US Consumption Of Lead By Product

With the numerous stories including mine regarding the closure of the Heculaneum, MO primary lead smelting facility, I thought this chart would be helpful to put the consumption of lead for ammo into perspective. The chart is from IndexMundi which got it from the US Geological Survey Mineral Resources Program.

For 2010, lead used in shot and bullets comprised 4.6% of the total lead used in the United States. This was down from 5.26% in 2009.

TABLE 5———–
(Metric tons,
lead content)———–
SIC2 code Product 2009 2010
Metal products:
3482 Ammunition, shot and bullets
67,900 65,700
Bearing metals:
35 Machinery except electrical W W
371 Motor vehicles and equipment W W
37 Other transportation equipment W W
Total 1,100 1,230
3351 Brass and bronze, billets and
1,370 1,410
36 Cable covering, power and
(3) (3)
15 Calking lead, building
(3) (3)
Casting metals:
36 Electrical machinery and
371 Motor vehicles and equipment W W
37 Other transportation equipment W W
3443 Nuclear radiation shielding W W
Total 15,900 16,400
Pipes, traps, other extruded
15 Building construction 1,130 990
3443 Storage tanks, process vessels,
(4) (4)
Total 1,130 990
Sheet lead:
15 Building construction 16,300 16,000
3443 Storage tanks, process vessels,
3693 Medical radiation shielding W W
Total 25,400 23,400
15 Building construction W W
Metal cans and shipping
367 Electronic components,
accessories, and other electrical equipment
6,160 6,130
371 Motor vehicles and equipment W W
Total 6,450 6,420
Storage batteries:
3691 Storage battery grids, post, etc. 389,000 478,000
3691 Storage battery oxides 750,000 806,000
Total storage batteries 1,140,000 1,280,000
27 Type metal, printing and allied
(3) (3)
34 Other metal products5 5,790 8,800
Grand total 1,260,000 1,410,000
Other oxides:
285 Paint W W
32 Glass and ceramics products W W
28 Other pigments and chemicals W W
Total 10,100 9,760
Miscellaneous uses 12,200 13,700
Grand total 1,290,000 1,430,000
W Withheld to
avoid disclosing company proprietary data; included in appropriate totals.
1Data are rounded to no more than three significant digits;
may not add to totals shown.
2SIC Standard Industrial Classification.
3Included with -Metal products: Other Metal products.-
4Included with -Metal products: Sheet lead: Building
construction- to avoid disclosing company proprietary data.
5Includes lead consumed in foil, collapsible tubes,
annealing, galvanizing, plating, electrowinning, and fishing

Looking at where raw lead is found, data from the US Geological Survey shows that Australia has the greatest proven reserves of lead. China which has the second largest amount of reserves of lead is actually the largest miner of lead accounting for about half of the world’s yearly production in 2012. The United States has only the 6th largest reserves in the world.

Kurt Hofmann makes an excellent point in his post about the Herculaneum smelter closure. He notes that the possible squeeze in lead for bullets might be felt even more keenly due to the Federal ban on many other materials for use in handgun ammo.

Perhaps, perhaps not, but regardless, the squeeze is likely to be felt quite keenly by gun owners. All the more keenly because of longstanding federal law banning the use of many other materials in the construction of bullets used in “handgun ammunition.” If lead is unavailable/unaffordable (and now verboten, to California hunters), and if a great many other possible bullet materials are illegal, the remaining options are both few and of limited utility.

And what, anyway, is “handgun ammunition,” you ask? Excellent question. Handguns have been built in nearly every caliber that rifles have, including the .50 BMG and the .600 Nitro Express. It seems apparent that any caliber that can be fired from a rifle can also be fired from a handgun, given a shooter with sufficient tolerance for recoil (and, in many cases, for impracticality).

And that means that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives can, if it chooses, ban bullets made with tungsten alloys, steel, brass, etc., in virtually every caliber. It is hardly difficult to imagine the BATFE, especially under an administration like this one, choosing to do precisely that.

And therein lies the rub when it comes to reduced US production of primary lead.

7 thoughts on “US Consumption Of Lead By Product”

  1. The nice thing about lead is that it can be recycled and reused after it is mined the first time. About 5% of the lead is used in ammo. 90% is used in batteries. I work in electric utilities. We replace our power station and substation batteries every 10-20 years. Some of the battery cells contain 200+ lbs of lead, and there are 120 cells in one battery. Every ounce of that 10+ Tons of lead gets recycled, along with the tons of acid. So the need for newly mined lead is lower than you expect.

    That said, please recycle if you can.

    1. I do realize that recycled makes up the majority of the lead on the market – and that is a good thing. Still, if overall demand increases, recycled lead won't be able to satisfy it.

  2. Thanks for this list, we can see where metal products goes, take note that metal production for ammunition goes down from the 67,900 65,700 on years 2009 to 2010. I wonder what happened to war industry.

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