Range Clothing (Health related)



I am writing concerning a topic which might or might not be an issue (for some).
The discussion about lead and other hazardous chemicals exposure made me think about how to "treat" my training/range clothes.
In my younger days I would not have given any of this any thought but longevity and health gained a lot of importance for me, especially as injuries are catching up to my ability to perform.

When shooting, I think clothes will be contaminated with powder residue, lead etc.
Even with dry fire/manipulation drills etc. a rifle will probably contaminate clothes with oil and chemical residues.

Currently I wash my range clothes separate from other clothes to avoid cross-contamination.
I am not really sure about clothes which I wear while doing manipulation drills etc. at home.
Often I´ll do weight lifting and add manipulation drills, switching between positions (standing, prone, kneeling) immediately afterwards or to warm up.
For this I usually do not change clothes between workout sets and weapon/range related sets (mainly out of convenience, additionally, I´d just sweat through both sets and would need to wash constantly as I train almost every day).

The questions in this regard are
-how hazardous are the chemicals which might be transferred to the clothing and from the clothing to the skin (I think the main problem is breathing them in; I am not sure about transdermal intake)
-how well are they removed during the washing process reps. is there cross-contamination between clothes if washed together and can this be mitigated be washing separately


Lead is primary- being the most prevalent contamination you contact. Ill offer a quick anecdotal story. Military- unit that shot about 3x a week, in good volume. Post range during clean up brass was by and large collected in hats by individuals and brought to dunnage cans for turn in. Hats were then returned to head and worn essentially non stop.

Fast forward and lead tests were done the whole population because some guys were being diagnosed with low grade lead poisoning. The culprit- transdermal absorption of lead.

Couple of things noted- it’s cumulative- and takes a good bit to get to this level, conversely it takes even longer for your body to divest and filter itself of all of this. Simple things you can do- wear gloves when cleaning weapons, wash your hands with soap post shooting, and yes, change your clothes. Dont put brass in your hat as well. Pretty sure a solid warm wash of dirty clothes will have a good effect as well. Also- indoor ranges are notorious places of high lead levels, especially those with poor ventilation.



I spent close to three years as an RSO / instructor at a military shooting range. Both indoor and outdoor ranges. We had mandatory annual blood checks and I never reached alarming levels. Slightly elevated, yes but not alarming.
I did regularly wash my hands, especially before eating anything. And collecting brass in head gear is no longer allowed, but that was never really my thing.


Regular Member
It's probably obvious that some ammo and some guns are dirtier than others. There's a difference between dry firing a clean Glock in the basement for a few minutes, versus plinking dirty and cheap .22lr for hours versus a whole range day with crew served heavy machine guns.

If I shoot a gun, I always try to wash my hands afterwards. If I've had a day of training at the range, I throw my clothes in the washer and I shower before kissing/hugging wife/kids. I've always tried to separate my range clothes from anyone elses in the family before they go in the washer, just to be careful. But where do you draw the line on reasonable precaution?

Are you contaminating your hunting buddy with a toxic high five after dropping a turkey or buck (I mean, I'm not a high fiver, but hypothetically)? Will you die or sprout a third ear if you eat your lunch after habitually thumbing the retention mechanism on your holster?

Lots of police agencies require their officers to drop in at the range, shoot their qual, and then resume patrol/other duties. Should they be given the opportunity to change clothes and shower first? I don't know, but probably not a bad idea.

Out of an abundance of long overdue precaution (also because I'm lazy and it makes cleanup easier), I've only recently started wearing gloves when cleaning or inspecting weapons. This is after decades of shooting, cleaning, or at the very least, handling weapons daily. That includes long, entire days throughout my late teens and early twenties spent detailing weapons at various USMC armories throughout the world. Not to mention going months without a shower on deployment after shooting and/or weapons maint./ammo handling day in/day out.

If you are only shooting occasionally or doing regular dry fire practice, simply washing your hands afterwards and washing your clothes as you would do normally will be sufficient I think.

