Last week I asked about the zinc Zee brand bullets being sold by Dillon Precision. Well, the ones I ordered from Dillon arrived on Friday, so I loaded a few and gave them a try over the weekend.
My first impression of the Zee bullets was that they looked a lot like cast lead bullets. They're a dull, lead-ish gray and the 142 grain .45 bullets look a lot like 230 grain lead flat nose bullets. The Zee bullets, however, have no lube grooves, although they are covered with a fine black powder. I don't know if the powder is molybdenum disulphide, graphite or some sort of polymer. It rubbed off on my fingers when I handled the bullets so I hope it's non-toxic.
The casting quality is very good, with no obvious sprue, flash, or other flaws.
The data sheet that comes with the bullets is rather skimpy, giving about five loads in .45 ACP with no pressure information. All but one (which looks like a misprint) have an OAL of 1.250", which is just short enough to fit in a 1911-style magazine. Since zinc is only about two thirds as dense as lead, the Zee bullets take up more case volume that cast or jacketed lead bullets of comparable weight. That means less space for powder, so the Zee bullets don't look like good candidates for screaming Magsafe-level velocities. None of the loads given for .45 ACP exceed 1200 fps.
I decided to live dangerously and come up with my own data. (Kids, please don't try this at home! You might hurt yourself or provide employment for a lawyer.
) I loaded 20 rounds with 4.5 grains of VV N310 and 20 rounds with 6.5 grains of Hodgdon Universal Clays. Interestingly, I had to back out my crimp die several turns to maintain a 0.470" crimp on the case mouth. Apparently the zinc doesn't compress nearly as easily as lead does. Also, I had some trouble maintaining a consistent OAL. My guess is that some rounds were sticking in the crimp die and the bullets were being pulled 0.005" or so out of the cases.
At the range, the Zee bullets shot much like handloads using conventional lead bullets. The point of impact was only a bit lower and recoil was sufficient to operate a Colt Officer's ACP. Groups ran a little larger than usual in both the Colt and in a S&W 625, with the latter shooting a six round group of 1.4" at 50 feet. Due to signs of high pressure in the cases from the 4.5/N310 load, I'm going to back off 4.0 grains for my next attempt.
In summary, the Zee bullets seem like a decent choice for the handloader who wants a non-toxic projectile at a lower price than fully encapsulated lead bullets. I'll post another update if I find any particularly good loads.