Environmental Assessment of Small Arms Live Firing – Study of Gaseous and Particulate Residues


  1. Brochu, S.
  2. Poulin, I.
  3. Faucher, D.
  4. Diaz, E.
  5. Walsh, M.R.
Corporate Authors
Defence R&D Canada - Valcartier, Valcartier QUE (CAN)
Small arms training is an important military activity of the Canadian Forces and the U.S. Army, and contributes to the accumulation of residues on the training areas. In the present work, the amount of unburned energetic residues deposited per round was estimated for five calibers (9 mm, 7.62 mm, 5.56 mm, 0.50 and 0.338) and nine weapons (Browning and Sig Sauer pistols, rifle C7, carbine C8, machine guns C6, C9 and M2HB, and rifles McMillan and Timberwolf). Samples were collected in aluminum containers located on the soil in front of weapons, and three air samples were collected using pumps, monitoring cassettes and sorbent tubes. The percentage of unburned Nitroglycerin (NG) per round varied between 0.001% and 3.90%, and up to 2.03 mg NG per round was deposited. Detectable concentrations of cyanide and acrolein were found in the gaseous emissions of 7.62- and 5.56-mm cartridges. Most particles collected during air sampling were smaller than 1 µm and made mainly of lead or copper. It is important to note that the reported concentrations are not representative of the soldiers’ exposure because the sample was not collected in the breathing zone. These results indicate that the burning efficiency of most small arms is better than mortars, but worse than some artillery rounds, and that the accumulation of NG in the environment is cumulative over years, and probably decades.
Report Number
DRDC-VALCARTIER-SL-2011-526 — Scientific Literature
Date of publication
01 May 2011
Number of Pages
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