Do you have Depleted Uranium in your collection?

Admin, I put this in the “General Discussion” category because I thought it warranted discussion about having D.U. in a collection, if it belongs in B/S/T it can be moved.

Saw this item at Keep Shooting and I wondered if it would have a usefulness among any of us. I like collecting ordinance, so it came to mind. I thought I had heard the every item of D.U. in the government inventory is considered theirs forever(?), but sometimes stuff slips through the cracks and we collectors might inadvertently come to have it in our collections.

I only know what I read about it on their website so there is no guarantee as to how well it functions.
The one review that is has says the owner just added 2 “D” batteries and it worked properly.

The thing is that Geiger counters have to be calibrated regularly.
Something none of us can do or I assume afford if there would be a way to do (let alone with obsolete or foreign technology).

If DU is considered to be govt property for ever a government must be able first to prove that the item in question ever was possessed by a govt entity (same goes also for basically all items some eager clerks try to claim being govt property and attempt to jail owners of items in question). This is almost imposssible unless in a communist state and even there when such an item is foreign made it can not be govt even there.

My concern would be more about possessing potentially radioactive material on which there most likely in any country in the world is a separate and special field of legistation.
Here the first point would be what radioation an item must yield in order to be covered by the regarding law(s) of a country.

And here it may become inconvenient for some ordnance collectors.
As we use to say in Germany: do not poke sleeping dogs! I can not speak for other countries but in Germany you better do not have DU cores or thelike unless you like adventures.

I’ll be the first to acknowledge that I know little to nothing about Geiger counters and radioactive materials. I do understand that these meters need to be calibrated to get accurate readings. When determining whether or not a suspected round is D.U. I was thinking about just finding the presence of radioactivity, not necessarily “how much” there is.

I don’t know if materials can become radioactive by just being near a radioactive material i.e. could steel target practice rounds become radioactive by being stored next to D.U. rounds?

I know that some Geiger counters can pick up trace amounts – I saw one in a James Bond movie get a reading from the luminous hands on his watch.☺ Kidding aside – I was just thinking about seeing if there was “some” radioactivity in a round and therefore indicating that you have D.U.

As I said earlier there is a possibility that a collector might get, and not know that they have, a D.U. round.

I have a box


Gyrojet, would you be so kind and share the head stamp? Thx Tomas

Natural Uranium is approx. 0.72 % U-235, the remainder being primarily U-238, and a pinch of U-234. Depleted uranium has about 60% of the U-235 found in natural Uranium.

Uranium emits Alpha particles, Beta particles, and Gamma radiation.
Alpha Particles won’t penetrate a sheet of paper but can be dangerous if the material producing them is inhaled or ingested.

Beta Particles are a little more energetic and are usually stopped by the outer layer of skin.

Gamma radiation can be very penetrating depending on its energy level. High density materials are the norm for shielding.

As was pointed out a Geiger counter needs to be calibrated periodically. A normal calibration source for this purpose is Cesium Cs-137. The trouble with using a military or surplus Civil Defense counter is that their measurement detection levels are usually set too high to be useful for this purpose (their primary purpose being to measure post nuclear detonation dose) and the lack of proper calibration source. (Also: in general, Geiger counters have a low efficiency for Alphas)

D.U. rounds will not activate materials (i.e. make radioactive). They do not emit neutrons nor are they a high voltage device.

Another thing to keep in mind when measuring radioactivity is that one needs to subtract the natural background radiation level which varies with altitude and geography. A background measurement is done far enough away from the material of interest to prevent the readings from being influenced. The activity of material is then measured and the background level subtracted leaving the true activity of the material.

As to the D.U. rounds in question (rifle caliber). I store mine in clear plastic within a metal drawer.


