Range lead

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mikeinpa

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Can I use range lead for casting round balls used in rifles? I've heard I need "pure" lead for pistols and minie balls but I was hoping to use some range lead in my Lyman Trade rifle and a 1841 Mississippi.
Any advice is always appreciated.

Mike
 

mooman76

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Yes you can. I started using range lead because it was free and I have also used wheel weights. I found that range lead was somewhere between Wheel weight hardness and soft lead but ranges very. I might add I had good results. Also alloyed lead usually drops .001- .003 larger than pure so you may need to adjust patch thickness.
 

flinter1977

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I have been collecting range lead and casting bullets for the last 15 years . Works for what i shoot . I have a lead hardness tester and it is between wheel weight and soft .
 

Zonie

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Nearly all of the lead found at a shooting range will be stuff that was fired out of a cartridge gun. This lead is almost always harder than pure lead so it won't deform as easily. That will make it a little harder to load in a patch/ball load.

That said, years ago the Bevel Brothers did a shooting experiment to test using harder lead balls in their muzzleloading rifles.
What they found is, they needed to decrease the patch thickness just a little bit to make up for the lack of deformation of the harder lead but they had to test shoot the patch/ball combinations to find one that would still load fairly easily but the patch wouldn't be too thin and not fill the rifling grooves.
Once the right combination was found, the harder lead balls shot almost as well as the pure lead balls did.
 

Carbon 6

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Lead from jacketed bullets is usually soft, while lead from cast bullets is usually hard.

If you have intact projectiles and can sort them by type you can weed out a lot of hardness. or just melt and clean it all and test the hardness when done.

In addition to being harder, alloys shrink less than pure lead making your projectile larger. This can pose a problem for some loading applications.
 

mikeinpa

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Thank all of you for the fast response. I will try the range lead and see what size patch works best.

Mike
 

sussexmuzllodr

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On range lead I melt a batch and do several pour offs leaving the unwanteds in the pot bottom. Remelt and skim as I go. Never an Issue. The deformity on impact is substantial because its softer. Works for me.

SM
 

Gun Tramp

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While stationed in Utah, I did much shooting at an abandoned road construction borrow area used by quite a few local shooters. One day I thought I'd sift through the crumbly clay with my fingers to recover some lead; in addition to the projectiles I sought, the first handful of soil included several small translucent scorpions. My complexion probably achieved the same degree of translucency within milliseconds.
 

pmccoywss

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If you can find a junior shooting club, they have soft lead available when they clean their bullet trap. All they shoot is .22 and airgun (all soft lead). A donation to their program would surely be gladly accepted.
 

TNGhost

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Many projectiles used at ranges are soft lead. .22 rounds, commercial swaged lead bullets and the cores of most jacketed bullets. They only really hard lead projectiles you are going to likely encounter in the average range lead are cast bullets which are solely a reloading proposition, and on most ranges, going to be in the minority. Those cast bullets are likely going to be easy to sort out when intact, and they tend to stay intact better than the softer ones. If you know someone that casts bullets for cartridge guns you could trade the hard stuff to them for some softer lead.

I'd give it a try. I am sure it will work. Just work out a load, and as you said patch thickness, and you should be good to go.
 

mooman76

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A guy in CA was experimenting with brass because of the no lead restriction. He reported good results and could even reuse them.
 

TNGhost

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How about copper: though I would never melt pennies.....
Today's pennies are made of zinc and copper plated, making them 97.5% zinc.

Copper melts at close to 2000 degrees Fahrenheit ( not convenient for home melting and casting). Zinc melts around 790 degrees, 150 degrees or so north of lead, and there have been those that cast bullets out of it, although it is much ,much lighter than lead and much harder, so not as ballistically desirable.

Alloys of any of the above will change the melting points depending on which are mixed and the percentages. There is usually a very small percentage of copper in harder lead bullet alloys that melt close to pure lead's melting point.

If you do decide to play with zinc, get a separate pot and molds for casting it, as it is a terrible contaminant of a lead melt or lead alloy melt and you will have a sludgey mess on your hands that is difficult to clean up and out.
 

Eric Krewson

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I pick up my range lead at a range where they only shoot B/P guns. Even at this range the hardness varies, the soft lead splatters when it hits the berm, what I suspect is wheel weight lead deforms very little when it hits the berm.

Sometimes I separate the two, sometimes I just melt them together. I am just an OK shooter so I can't tell the difference. I have kept some of the hard stuff for smoothbore balls.

I use to try to wash the lead before I melted it, it was hard to get really dry before it went in the lead pot, as you know water and melted lead is dangerous. Now I shake off what dirt I can and melt it dirt and all, the dirt skims off with the dross, flux a few time and I have very clean lead.

casting bullets 007.JPGlead stockpile 002.JPG
 
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mooman76

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It is allot of work separating all the crud, dirt and whatever from the lead. I found that when processing all this it was good to leave a small amount of lead in the pot. then when you put your range lead in the pot, with the crud, the lead would melt off quicker and you could fairly quickly skim off the junk. I just picked out the obvious stuff like big rocks. It can be a fairly tedious task and no mater what you do it is allot of work but yes worth while.
 

sportster73hp

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I have been lucky, a few years ago my local club started selling the lead recovered from their indoor pistol range. Cleaned and in ingots . Have used it for my unmentionable pistols and a lot of roundball. Removing a dryball isn’t any harder
 

renegadehunter

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I don't cast, but do have a little experience with lead.
.22 bullets, most rifle with expansion properties, and home defense or HP type pistol bullets that need to expand are around a .85% antimony.
"Cheap" pistol ammo for target is around 3% antimony, very close to wheel weight in hardness.
I wonder about the plated stuff? Since the copper plating is so bonded to the lead, do you avoid it at all costs and try to just get the stuff that was jacketed and separated from the lead at impact?
I would think ranges that have pistol shooters would be riddled with copper plated bullets.
 

EC121

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Our old club used to shoot where the NSSA also had matches. I used to go to our monthly matches a little early before we started shooting and pick up the Minie balls they shot into the bank. I could pick up quite few in a short time. Especially after a rain washed them out of the red clay bank. One Minie will make about 2.5 .490s.
 
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