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Old January 22, 2010, 04:48 PM   #1
ADB
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Casting cheap, lead-free bullets?

I only go shooting on my own land, and in the watershed of my personal pond, so I'm trying to use as little lead as possible in my ammunition. At the same time, I'd like to get into reloading. But buying pre-prepared FMJ bullets for loading is a lot more expensive even than buying cast lead. Is there a material suitable for casting rounds that would be both non-toxic and safe for loading in my .308 rifle?
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Old January 22, 2010, 09:26 PM   #2
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No.

The closest alternative is zinc, but it has casting problems and is toxic too.

Unless the soil is very acidic both are generally inert.
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Old January 22, 2010, 11:44 PM   #3
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I guess I don't follow. What exactly is the issue with shooting lead projos on your own land? If you are concerned with the wildlife picking up and consuming the lead boolits, wouldn't the same wildlife also pick up the jacketed boolits too. And yes, FMJ boolits have no lead exposed, but as soon as the boolit hits something just a bit harder than your winky, it's gonna deform and likely expose the "lead core". Unless you have about a 5 mile long piece of property, where the projectile can lose all velocity and just slowly fall to earth, then I don't see that you are accomplishing what you really want to do. Me thinks you worry about a non issue.

If you are equating the issue of shotgun lead pellets with rifle bullets, it's not apples and apples. The concentration is far less, and most of what you shoot with a rifle is going to bet burried way deeper in impact than lead shot that falls back to earth (pond bottoms) after losing vertical inertia.
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Old January 24, 2010, 01:24 AM   #4
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Quit listening to the commie EPA. Lead that lays out in the open, or gets projected into the ground, doesn't leach out. It forms an oxide layer that is entirely water proof, and non soluble. So you're worried about nothing.
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Old January 26, 2010, 04:37 PM   #5
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Yep. You sometimes see white oxide build up, but without very acidic soil, it's pretty much harmless. Take a look at Civil War bullets dug up from battlefields. Those white crusted mini-balls are full weight, for all practical intent and purpose.

Either cast or jacketed bullets will splatter lead around if they hit a steel plate squarely, but the pieces don't resemble fish eggs or seeds, like shot does, so the birds have little interest, AFAIK? If you have the option and the money, set up traps so you can catch and melt and clean and flux and re-use the lead. Bullets that hit steel angled beyond a critical degree don't dig into the steel, and more ricochet than splatter. Savage makes commercial semi-snail style bullet traps on this principle (though the design takes less steel than the original M1 .30 Carbine snail traps did), and they allow very easy recovery of the spent bullets.

If you can't afford a ready-made trap, but you have some scrap plate, tip it until the steel is struck by the bullet at about a 10 degree angle. If the plate is about 6 times longer than wide, it will look pretty much like a square from the shooter's vantage point at that angle. Catch the bullets in sandbags under the plate. Periodically dump the sand through a hardware cloth sieve to recover the bullets, then re-bag it. Replace the bags as needed.
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Old January 29, 2010, 02:17 AM   #6
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Quote:
Quit listening to the commie EPA.
That's the sort of silly comment that makes me question the grade of advice I get here on this subject.

Anyway, to answer okiefarmer, my concern is that shooting up hard targets (cinderblocks, etc) or when rounds go through the target and hit a rock out in the field, then it's going to cause the lead to do what lead does when it hits something at rifle velocity, namely cast off a huge number of tiny little lead fragments and dust. The way the water flow on my property is, that's going to take that stuff right into my pond, which sits almost on top of my water well. Not a good idea.

Also if I ever want to hunt anything, I'm damn sure going to be using lead-free ammo. Somebody did a study awhile back and found that using a lead bullet on a deer left hundreds of those little bits of lead I mentioned buried inside the meat.

And no, that white corroded coating does not protect lead from leaching into the environment. Tests have shown that the oxidized lead leaches several inches into the ground. If that soil gets washed into the water table, it takes it's lead content with it. It can also be taken up by nearby plants.

