Safety First: When We Know Better, We Can Do Better

It seems that our awareness of the long-term effects of shooting are increasing as time goes on, and it’s probably a good time to ask yourself if you are taking all the safety precautions you can be. I can remember heading out to the range and not even using hearing protection if shooting outdoors; but the indoor guys obviously used it, or at least most of them. Shooting glasses became more and more frequently used, at least in circles I was familiar with. Maybe the group I hung around with was just behind everyone else. Now today it is almost unheard of not to wear eye protection and it’s even mandated by many facilities that shooting glasses be worn. One wouldn’t even think about heading out to the range today without ear and eye protection. One of my good friends served in the US Navy and he has told me many times how they were chastised by their superiors if they ever wore hearing protection while shooting. I myself have suffered permanent hearing loss from a rifle blast, not while on the range but in the field when I was guiding a moose hunter. We have all woken up to the dangers applied to our ears from shooting. One only has to see one firearms malfunction where hot gas and fragments blow out and you will be convinced as to the benefits of eye protection.

As a kid with an air rifle, we would spend every available moment in the field, rifle in hand and a mouth full of lead pellets. We never gave it another thought; who thought about lead poisoning? Even in school we still handled mercury with our bare hands. After class, we went straight to lunch without even washing our hands. With our ever-expanding knowledge base, we are learning that repeated exposure to lead and other chemicals can lead to long-term health issues. We are familiar with the label/sticker “known to the State of California to cause…” We have all laughed off those warnings and they have been the basis of several memes and jokes. The dangers of lead and other by-products of shooting we encounter is becoming more and more evident and proper procedures should be followed to minimize long-term health effects.

After a shooting session several years ago, I noticed just how dark and stained my fingers were, so without washing I went into the kitchen and took a piece of white bread and just handled it like I was going to make a sandwich. The immediate transfer of residue from my fingers to the bread was very evident. With some lead removal products out, I began to see the importance of these products. A little basic online research and it was clear that just soap and water or regular wipes may not be enough to remove all the contaminants. Lead is the first contaminant that we think of when it comes to shooters. It is more than just lead that remains on our hands after shooting, and it doesn’t necessarily come from the bullets – a large portion of the contaminates come from the primer and propellant. It is also an oxidized form of this metal that we are dealing with.

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Ordinary soap and water doesn’t rinse away all of the potentially harmful contaminates that end up on our hands after an afternoon of shooting.
Ordinary soap and water doesn’t rinse away all of the potentially harmful contaminates that end up on our hands after an afternoon of shooting.

The specialized Hygenall lead wipes that I have used and researched remove lead and other heavy metals without the use of strong chemicals. The wipes include a product which lifts and carries the particles away from the skin, greatly reducing any chance of them being absorbed into the skin, which may happen with just the use of water or alcohol wipes. The reason for this is that the lead oxide sticks to the skin through a static charge on the skin. Hygenall uses a product that is electrostatically charged opposite to that of the skin, and this assists in lifting the lead particles and others off of the skin and carries it away by way of the wipe material itself.

Next time you are out shooting with friends and family, remember to keep this in mind: whether you are able to pick up some lead wipes or just use the standard, traditional means of soap and water, any washing after exposure is better than nothing. Proper care of ourselves and our children is paramount to future enjoyment and survival of our sport. Go out and enjoy the great outdoors with friends and family, just be safe at every level. If you are teaching a child or mentoring a new shooter, make sure they know what the proper safety equipment is and its proper use.

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