I do have a couple of relative, anecdotal stories about lead contamination, but one involves an indoor range with ventilation problems and the other a reloader who was reloading at home in a small space with, again, inadequate ventilation.

I'm not being flippant, but I think it would be really easy to get into Howard Hughes territory here. You could really get into the weeds and talk about the differences in washing machine efficiency, the effectiveness of different hand soaps, etc., but I think so long as you are just washing your clothes and washing your hands like a reasonable human being then you've done your due diligence. If I'm wrong then I'm most definitely already screwed, but so far, so good.


Everything I've seen from best advice, the method of contamination, and those that have figured out how they got a high level is: hygiene. If you smoke, drink on the range, don't wash your hands enough, etc. then you are at higher risk, even outdoors. Organic lead compound vapor in the air isn't so dangerous. Landing on stuff, including your hands, then ingesting that, is quite dangerous.

Reloaders are much higher risk than shooters.

Casting is so high risk they should go ahead and do at least annual checkups forever to monitor it.

I know several folks who had to stop their shooting for a year or two due to lead levels, changed how they approached everything when they came back.

Me: did enough dangerous chemical work back in college* I guess so got used to procedures, and have a below-average lead level when blood tested for it. I don't even use special anti-lead wipes, etc. Just normal hand washing or wipes when in austere environments, and then basic hygiene (don't touch food with dirty hands... is quite enough.

I don't do things like change my clothes, but I also don't wear my outerwear when eating, preparing food, etc, nor do I let the toddler lick my sleeves, so the risk is very low to me

*I did printmaking, spent long periods in a room full of nitric acid vapors, enough I got sick from it, then made them get me a proper-filter respirator, and scrupulously used it from then out.


Thanks for the replies.

A few things to add:
-Antimony is a chemical to watch out for as well.
There have been several SEK-instructors (comparable to SWAT-instructors) who fell severely ill and even died from poisoning in my country.
Tests showed severely elevated lead and antimony-levels
(This lead me to give the issue more scrutiny, as I am an instructor myself, however with lower exposure; usually approx. 20-30 hrs and about 2000-3000 rds, mostly 9mm, and mostly on an indoor range)

-I instruct all my students to wash their hands thoroughly with cold water first, then with hot water later.
(hot water might open the skin to absorb more contaminants)
Taking a shower and changing clothes is not feasible for them, as they often go back to their regular shifts as well.

-I do the same when showering after the range (cold water first, then hot water later)

-while there has been some research into ingestion or breathing, I have not found anything on transdermal intake/clothing other than recommendations to wash clothing separately.
I suspect the amount of contamination and possible cleaning is dependent on the material as well. So I usually don´t wear wool or fleece on the range but rather synthetic clothing with a smooth texture (apart from rip-stop combat pants etc.)
Again there has not been any research done in this regard, although there have been many documented cases of contaminated homes from other workwear which caused the according people and their families to fall ill.

Either way, if anyone can contribute more tipps or research, I highly appreciate it.
I hope the topic gets more attention in general, so people can protect themselves better.


Our SF did some research on contamination through suppressor blowback when someone in a small arms testing committee finally woke up. I don't have the exact numbers but the biggest problem was not lead or antimony. They did advise taking a break every X number of rounds, especially on indoor ranges. I assume SEK has a similar round count in training and uses suppressors?
During testing they did find that the ventilation systems on indoor ranges where inadequate. Basically clouds of contaminants stayed in the air and shooters moved through them during drills. That could also cause extra contamination of clothing. If you spend a lot of time in lingering clouds and keep wearing those clothes I could see why these guys got sick.


With a decent ventilation system, I don't think there's much to worry about. Also, you shouldn't forget about washing your hands and your clothes regularly, and I think that it's enough. Well, you can start taking supplements like full spectrum cbd oil to support your health and make sure that your general well-being is fine, but you just need to do the basics to be alright.
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