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Is pure lead really necessary for muzzle loading balls or bullet in rifle or hand gun ?

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About 20 years ago I picked up about 2000 lbs of counter weight lead from a crane and upon hardness testing found it had some alloy other than pure lead in it. It cast well but was a few points harder than pure lead which is a bit under 5 Brinell hardness number. It cast well so I know it was antimony and tin alloyed and drops about 8-9 BHN unless I cut it with pure lead.
I have a life time supply of lead from the counterweights alone and have added another 1000 lbs or so from folks that wanted to give me some to get rid of for them.
Old wheel weights were good but drop about 10-12 BHN which is a bit hard for patched ball use but works fine in conicals from what I have experienced.
I have not tried this alloy with mini-balls so cannot say how it works for them.
Modern wheel weights are not usually very good as they are alloyed with zinc and do not cast well.
I can't see a nickles worth of difference in accuracy, casting ease or barrel leading of my non certified lead alloy from the certified I have tried.
 
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If you're shooting from a rifled barrel, the concern I would have is whether it is soft enough to seat in the rifling grooves. Ammo that is too hard will sometimes fail to engage the rifling grooves.
It has worked fine in my long range Black powder cartridge barrels at this level of hardness. These are solid base bullets in the 500 plus grain range but I have not tried it with hollow base minie type bullets to see if the skirts expand.
I think perhaps for revolvers it may be a bit hard on the loading levers as I try to use the most pure lead I can find in my used lead supply for those balls but am sure most of my range scrap is more than 5 BHN.
If it loads without undo stress to the loading lever than I see no reason not to use it my self as the cylinder and barrel won't care in a well kept and properly maintained arm.
It must be remembered that this is hand loading and one must weigh any risk of using anything but pure lead that is recommended by any muzzle loading authority which I am not.
Muskets often have quite thin barrels particularly vintage ones so the additional pressure associated with using other than pure lead must be factored into the safety margin.
Always keep the safety factor in mind when experimenting with other than pure lead for muzzle loader use.
 
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About 20 years ago I picked up about 2000 lbs of counter weight lead from a crane and upon hardness testing found it had some alloy other than pure lead in it. It cast well but was a few points harder than pure lead which is a bit under 5 Brinell hardness number. It cast well so I know it was antimony and tin alloyed and drops about 8-9 BHN unless I cut it with pure lead.
I have a life time supply of lead from the counterweights alone and have added another 1000 lbs or so from folks that wanted to give me some to get rid of for them.
Old wheel weights were good but drop about 10-12 BHN which is a bit hard for patched ball use but works fine in conicals from what I have experienced.
I have not tried this alloy with mini-balls so cannot say how it works for them.
Modern wheel waits are not usually very good as they are alloyed with zinc and do not cast well.
I can't see a nickel's worth of difference in accuracy, casting ease or barrel leading of my non certified lead alloy from the certified I have tried.

I had a friend cast some bullets for my 40-70 2/10 Sharps rifle, we never found out until shooting on game that these bullets were cast from wheel weights (super hard, never expanded). They would make nice round holes in the game with no expansion. I had to shoot the games several times, if the lead was softer it wouldn't have been an issue. Like said above: "Modern wheel waits are not usually very good as they are alloyed with zinc and do not cast well. I can't see a nickel's worth of difference in accuracy".
 
I had a friend cast some bullets for my 40-70 2/10 Sharps rifle, we never found out until shooting on game that these bullets were cast from wheel weights (super hard, never expanded). They would make nice round holes in the game with no expansion. I had to shoot the games several times, if the lead was softer it wouldn't have been an issue. Like said above: "Modern wheel waits are not usually very good as they are alloyed with zinc and do not cast well. I can't see a nickel's worth of difference in accuracy".
Wheel weights if not water dropped or furnace hardened and quenched usually set up right a 10- 12 BHN after 7-8 days and stay within a point or two of the hardness for years where as lead/ tin alloys soften several numbers within a season if not kept in a freezer.
Pure lead without some tin does not cast worth sour apples and has a shrinkage rate of something like 3 percent from the mold cavity .
This stability and lack of shrinkage after casting is what I prefer about lead/tin/ antimony alloys for projectiles.
I do think that if one is going to use wheel weights in revolvers than it makes sense to ream out the chamber mouths to barrel groove diameter as bump up from pure lead use will not be as assured.
I also think smaller ball diameters should be used so that not as much lead is sheared off at seating. All that is needed is a complete seal around the chamber mouth without any gaps.
 
You should be fine with BHN under 9 or so. I have about 1,000# of the same counterweight lead you have. I have mixed it with some pure lead as it was available and have no problem with RB's.

A Minie that needs the skirt to expand might be a little more touchy, I haven't tried that yet, been using pure for them.

Only way to know is to try it. You won't hurt anything. See how they load and have fun!!

Don
 
It depends entirely on the application.

If you are shooting military rounds such as Expanding Ball (Minie) or compression bullets, such as the Wilkinson or Lorenz style of bullets, then pure lead is a must. These bullets deform on firing and that is how they can load easily, being undersize to the bore, but then they expand or compress, taking up the rifling. If hard lead is used, they will not deform sufficiently to take up the rifling and accuracy suffers.

In breech loading black powder arms, like the Sharps or Smith percussion arms, you can get away with harder alloy as the bullets impinge upon the rifling on firing.

