave it on your hands.

If you want to clean your hands after shooting and there’s no water available, the handy wipes are good. But a better solution might be to carry some of the Gojo type hand cleaners and sanitizers. They float dirt and lead away from your skin and allow it to be wiped off with a towel. from your range bag.


thanks for sharing what a great article

Marry Root

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When I clean my guns, I make sure that I am using cleaning rags underneath and that the lead dust isn’t falling on my carpet.

So your wife knows that you are cleaning your guns over her carpet? 🙂


Or you could just use lead free ammo with lead free primers like winclean




Great article, but honestly…yolo

If someone is going to worry about lead poisoning from their clothes or shoes after firing weapons, then there must be a dozen more things they are fearful of every day.

I go shooting my sniper rifle every 2 weeks or so, and If I’m going to die at 50 because I accumulated too much lead from a Mosin, then so be it. You can’t worry about the smallest things that you can’t entirely control.


Okay, but this is something you can control. You’re just being willfully complacent. If you die at 50 from lead poisoning, then no sympathy from me because you neglected to take simple steps to prevent that from happening.

“I’m not going to stop drunk driving, I have bigger things to worry about”


Thank you for your writing.

Jeremy Thomas

Have you ever heard of Hormesis? Being exposed to trace amounts of lead won’t hurt you. There are old, old men who spent their entire lives shooting and never had issues from it, not that being careful is a bad thing though.

Jakob Milhelm

Even the lowest levels of lead ever recorded in blood tests cause damage to the brain. Levels as low as one 1 µg/dL in the blood reduce the I.Q. of a child by two points, and lower levels cause I.Q. loss, albeit less points are permanently removed.

In the environment which early humans evolved in and around, easily – absorbed lead was very difficult to encounter. Thus, humans adapted to survive and live with virtually no lead in their blood, because the need to develop a bodily mechanism with which to effectively remove it rather than absorb it was not sexually selected for. Human bodies inaccurately recognize lead as some form of calcium or iron, thus absorbing it and trying to utilize it for this purpose, causing poisoning regardless of the dose.

Lead bullets should be banned and every shooter in the U.S. should be provided with compensation for damages by the U.S. Federal government, along with tools for creating their own lead – free and non toxic bullets, while areas currently contaminated with toxic environmental levels of toxic lead absolutely must be safely and reliably decontaminated, or if this is not financially possible either totally quarantined or abated beyond a reasonable doubt for the next 10,000 years.

Jonathan Naef

Was completely unaware of this, in the marine corps they flat out told us to pick up shells and put them in our cover to hold more of them when cleaning up, fucking stupid. Plus I cleaned my rifle all the time and was never encouraged to use gloves or any kind of protective equipment. That is a lot of lead dust