Lead Smelting

Discussion in 'Ammunition & Reloading' started by Justen.223, Jan 13, 2010.

  1. Justen.223

    Justen.223 New Member

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    Do any of you guys smelt your own lead and cast your own bullets? I have been reloading for about a year now and aside from the usual rookie mistakes (getting in a rush, failing to double check powder weight, case cleaning/trimming etc.), I have not ran into issues that I couldn't resolve or determine where/what I did wrong and I've been pretty successful at reloading... until now. Up to this point I have always bought bullets. However I tried to casting my own bullets and even skimmed off the slag/dirt once it melted. I was disapointed in my first few batches due to imperfections in the bullets(ripples and pits) because of slow pours and/or low temp. mold. After trial and error, I learned to pour what I thought were satisfactory castings and used them. It wasn't until I missed a nice whitetail that I realized there was a problem. They don't shoot straight! At 100 yards they can be as much as an 8 inch variation up to down, left to right. I am pouring 170 gr. .30-30 into a Lee double cavity mold finished off with 25 gr. of reloader 10x powder, using cci 250 primers. Mind you all 50 of the bullets were poured from the same batch of lead. No additional lead was added to the pot during smelting. Any thought or ideas will be greatly appreciated.
     
  2. Highpower

    Highpower New Member

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    Whoo boy! LOTS of variables here... ;)

    Are you actually FLUXING your melt, or just skimming the stuff that floats to the surface?

    What type of alloy are you using?

    Are you sizing and lubing your bullets?

    Are you using gas checks?

    Have you tried weighing a batch of bullets to check for uniform weight?

    The list goes on and on.....
     

  3. cpttango30

    cpttango30 New Member

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    head over to castboolits.com ifn ya don't get your answer here

    you buy bullets u cast boolits
     
  4. Highpower

    Highpower New Member

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    [​IMG]

    Color me spanked! :eek:
     
  5. cpttango30

    cpttango30 New Member

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    I am no expert caster. I think ripples mean either your lead is not hot enough or your mold is not hot enough.

    Did you flux your lead? Did you put the release agent in the mold?
     
  6. robocop10mm

    robocop10mm Lifetime Supporting Member Lifetime Supporter

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    Buy "The Cast Bullet Handbook". It has a wealth of information.

    I have been casting bullets for 25 years. With over 100,000 bullets cast and fired down range, I have a little experience. Wheel weights are OK for most handgun bullets but nowhere near hard enough for rifles. For most rifle applications I use a 50/50 blend of wheelweights to Linotype AND a gas check. Properly sized and lubed they will shoot groups about the same size as jacketed bullets, just 15-20% slower.

    Wrinkled bullets can be from molds or lead that is too cool and from a lead mix that does not contain any tin. Tin allows the molten metal to flow into the detail areas of the mold. Wheel weights have almost no tin. 50/50 bar solder is a readily available source of tin. Linotype is a good source of tin. Just 2-3% tin makes the bullets cast up much nicer.

    I could go on for days.
     
  7. res45

    res45 New Member

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    Justen.223,Highpower has a lot of good questions that some answers could help lead to figuring out your problem.

    I have a couple questions also,did you slug your bore to get the correct bullet to bore fit? or did you assume the bore size and the mold and bullet you cast for it should work?

    What type of rifle and caliber are you shooting your cast bullets in?

    Did you mic your finished cast bullet for correct size assuming you sized it?

    Did you test you cast bullets loads for accuracy at your shooting ranges before using them for hunting purposes?

    All these thing along with Highpower's question will have cause and effect on how you bullet turns out,and preforms in both accuracy,muzzle velocity and effectiveness on targets and live game. I cast and load my own bullets for 38/357,9mm, 7.62 x 39 in two SKS rifles and a Mosin M44 they all preform equally as well or better than jacketed bullet loads,it just take a little more time and experimenting to find what works best. I use all Lee Tumble Lube molds with Gas checks on the rifle bullets I use straight WW alloy and water drop them for hardness when needed.
     
    Last edited: Jan 14, 2010
  8. Justen.223

    Justen.223 New Member

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    Ohh wow, where do I begin..

