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lead for Casting bullets


Scrappy

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First off, I'm new to SASS and gearing up for next year.

 

I have been casting 9mm for years and have been using Wheel Weights and alloying lead water pipe for my source lead. 

I heard several different "TYPES" of lead mentioned and was wondering what I need to use for SASS.

I heard mentioned "SOFT" lead and "HARD" lead.... are they the same thing just different lingo for different people?

I'm concerned to get it right since we shoot steel at close range and don't want to cause injury.

I bought my first 500 bullets from Scarlett, and they test very close to the same hardness I'm producing.

 

My question is what is being used form other casters? 

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First off - pure soft lead is 5 Brinnell hardness - good for black powder loads.

 

Wheel weights NOW are about 9 or 10 Brinnell - almost right for low pressure loads like cowboy shooting uses.  That's a "SOFT" lead alloy for pistols.

 

Many commercial casters use from 12 to 16 Brinnell hardness (as if everyone is going to shoot loads at magnum velocities).  Good for shipping, too hard (and too much antimony - AKA cost) for good shooting with cowboy loads.  THAT is what I would call "HARD" pistol bullet alloy.

 

COWBOY Smokeless loads work real well at 8 or 9 Brinnell hardness.  Harder works, but you have to get the diameter sized right for your barrel, since harder lead won't be expanded when fired to make a loose fit into a tight fit, while softer lead (8 Brinnell) will bump up at the chamber pressures most cowboy loads make (maybe 8,000 PSI).  That would be what I would call a SOFT alloy - it can be scratched with a thumbnail if you try hard.

 

So, I use about 2/3 WW and 1/3 soft lead and get wonderful cowboy bullets at about 8 or 9 Brinnell, and because they bump up to fill the barrel and grooves, there's no leading with even homemade lube.  I even shoot 9 Brinnell bullets in my .45 auto for Wild Bunch - feed perfectly and no leading. 

 

Many folks have had barrel leading problems when they start out shooting cowboy, and commercial casters are SO prone to sell them hard slugs rather than make sure the bullet diameter fits the groove diameter of the barrel, but those hard commercial bullets really make the leading worse.  This has caused the trend of many folks now shooting polymer coated slugs - they just don't understand that a soft alloy bullet would save them money and prevent leading.   But then, too, they sometimes get tired of cleaning lube out of their seating dies, and a poly coated slug eliminates most of that.

 

So, if you have been making good 9 MM bullets that don't lead the barrel, soften your alloy a bit to get a little softer slug, and you will do fine.

 

good luck, GJ

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1 hour ago, Garrison Joe, SASS #60708 said:

First off - pure soft lead is 5 Brinnell hardness - good for black powder loads.

 

Wheel weights NOW are about 9 or 10 Brinnell - almost right for low pressure loads like cowboy shooting uses.  That's a "SOFT" lead alloy for pistols.

 

Many commercial casters use from 12 to 16 Brinnell hardness (as if everyone is going to shoot loads at magnum velocities).  Good for shipping, too hard (and too much antimony - AKA cost) for good shooting with cowboy loads.  THAT is what I would call "HARD" pistol bullet alloy.

 

COWBOY Smokeless loads work real well at 8 or 9 Brinnell hardness.  Harder works, but you have to get the diameter sized right for your barrel, since harder lead won't be expanded when fired to make a loose fit into a tight fit, while softer lead (8 Brinnell) will bump up at the chamber pressures most cowboy loads make (maybe 8,000 PSI).  That would be what I would call a SOFT alloy - it can be scratched with a thumbnail if you try hard.

 

So, I use about 2/3 WW and 1/3 soft lead and get wonderful cowboy bullets at about 8 or 9 Brinnell, and because they bump up to fill the barrel and grooves, there's no leading with even homemade lube.  I even shoot 9 Brinnell bullets in my .45 auto for Wild Bunch - feed perfectly and no leading. 

 

Many folks have had barrel leading problems when they start out shooting cowboy, and commercial casters are SO prone to sell them hard slugs rather than make sure the bullet diameter fits the groove diameter of the barrel, but those hard commercial bullets really make the leading worse.  This has caused the trend of many folks now shooting polymer coated slugs - they just don't understand that a soft alloy bullet would save them money and prevent leading.   But then, too, they sometimes get tired of cleaning lube out of their seating dies, and a poly coated slug eliminates most of that.

 

So, if you have been making good 9 MM bullets that don't lead the barrel, soften your alloy a bit to get a little softer slug, and you will do fine.

 

good luck, GJ

thanks for the info....i should have mentioned i do powder coat my 9mm and don't use any lube but i do put them through a sizing die (no leading or anything in the barrel), which was my plan after i figured out what alloy i needed to use.

