I've been conducting an informal (i.e. mental) risk assessment of visiting gun ranges. There are a couple of obvious sources of hazard:
- Injury by bullet
- Hearing loss
- Hot casings flying around
- Gun malfunction
The first one is addressed by the fact that you should assume every gun to be loaded until personally convinced otherwise, and to always keep it pointed at the target area when handling the weapon. The second and third points are addressed by safety measures such as wearing ear and eye protective equipment. The fourth one is kind of a wildcard, because you would assume that people who go shoot guns in a range are professionals with training. This may not always be the case, and statistics of that should be taken into account in the final verdict of the risk assessment, but I will ignore it for the time being.
Suddenly, I was struck by the idea that guns also may pose a respiratory hazard. The smoke that is formed has a distinct smell, possibly combined from the lubricant on the gun and the combusted propellant of the bullet. What exactly is this "gun smoke" made of, and should I be concerned for my health in this regard?
An image to show what this gun smoke can look like (Source: Arizona Sonora News):
There is an additional level of concern when handling even larger payloads than a simple 9 mm bullet, but the documentation may be restricted and as such I do not require an answer to the following question: Are there any requirements for military personnel operating cannons and other large artillery to protect their airways from the fumes?