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Have you hear or seen of a lead pellet starting a fire?  


Joined: 3 years ago
Posts: 374
September 20, 2020 15:27:52  

With all the wild fires in the news it got me to wondering if lead pellets hitting a metal target or stone has started a fire. I know that when a target hits a hard object that part of that energy is transformed into heat. It would seem that a light pellet at slow speeds would have less energy to transform and therefore be more safe. 
David Enoch

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Joined: 3 years ago
Posts: 944
September 20, 2020 15:39:11  

Lead? No. Don't give them ammunition.

Steel, like green tip or Russian bi-metal? Yes, but you have to hit something really hard.

In FL for example, the majority of our rock is limestone, and it won't spark appreciably.


There has been a lot of arson on the West Coast. By whom? Who's been burning things for months?

Not shooting enthusiasts.



Nice shirt, BTW.

awilde thanked
Joined: 1 year ago
Posts: 232
September 20, 2020 23:09:45  

No lead will not spark. And pellet guns don't create enough force to .

Joined: 3 years ago
Posts: 944
September 21, 2020 05:59:56  
Posted by: @marflow

and no on the lead 

I derailed the thread, but brought back Mike's answer.


The Forest Service did a big study on this, it looks pretty definitive in regards to conditions.

No point splitting my on-topic post.

Posted by: @gratewhitehuntr


Excerpts from conclusions

" Target materials that are highly resistant to damage would be similar to the steel plates and granite slabs tested here, such as boulders, rocks, or thick metal such as silhouettes. Oblique angles of impact may be important, regardless of target material, to producing larger fragments that would cool more slowly after contacting organic matter.

• Bullet materials clearly affect ignition potential, with steel components and solid copper having the greatest chance of producing hot fragments. We observed only one ignition from lead-core copper jacketed bullets.

• The very rapid particle cooling means the ignitions are more likely nearer the target. Fragment size dis-tribution was not known or controlled, but smaller pieces cool so quickly that they must contact the suitable substrate very rapidly. The distances from a target that ignitions can occur are not determined by the present study.

• Ignitions are observed in the field only when the fire begins to spread. This is probably not when or where ignition actually takes place. The original ignition likely occurs in a material similar to peat, meaning partially decomposed organic matter in-corporated in the surface horizons of the soil – not the vegetation or fuel which carries the spreading fire with visible flames. The process of transition from smoldering incipient ignition to spreading fire may take some time (minutes to days, even weeks) depending on the fuel types and the weather and fuel conditions. Where the target is exposed to wind, a smoldering ignition in litter or duff may be ventilated easily and ignite grasses or surface litter and become visible more quickly than an area sheltered by trees or terrain.

• Consistent with previous research on particle igni-tion, the finding that dry excelsior could be ignited by the large pieces of solid copper bullets suggests that larger particles can start fires more easily, but small particles may require fine-grained or rotten material. This would require further testing beyond this study to determine however

• As with all fire behavior and ignition research, moisture content of the organic material will be an important factor in ignition. Peat moisture contents of 3-5%, air temperatures of 34-49 °C (98-120 °F), and relative humidity of 7 to 16% were necessary to reliably observe ignitions in the experiments. Peat moisture contents above this (perhaps 8%) did not produce ignitions. Field conditions matching the experimental range would imply summer-time temperatures, as well as solar heating of the ground surface and organic matter to produce a drier and warmer microclimate where bullet fragments are deposited."


Joined: 3 years ago
Posts: 59
October 17, 2020 10:15:32  

I think taofledermaus on YouTube has a few videos of lead/brass/aluminum slugs creating a spark when colliding with a thick lead plate when viewed in super slow motion but that's at shotgun velocities

Joined: 3 years ago
Posts: 188
October 17, 2020 11:46:54  

Yep, lots of examples on youtube 😋 

The real question is how many shots it takes! That first one reminds me of the tootsie roll pop commercials.

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Posts: 944
October 17, 2020 16:26:30  

Nominated for POTM!

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Posts: 73
October 17, 2020 19:24:58  

David do you remember Canonhill airgun range? My front yard in Rockwall. Unarguably the birthplace of the still growing DFW airgun movement. When I first started making airgun targets, I made one called dark side of the moon. A steel domed fence post cap. I randomly welded a bunch of slag inside to stop the pellet from coming back at me. The were no street or even city lights out there. One night while testing light gathering quality's of a couple of scopes with the dark side of the moon target, I would catch a glimpse of light (not always but more that a few times). Now commonsense tells you lead will not spark. Real world test proved different. After determining that is was indeed a spark, I put a little gas in the target and was able to ignite it. Not every time, but I was able to ignite gas with the spark from the lead on steel. I have seen it, I have done it and that is the rest of the story. So to answer your question, Yes.

Joined: 3 years ago
Posts: 60
October 18, 2020 03:15:15  

Some "lead" material may not be "pure lead"....enough said.

Joined: 2 years ago
Posts: 254
October 18, 2020 14:08:21  

Can't answer the  base question but I believe Tim did. I do know that a pellet can make a fire bigger when a flammable aerosol can is placed between it and a campfire. Whoa baby! (No, I haven't been to CA in years)

Can't help but wonder if some of those fires weren't caused through foolish means, however. Place is a tinderbox and should be widely known by all in those areas...