It was recommended to me to use Titegroup powder, but a different member said Titegroup and powder coat don't work well together (no details on what happens) and of course i hear this after buying 4# of powder....

 

What's your thoughts?

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Two years ago, I bought 2000 pounds of lead from a scrap yard for fifty cents a pound - the problem is most of it's in big chunks, some of them easily 200 pounds. Their testing showed it to be 97.83% lead and 1.98% antimony, which should be relatively soft. As such, I water quench my bullets as I cast them, and my old LBT lead hardness tester says they're about 13-14 BHN. I must have tested it without a water drop, but I don't have it in my notes. A chart I found online says a 98% PB/2% SB mix should be around 10.4 without quenching, so the quench is probably unnecessary. Before this, I had a larger supply of even harder stuff, but it's pretty much exhausted after twenty years. I've never noticed a whit of difference at the very short distances we shoot at, nor any leading with any of it.

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Not heard of a problem with TiteGroup and powder coated bullets.  Use good polymer - HyTek I understand is great.

 

For me, poly bullets is just a hassle I don't want to gear up for.   Been shooting conventional lube for 50 years and will keep doing it for the remainder.  Cheaper, faster to make, just as accurate. 

 

good luck, GJ

 

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I have been casting and shooting lead bullets coated with Hi-Tec for years using TiteGroup powder and have not had a problem.  I've used the combination in .44's, .38/.357, 9mm with 0 problems.

 

I have to admit I'm not very diligent about what alloy or hardness I'm using.  Basically if it'll melt, I cast it into bullets.  I do have a supply of pure lead, but only use that for muzzle loader bullets.

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I've been making bullets for all calibers with wheel weights for almost 20 years. No problems. Cast 'em, lube 'em with Lee Alox, size only when needed with Lee bullet size dies. For straight wall cases, lube 'em and shoot 'em. No need to size. I then use a Lee carbide factory crimp die. A Lee tech guy once told me to shoot "bigger is better" for what we do. He said "if it will chamber, shoot it". Keep it simple and save time. 

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I don't really know, but have heard that "powder coat" has silicas in it which would not be good! Go with the "HyTek" polymer coating. JMHO with no real knowledge! ;)

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Sounds to me like the alloy you are presently producing for your 9 mm rounds should work just fine.  However, you don't mention how much soft lead pipe you mix with the wheel weights, but many folks use the wheel weights straight up and adding some soft lead should be a good move for cowboy loads.  I'd try a ratio of about 3 parts wheel weights to 1 part soft lead pipe and see how that goes.  I'd also highly recommend slugging your barrels and sizing your lead bullets.  I know that the Lee manual says sizing lead bullets is not necessary, but I've seen some rather large variations in cast bullets, especially from one of their six bullet, aluminum molds.  Frankly, enough variation to jam up in my sizer die and I'd hate to see what that might do if loaded and shot without sizing!  Good luck and good shooting to you and yours!   

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I started casting with straight wheel weights many years ago when the tire shops would give them away.  357, 44 Magnum, 45 Colt and 45-70.  One very early hot summer day, brother-in-law and I went over to the gunclub pistol backstop and sifted out a Datsun pickup load of lead out of the burm.  Got about 300 lb my half. I still got most of it.  On the farm range, I built bullet traps that recover half or better.  When I got into shooting cap guns again,  I had to buy soft lead from scrap yard.  Years of experience has given me a clue as to what lead is soft vs hard.  

 

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10 hours ago, Garrison Joe, SASS #60708 said:

First off - pure soft lead is 5 Brinnell hardness - good for black powder loads.

 

Wheel weights NOW are about 9 or 10 Brinnell - almost right for low pressure loads like cowboy shooting uses.  That's a "SOFT" lead alloy for pistols.

 

Many commercial casters use from 12 to 16 Brinnell hardness (as if everyone is going to shoot loads at magnum velocities).  Good for shipping, too hard (and too much antimony - AKA cost) for good shooting with cowboy loads.  THAT is what I would call "HARD" pistol bullet alloy.

 

COWBOY Smokeless loads work real well at 8 or 9 Brinnell hardness.  Harder works, but you have to get the diameter sized right for your barrel, since harder lead won't be expanded when fired to make a loose fit into a tight fit, while softer lead (8 Brinnell) will bump up at the chamber pressures most cowboy loads make (maybe 8,000 PSI).  That would be what I would call a SOFT alloy - it can be scratched with a thumbnail if you try hard.

