Bismuth... Tungsten .. steel

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Kan-do

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This is my very first post .. after looking around and getting off the original theme of what I was looking for and not finding it.. I thought Id just post my question..
Im shooting a french pattern Tullie, 42inch barrel in 20ga.. I was looking for an alternative to lead number 5.. something I could use for squirrel, rabbit and maybe a swat or two at a close wood duck when I have my stamp & permit.. does anyone shoot bismuth or tungsten by chance and what is the verdict? Id rather stay away from steel shot but of you guys say it may work, Im open to trying it. Thanks in advance for your time and consideration. Dont be bashful on any points or ideas please!! I really need some input
 

NorthFork

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I waterfowl hunt so I have some knowledge on this subject.

Steel if allowed to contact your barrel, will damage it. I don't know of any muzzleloading shotgun that is "steel proof". Steel requires you to use plastic shot cups and or mylar wraps in order to protect your barrel. Steel also needs to be driven at higher velocities than lead to be effective. Likely higher velocities than can be generated by a black powder muzzleloader. Steel has less mass than lead. You need to go up two sizes in steel compared to lead for the same terminal performance. Steel however is cheap to purchase.

Tungsten and it's variants are anywhere from nearly as heavy as lead to much heavier than lead. So it's terminal performance is roughly the same and even better than lead. Tungsten and it's variants however are hard. Often times can be harder than the soft iron that steel shot is made from. There is some tungsten that is soft enough not to damage barrels without the use of shot cups or mylar. Tungsten is VERY expensive. You can stay with the same shot size or even go one size smaller with tungsten.

Now we come to bismuth. To me bismuth is the perfect non toxic shot for muzzleloaders (or modern shotguns). Not as light as steel. Not quite as heavy as lead. You need to go up one size with bismuth. If you like #6 lead, use #5 bismuth. Is still very lethal at the slower muzzleloader velocities. Softer than steel or tungsten. It will not damage your barrel. No need for shot cups or mylar. Yet it's hard enough to retain it's shape as it travels down the bore for better patterns. Absolutely non toxic. Old bismuth got a reputation for being brittle. The newer (last decade or so) formulations have more tin mixed in for added malleability. It's the perfect shot material for muzzleloaders, old cartridge shotguns, etc. It is expensive but not quite as bad as tungsten. Rotometals has a great formulation of it for sale. I would suggest bismuth #5 for your usage. I know I said go up one size in shot for bismuth meaning if you currently use lead #5 then you would want #4 bismuth but..........I and a couple fellows I know are using the heck out of #5 bismuth for the same exact game animals and birds and have had GREAT success with it. Hope this helps.
 

Kan-do

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I checked on them about an hour after Grenadier1758 mentioned it but all they seemed to have was #8 & #9... I did a search and midwayUSA had 7lb jugs of 4 & 6 but showed discontinued when I clicked add to cart. The only thing Ive came up with so far is from midsouth shooters supply and they only had a 3lb jug of #6 hevi-shot for $88. Ill keep snooping around and calling till I get some. It also seems alot of placessell china bismuth but they dont have anything but blocks or powder.. Again, much appreciated! I do appreciate it
 

Kan-do

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I went to BPI and like everyone else, they are currently out of stock on pretty much all bismuth... They do have a type of shot that they claim will not hurt a guns barrel. Its ITX- #6 ... From what I read, it should work very well. Its not the #5 lead but close and being no-toxic may work. NorthFork, have you used this shot before? Do you know anything about it? Has anyone else used this in the B.P. guns?
 

Brokennock

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I've been known to cut open shotgun shells to harvest shot from them. Did this to try experimenting with heavier than lead shot. More likely to find boxes of shells on sale than loose shot, and, sometimes smaller local gun shops will have partial boxes for sale that people have brought in for various reasons.
 

cankeney

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I went to BPI and like everyone else, they are currently out of stock on pretty much all bismuth... They do have a type of shot that they claim will not hurt a guns barrel. Its ITX- #6 ... From what I read, it should work very well. Its not the #5 lead but close and being no-toxic may work. NorthFork, have you used this shot before? Do you know anything about it? Has anyone else used this in the B.P. guns?
I have used ITX for duck hunting in my unmentionables for years and have been very happy with its performance. #6 and #4 for ducks, #2 and BB for geese. It used to be cheaper than bismuth, but got more expensive last couple of years. I hope the "bismuth shortage" ends before this fall.
 

