Occasionally loads are described here as producing
ZERO leading. I assume we all know that ZERO leading is
a physical impossibility unless we are shooting jacketed
bullets so what does it mean when a load is described as
producing ZERO leading?
First of all, a description of ZERO leading will be
qualified to a single firearm. A load that produces zero
leading in one gun may turn another gun's bore into a
A zero leading load means that you can shoot it for a
"good long time" without worrying about lead fouling in
the bore. A good long time means 200 or more rounds.
That number is completely arbitrary and chosen because
you really shouldn't let a gun go un-cleaned longer than
that anyway. But on occasion, you may shoot that much on
a single trip to the range.
After shooting 200 rounds, leading may be visible but
not noticeable. The lands and grooves will have sharp
well defined edges with no lead in the corners of the
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This is a Kimber 9mm ( 1911) barrel immediately after
firing 200 rounds of a cast bullet load rated as
producing ZERO leading.
Notice that the only thing visible in this photo is
powder fouling. You can see flakes of powder or fouling
in the chamber and in the bore. The grooves are sharp
and there are no streaks of lead. Lead streaks would be
visible as rough grey marks running lengthwise along the
lands or grooves but most often in the grooves.
At this point, there was no deterioration in accuracy.
At four O'clock and seven O'clock you can see the
rifling lead as well as 9, 11, and 2 O'clock. This is the
lead as in the beginning of the lands, not as in the
lead bullet alloy.
The rifling lead is a very short ramp from the bottom of the groove
to the top of the land. it's purpose is to allow the
land to cut into the bullet gradually more like a knife than a
This photo is the same bore after passing
through a dry cotton patch to remove the powder
granules. The purpose was to show a view with no
residue in which you could get a better view just
how clean the bore was after too hundred rounds and
The interesting thing is that this bore looked
relatively clean to the naked eye but under
magnification, the fouling left in the barrel
stripped off thousands of fibers from the patch and
if anything, it looks dirtier than the bore before
the first patch.
Again, the same bore after cleaning. In this
case, cleaning means two tight fitting patches
dampened with Hoppe's No.9. Dampened means they
would make your finger wet if you squeeze them but
they would not drip.
No lead removal techniques were used to clean this
After the clean photo was taken, I aggressively
use my favorite removal technique to be sure the
barrel was indeed lead free. After a good scrubbing,
this is the total amount of lead that was removed.