Study Links Rifle Ammunition To Wild Fires

BY Herschel Smith
2 years, 11 months ago

Or so they say:

A study by the U.S. Forest Service has concluded rifle ammunition may be to blame for wildfires across the west.

The Forest Service commissioned a research team based in Montana to investigate the link between fires and rifle ammunition, after several reports cited Utah wildfires caused by bullets during 2012.

The study started last year with the first test run in September. Scientists tested 16 different bullets composed of steel, copper and lead, totaling 469 rounds fired.

“We designed an apparatus that consisted of a steel deflector plate and a box at the bottom called a ‘collector box’ that we could fill with various materials that could be tested for ignition,” said research forester Mark Finney.

They found once certain bullets fragmented, they would ignite the moss in the collector box.

“The bullet by itself isn’t very hot until it strikes something very solid,” Finney said. “The process of deforming it….is what heats it up.”

Finney said this test is the first to provide proof rifle ammunition could be the cause of fires. So far, the team has only tested bullets in a controlled environment, which emulated dry conditions.

7NEWS Reporter Lindsey Sablan asked Finney if the research being done may one day have an affect on shooters on federal land. Finney said he was not responsible for policy change but said “I would hope people would just consider ignitions from target shootings as one possibility to watch out for.”

In June of this summer, the Bureau of Land Management in Utah banned “steel-core or steel-jacketed bullets” along with exploding targets and tracer bullets. Colorado BLM Director of Communications Steven Hall said they “certainly took a look at it.” He went on to say they chose not to impose an outright ban this summer because, “we have different situation and conditions in Colorado.”

The full report is found here.  It seems to me that they focused very heavily on steel core ammunition, which most shooters don’t shoot down the barrels of finer weapons (I understand the Eastern Bloc ammunition shot from Mosin Nagants is different, and I also know that we can purchase green tip ammunition for AR-15s, which I wouldn’t shoot for target practice anyway).

Nonetheless, I read some of the report, but I noticed that of the four authors, not a single one is a registered professional engineer, and so the work lacks a PE seal.  Thus, I see no reason whatsoever to read any further or lend any credibility to the report.

You can do with it what you want.



  • daniel smith

    The countless rounds I have fired on ranges, probably more than most, I have noticed only tracer rounds ignite foliage. So every 4th round is a tracer, lets say I’ve fired over 400,000 rounds that were not tracer rounds , and not one time did any of the rounds ignite foliage.

  • FredB

    I have never seen a steel plate hanging in a forest.

  • Dan

    Pseudoscience…..just a biased effort to fool the useful idiots into supporting
    more gun control….”to save the forests”. Fires come from a lot is sources…
    guns are a minor one compared to OHV’s, illegal campfires, smoking, chainsaws
    and a lot of other human activity.

  • Paul B

    Pseudoscience….It is what brought us global warming. The ones that knew better still trusted it as they assumed scientific method was used. The rest of us knew it was a scam as they had just spent a decade telling us the mammoth was due to return.

    To bad Marc Twain does not live in this venue, he would have a field day.

  • Chuck

    I think if we could just ban lightning and dead trees we could really lick this forest fire problem.

  • Will

    We definitely started some grass fires on Pendleton with an m249 SAW but a belt fed with tracers is far different than this. Sounds ridiculous.

    I like Chuck’s idea though, ban lighting for the children!

  • Texas Topcat

    This study is not “good enough” to be useful for any meaningful uses. Now, I think that the topic deserves more attention. The issue is about indoor ranges also. So, many ranges just ban any ammo that is attracted by a magnet. Now, questions like “Bi-Metal” bullet vs “Steel Jacket” vs “Plated” vs “Copper Jacket” have merrit. I can see no way that the case being steel could make a difference. Also, do the same relationships hold for handgun ammo? We should really have more evidence and scientific studies rather than just a set of “stories”. And yes, certified engineers and peer review are necessary. The study needs to be done by knowledgeable and non-bias groups. Also, the same results must be obtainable by multiple groups.

  • http://www.captainsjournal.com/ Herschel Smith

    Given that ammunition doesn’t really pose a significant risk compared to, say, lightning, I don’t think it deserves much more attention.

    Besides, the problem is a problem mostly because we don’t have fires to begin with. There is undergrowth and dead fall to burn. These fires needs to happen, and that’s why we have controlled burns. Controlled burns to destroy dead fall are the very best way to give attention to the problem.

    One more point. Engineers don’t get “certified.” They get a license to practice engineering in the state within which they practice. It’s a legal term and concept. That’s a critical distinction. Sealing a work product with your PE seal means that you’re taking personal ownership – to the point of legal liability – vouching for the accuracy, and providing warrantee of the viability and veracity of said work product, it having been performed under your responsible charge, completely and totally.

    See the difference? Understand why someone who claims himself to be an “expert” or “scientist” is irrelevant nonsense? An engineer who screws up a work product can lose his livelihood, money, license, company, and professional reputation. Let me see a PE seal and I’ll read this document with new eyes. Until then, it’s tinder for a fire.

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You are currently reading "Study Links Rifle Ammunition To Wild Fires", entry #11218 on The Captain's Journal.

This article is filed under the category(s) Ammunition,Guns,Guns In National Parks and was published September 10th, 2013 by Herschel Smith.

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