It’s no secret that shooting ranges, particularly military training ranges, which consistently see a lot of lead and copper being blasted into the environment, can become pretty contaminated places.
According to this story from fastcoexist.com, the Department of Defense has a plan to use a different kind of ammo for training made of biodegradable composites.
The DOD says the bullets from current training rounds “are either left on the ground surface or several feet underground at the proving ground or tactical range. Components of current training rounds require hundreds of years or more to biodegrade.”
Not only is the proposed bio-friendly ammo biodegradable, there are also plans to load the bullets with seeds that will grow into plants that will naturally break down the composites they are housed in, the story says.
“The seeds will not germinate until they have been in the ground for several months, and animals will be able to eat the plants safely.”
At first, it sounds kind of bizarre—just as bizarre as the idea that the downrange area would look like a wildflower field (until it gets chewed up by fresh projectiles, anyway), but if you think about it, the idea makes a lot of sense.
The story says the idea is far enough along that the DOD is inviting commercial proposals.
There are, of course, some technical hurdles to overcome. The right kind of biodegradable composite would have to be tough enough to handle cycling through a firearm and the high temperatures it would be exposed to when fired, not to mention all the other forces exerted upon it on the way down the barrel and to the target. It would also have to be ballistically similar, if not identical, to the actual ammo individuals would be training to use. Plus they have to hold seeds, and protect those seeds from aforementioned high temperatures. That’s a pretty tall order.
The story also says the DOD is requiring that any contractor would have to concurrently develop the product for use in the commercial sector. The idea is that items that are typically discarded and left on the ground as litter could be made of that biodegradable compound and seed combination, so they rot and turn into plants instead of simply remaining plastic for eons.
Clearly, this kind of tech is a ways off, but the idea is compelling. And aren’t you already thinking about planting a garden in the backyard simply by firing off a few mags?