Smoothbore guns do not care much about the hardness of the lead at all.

Black powder revolvers can be hard to load and even bend or break the loading lever if you try to cram a hard lead ball into the chamber.
 
It depends entirely on the application.

If you are shooting military rounds such as Expanding Ball (Minie) or compression bullets, such as the Wilkinson or Lorenz style of bullets, then pure lead is a must. These bullets deform on firing and that is how they can load easily, being undersize to the bore, but then they expand or compress, taking up the rifling. If hard lead is used, they will not deform sufficiently to take up the rifling and accuracy suffers.

In breech loading black powder arms, like the Sharps or Smith percussion arms, you can get away with harder alloy as the bullets impinge upon the rifling on firing.

Smoothbore guns do not care much about the hardness of the lead at all.

Black powder revolvers can be hard to load and even bend or break the loading lever if you try to cram a hard lead ball into the chamber.
I need to test both Minie's and Maxi's with the harder lead. I have a Navy Arms Hawken Hunter with the standard 26 inch heavy barrel that shoots Maxi's into 4 inches at 100 yards with barrel sights but I just don't remember if I made them of pure lead or not. This accurate load was for moose hunting and was an unbelievable 150 grains of 2F Goex............... my sternum hurt for a week after bench testing them.
I'm far to old to shoot that load now without physical harm but it sure shot lights out when tested 30 years ago !
 
So much urban legend wheel weight myth nonsense that it's hard to believe folks actually believe it.

5 BHN and your ball is as slippery as goose poop.

9 BHN and it's a rifling resistance breech rupture just waiting to happen.

I really wish people would actually understand what their talking about before talking about it.
 
Could you explain where the additional pressure comes from?
There is no additional pressure.

It's people not knowing anything about the subject of wheel weights spreading more internet YouTube garbage.

Just like saying wheel weights are hardened by using Zinc. It's....not....true. Saying a 9 BHN wheel weight bullet won't expand is not true either.

Wheel weights are hardened by using very small amounts of Antimony. The very small addition of Antimony is what drives the BHN from 5 to 9.

And Zinc wheel weights are exactly that. Made of Zinc. Hard as a rock and easily identifiable. And they have nothing to do with clip-on lead wheel weights.


Here's a clip-on weight. 9 BHN. Gently squeezed in a vise. Someone going to say a ball or a bullet made of this lead won't expand when it slams into a deer at 1,600 FPS?
 

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So much urban legend wheel weight myth nonsense that it's hard to believe folks actually believe it.

5 BHN and your ball is as slippery as goose poop.

9 BHN and it's a rifling resistance breech rupture just waiting to happen.

I really wish people would actually understand what their talking about before talking about it.
And then there are those folks who only think they know what their talking about !
Hand drive a soft pure lead slug down a bore and then do the same with wheel weight alloy, you may learn a thing or three!
 
And then there are those folks who only think they know what their talking about !
Hand drive a soft pure lead slug down a bore and then do the same with wheel weight alloy, you may learn a thing or three!
You don't know what you're talking about. And here's proof. "Modern wheel waits are not usually very good as they are alloyed with zinc and do not cast well".

There is no danger, NONE, to shooting 9 BHN or 12 BHN balls and bullets in a black powder firearm.

Stop spreading BS.
 
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I bought a fair bit of lead ingots from a seller on Ebay. I was told that they were from melted wheel weights. In .480 balls, they cast okay as long as my mould is hot and the temps are right at 650 deg. They're more accurate than I am. Bigger balls, like .600s and .690s almost always come out wavy but I'm thinking that's a user error issue.

Hunting-wise, I don't think they expand. But I've only taken an AZ javelina with those WW balls. That load was actually shooting subsonic so I doubt pure lead would have expanded much either. My other home cast experiences while hunting are with Bismuth alloy (CA regs). Those shoot just fine -- grouping right with lead & don't expand a lick since they're so hard. The one deer I've shot with them dropped instantly and was dead before he hit the ground. It was a frontal shot and I found the ball lying against the femur while butchering. So if you hunt with hard lead, I'd expect lots of penetration but no expansion.

I have no idea what the hardness scale is on these things and don't much care. I've shot a dozen or so of ITX balls at targets & dirt. Those are some kind of iron-tungsten alloy that is extremely hard. They are very accurate with the right patch thickness. All hit to the same POI for me and all are likely to drive deep into soft tissue with no expansion.

I've been told that making minie balls or REAL bullets out of hard alloys wouldn't be a good idea. Minie's need to expand like an airgun pellet skirt. REALs might need a mallet to load. In Bismuth alloy, they'd just crack if I rammed them down that hard. Which is fine with me. I'll just stick to round ball with my home cast stuff.

In the next couple weeks, I'm headed out for a late season blacktail hunt. Odds are in my favor that I'll bring something home but never guaranteed. I'm taking the same rifle & load combo as last year with the bismuth alloy that dropped the buck I mentioned above. We'll see how it goes.
 
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Pure 45 cal old clip on wheel weight bullets shot out of a 45-70 at 1800 fps expand to look like a modern jacketed bullet. Impact FPS was probably 15-1700 depending on the range. This knowledge was gained from recovered bullets from several moose shot by my hunting partner over the years. I suspect a roundball would expand as well.
 

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