On casting roundballs......

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Brian Gibbs

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Just wondering how many folks cast their own balls? Do you concern yourself with hardness? Years ago, I used my Father's lead pots, ladles, etc. to cast round balls for my .45 and .50 cal. rifles. However, I never really concerned myself with hardness or "perfectly" round balls. My Father was a plumber, pipefitter from the 50's-70's era so back then alot of waste lines used "hemp" (for lack of the correct term) and lead to seal cast iron pipe.

Later in my life, I cast bullets for 44-40 loads but would go dig bullets out of backstops at shooting ranges! Again, never concerning myself with hardness or the "just right" combination of alloys.

So, any input would be appreciated. Also to historical correctness would be interesting. Meaning, "what did the old timers use"? Referring to pre 1800 era. Thanks All!
 

Erwan

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Well, to chose the lead the reasons are multiples and long to explain in a short answer...
For some bullets and barrels you can't do other way than pure lead and for other bullets and barrels the choice could be inverse of the firs one...

The easier is the round ball for the reason that with the right patch that will go almost anytime for any caliber, hard of soft (not too hard)...
For the Minié bullets and Compression bullets that can could another sound of the same music, idem for bullets paper patched...

So wich type of lead to do what and in wich barrel: that is the good question...

Since the XIVth century people was using pure lead and it became different after, near the XIXth century with the great speeds and the long range shooting...

Soft or hard the lead have their use but not always the same...
 

Golfswithwolves

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For revolvers soft lead is pretty much required, as it has to be rammed into the cylinders while compressing or cutting of a lead ring (hard alloys could cause strain and breakage to the rammer parts). Minie balls as mentioned also need to be soft enough to expand their skirts properly. Most other uses it might not matter too much what the alloy is, except that soft lead is thought by some to expand better in game. I'm talking muzzleloaders here, not about cartridge guns.
 

Brian Gibbs

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Gentlemen, I do not mean to be curt and I do indeed appreciate your replies. I'm mostly interested in what folk do when casting for smoothbores .
 

Cruzatte

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Gentlemen, I do not mean to be curt and I do indeed appreciate your replies. I'm mostly interested in what folk do when casting for smoothbores .
I have used lead soft enough that I can easily scratch it with my thumbnail. That kind of lead has always been the easiest for me to acquire in trade or for free, sometimes. I've stayed away from wheel weights mostly because I didn't really bother to look for sources of supply.

I suppose you could use lead/antimony alloys for smooth bore shooting since there are no rifling grooves to impart spin to the ball and patch. The only question I have would be one of ballistics. Even that may be moot, however.
 

hanshi

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I always liked harder WW metal for smoothbore ball - the older WW. I'm out of WW so use soft lead with a patch. This works very well and I see no need to change it. WW ball needed much thinner patch material but did well with bare ball. I cast everything I shoot, always have.
 

excess650

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I shoot my own cast almost exclusively whether it be roundballs or bullets. For muzzleloading firearms, softer is generally better than hard, but a smoothbore shouldn't care. I would avoid "hardcast", linotype, monotype, etc.

Modern wheelweights might be iron, zinc, or lead alloy. The iron won't melt and zinc will make a mess of your lead alloy, so avoid the zinckers.
 

Maven

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Gentlemen, I do not mean to be curt and I do indeed appreciate your replies. I'm mostly interested in what folk do when casting for smoothbores .
I've used both wheel weights (with 1% tin added) and pure lead for RB casting for my smoothbores (and sometimes rifles as well) and I see little difference in accuracy. With smoothbores, you have to experiment with RB diameter, patch thickness (if you use them) or over shot (OS) and over powder (OP) wads; powder charge; and powder granulation. If you change just 1 variable at a time, you will find a combination that works well in your gun.

P.S. Unlike a rifle, smoothbores are quite a bit more forgiving about patch thickness and RB diameter variation. If you have but 1 mould for your gun, you've eliminated one source of variation, assuming that mould casts a RB reasonably close to your bore diameter.
 

bud in pa

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I use my smoothbore for hunting, I will use WW lead when I can get it. I don\t need expansion when shooting .600 diameter ball. I want penetration, 2 holes to bleed out of. I use paper cartridges for hunting and usually get 4 to 5 inch groups at 50 yards. Good enough for me.:)
 

Brian Gibbs

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I use my smoothbore for hunting, I will use WW lead when I can get it. I don\t need expansion when shooting .600 diameter ball. I want penetration, 2 holes to bleed out of. I use paper cartridges for hunting and usually get 4 to 5 inch groups at 50 yards. Good enough for me.:)
Bud, do you patch your RB? I am assuming you're shooting a .62?
 