Like I said, it wouldn't be a problem if this were a properly maintained range where the soil was treated and the ground sifted. But this is a cornfield behind my house, and I'd like not to mess the place up.
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Old January 29, 2010, 03:11 AM   #7
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So you have your own conclusions made before coming here to ask for opinions? You got mine, If you choose to ignore my advice, then so be it. I still say you are worried about nothing. Metallic lead simply doe not dissolve in water! It's lies from the EPA that you're repeating like it was fact, instead of a government agency that depends on fear tactics to stay in power.
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Old January 29, 2010, 09:09 AM   #8
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ADB, you have stated several times in your previous post that "someone did a study somewhere" "tests show..." . I am not being confrontational (some people are really touchy on here), but would like some sources. I think it would be a very interesting and informative read since I shoot 100% cast lead bullets. Thanks in advance!
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Old January 29, 2010, 09:25 AM   #9
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The "research" on the game contaminated with lead was mostly rebuked as being driven by one man with an agenda and not scientifically valid. I do not worry about game taken with lead projectiles.

ABD- I would not worry about the lead issue myself. However, that is me. You must do what keeps you happy and at peace.
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Old January 29, 2010, 10:32 AM   #10
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Quote:
I only go shooting on my own land, and in the watershed of my personal pond, so I'm trying to use as little lead as possible in my ammunition. At the same time, I'd like to get into reloading. But buying pre-prepared FMJ bullets for loading is a lot more expensive even than buying cast lead. Is there a material suitable for casting rounds that would be both non-toxic and safe for loading in my .308 rifle?

Go with Pb in a gallery load and build a PbTrap. What range?
I know its not exactly what your asking. It is amazing the accuracy and economy outta a little heavy bullet over just a little Unique or 4759
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Old February 3, 2010, 01:06 PM   #11
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One study: http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/hunting/lead/index.html

This study addressed fragmentation of hunting bullets in sheep to approximate the impact on whitetail deer. It found that lead particles from fragmentation travel further in the body of the animal than previously thought. It also found significant differences in fragmentation depending on bullet type.

It did not draw any medical conclusions as that was outside the scope of the study.
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Old February 6, 2010, 02:41 PM   #12
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Didn't lead come from the ground in the first place.
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Old February 6, 2010, 04:10 PM   #13
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yup and most of you all drank from it when your house had lead pipes.

Lead oxides are were most of the danger is at, think of the old japanese geisha girls with the white faces......yup........white lead oxide. White lead, red lead and all there ilk is what really does the damage, it transfers through tissue much MUCH more efficiently then a peice of solid lead. That and really OLD lead paint starts to "dust", another bad thing. A straight old plain peice of lead in metal form at room temperature is pretty damn safe. It IS plain old fear mongering about lead.

And I'l agree your worrying about nothing, you have more of a risk of someones changing there oil in the field next to yours leeching into your pond then you do of lead poisoning.

But hey its your land, you do as you please. Seems your minds made up so why ask the question in the first place?
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Old February 7, 2010, 03:22 AM   #14
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It sounds like you're concerned enough to not shoot on your own land, and I'm guessing that nobody from this site will convince you one way or the other. Whatever your reasons and logic, they're your own and I can respect that regardless of whether I agree with it.

My suggestion, if you are overly concerned about lead, is to cast hot glue bullets and shoot them instead. Simply fill a mould cavity using a hot glue gun instead of molten lead alloy, and load using nothing more than a primer. You don't even have to worry about powder. You won't get the recoil experience of touching off a full-house .44 mag load with a 300 grain bullet, but the upside is that your shooting expenses will be 1/10th what they might otherwise be.