Loyalist Dave

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To me bismuth is the perfect non toxic shot for muzzleloaders (or modern shotguns). Not as light as steel. Not quite as heavy as lead. You need to go up one size with bismuth. If you like #6 lead, use #5 bismuth. Is still very lethal at the slower muzzleloader velocities. Softer than steel or tungsten. It will not damage your barrel.
Another vote for #4 Bismuth in a 20 gauge, whether flint tradegun or percussion SxS. :thumb:
Also don't forget turkeys. Now most places allow you to use #4 lead on turkeys. But I like to keep stuff simple. We're only talkin' 'bout a shot or two to check the pattern, and then voila you're set for ducks, turkey, and squirrels. You then never worry about having taken a premeasured #4 lead shot load out with you by accident when going for the waterfowl. ;)

LD
 

Kan-do

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Man, Loyalist Dave ... You hit the nail on the head right there! That is exactly why Im wanting to make the move entirely to bismuth shot. The problem is I drug my feet to long this year and now everyone seems to have ran out of bismuth shot., for the moment anyway. Im gonna try my best to scrounge up some bismuth #5 for all around use.
Folks, I do greatly appreciate all the reply!! Thank you all!!!!
 

TNGhost

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I have used both ITX and bismuth in my CVA 12 SxS and have not noticed a difference on the Canadas I regularly engage(could be that neither improves my crappy shooting:))

I settled on bismuth #1s and stocked up a couple years ago. At that time sources described how it would come and go on the market and is reliant on the import of the alloy, which contains tin to control brittleness, from the UK I believe. Like so many other things China is the largest producer by far of pure bismuth, producing 11,000 of the 14,000 tons produced annually, so there is a problem in itself. The alloy is generally made elsewhere and last I read, most of it came here from England.

ITX does contain tungsten, as well as nickel and copper, powdered and compressed. It is made into a pellet through use of a binding process. While their formulation and the process makes for a soft pellet and thus allows for the constriction of a choke to compress it and not cause damage, the tungsten is still there, and if no shot cup is used one would think it will come in contact with the shotgun barrel. Not certain about this, but it seems logical. At any rate the use of a shot cup of some type would mitigate that.

I would not hesitate to use ITX in my gun but would probably use a cup of some kind, (they kinda help my patterns stay tighter anyway). Graf's has ITX#6 in stock and BPI also has it as well as #4, and they have the 1lb. "trial pack" of #6 for $26. I still have the remains of a couple sample packs I bought o try before settling on the bismuth.

If I had a chance to stock up now on whichever I could find, I would, as the situation beyond Covid, with the Chinese, who produce most of the world's raw material metals, is only going to get worse.

I'll also add that looking around most other types of shot are also out of stock nearly everywhere,, including lead and steel.
 

Kan-do

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Very great points TNGhost! I would really prefer bismuth and will push hard to find some, worse case scenario, Ill buy some "regular" shotshells and cannibalize them. Without going too far off topic, if we don't start building and making things again in THIS country... Well..... Again, good points and Thanks!
 

NorthFork

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I had not used ITX at all. I know very little about it as a matter of fact. All I know is BPI sells it. Sorry.
 

Crane Senior

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I have tested ITX balls in my .50. They were spot on when shooting at targets. The .50 is actually .487 so I went up in patch size. They seemed great.
 

Historian

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RotoMetals and BPI are not the only place guys. Try ZIP METALS. Go to the lead shot section and scroll down. They sell it in 7 pound bottles. I shoot 7's and 4's that I make myself with an Oasis shot maker because I shoot a lot of it for dove, quail and waterfowl. It works close enough to lead that I cannot tell a difference. It is all I shoot in my Pedersoli 20's and 10. I use Pure Bismuth that I purchase from Bolton Metals which is 99.99% pure. I purchase the Tin 99.99% pure from RotoMetals. I use a 95% Bismuth/5% Tin alloy to make the shot and I have not had any major quality issues yet. Others claim a 6% Tin mixture and use that in their shot (RotoMetals/ZIP Metals and BPI). However the shot they sell is mass produced which includes a higher margin of error. In my opinion 5% Tin cures any fracture issues the old 3% Tin mixture had that was sold by the now defunct Bismuth Cartridge Company.

BTW guys, you can also make Bismuth round balls just like you do with lead. You just have to remember that Bismuth expands slightly as it cools.

Good luck.
 

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NorthFork

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Thanks for the tip on Zipmetals!

edit- I only see raw 99% pure bismuth for casting (which is good for RB when alloyed with tin). Eagle and Lawrence brand lead shot but no bismuth shot that I can find on the website.
 

Historian

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Ok, just called them and their bismuth shot making machine is out for repair. Lady I talked to said it should be about 3 weeks and they will have it up and running. BTW I am pretty sure they are the manufacturers for RotoMetals bismuth as well as when I ordered some of the B's about 2 weeks ago from RotoMetals they were shipped from the same location in Ohio as Zip Metals ships their shot from.

I have 4's and 7's. I typically do not sell what I make but If you want to purchase some from me I will sell you some since you are a fellow MZ Loader in need of non-toxic shot. PM if you are interested.
 

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