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Old April 12, 2013, 12:55 AM   #1
Derius_T
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Casting from materials besides lead?

Anyone have any info on casting reliable bullets from materials other than lead? Since lead is getting harder to find/more expensive, was wondering if there were any cheap, reliable alternatives?

(just getting the spark of interest for reloading, never done any)
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Old April 12, 2013, 07:10 AM   #2
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Wheel weighs are great for light to mid-level loads, but current cast off's from tire shops will fill a bucket with 70% Wheel Weights, 30% zinc, steel or aluminum. You've got to cull these out to make good bullets.

Cast Boolits forum has a world of information, especially in their "Stickys". Set up can be expensive or very cheap depending on equipment bought, but the end result can be tuned to your guns and cheaply. Currently, I'm paying $20 per hundred lbs. of wheel weights. That equates to just under a penny a piece for 200 gr .45 ACP LTWC's, if you discount the cost of the equipment. HTH's Rod
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Old April 12, 2013, 08:18 AM   #3
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Quote:
...if there were any cheap, reliable alternatives?
No, there is no cheap, available, convenient low melting, low cost, heavy alloy that casts bullets that could be an alternative to lead.
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Old April 12, 2013, 01:03 PM   #4
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Thanks for the info. Most of the guys I am talking to at the moment use wheel weights too but are still running into the same problem of 30% lead content instead of all lead weights. Too many steel and zinc weights now. Also they say a good source is boat ballast. I have no idea. Just wondering if there were any alternatives to lead. I had read where some experiments were being done with zinc, but it was proving too light to be effective when cast.
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Old April 12, 2013, 02:27 PM   #5
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Lead is by far the best and I don't think we are in a critical situation with it, yet. There is an article on casting zinc bullets for big-bore rifles in the 12th Edn of Handloader's Digest (1990). Page 128 and the author is Carl Bosselman. Interesting reading.
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Old April 12, 2013, 03:20 PM   #6
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Yes, I read a very similar article. (can't remember the source) Thanks for the information. My thoughts are what happens if lead in fact becomes too high or scarce like during WWII? Brass cases become too expensive or scarce, so companies switch to steel. Lead becomes too expensive or scarce, we switch to....what? That is the interesting part for me.
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Old April 12, 2013, 06:42 PM   #7
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If lead gets too scarce to be economical, I think that jacketed mild steel is the most economical alternative for a big military. Don't know how that translates to boollit casters.

Maybe small CNC lathes cranking out precision turned mild steel cores to be fitted inside spent 22 casing brass?

Still, there are very few metals that have the characteristics that make lead such a good projectile, although Bismuth has taken over for "lead free shot" in some loads. I don't see that as economical though.

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Old April 12, 2013, 09:19 PM   #8
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Zinc is the closest to lead but the temps you would have to work at would be trouble for moulds other than steel, then the fumes .

The exp I have with zinc ,it would be close to 1kf to get it to work ,then the mold 500+ & even then fill out would be ???

But the bullet would be so hard if even a spec of the band is full dia. it should hold pressure back .

The use would be target only as they would shatter upon imact !
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Old April 12, 2013, 09:25 PM   #9
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The think I have seen that what appears to be a problem with zinc is that a bullet of the same diameter of zinc will be significantly lighter than it's lead counterpart, and seems to severely affect ballistics.....but what do I know?
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Old April 13, 2013, 09:50 PM   #10
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Which is why gilding metal bullets must be longer than their lead core counterparts to have similiar mass, bc, and sectional density.

Obviously zinc or tin bullets would be lighter. Google "pewter bullets" to see what some people have done with that concept.

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Old April 13, 2013, 10:54 PM   #11
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The other problem with using other materials is that the coefficient of expansion, depending on the metal, may be significantly different from lead. That means one would need molds made specially for the materials used to insure that the finished bullet is the right size after it cools and shrinks.

