View Full Version : Casting Rifle balls with wheel weights

March 22, 2012, 12:04 AM
Hey Ya'll,

I know you guys told me that wheel weights are not a good idea for revolver balls (even though I'm gonna try it ;) ). But I really have a ton of them, so I don't see any reason why I can cast up some .535's and .570's out of it. I think the harder lead will give me good penetration on the 4 legged whitetail variety :D Whattaya think?

March 22, 2012, 12:54 AM
The stick on weights are close enough to pure lead for muzzle loader use. The clip on weights don't shrink as much when they cool and will be oversize. They will work if they're cast small enough and you use a patch thin enough. They work ok in C&B revolvers but they are a booger to load.

March 22, 2012, 03:41 AM
Well thats good to know. I have a mixed batch of stick on's and clip ons. So I'll just separate them. I haven't got the molds yet for the rifles but I will see what sizes are available. I can always adjust patch thickness.

Lee McNelly
March 22, 2012, 03:47 AM
are you going to add any along time ago i would use about a third per pot for 452

Doc Hoy
March 22, 2012, 05:14 AM
The US leading manufacturer of wheel weights uses an alloy that is never less than 95% lead and normally up near 98 to 99%. She told me that the decision about the alloy has to do with the cost of the various components and the cost to eliminate metals other than lead from the alloy. I asked her if they deliberately use other metals to alloy with the lead and she told me that the other metals do not make any difference in the characteristics of the weights. So apparently they do not deliberately add bismuth or tin or antimony to get any specific characteristic.

She told me that lead is the cheapest of the metals that might be present and there is no reason to pay more for the raw materials. Therefore the higher the percentage of lead, the cheaper the cost to make the weights and the happier they are.

Stick on or clip on makes no difference.

There are some zinc weights out there but they will not melt at the temperatures attainable in the lead pots people use for bullets.

There is a problem though. Many wheel weights are imported from China and the alloy is completely unknown.

I cast all of my bullets from lead from two sources.

One is ballast from ships which I was told was pure lead. (but the person who told me could not be truly relied upon to understand the definition of the word "pure")

Two is wheel weights.

My bullets pass the thumbnail test but I know they are slightly harder than Hornadys. Makes them a little harder to load but I use a press anyway.

March 22, 2012, 08:30 AM
I am, admittedly, a stubborn old traditionalist when it comes to muzzle loading firearms. I am a 'pure lead only' advocate.
There are risks if using hard lead in a C&B revolver. Take a look at your revolver from the front. You will see partial views of the five chambers not lined up with the barrel. There is a reason for that. If a chain fire occurs and all, or some, of the chambers ignite the ball can escape with no more harm than brown filled pants on the shooter. With hard balls there is considerable possibility the gun frame, and person holding it can be harmed.
Plus, on the more practical side, a hard ball may not (I won't say "cannot" because I dunno fer sure) get properly squashed as it enters the forcing cone into the bore (there is a reason they call it "forcing" cone) and, possibly cause a catastrophic event at that point.
Bottom line? My advice, pure lead only.

March 22, 2012, 09:41 AM
There's another source of inexpensive lead - scuba weights.
The number of people who have been certified, bought equipment and then lost interest is very high.
So, there's lots of old scuba weights to be found at garage sales and such.
But there's a serious precaution to be taken.
They can be water soaked.
Heat and water, especially water that's trapped inside the pores of the weights, can be very dangerous.
The water needs to be removed before attempts to melt the lead.
Just an added thought.

March 22, 2012, 09:48 AM
That is probably the best reasoning I've heard as to why one should use pure lead. Ok so you sold me. I really hate to buy lead when I have a 30 gallon drum of wheel weights. But my hands, fingers, face and arms are pretty important to me. I will just cast the rifle balls out of it and find some pure lead to cast my pistol balls. I wonder if there is anything written that says how hard of a casted ball is acceptable to be fired in a revolver. I mean if one had that info then the lee hardness tester would be a most useful tool.

March 22, 2012, 10:13 AM
Stick on or clip on makes no difference.

Sorry Doc but that's BS. Stick on weights are 99.5% pure with a BHN of 6, pure lead has a BHN of 5. Clip on weights have a BHN of 12. I use stick on weights for all my muzzle loaders but the clip on are too hard and difficult to load.