To add to what has said already, 90+% of geiger counters cant detect DU rounds, most surplus counters are worthless (for many reasons including out of spec) unless seriously high levels of radiation. You can find new modern digital detectors for under $100 that do a much better job. Also DU isn’t restricted in the US, many laboratories, colleges, schools etc have samples. It only becomes restricted when over a certain quantity, which has changed over the years, I dont know what it is right now but it is more than most people would have in a collection. DU rounds pose very very little danger, unless it is ingested or inhaled, usually only if it breaks into small peices/particles or dust. It can not contaminate other metal or objects either if it remains solid, if dust or small particles come off it it will contaminate the surface of whatever it touches but is easily cleaned. Many collectors have examples of DU rounds in their collection, most however have a dummy steel core and not a real DU core. Real DU cored rounds are much harder to find and much more valuable. XRF can be used to figure out if you have DU, also some electromagnetic test, I cant remember off the top of my head right now what it’s called, will have to ask a friend.

There was a fantastic presentation at SLICS2019 about Woodin Lab cleanup, and DU was covered.

IIRC, it corrodes at 10x the rate of steel, creates oxides rapidly and is harmful if inhaled or ingested. If it’ uncoated, it’s nasty after a short period of time. If it’s factory coated and that is intact, you are good. If it’s not, then clear paint/nailpolish and keeping it in a plastic sealed tube is the best you can do.Do not handle it.

The US .mil/.gov, when they consider something theirs, will ruin you to get it, even if you legit own it.

The presenter’s story about having the DU properly packaged and stored in his shed and the unconcerned response by everyone who didn’t want it, then the over the top response by those who did was funny but in reality, not funny.

Recent reading about the cleanup efforts of ranges where they fired the davy crockett spotter rounds is eye opening to govt responses to the stuff.

In Belgium, all DUstuff is prohibited to civilians by law.

And in Norway, the Directorate of Radiation and Nuclear Safety would be on your ass quicker than you can say “tritium illuminated reticle”.


I was one of the four guys who scrubbed the Woodin Laboratory Collection. Because of Jeff Osborne, his EOD-Unit-Commanding-Officer son, and Jeff’s assistant, I learned a ton about DU and other things. CaptainsSurplus is right. We used a small battery-powered device called a “Radiac” that cost in the neighborhood of $100, not to determine the level of radiation so much, but to determine its presence. Putting it close to an AP round with a sabot that had a DU core would cause it to click loud and fast. I learned that DU is a strong carcinogenic and that if the uranium oxide dust is breathed, it is basically impossible to get out of your body. Cancer will kill you, not radiation from DU. We wore proper masks with big filters several times during the work, especially when oxidized DU dust from bare AP cores was encountered. And I lost my brand new ShopVac vacuum cleaner that we used to remove the DU dust. Jeff bagged it several times, taped it closed all over, and later disposed of it properly. As others above said, if you have a DUDS (Depleted Uranium Discarding Sabot) projectile that is completely encapsulated, no particular safety problem. An interesting project.


As noted above, the key thing with Alpha and Beta particles is not to get them inside you. Wear protective respirators and decontaminate after being exposed leaving the respirators on until done. In my field, (firefighter, haz-mat team) we measure radiation units as REM. Normal background radiation is usually around 15 micro-rem. Most common sources emit in the micro rem range, which I believe DU does. Most Civil Defense detectors only measure in the milli-rem and rem ranges. As an example, a US employee can only have a lifetime accumulate dose of 5 rem. Nuclear events are way in the rem range. If I remember correctly, the US military gives a solider 24 hours of fighting time with a 2500 rem dose. Radiation protection is - time, distance and shielding. The energy increases on an exponential factor for distance.

I have a surplus Air Force Geiger counter that I bought at a gun show, as surplus from Hill AFB in Utah. I had it properly calibrated by a nuclear plant technician. He found that that particular meter worked perfectly and was well within standards.

