Pentagon spends millions seeking environmentally friendly bullets

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The Independent US

The Pentagon is spending millions of dollars to develop "environmentally friendly" lead-free bullets for all of the US Armed Forces.

They will still kill you, the thinking seems to be, but the environment will not suffer so much. "[With lead bullets], there is a cost in health, human safety and clean-up," said Bob DiMichele, a spokesman for the US Army's environmental centre. "This is not a fire-and-forget kind of thing. Eventually, we have to pay somebody to go out there and clean up that lead."

The Pentagon is paying Minnesota-based Alliant, the world's largest ammunition maker, $5m (£3.2m) to develop lead-free combat bullets.

This year, the company won a $25m contract from the US Air Force for copper polymer bullets that will not ricochet if fired in an urban area.

The army had been testing unleaded bullets for target ranges. The new bullets would also be for combat. "We want [Alliant] to develop one lead-free bullet that will work all the time," said Mr DiMichele. "One that can kill you or that you can shoot a target with and that's not an environmental hazard. We are talking about green ammunition for pistols, rifles and machine guns."

Mark de Young, Alliant's vice-president, said that finding a lead-free alternative was not straightforward. "It's just harder to make good bullets without lead," he said. "We are trying to replicate the good performance of lead, but what we have is not as good. If lead were not toxic, we would not be having this conversation. It's the best."

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