section details procedures that are believed to account for the manufacturing processes used for .22 caliber rimfire and other bullets by major producers in the United States. (This process is described because .22 caliber rimfire ammunition is one of the most popular ammunition rounds produced.) It has been estimated that 50–75 percent of all ammunition sold in the United States originates with U.S. manufacturers and that about 50 percent of ammunition used by the U.S. military (for example, 9-mm, 7.62-NATO, and 5.56-NATO ammunition) and more than 50 percent of non-U.S. issue military calibers (such as 7.62 × 39 <AK-47> and British .303 <Enfield>) are imported.1,2,3


On the order of 85–118 million pounds of lead is used each year in the production of bullets4 in the United States.5,6 The exact number of each caliber and type of bullet (such as jacketed or hollow point) is not known, but some estimates of production volumes have been provided by the Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers’ Institute7 and are shown in Table 4.1. It is generally acknowledged that .22 caliber bullets are the dominant type sold. Table 4.2 provides some examples of typical bullet masses for various calibers. Using 70 grains (0.16 oz, 4.54 g) as an arbitrarily assumed average bullet mass allows the estimation that the 85–118 million pounds of bullet lead produces about 8.5–11.8 billion bullets per year in the United States.


Figure 4.1 is a simplified flow chart for bullet production and approximate mass of material involved in each of the processed materials. Table 4.3 has been prepared from the general information given in Figure 4.1 to illustrate the approximate number of bullets associated with each of the manufacturing steps or


Greenberg, R. R. March 3, 2003. Verbal communication to committee after visiting the SHOT Show February 13–16, 2003.


Shotgun News Special Interest Publications, Peoria, IL May 20, 2003. A collection of firearms related advertisements for retailers and wholesalers.


CABL also has value for the matching of foreign-produced bullet lead; this value varies according to the lead’s nation of origin and that nation’s lead recycling and manufacturing processes. The analysis of foreign-produced bullets is not discussed in detail in this report.


The committee assumes these numbers include lead for shot as well as bullets.


Biviano, M. B.; Sullivan, D. E.; Wagner, L. A. Total Materials Consumption: An Estimation Methodology and Example Using Lead—A Materials Flow Analysis. USGS Circular: 1183. April, 1999. <>.


Smith, G. R. USGS Minerals Yearbook 2001: Lead. Reston, VA 2001. <>.


Green, K. D. Introduction to the Bullet Manufacturing Process: Committee on Scientific Assessment of Bullet Lead Elemental Composition Comparison, Washington, DC February 3, 2003.

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