There also comes up a question as to whether or not DU is considered as NORM (Naturally Occurring Radioactive Material). NORM is NOT regulated, at all. If you filtered water enough to get a REM (Roetgen Equivalent Man) of radioactivity (a LOT of NORM), it is not regulated by anyone (in the US).
An example of NORM are the lantern mantles that Coleman used to make for their gas lanterns. They changed the formulation several years ago, but they used to be quite radioactive due to using the sand from a particular South American beach. The sand was radioactive enough that when concentrated into the mantle fabric it was quite radioactive. When I worked at Palo Verde Nuclear Station in Arizona, I borrowed one of the plant’s currently calibrated meters and took it to a sporting goods store in Phoenix. I asked the manager if I could take readings on his Coleman lantern mantles. He was glad to have me do so, as he had heard that they were radioactive. He had a large end-of-aisle rack full of them, from ankle height to shoulder high and as wide as a person. They were ten to twenty deep on each peg. They read, in the middle of the display, 2 mRem per hour. At commercial and DOE sites, that would require roping off the display as a “Radiation Area”. But because it was NORM (see below), nothing of any sort was required. Now, 2 mR/hr is not a hazardous level by itself. However, if ingested, it would be nasty. New mantles have Alpha, Beta and Gamma radiation. I also took a package of them while I was working at TMI (Three Mile Island) and read them to determine how much of each type was in them. I was rather taken aback. I determined that from now on, when I changed a lantern mantle, that it was o.k. to put a new one on, but wash the hands afterward. However, for a used mantle, I decided to wear disposable gloves and, very, very carefully put it into a plastic bag and seal it. And not on a windy day.

I was a Health Physicist at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation until about 10 years ago. Hanford was the place that made the bomb for Nagasaki. We were working to clean it up.


Theron, very interesting!
Thank you for widening my horizon on this!

Slightly off-topic, but how would you explain radiation to someone with little to no scientific knowledge?

I work with a welder who once asked me “what do they actually mean when they say a piece of metal is radiocative”?

At a previous employer he had been told not to grind down TIG welding electrodes as certain types were radioactive and the dust could be inhaled or get into an eye. He said he didn’t really understand what the danger was.

He said he had heard of radiation used in the “atom bomb”. He was actually unaware that atomic bombs were dropped on Japan in 1945. He had always thought that the atom bomb was a super weapon that would destroy the entire world if it was used.

This is the type of detector that Mel mentioned. It detects beta and gamma radiation, but since the detector tube is inside the plastic housing it does not detect alpha particles (a sheet of paper is enough to block alpha radiation).

For reference, mine is showing 25 counts per minute (CPM)/ 0.14 microSieverts per hour (μSv/h) for background radiation right now. On a recent flight at cruising altitude I measured 255 CPM/1.7 μSv/h. A 7.62mm NATO DUDS round touching the detector registers about 450 CPM/3.0 μSv/h, so roughly 2x the dose rate from a commercial flight (i.e. not much). Moving the DUDS round 12 inches from the detector returns the reading to background levels.

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Falcon - a simplified explanation of the danger could go something like this:

Radiation hurts you by either killing cells in your body or by damaging your DNA so that new cells aren’t built correctly (think cancer). There are different kinds of damaging radiation: alpha and beta radiation is easy to block whereas gamma radiation penetrates a lot farther.

Think of your body as a china shop and your cells/DNA as the plates and glasses in the shop.

Alpha radiation would be like someone standing outside throwing Nerf balls at the walls. The balls would just bounce off and none of the china would be damaged.

Beta radiation would be like someone throwing baseballs at the shop. The impact might knock some plates off of shelves touching the outside wall, but most of the china would be safe.

Gamma radiation would be like shooting cannon balls at the shop - they would go right through and do a lot of damage.

Now let’s say that you let the guys throwing the Nerf balls and baseballs inside the shop. They would then be able to break a lot of stuff and wreak havoc. This is analogous to why it’s bad to inhale or ingest dust from things like depleted uranium or TIG electrodes containing radioactive Thorium. It gives the alpha and beta radiation, which would have otherwise been blocked by your skin, more direct access to damage your cells and DNA.

Why isn’t the store owner shooting back?

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for what it is worth