It likely wouldn't be as simple as using existing molds intended for lead casting.
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Old April 14, 2013, 09:07 PM   #12
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I have seen some data on using pewter for cast bullets with some success as well. It seems people are indeed looking for alternatives to lead. (especially in california where lead is banned as I understand?)
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Old April 14, 2013, 09:23 PM   #13
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Quote:
any cheap, reliable alternatives?
For short range plinking I understand glue sticks or canning wax works. And you don't even have to buy powder or resize your brass.
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Old April 15, 2013, 08:41 AM   #14
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Here's a chart of the specific gravity of metals.
http://www.simetric.co.uk/si_metals.htm
The closest to lead is what the Lone Ranger used for his bullets - silver.
But it takes a lot more heat, though.
Melting point chart:
http://www.engineeringtoolbox.com/me...als-d_860.html
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Old April 15, 2013, 12:08 PM   #15
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Thanks for the charts! Good stuff! I think I saw a mythbusters or something where they did silver bullets. If I recall it didn't turn out so well...
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Old April 15, 2013, 06:26 PM   #16
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accuracy was poor and terminal ballistics were disappointing. But they did get to shoot stuff with silver bullets.

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Old April 15, 2013, 07:00 PM   #17
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Casting from materials besides lead?

At the current value of gold, gold may prove to be the perfect metal for boolit casting.
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Old April 15, 2013, 11:27 PM   #18
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And I thought it was a golden gun.

Or how about the Icy bullet that melts without a trace?

My vote is copper jacketed tungsten core
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Old April 15, 2013, 11:52 PM   #19
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Boomer, I was thinking the same thing. What would happen though? My guess is lower velocity and zero expansion. It sure would penetrate though!
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Old April 16, 2013, 12:45 AM   #20
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Many things have been tried but lead is by far the best.

Pressed paper has been used (My dad was hit in the heel with one of them in the Philippines, only knocked him down.) but I don't think that paper was much more than a last resort.

Machined copper, brass, bronze has been used. It doesn't expand worth a darn. (Don't tell the gun grabbers, but then they wouldn't understand anyway.)

Soft/er steel/iron materials are used but they don't have the mass and the bullets get so long for the desired weight. As long as it is soft enough not to harm the barrel steel.

Yes, gold and silver can be used. Kind of expensive, no very expensive. Silver is harder and lighter but with load adjustments should work for non expanding loadings. As for gold, I'm not going to even try it out at the current pricing.

So what is usable? For casting, lead or a lead alloy. For machining or other forming methods, just about any metal can work, just not very well. (Don't tell those companies making the 'non-lead' bullets. They may not like it that I don't think much of the concept.)

Enjoy,

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Old April 16, 2013, 01:19 AM   #21
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Maybe the sabot is the future. You can load whatever payload you like, within reason that is.

As for my tungsten core comment... yes. Virtually no expansion but extreme penetration. I was referring to AP ammo.
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Old April 16, 2013, 07:51 AM   #22
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Seems there has been a lot of experimenting over the years with different materials. Strange that lead is pretty much the only resource we have that is perfect in every way. What about an all copper bullet? Has that been tried to anyone's knowledge? This is turning out to be an interesting thread.
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Old April 16, 2013, 09:13 AM   #23
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Substitute for Lead

Yes there is..Bismuth. It can be melted like lead, in a small casting pot and is far less toxic than lead, BUT it costs 10 times more.

IMHO, it it be possible, any serious shooter than has the means, should make a sand box trap to capture their lead to sieve and reuse. I have been doing so with excellent result. However most don't have the luxury of their own range to do so.

From my "research" lead is being used more and more as China & India manufacture more motor vehicles. It could well be that in 15~20 years it will be in very short supply as the mines run out of ore.

Last edited by Wallyl; April 16, 2013 at 09:19 AM.
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Old April 16, 2013, 09:15 AM   #24
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There are considerable numbers of all-copper bullets available. Not cheap but effective if made right and necessary in California where we don't want the condors to get sick from eating the cripples that slob hunters don't follow up.

NRA did some experiments with cast zinc bullets. At 62% the density of lead, you are going to have to go for light weight, high velocity.
The Aquila IQ ammunition was loaded with a zinc hollowpoint meant to fragment rather than expand.
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Old April 16, 2013, 09:21 AM   #25
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"What about an all copper bullet? Has that been tried to anyone's knowledge?"

Back in the mid 70s there was a company that produced bronze bullets. I looked at (and swallowed my teeth at the price per each) that were touted as 'the ultimate .357 bullet'. The old gray matter doesn't remember much about them other than the extreme cost. As I remember they had 'gas rings' (like cast lead bullets) from the base to the rather pointy tip and weighed in at 80 or so grains.

I think that they would meet the ATF criteria as being armor piercing pistol bullets. I had no interest in them other than as a curiosity. They didn't last long on the market as I remember.

Bronze is made of copper, that's close.

Load safe,

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