Just one option to consider...
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Old February 16, 2010, 03:52 AM   #15
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Quote:
ADB, you have stated several times in your previous post that "someone did a study somewhere" "tests show..." . I am not being confrontational (some people are really touchy on here), but would like some sources. I think it would be a very interesting and informative read since I shoot 100% cast lead bullets. Thanks in advance!
Sorry this took so long. There's been a few studies about lead fragmentation and it's entry into the environment, but here's one good example speaking to specifically the issue of hunting. It's a research paper entitled "Lead Bullet Fragments in Venison from Rifle-Killed Deer: Potential for Human Dietary Exposure." From the abstract:

Quote:
Human consumers of wildlife killed with lead ammunition may be exposed to health risks associated with lead ingestion. This hypothesis is based on published studies showing elevated blood lead concentrations in subsistence hunter populations, retention of ammunition residues in the tissues of hunter-killed animals, and systemic, cognitive, and behavioral disorders associated with human lead body burdens once considered safe. Our objective was to determine the incidence and bioavailability of lead bullet fragments in hunter-killed venison, a widely-eaten food among hunters and their families. We radiographed 30 eviscerated carcasses of White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus) shot by hunters with standard lead-core, copper-jacketed bullets under normal hunting conditions. All carcasses showed metal fragments (geometric mean = 136 fragments, range = 15–409) and widespread fragment dispersion. We took each carcass to a separate meat processor and fluoroscopically scanned the resulting meat packages; fluoroscopy revealed metal fragments in the ground meat packages of 24 (80%) of the 30 deer; 32% of 234 ground meat packages contained at least one fragment. Fragments were identified as lead by ICP in 93% of 27 samples. Isotope ratios of lead in meat matched the ratios of bullets, and differed from background lead in bone. We fed fragment-containing venison to four pigs to test bioavailability; four controls received venison without fragments from the same deer. Mean blood lead concentrations in pigs peaked at 2.29 µg/dL (maximum 3.8 µg/dL) 2 days following ingestion of fragment-containing venison, significantly higher than the 0.63 µg/dL averaged by controls. We conclude that people risk exposure to bioavailable lead from bullet fragments when they eat venison from deer killed with standard lead-based rifle bullets and processed under normal procedures. At risk in the U.S. are some ten million hunters, their families, and low-income beneficiaries of venison donations.
The paper's conclusion recommends that if you intend to hunt for food, or donate your kills to food pantries, etc, you should use lead-free bullets.

http://tinyurl.com/dy3wfr

Here's a page talking about some older studies, complete with the X-rays showing the lead microfragments:

http://www.dnr.state.wi.us/org/land/wildlife/lead.htm

Here's a news item on another study conducted on a firing range in Virginia showing that oxidized lead was absorbed by plantlife such as trees around where bullets impacted, and could be carried along with eroding soil:

http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/15772.php

Quote:
It sounds like you're concerned enough to not shoot on your own land, and I'm guessing that nobody from this site will convince you one way or the other.
You're correct. I'm not looking for anyone to convince me that cast lead is best, just bouncing ideas around for alternatives.

Quote:
My suggestion, if you are overly concerned about lead, is to cast hot glue bullets and shoot them instead. Simply fill a mould cavity using a hot glue gun instead of molten lead alloy, and load using nothing more than a primer. You don't even have to worry about powder. You won't get the recoil experience of touching off a full-house .44 mag load with a 300 grain bullet, but the upside is that your shooting expenses will be 1/10th what they might otherwise be.
That's an interesting thought. I had considered using something like caulk or casein plastic, but I figured that might be too experimental and potentially dangerous. I didn't want to screw around with the basic structure of a round too much.
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Old February 16, 2010, 08:38 AM   #16
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Bullet trap?????

You can build 1 from chewed up tires that`ll catch most of what the public can shoot !!!

A box filled with the stuff is fairly simple to build & maintain!!
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Old February 16, 2010, 11:38 AM   #17
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ADB, interesting articles. I always take studies like that with a grain of salt. The article states that sustenance hunter populations show elevated levels of blood lead concentrations. I am going to go out on a limb and say that most hunters are NOT sustenance hunters, but merely casual hunters that still get 95% of their food from the grocery store. I may be wrong. I personally am more worried about going to an indoor range that has bad ventilation. Thanks for posting the sources!
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Old February 16, 2010, 07:16 PM   #18
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I`ve cast, shot,& eaten as much if not more than average game (if we as youngens shot it we had to clean & eat it ) & to this day eat my share of deer sausage & loins

My heavy metal Blood test came back negative .

