View Full Version : Can I recycle used lead cast bullets?

zig mag roller
February 5, 2010, 10:36 PM
Hey guys. So, I'm out shooting today up in the hills @ the popular locals spot. I usually pick up whatever brass I can find to either reload or trade. Well, I was bent over picking up some 45 ACP brass and noticed a neat little pile of already fired cast lead bullets, being a scavenger, I picked them up. By the time I was done shooting and scavenging, I had picked up about 3 1/2 pounds of used cast bullets of various calibers, mostly .38 spl. & .44 I've have never done any casting, but it's something I've been wanting to try my hand at. Can I melt these old bullets down and recycle them into new projectiles? They are all still in pretty good shape. My questions are: They still have the lube in the groove - will this interfere with the chemical make up of the alloy when the lead liquifies or will it become an impurity and be removable from the molten lead by skimming the sides/top? I hope that I can recycle them, if yall could throw in your 2 cents I'd appreciate it. Please feel free to fill in any blanks that I have not considered. :confused: Thanks - Mike

February 5, 2010, 11:20 PM
Yes, you can remelt and cast bullets from them. You can melt jacketed bullets also, the jackets float to the top when the lead melts. The lube in the cast bullets will vaporize when the lead melts. It will act as flux to remix and clean the lead alloy. Best to melt lead outside, or with very good ventilation, the fluxing fumes/smoke being one of several reasons. When fluxing, or melting your recycled bullets, the lube will smoke. You can light it with a match and it will eliminate much of the smoke. I did say match. I don't think you want to use a lighter. Dropping a lighter into molten lead would be bad. BTW, getting the smallest particle of water into the lead after it melts is bad. Very bad. It causes an instant steam explosion that splatters molten (800deg) lead around. Very hard on skin and things like that. Always wear glasses when melting lead, and good clothes, and shoes. Stay covered!

After reading that, you know not to melt lead anywhere near powder or primers, right?

Not following the basic safety precautions with lead can make you say bad words. With profound emphasis.

Read up on the process before starting. I read on a forum of a guy that started out knowing nothing about it, and melted his wheel weight alloy, and skimmed without fluxing. He got rid of all the nasty crud that came to the top when he melted it, and cast it into ingots. He also got rid of much of the hardening alloys by not fluxing them back in before skimming.

zig mag roller
February 6, 2010, 02:15 AM
Thanx Malamute. Yes, I will take all precautions when I begin casting my first boolits. I have been watching you guys chat for awhile now and have also watched about every youtube video on casting. Also as a home inspector my job requires me to carry certifications for lead inspection and renovations mostly in regards to paint, so I am more than aware of the dangers within this hobby. I'm glad you brought up the point about fluxing, do you think that the "lube" that exists in the grooves will be adequate or that I should add more(parafin)? I would ass/u/me that more is better, but........;) CRAP!!!!!!!!!!! You mean I could have picked up all those jacketed bullets also! Sorry guys, I'm not bragging, it's actually quite embarrasing, but my local "unofficial hillside range" is frequented by some very lazy [individuals], which I guess works to my advantage because I capitalize on their laziness by picking up after them - "one man's trash is another man's treasure" I could have come home with at least 10 pounds of free lead! Is the lead that the manufactures use in jacketed bullets hard enough to use in boolits. I just thought it would be MUCH softer because they use the jacket as the "strength"? Alright guys - keep it commin! By the way - good call on the "use a match - no lighters" my dumba$$ would have used a lighter too!

February 6, 2010, 08:55 AM
we do it all the time... we have a pistol target with a bullet trap behind it to keep the bullets in one place:eek:

February 6, 2010, 07:08 PM
I made a video of this exact process.


February 6, 2010, 11:18 PM
You are correct in figuring that jacketed bullet cores are softer than most cast bullets. If there isnt a lot of them, I just toss them in with the rest of the lead alloy. If there is a lot of them, you may want to save them for your percussion pistol (black powder) balls. See, I just figured a good reason for you to buy another gun, so you can make use of that soft lead.

You can experiment and see if it looks like the residual bullet lube is enough flux, or not. I'd save the ones (maybe 3 or 4) with the most lube for adding when it's time to flux. I use an old kitchen table spoon to lower things like that in, and for stirring and skimming the alloy. You really want to avoid dropping anything in the melted lead.

Molten lead is a little different hazard than lead paint, etc. Just figure that boiling water can really burn you badly. Melted lead is about 4x as hot. If something happens with molten lead, it happens fast, and is somewhat lasting. I think its a good idea to keep a bucket of cold water nearby, in case of a burn. Just remember, even a drop of water getting in molton lead can cause an instantaneous steam explosion tho, splattering the afformentioned extremely hot substance in all directions.

After the first couple times you burn yourself with hot lead, you get real careful around it. It does enhance your vocabulary tho.

zig mag roller
February 7, 2010, 12:25 PM
First off, I just want to thank you guys for jumping in and helping me set my sights straight on the process involved in recycling range lead. HEY TRIP_, I appreciate the video link it was very helpful, I'm sure I will be refering back to it in the future. I will be picking up a cast iron pot and muffin tins, etc. today so that I can begin experimenting. I will also be saving my pennies to invest in a Lee pot also, and quite possibly a cap and ball revolver @ the advice of Malamute, yes I'm easily swayed - you arm twister you............ HEY DISCO, I saw a new thread starter in regard to said boolit traps - I've already started using one, it's crude, but good enough for who it's for at this point. I'm sure mine will evolve, but I enjoy the ease of transport and low cost of my simple box filled with newpaper. OK, so my next question is, what do you guys think about investing in a brinnel hardness testing kit? Y'all ever use one? I'm a bit of a number cruncher when it comes to most things and I have seen calculations for matching brinnel to CUP to decrease leading build up. Let me know whatchya think. By the way MALAMUTE, I don't think that there is anything that can help me to "enhance" my vocabulary. I'm sure I will get burned, it would seem a necessary right of passage. While my use of the english language is quite advanced;), I'm sure that the audible level at which it is experienced will be quite memorable:eek: Thanks again guys for sharing your ideas and experiences. - Mike

February 7, 2010, 04:19 PM
The Lyman Cast Bullet Handbook is very good resource, I believe the standard Lyman manual also has a ton of good information and loads for cast bullets also.

Good luck, casting is fun.

BTW, whatever type moulds you end up with, I think the Lyman type lead ladle (dipper, or whatever they call it) seems to work better than the open type ladles.

February 8, 2010, 05:06 PM
ZIG, if you go back to that video link I posted and over on the right you click on more videos by me, there are some of my cap and ball revolver. I have the 1851 Confederate Navy .44 that Cabela's sells. There's a short video on loading and a few with my daughter shooting it too. Also got one of the display case I made for it. Cap and Ball revolvers are a ton of fun!