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Old June 17, 2012, 03:58 PM   #1
ruger357w
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Question for you all

So I've been reloading for years useing jacketed and lead bullets. I'm considering to start casting my own. My question is can I use old jacketed bullets from 22 rimfires and center fires? I'm thinking the copper jacket will melt. I apologize for the stupid question, but i'm just wondering. thanks
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Old June 17, 2012, 04:29 PM   #2
SHR970
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The copper jacket won't melt in a lead furnace. Pure copper melts around 1985 degrees F; much higher than lead which melts at 622 degrees F. As long as you have a way for the lead to get out easily, the jackets will remain whole and float to the top. If you have plated bullets in there and the plating is in tact, they can burst and cause molten lead to splatter out of the pot. This poses a substantial burn hazard to you or anyone else close by and is also a potential fire hazard.
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Old June 17, 2012, 05:53 PM   #3
darkroommike
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@ SHR970

Haven't cast any range lead yet, but I think what you're saying is that trying to melt INTACT plated or jacketed bullets is not such a good idea, so you should "smoosh" them first, break 'em up? Then just skim the floaters off your lead. Lead doesn't expand like water (to steam) but there's no real way to know what else might be lurking inside. Good advice! I learn something everytime I get on here.
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Old June 17, 2012, 06:36 PM   #4
SHR970
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Plated bullets need to have their copper surface broken enough to allow the lead to escape easily. Otherwise they pop like a beer can in a freezer. But in this case, molten lead goes where you don't want it to. Standard FMJ has a big enough hole in the back and HP pistol /Soft point has it in the front to allow the lead to escape. Most HP rifle rounds will usually break up enough to be no bother.
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Old June 17, 2012, 06:48 PM   #5
ruger357w
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Ok guys thanks for the good advice.
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Old June 20, 2012, 11:56 AM   #6
chris in va
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Better off just using wheelweights.
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Old June 20, 2012, 12:33 PM   #7
Edward429451
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The lead in jacketed bullets is going to be soft so plan on hardening it somehow. Adding chilled lead shot is an easy way to harden it some. It doesn't take much, a small handful for a 20 LB pot.

Wheelweights are easier but becoming more scarce. Pieces of old lead drain lines found in crawl spaces are a good find but again, will need to be hardened for most uses as it is pure soft lead.

Start reading about lead alloys and scrounge every bit of lead and ww's you can.
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Old July 9, 2012, 03:48 PM   #8
gorin
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I used to "berm mine" and it is a mixed experience - on one hand you get free lead, then you actually make money when you sell the copper jackets at the recycling yard ($1.70/lb last time I did it), on the other hand it is hard work, then waiting for the things to dry, then messing with melting them - if you shoot a little it is OK, but unless you get them from an indoor range it is too much work for me.
If the bullets are from an outdoor range, make sure they are dry before melting them - 2-3 days spread under the sun on the driveway will dry them very well.
Make sure you try to separate the TMJ bullets and intact copper plated bullets - as noted above, they can and will squirt molten lead when the pressure gets high enough.
Using a heavy lid will help in two ways - it will keep those popping rounds inside (yes, you will have them no matter how long you dry them, some moisture will remain trapped inside until the rest of lead is melted) and also will keep the heat inside - copper is a very good heat conductor and it is much harder to melt jacketed bullets that lead ones.

Wait until you don't hear any more popping and use a long stick to open the lid and see if they are melted. The copper jackets will float on top of the lead. Using a straining spoon to shake the jackets will release most of the lead still trapped inside them. It is a slow process, in the end you will end up with a bunch of copper jackets, some dirt and some lead.
The lead will have different hardness, if cast bullets are allowed at the range it can be anything. In my experience it was about BHN 9-10.
If only FMJ bullets are allowed, it will be close to pure.
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Old July 12, 2012, 03:21 PM   #9
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I've never had occasion to melt down either a plated bullet or one of the Hornady ENC jacketed bullets with the capped base, so the bursting copper problem hadn't occurred to me. You see, when casting, the shrinkage that occurs at the sprue as the alloy hardens in a mold cavity, so, of course, the reverse occurs when melting. So it makes perfect sense the burst would occur. I expect you can just grab one with pliers and drill a hole in it or hold it against a running band saw blade until it breaks through, but both methods produce sharf or filing scrap from the cutting. I would try just splitting one open with a bolt cutter or else setting them upright on a firm surface, like a block of wood, and hammering a chisel into the nose of each one to split them before heating.
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Old July 16, 2012, 10:05 AM   #10
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I defy anybody to fire a plated bullet or a totally encapsulated bullet from any gun WITHOUT causing it to break the "skin" or copper plate. Unless you fire it straight up and catch it before it hits the ground! Any plated bullet I've ever recovered is smashed so bad it's NOT intact.

As far as the theory that a plated bullet will explode, I have my doubts. Does liquid lead exert pressure in the liquid form as apposed to as a solid? It would be real easy to find out. Simply drop an intact, NEW plated bullet into a casting pot at casting temp, of course covering it so nothing bad happens.

Just about any metal expands when heated. Logically lead might exert enough pressure to crack the plating, then have enough force to squirt lead.

Next time I have the pot-hot, I'll try it to satisfy my own curiosity.
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Old July 16, 2012, 02:19 PM   #11
gorin
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If you are shooting in an indoor range where the bullets hit a metal plate you will probably have most TMJ or plated bullets cracked open. When shooting in a berm, there will be many bullets that have their jackets intact. I've found that the .45 TMJ's are almost always intact when shot in a berm.
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Old July 16, 2012, 03:02 PM   #12
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I've had copper plated bullets where the copper was a light wash that barely colored the lead, and I wouldn't worry about melting those down. But Berry's runs up to 8 thousandths thick, and that's enough to hold together during the post-plate sizing they do, so I wouldn't be surprised if it could pop during melting if recovered intact.
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Old July 27, 2012, 10:22 PM   #13
Centaur 1
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Range bullets don't squirt lead unless you try to cut through the plating with a pair of dykes while the lead is molten, trust me I know. What I do now when a plated bullet looks intact, is to cut the nose with dykes before it goes in the pot.
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