Think of all the wheel weights that fly off tires & is just layin beside the roads contaminating the ground waters .

I don`t believe it never will , but someone in DC. does !!! because my zinc pile is growin

ICH PM inbound , different subject
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Old February 16, 2010, 10:15 PM   #19
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Also, they say ELEVATED levels of lead, they don't say DANGEROUS levels of lead. Likely meaning the level is below the point where it is toxic.

Another problem is that correlation does not imply causation. We don't know if the lead came from the bullets or if it came from other sources.
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Old February 19, 2010, 06:41 PM   #20
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You guys won't convince him lead is not evil. He has bought into the twisted "scientific" lies we have all been feed. Some of us have done the research and know the lead in game and from splattered bullets is insignificant. Some of us have eaten lead shot game all our lives and still show lower than average lead levels in our bodies. But none of that means a thing when you have a liberal funded "science" out there with the specific intent of putting one nail at a time in the coffin of the shooting sports. He bought it, so be it. Stupid is as stupid does.
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Old February 28, 2010, 12:44 PM   #21
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ADB, sorry you've been branded as an evil liberal lead hater for having a concern about your health. Forgive me for not addressing your alternative casting question... I think the answer is "all things in moderation", if your watershed was under a public range backstop with piles of spent projectiles I'd be uneasy.

Here's an idea, collect a tap water sample and have it tested for heavy metals through your extension service. Shoot at will for a year, and have it tested again, and again the year after. If you see a trend that makes you uncomfortable, then stop.

That study you pasted the abstract from is very shaky both in that Plos One is basically the wikipedia of journals and the group that submitted it is The Peregrine Fund, a subsidiary of Earth Share (hard to pretend there is not an agenda). Also, in the study they only fed the test pigs deer meat that was high in fragments. In reality you wouldn't only eat the region of meat that had been impacted by the bullet from all your kills. Not saying that lead isn't harmful but as a researcher I didn't find this data convincing.
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Old March 3, 2010, 12:18 PM   #22
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Rich, that's one of the best posts in this thread!

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Old March 3, 2010, 12:31 PM   #23
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I have not fired up the ol' pot for quite some time, so I have not kept up on the latest advances in casting and safety.

Is bismuth offered to home hobbyists to pour their own bullets?
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Old March 3, 2010, 02:09 PM   #24
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Tourist, bismuth is much too brittle to be used for bullets. It would probably not cast well either. It's nearly impossible to find anymore, the outfit that was marketing bismuth shot has gone belly up. Bismuth shot was alloyed with tin to make it usable, it was so brittle in pure form, you couldn't push it to usable velocity without it shattering.

Even when alloyed with tin, you had to be real careful how hard you pushed it in shotshell loads. Then, you HAD to use a special buffer and slow burning powder to get good patterns. I spent most of one summer developing bismuth loads for 2 shells. One was 2-¾, the other a 3" shell. 1-¼ and 1-5/8 respectively.
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Old March 3, 2010, 04:19 PM   #25
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Snuffy, thanks for the update. With Wisconsin being what it is, I'm expecting some very serious parameters passed into law.

We have a real mess here. During the Vietnam War, one of the places where munnitions were made was at Badger Ordnance. It was poorly run. They had their own fire department on site--a fellow shooter worked their during the hey-day and admitted they had "at least one fire per day." The water table in that entire area is contaminated.

I recently sold all of my reloading equipment to a fellow TFL member. Many of the supplies were related to the use of cast bullets. In fact, I gave him a few coffee cans of bullets to which the Dillon press was adjusted. He's in this for the long haul, and alternatives might be needed.
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