Alloy Tin% Antimony% Lead% BHN Arsenic
Foundry Type 15 23 62 ? No
Monotype 9 19 72 28 No
Stereotype 6 14 80 23 No
Linotype 4 12 84 22 No
Lyman # 2 5 5 90 15 No
Electrotype 3 2.5 94.5 12 No
1 to 10 tin/lead 9 --- 91 11.5 No
1 to 20 tin/lead 5 --- 95 10 No
1 to 30 tin/lead 3 --- 97 8 No
1 to 40 tin/lead 2.5 --- 97.5 6-7 No
Hard Ball 2 6 92 16 No
Clip-on .5 2 97.5 11 Yes
wheel weight 12
Stick-on * ** 99.5 6 No
wheel weight
# 8 Magnum --- 2-3% 97-98 *** Yes
Plumbers Lead --- --- ****100 No
Lead --- --- 100 5 No

March 22, 2012, 01:04 PM
The stick on wheel weights that I've collected from my buddy who runs a tire store make great BP round balls. I can tell that they're a little harder than the commercial Hornady balls, but not much.

The clip on weights are a lot harder. They definitely are unsuitable for loading in revolvers, at least for me. But they work just fine for plinking in .38/.357 and .45ACP loads.

I've never tested the hardness, other than the "can I load it with the ram on my 1862 police revolver" test. If I can't, it's hard. If I can, it's soft. :D

EDIT: I load .454's in my revolvers. Harder .451's might not be so tough to load.

March 22, 2012, 01:28 PM
Clip on wheel weight work just fine for patched round ball rifles. They also work well for revolvers if you use a loading press. I have been using them since 1978 with no ill effects to the cylinders or barrels. However, if loaded in a revolver on the gun, it is a strain on the Colt type arbor (I loosened one in a steel framed ASM 1860, since repaired) and a strain on the rammer screws themselves. Bottom line is it is NOT taboo to use clip on wheel weights as others have alleged, if you do it sensibly! ;)

Doc Hoy
March 22, 2012, 02:47 PM

It may be BS but it is what the tech rep told me.

She seemed to be knowledgable as she was the one getting the raw materials and controlling the manufacturing process. I don't think she had a reason to lie.

But it could be BS.

March 22, 2012, 04:18 PM
I started out using wheel weight lead for my ML roundball shooting. It worked fine and I had several folk tell me pure lead was really much better - which I do believe. Over time, I've diluted the WW lead with recycled bullets dug out of the backstops at the local range.

So I don't know what the ratio of ww/pure lead is but I can tell you that loading .454s that I cast w/my Lee moulds is a pretty tough proposition in my '51 & '58 Piettas. Maybe I should've bought a .451 mould instead(??)

Sorry, I know I got off the thread there....Personally I'm not overly concerned with the shooting diff between pure/not pure lead. But, to the original question by DS303, "hard" lead is not a requirement for killing deer. Millions were killed with "softer" lead projectiles prior to wheel weights being made available for bullet casting.

March 22, 2012, 05:21 PM
I had several folk tell me pure lead was really much better - which I do believe.

Please enlighten me as to WHY you think pure lead is better. With the hard lead, a .451 ball would be easier to load. I use hard lead .451's in all my .44 C&B revolvers.

March 22, 2012, 05:39 PM
Zullo, I should really say that the folks (many) who have stated that to me have had much more experience than I do, so I simply took them at their word. In all candor, I didn't do research or even informal shooting comparisons. So my stated opinion on this matter doesn't count. :o

I think I will get a Lee .451 mould.

March 23, 2012, 04:34 AM
Please enlighten me as to WHY you think pure lead is better.

The best insurance against a chain fire in a c&b revolver is proper fitting caps and balls. By proper fitting we mean when installed they fully seal the powder from outside the chamber. Fully.

With respect to the front of the chamber, the ball should be a press fit around it's entire circumference - no gaps. The best and easiest way to achieve this fit is to swage the ball into place. Swaging is a forging process of forcing a material through a constriction or die, thus cold forming it to the smallest dimension inside the die or constriction. In general, one looks for a thin ring of lead to be shaved from the ball when it's forced into the chamber; this ring of lead is evidence that the ball has been properly swaged. The softer the material being swaged the easier it is to form and the less force it requires to force it through the die.

Pure lead (being the softest and most malleable form) is better for this swaging process than an alloyed lead which requires more force and may not form properly.

You're either not swaging the .451 balls into place (thus trusting the balls to be perfectly formed, which is rarely the case) or using an undue amount of force in the process. While you may find that adequate, a softer lead would be better.

March 23, 2012, 07:46 AM
The harder alloy lead balls do in fact swage into the cylinder and leave a ring of lead just like pure lead balls. Yes they are a little harder to seat but accomplish the same thing in the end. Obviously, you don't use them, otherwise you would know.

Mike Irwin
March 23, 2012, 08:08 AM
A former coworker who was new to muzzleloading tried casting some balls out of a linotype-like alloy.

They were almost impossible to load.

