Bismuth or non-lead shot

Help Support Muzzle Loading Forum:

NorthFork

40 Cal.
MLF Supporter
Joined
Aug 26, 2018
Messages
539
Reaction score
358
Yes I've tried bismuth and steel.

Steel causes several issues with black powder arms. First and foremost is the problem of shot that is rather hard. It is not actually steel but soft iron. Nonetheless if you do not use some sort of shot cup you will experience some erosion of the bore in the form of scratches, gouges and just general accelerated wear to the bore. Plastic shotcups tend to melt a tad when blackpowder is used. Second is the issue of proper energy and penetration of game when hunting. Steel is barely adequate in modern high velocity smokeless shotshells. You need to go up 2 sizes in shot to make up for the lack of weight/mass. For example size 4 steel replaces size 6 lead. The larger diameter shot also slows down much quicker than the smaller diameter lead. Steel needs rather high velocity to work effectively. The velocity needed is much higher then any black powder arm can muster. Roughly 1300 to 1500 fps is the normal velocity range for modern smokeless steel shot shells.

Bismuth does not have quite the mass of lead BUT it is close. It is also safe to use in any shot shell barrel, modern or black powder without any sort of a shot cup. While bismuth is harder than lead it is only very slightly harder. You only need to go up one shot size with bismuth. Bismuth patterns and kills virtually just like lead does. I have used bismuth quite a bit with both black powder and smokeless. It really is a very good non-toxic option. The only downside I can think of is that it is very expensive.
 

Historian

36 Cal.
MLF Supporter
Joined
Jan 9, 2013
Messages
325
Reaction score
168
Location
North AL
Nice picture. Know that feeling. I make my own bismuth and shoot it for virtually everything as I do not shoot lead anymore. I use bismuth 4 shot for ducks and 2's and 0 shot which is slightly larger than 1's for geese. You can buy all of these through Roto Metals, Zip Metals or Ballistic Products. Good shooting. Yes Bismuth is an excellent non toxic alternative.
 

Runewolf1973

32 Cal.
Joined
Oct 3, 2018
Messages
119
Reaction score
108
I don't know what bismuth costs, but for something readily available, I was thinking of trying lead free plumbing solder. Everything in Canada costs an arm and a kidney, or you gotta have it shipped from the US.🙄
 
Last edited:

Loyalist Dave

Cannon
MLF Supporter
Joined
Nov 22, 2011
Messages
9,854
Reaction score
3,047
Location
People's Republic of Maryland
I don't know what bismuth costs, but for something readily available, I was thinking of trying lead free plumbing solder. Everything in Canada costs an arm and a kidney, or you gotta have it shipped from the US.🙄
I wouldn't use the solder.
Bismuth is used because it's heavy as well as lead-free, and they add some tin (iirc) to the bismuth to help it pour well and reduce brittleness. The difference between lead and bismuth is 1.56 g/cm3, but the solder that you are speaking of is pretty much tin, and the difference between tin and lead is 4.07 g/cm3, which is more that 2x the difference between bismuth and tin.

So... while you'd get a whole lot more pellets in an ounce of something like #4 shot made from the solder.., The weight of the pellets would be a lot less than bismuth alloy and would shed velocity very fast due to the reduced mass. IF you increased shot size, so say you used BB or even T sized shot to increase the mass, you'd reduce the number of pellets, AND..., you increase the surface area of the pellets which then increases the drag on the pellet as it moves through the air, and so might not gain enough to offset the lightness of the metal.

LD
 

Historian

36 Cal.
MLF Supporter
Joined
Jan 9, 2013
Messages
325
Reaction score
168
Location
North AL
Absolutely. Please try this out first. You can buy all of these through Roto Metals, Zip Metals or Ballistic Products.
My honest opinion not knowing your budget or how much you plan on shooting is to spend the extra cash and make your own. It is not that hard and I could walk you through it. I save about 50% in cost after the initial investment.
 

Runewolf1973

32 Cal.
Joined
Oct 3, 2018
Messages
119
Reaction score
108
I wouldn't use the solder.
Bismuth is used because it's heavy as well as lead-free, and they add some tin (iirc) to the bismuth to help it pour well and reduce brittleness. The difference between lead and bismuth is 1.56 g/cm3, but the solder that you are speaking of is pretty much tin, and the difference between tin and lead is 4.07 g/cm3, which is more that 2x the difference between bismuth and tin.

So... while you'd get a whole lot more pellets in an ounce of something like #4 shot made from the solder.., The weight of the pellets would be a lot less than bismuth alloy and would shed velocity very fast due to the reduced mass. IF you increased shot size, so say you used BB or even T sized shot to increase the mass, you'd reduce the number of pellets, AND..., you increase the surface area of the pellets which then increases the drag on the pellet as it moves through the air, and so might not gain enough to offset the lightness of the metal.