 

So, I use about 2/3 WW and 1/3 soft lead and get wonderful cowboy bullets at about 8 or 9 Brinnell, and because they bump up to fill the barrel and grooves, there's no leading with even homemade lube.  I even shoot 9 Brinnell bullets in my .45 auto for Wild Bunch - feed perfectly and no leading. 

 

Many folks have had barrel leading problems when they start out shooting cowboy, and commercial casters are SO prone to sell them hard slugs rather than make sure the bullet diameter fits the groove diameter of the barrel, but those hard commercial bullets really make the leading worse.  This has caused the trend of many folks now shooting polymer coated slugs - they just don't understand that a soft alloy bullet would save them money and prevent leading.   But then, too, they sometimes get tired of cleaning lube out of their seating dies, and a poly coated slug eliminates most of that.

 

So, if you have been making good 9 MM bullets that don't lead the barrel, soften your alloy a bit to get a little softer slug, and you will do fine.

 

good luck, GJ

 

 

THIS^^^^

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9 hours ago, Scrappy said:

..i should have mentioned i do powder coat my 9mm

Yeah, sometimes details matter a whole bunch.  GJ

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2 hours ago, The Original Lumpy Gritz said:

Today's wheelweights are not lead.

They are Zinc....

Some are zinc, steel, plastic, and others. Last batch I got was 3/4 lead. 

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In my Rugers and Uberti 1873 I shoot up to .361" in 38 and .317" in .32s. Up to .432" in 44s. That's why I called Lee as I really didn't want to mess around sizing them. "If they'll chamber, shoot 'em". That's what I've done ever since with absolutely no issues. Using the Lee carbide factory crimp die will "size" them and true them if necessary in the case. Check your Ruger cylinder throats though as many are undersized. Like Warden said, You're lucky if you get 1/4 of a bucket of lead out of a full bucket these days, mostly steel and zinc. 

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My lead stash is divided into stick on and clip on wheel weights.  Supposedly the stick on are "softer" lead.  For pistols I use a 50/50 mix of stick on and clip on.  For cowboy I tend to use stick on weights because the velocity is so low.  I powdercoat all my bullets though, so it may not matter what the hardness is, within reason at least.  I generally don't shoot my hand cast bullets over 1000 fps in anything, maybe 925 or so in 9mm, and less so in .40 S&W, and generally only with middle of the road loads even if I load them in magnum brass.  I've not chronoed my cowboy ammo but it's probably not over 5-600 fps.

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5 hours ago, Bison Bud said:

Sounds to me like the alloy you are presently producing for your 9 mm rounds should work just fine.  However, you don't mention how much soft lead pipe you mix with the wheel weights, but many folks use the wheel weights straight up and adding some soft lead should be a good move for cowboy loads.  I'd try a ratio of about 3 parts wheel weights to 1 part soft lead pipe and see how that goes.  I'd also highly recommend slugging your barrels and sizing your lead bullets.  I know that the Lee manual says sizing lead bullets is not necessary, but I've seen some rather large variations in cast bullets, especially from one of their six bullet, aluminum molds.  Frankly, enough variation to jam up in my sizer die and I'd hate to see what that might do if loaded and shot without sizing!  Good luck and good shooting to you and yours!   

For my 9MM I been using straight wheel weights and water quench, been tinkering with lead water pipe I alloy to make harder since i can get lots of water pipe free. i will try to mix WW with Pipe and see how it turns out.

 

thanks

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thanks for all the tips, The WW i get are from school busses (work for a school district) and are still "lead" they are happy to give them to me since they were paying to dispose of them.

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I tried wheel weights once 3 years ago. I live in small town and friend in tire store gave me about 100lbs. The identification and separation process was not worth it in MHO. Somehow Zink got into my all purpose mystery lead pot. (range lead 12 BHN) I had to discard about 20+ lbs and never did get pot right so got new pot. I did a posting here a few months ago about my lead problem. I felt I was in the ‘hot cottage cheese’ business. I guess the message I’m putting out is the experience and knowledge on this site is worth far more that the member fees. I believe it is priceless and when the group talks I listen and take to heart. I have enough range lead to last a life time and I buy pure lead and 20/1. Buffalo seems to have best deals.

True Story: We have a scrap dealer outside of town. I bought 80lbs of fishing weights @.50/lb. His worker showed me their big lead stash. They had got a big steel drum and a fire going under it. They started throwing in scrap lead and kept filling and filling. It is about 40% full of lead. I was told I could have it for a 100 bucks but had to move it myself. It is still sitting there in the desert.

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You have exactly what you need already.  Lots of pipe lead with a little WW thrown in (doesn't need to be a super exact number just casting for yourself you won't be able to tell the difference.  And you already powder coat bullets.  Keep doing that it works fantastic for cowboy loads.

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