March 23, 2012, 08:25 AM
my buddy who runs a tire store

I, too, have a buddy who runs a tire store. He is also an avid modern gun reloader, shooter and bullet caster.
He collects the wheel weights from his shop. He tells me there is no telling what kind of metal you are getting these days. Some are even all steel. Most are fairly hard lead alloy.
I am a pure lead guy for traditional muzzle loaders and will use only pure when I can get it.

March 23, 2012, 08:49 AM
Good for you guys. I will continue to use the supply of wheel weight alloy I have on hand, as it has worked for me since 1978. Enough said. You do it your way, I'll do it mine.

March 23, 2012, 08:56 AM
I didn't mean to open a can of worms. I do appreciate the replies though. I have a bunch of wheel weights, the steel ones just float up and get skimmed and set to the side. I've only smelted one pot of the stick on's and good lord that was a STINKY process, so I've only been melting the clip ons. But I will go through an separate them. I'll cast up a few .457's out of the clip ons and see how the ROA likes them though.

March 23, 2012, 09:48 AM
Coupla problems.
Loading hard alloy round balls with the on board loading lever can and eventually will cause harm to the gun.

I attempted to make my 454 RBs shiny a few years ago and added some lino to make them shine.

I had 4 chain fires before it dawned on me what my problem was. Went back to dead soft and have had no problems since.

Cast them hard if you wish and good luck to you.

March 23, 2012, 11:00 AM

I mentioned in a previous post that loading hard lead on the gun was tough on the gun and I use a loading press. Chain fires occur from the rear (go ahead and argue the point if you wish) and I have not had one attributable to my hard cast balls since 1978. YMMV. Good luck to you too, and do it the way that makes YOU happy! I only relayed my experiences.

Doc Hoy
March 23, 2012, 11:13 AM
IMHO, there is no need to hesitate about raising this issue.

Each time it comes up, a new entrant wades into the discussion and I am personally happy for the additional points of view.

I think I feel as though the best test of lead mixtures is what works for the individual shooter and only after careful consideration of all of the factors that are important to him or her. This assumes that the shooter is well informed and willing to try new things.

In some cases pure lead is hard or expensive to get and to the guy who wants to shoot inexpensively, bullet metal that is down to about 95% is tolerable if not optimal.

It does make sense that a hard metal bullet might be more likely to shave an incomplete ring, and therefore add to the likelihood of hot gases migrating into the front of the chamber. I shoot metal which I think is about 10 or 12 hardness based only upon what I think the percentage of other metals is (which is not even a SWAG) and I have had only one chain fire, in my life which I think came from a poorly fitting cap.

I do agree that harder metals make the loading process more potentially damaging to the pistol if you load with the lever. This is an excellent example of something I learned from the fist fights that develop on this forum. I was once an avid loading lever guy, swearing that a loading press is an unacceptable compromise made only by pantywastes who can't hack it. I have now changed my tune completely based exclusively on the coments of persons on this forum. I load only with a press and I think I can hear a feint "Thanks a lot, dude" from the arbor on my Colts every time I load.

March 23, 2012, 01:45 PM
No argument from me. All of my chain fires came from the mouth of the chambers. Witnessed. In every case the fired chamber had an unfired cap on the nipple.

September 9, 2012, 08:41 PM
Anybody work with the lead pans of Shower pans?

I'V had access to TONS! of this and Old Lead Toilet:rolleyes: Drain pipes,that connect to the Flange.

I am sure the lead goes into the water supply from the drains to the ground water and then brought back up for some to drink,but that is another deal to think about, EPA issues and all. Sorry I digress.

Just wonder if anybody has worked some of this material into the Range?

I get it in Sheets and people/Companies that do HOT Mops as well have connections to this.

We have pulled it out of Sunset/ Ca homes in San Fran and there are other places that used to be full Union, 50-100 yrs back which homes where done in this material.
No days they are Liners of plastic and such, but still today, re-modelers are taking out old Very soft thin Lead liners which can be 99 percent Lead.

I can let people know where to find these companies if need be. Most times the people involved toss it away, do to it being dangerous, in general. In San Fran, all/ ALL these sort of materials are Health issues and Liability issues, like Asbestos, so people are tossign it all and running from the problems around it.
It is for the taking and so if you are using some of this, let me know and or need more information on this Lead, LMK, maybe I can help Lead/Leed(LOL) you in the right direction.

Best regards !

Doc Hoy
September 10, 2012, 04:06 AM
Welcome to the forum.

Mike Irwin
September 10, 2012, 07:42 AM
I used to scrounge for old lead drain pipes to use for casting round balls for my muzzleloader.

They're pure, or virtually pure, lead and did very well.

I'm sure that old shower pans would also work very well.