    Shooting a marlin model 30a, .30-30, yes I mic, i weighed each casting and was within .010-.013 grains,

    However I was only using 100% wheel weights, ASSUMED (like a moron) that would be ok, and addmittingly I didn't research as much as I should have obviously. I didn't flux them, just skim off the junk

    After seeing there is more to this than I originaly thought I think I'll stick to store boughts...only problem is shtf for sure then i better stock up
     
  9. c3shooter

    c3shooter Administrator Staff Member

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    I cast pure lead .50 Maxiballs for a T/C Hawken, and wheelweights for .38/.357. Not an expert, just been doing it for a while.

    Careful with the skimming. Yes, you get the dirt- you may also get any tin that is floating on top. For flux, a bit of wax (I use 50/50 beeswax/ candle wax) about size of pencil eraser. Roll it in a pinch of SMOKELESS powder, becomes self igniting when you drop into pot. Stir after burn off to get tin back into mix. Check your wheelweights- if a thumbnail will not make a bright scratch, may not be lead. Seeing some that I THINK are a zinc alloy.

    Get the Cast Bullet Handbook. Wrinkles are- as the man said- low temp and/or low tin. Most want to start casting before melt is ready, or mold is hot. Save those, return to pot when cool- along with your sprues.

    Pay attention to sanitation when working with lead- go wash good with soap and water before eat, drink or smoke. Folks worry about inhaling lead, should worry about ingestion.
     
  10. robocop10mm

    robocop10mm Lifetime Supporting Member Lifetime Supporter

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    If you keep your temps below 850 degrees you cannot even melt the Zinc alloy weights. They simply float to the top of the pot. Fluxing is easy with bullet lube, just avoid the smoke.
     
  11. Justen.223

    Justen.223 New Member

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    i

    No they are lead...seen those zinc alloys before when pouring lead for fishing weights...but I'll try the wax. Sounds as if there's where my problem may be. Thank you guys...been a big help and loads of info to take into consideration next go around
     
  12. robocop10mm

    robocop10mm Lifetime Supporting Member Lifetime Supporter

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    Other flux options are Marvelux (smoke free), wax based bullet lubes and oily hardwood shavings.
    A small amount is all that is needed. A bit the size of your pinky fingernail or smaller is plenty. I have some commercial flux that does not work any better than bullet lube, just less smoke.
     
  13. Viking

    Viking Active Member

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    Wheel weights are mostly antimony which when cooling forms crystals that are coated with pure lead if not properly fluxed, sturred or have the right melt temp and even though bullets may test hard they can sometimes really smear lead in handgun and rifle barrels. Tin based linotype is hard to find nowdays, perhaps because of electronic printers, as well I've heard that aluminum has replaced tin where linotype is used. Tin has become very expensive probably in large part to there being not many tin mines, too bad because it is the best hardening metal for lead bullets. One of the other things that people have used to get tin has been soldier but with all the hazardous material acts that have come about even electronic soldier has become lead free, plumbing soldier was first to do that because of copper water pipes in homes. Both soldiers now use antimony.
     
  14. robocop10mm

    robocop10mm Lifetime Supporting Member Lifetime Supporter

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    Wheel weights are not "mostly antimony". They are 95% lead and 4% antimony the remainder being tin and arsenic.
    Linotype is commercially available from a variety of sources such as
    rotometals.com
    nuclead.com
    theantimonyman.com

    Tin is not the "best" bullet hardening metal. Tin WAS used to harden lead before antimony was available. Tin lowers the surface tension of lead alloy. It allows the alloy to fill the grooves in the bullet mould giving nice sharp edges where they are intended.

    Antimony is the #1 bullet hardening metal. Arsenic is valuable also for its hardening qualities.

    The basic rule of thumb is adding 2% tin to the alloy increases bullet hardness the same as adding 1% antimony.

    I have never heard of aluminum being used in type metal.

    A nice primer on the subject can be found at:

    Cast bullet reference on lead alloy's, min / max pressure, lube, shrinkage,
     
  15. Highpower

    Highpower New Member

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    Word. :rolleyes: 10 chars
     
  16. 11bravo

    11bravo New Member

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    If you skimmed the "junk" you probably lost the stuff that makes wheel weights harder than pure lead too. Get yourself a chronograph, if you load rifle stuff it's pretty important. Soft lead bullets will go lots of different places if you push them past about 1600 fps. Different alloys will go somewhat faster but you gotta play with it. The fastest I've ever pushed .30 cal rifle bullets with accuracy was about 2000fps. That was with babbit alloy which is harder than linotype.