LD
Informative. Thanks!
 

R.J.Bruce

40 Cal
Joined
Apr 10, 2019
Messages
205
Reaction score
267
Historian,
Is there a tutorial thread here on how to make the bismuth shot, and the equipment required to do so?

Thanks
 

Historian

36 Cal.
MLF Supporter
Joined
Jan 9, 2013
Messages
325
Reaction score
168
Location
North AL
R.J.BRUCE,
Can you PM me and I will be glad discuss it with you sir. I will be glad to share all that I know. I do have some pictures somewhere as well which show some of the process I use.
 

Historian

36 Cal.
MLF Supporter
Joined
Jan 9, 2013
Messages
325
Reaction score
168
Location
North AL
Ok, I can do that Gentlemen. Give me 3-4 days to get everything together and take some more pictures and I will do just that. Perhaps I can get Zonie or another moderator to post it permanently in the smoothbore section. Good idea guys. The move to nontoxic shot for everything is swiftly coming whether people like it or not. I have been shooting bismuth for 24 years now and do not miss lead. Stay tuned.
 

R.J.Bruce

40 Cal
Joined
Apr 10, 2019
Messages
205
Reaction score
267
As a side note, I am considering having a flintlock smoothbore built in either .45 or .50 caliber. Inspired by BritSmoothy's posts. It is obvious that such small caliber smoothbores are quite capable, and not to be dismissed lightly, as most American black powder shooters seem to do. Especially, when it comes to using shot in these small smoothbores. As BritSmoothy stated above, his .45 caliber, percussion smoothrifle, is capable of 28 gauge performance. And, with it's 36" long barrel, handles well enough to wing shoot.
 

Historian

36 Cal.
MLF Supporter
Joined
Jan 9, 2013
Messages
325
Reaction score
168
Location
North AL
I agree. I sometimes shoot my father's O/U Stoeger 28 ga. I have say that the 28 ga which is .55 cal is one of the best handling gauge's there is. I have used it for doves and waterfowl hunting. I prefer the 20 gauge first but after that comes the 28 ga.
 

Zonie

Moderator
Staff member
Moderator
MLF Supporter
Joined
Oct 4, 2003
Messages
33,386
Reaction score
7,845
Location
Phoenix, AZ
Ok, I can do that Gentlemen. Give me 3-4 days to get everything together and take some more pictures and I will do just that. Perhaps I can get Zonie or another moderator to post it permanently in the smoothbore section. Good idea guys. The move to nontoxic shot for everything is swiftly coming whether people like it or not. I have been shooting bismuth for 24 years now and do not miss lead. Stay tuned.
By rights, a post about making shot should go in the Shooting Accessories section of the forum.
 

Historian

36 Cal.
MLF Supporter
Joined
Jan 9, 2013
Messages
325
Reaction score
168
Location
North AL
Thank you Zonie. Honestly, it would probably do to have it posted in the Smoothbore area as well as the Shooting Acessories area since loose shot is used in the Smoothbore and is talked about in both those areas of the forum but mostly in the Smoothbore area. At least that is what I am used to seeing. I will leave that up to you. This will be a pretty detailed post with pictures and instructions.
 

Woody Morgan

45 Cal.
MLF Supporter
Joined
Jan 19, 2021
Messages
549
Reaction score
701
Location
The wilds of Central California
Thank you Zonie. Honestly, it would probably do to have it posted in the Smoothbore area as well as the Shooting Acessories area since loose shot is used in the Smoothbore and is talked about in both those areas of the forum but mostly in the Smoothbore area. At least that is what I am used to seeing. I will leave that up to you. This will be a pretty detailed post with pictures and instructions.
Agreed.

wm
 

Grenadier1758

Cannon
Joined
Oct 9, 2004
Messages
7,033
Reaction score
3,987
Location
St. Louis, MO
Maybe as part of the Tables and Useful information in the General Muzzleloading topic. But then, how many people read the general information tables and useful topics? Of course if some of the posters trying to get answers read that section there would be far fewer postings. Especially those on how to remove a stuck ball.
 

Wayne/Al

40 Cal.
Joined
Oct 25, 2004
Messages
194
Reaction score
20
Thank you Zonie. Honestly, it would probably do to have it posted in the Smoothbore area as well as the Shooting Acessories area since loose shot is used in the Smoothbore and is talked about in both those areas of the forum but mostly in the Smoothbore area. At least that is what I am used to seeing. I will leave that up to you. This will be a pretty detailed post with pictures and instructions.
I look forward to seeing your post on making your own bismuth shot. May be worth the investment. Lead is not really cheap these days.
 
Top