RiverRat

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I shoot a 54 cal and a 75 cal smoothy. I only shoot pure lead in my ml's. I perfer to use wasp nesting as my wad. I get really good results with the wasp nesting, I love the look on people's faces when they see me stuffing this gray matter down the bore before I load the ball. I even had a guy from Virginia send me a whole wasp nest in the mail because he was so impressed seeing me place in a smoothbore match. Life is good!
 

Rifleman1776

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Gentlemen, I do not mean to be curt and I do indeed appreciate your replies. I'm mostly interested in what folk do when casting for smoothbores .
For my rifles, I use only soft lead. I judge softness with thumbnail, squishing against other lead and knowing the source.
For my smoothbores, I use to use only soft lead in the Brown Bess. But it has been retired so it uses nothing. If ever to be used by me again, i would use some hard stuff I have laying around so as to save on the soft lead.
For my 20 ga./.62 cal. flint fowler, I use some hard stuff that was given to me. It has a name but, essentially, is about 90% zinc. I cast from different pots than I use for soft lead. It casts close enuf to lead in size for my purposes in a smoothie. It puts holes in paper real good. Haven't been able to use on critters yet.
 

mullet

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I'm shooting a .62 and .75 smooth bore. I pore my own balls using mostly scuba weights or plumbers lead. Like River rat i use wasp's nest also, mostly when shooting shot. Seems to get a better pattern that way.
 

John Applebee

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The best lead is Victorian underground water pipe. It’s first generation right out of the mine so it’s really soft and pure although it does get more difficult to find as time goes by. It need to melted so the crud can be scraped off and the cast into ingots
 

Barry Strickland

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Brian, whether using a smoothie or rifle we depend on ball obturation to seal the bore. That is best achieved with a very soft ball.
 

mushka

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I have casted bullets for about fifty years but am new to the round ball. I recently got a .62 cal 20 ga. fowler and use the same lead for casting the balls. mixed wheel weights and range pick up lead, poured from a lee bottom pour pot into a double ball mould. They weight within two or three grains of what the mould says that they should weigh. For me that is acceptable, for others maybe not. I look at it as a fifty yard gun and the balls hit close enough to the aiming point to be lethal for deer or elk.
 

Griz44Mag

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I have casted bullets for about fifty years but am new to the round ball. I recently got a .62 cal 20 ga. fowler and use the same lead for casting the balls. mixed wheel weights and range pick up lead, poured from a lee bottom pour pot into a double ball mould. They weight within two or three grains of what the mould says that they should weigh. For me that is acceptable, for others maybe not. I look at it as a fifty yard gun and the balls hit close enough to the aiming point to be lethal for deer or elk.
If you are patching your balls and shooting at paper the wheel weights are perfectly acceptable. For hunting purposes, pure lead for expansion is recommended but entirely necessary. Think about it, we hunt with 50 cal round ball (or bigger) and the best modern 30 cal bullet will never expand to the diameter that you are starting with....
 

Griz44Mag

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Brian, whether using a smoothie or rifle we depend on ball obturation to seal the bore. That is best achieved with a very soft ball.
Will beg to differ with you on a ball. We seal the ball to the bore using a ball wrapped it in a lubricated cloth patch so it won't lead the bore. The diameter of the ball is less than the diameter of the bore or if present the rifling. The patch engages the rifling (if present) and the thickness of the patch seals the bore. Unwrapped conicals on the other hand, directly engage the rifling. Paper patched conicals do not and the paper wrap engages the rifling and seals the bore.
 

mushka

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Still being new to the smoothbore I shoot patched round balls as I do in my rifles. They seem to go down the barrel with less resistance due to no rifling. I'm just enjoying the gun, not being critical of less accuracy with it at fifty yards.
 

Loyalist Dave

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...and zinc will make a mess of your lead alloy, so avoid the zinckers.
Melting zinc indoors especially, will give off fumes that can make one ill, btw.

... whether using a smoothie or rifle we depend on ball obturation to seal the bore. That is best achieved with a very soft ball.
When using a conical, it must obturate onto the lands in the barrel, but it's been shown that patched, lead round ball does not. ;)
When you see fellows at the range repeatedly smacking their patched round ball with the rammer or range rod, they are simply causing accuracy problems. These may not show at 50 yards but are likely to show at 100 yards, and definitely at beyond 100 yards.

WHANG THE BALL Muzzleloading.JPG
The Muzzle-Loading Cap Lock Rifle by Ned Roberts p. 103

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