Lead fouling on cleaning patch

 What is ZERO Leading?


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 sewer pipe.

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 grooves.



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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 dull chisel.

Zero Leading 9mm Bore

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 before cleaning.

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.

 9mm bore after dry 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 barrel.

9mm Bore after cleaning 

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.


Lead removal patch 























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