Welcome to the SDMB, and thank you for posting your comment.
Please include a link to Cecil’s column if it’s on the straight dope web site.
To include a link, it can be as simple as including the web page location in your post (make sure there is a space before and after the text of the URL).
Note, also that the Geneva accord would hardly cause any “legal problems for the CIA”. 1st, we did not sign it. 2. Police agencies are exempt, they routinely use hollowpoints in their guns. Note also that superdense ceramics show up almost as clearly as metals on xrays (thats why you can see your bones, guys). As for metal detectors, why would LEAD bullets set them off?
When an article makes that many errors, I assume it is entirely BS.
Well, LEAD bullets would set off a metal detector becuse LEAD is a metal. What they’re actually testing for is conductive materials, I believe, using the current induced by a magnetic field. Lead isn’t a great conductor, as metals go, but I’m sure it’d show up, if you had your detector set right. Ceramics, on the other hand, even ultra-dense ones, are generally insulators, and hence would be invisible to a metal detector.
Note, of course, that this in no way eliminates the possibility that the article in question is BS.
I know lead is a metal, but as a rather non-conductive metal you would need a lot to set off a metal detector, depending on sensitivity. “metal detectors” do not detect “metal” per se, just the differences in conductivity.
Ceramics, of course, would not set off a metal detector, but would show up on an xray very nicely. As would lead bullets, of course, but so would ceramic or aluminum. Aluminum bullets would be real crappy, and would set off a metal detector better than lead.
Never mind trying to smuggle lead past a metal detector. Many detectors have trouble enough with steel weapons. An acquaintance of mine who works as a U.S. Customs inspector has–more than once–walked right through a metal detector at an airport with his duty weapon under his jacket and the detector never made a peep. At least once, upon noticing this problem, he approached the security folks (with Customs badge clearly displayed and informed them that he had a gun on him and that the metal detector didn’t catch it.
The response? “Yeah–that happens a lot.”
This really gives me confidence in our heroic, strong-jawed security drones. (Not that I think turning our airports in miniature Iron Curtain embassies is a worthwhile endeavor in the first place.)
The detectors can be set with varying degrees of sensitivity. I have a keyring with a large metal ring on it. It will always set off certain airport detectors, but in other cities, no problem. I asked about it once and they explained it a matter of how it's set.
Set it sensitive and you're more likely to catch a weapon, but also more likely to have trouble with finding the stray bit of metal on somebody. (Imagine what would happen if you made it really sensitive--so it reacted to underwire bras!)
One observation on sensitivity, admittedly based on a small sampling: The big international airports (even when taking domestic flights) tend to have more sensitive detectors.