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Old January 30, 2013, 09:38 AM   #1
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Lead fouling ??? New guy casting

I'm casting Lee 158 grain .358" SWC tumble lube, Loading .38 Special
2.8 grs. Clays, CCI small pistol primers (about 825 fps per Hodgdon)
They shoot great for plinking.

My lead is very hard compared to standard purchased cast bullets. I am seeing very little deformation when I dig up the bullets. Most of my lead came from RailRoad scrap my Dad picked up over the years. (some type of bearing maybe) Yes, I'm too cheap to buy a lead hardness tester. I'm noticing some lead fouling in the forcing cone. Not bad but a pain to clean. Rifling is very clean. I previously only shot factory jacketed bullets.

I have a few questions....

1. What damage can be caused by shooting hard lead ???
2. What should I add to soften the pot of lead ? (I have lots of it)
3. Any other advice? ( I know, dumb question)

I'll try to add photo's in a few days.

Thanks in advance
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Old January 30, 2013, 10:09 AM   #2
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Nothing wrong with shooting hard cast bullets, nothing at all.

Just don't get carried away with the powder charge, stick to the loads listed in reloading manuals for your bullet and you'll be ok.

If you want to softer bullets, go to a scrap yard and buy some lead. Normally it will be soft.

If you'll look at reloading manuals, what determines pressure is the amount of the bullet that touches the barrel. Also you'll notice for the same type of bullet, one being jacketed one being lead, they recommend less powder for lead. I think the soft lead creats more drag.

But, if you'll stick to the loads listed (not max loads) you'll be OK.
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Old January 30, 2013, 07:41 PM   #3
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If this "lead"came from a railroad, I would be afraid to use it for bullet casting for fear that it maybe Babbit bearing alloy.

Babbit is a bearing alloy that contains a lot of lead. It also contains a lot of tin and arsnic. If this is babbit and you have to use it for bullets do your smelting and casting outside because of the gray arsnic. It's very poisonous.

Babbit can have a hardness of up to 32 BHN. Hardcast bullets are usually no harder than 22-24 BHN. Pure solid copper bullets are also around 32 BHN so I wouldn't think the hardness of Babbit would be a factor in damaging a barrel.

If I had to use Babbit I would definately soften it with pure lead, but it would probably be my last choice for a lead source.
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Old January 30, 2013, 11:19 PM   #4
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I dont know anything about babbit, but if the bullets are that hard, I agree that softening them may help.

I would try adding some pure lead to a batch of maybe 50-75 bullets and see what happens before changing a whole bunch of alloy. If its only a little bit of fouling in the forcing cone and the barrel is clean, I wouldnt worry much about it myself. If its working, keep shooting.

You can add stick on wheel weights or lead pipe to soften it and if its as hard as LE-28 thinks, I would try 50%. Did you slug the barrel? It could be you need a hair bigger diameter bullet.
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Old January 31, 2013, 02:47 PM   #5
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The story gets longer.

I will be making a home made hardness tester and compare it to a known hardness bullet. I have everything I need except a 5/16 ball bearing.

See attached photo. Left to right, Out of the mold bullet, fired cast bullet, and purchased lead bullet of unknow harness. Both fired bullets went through the same rubber material and stopped by an old frying pan backstop. Big difference in the amount of deformation.

The arsnic issue is a little concerning, but as I think about the (3) parts I smelted down they didn't look like they were used for a traditional heavy load rotating shaft bearing application. Which babbit usally is. I always smelt in the open air anyway.

The lead parts where the size of a 1/2 scale bowling ball cut in half. Maybe counter weights. The world will never know. I bent the ladle handle when I melted them down to a more managable size ingot.

The more people I talk to about the lead fouling in the forcing cone the less concerned I am about it. Seems like I'm worrying to much about it. Like I said before, "They shoot great" Very accurate with low recoil. Could shoot all day long.

My latest concern is how much the .38 spl case bulges when I seat the bullet. So I measured the bullet diameter. The Lee 158 grain .358" SWC tumble lube bullet, is as much as .0005" under to .001 over. Depending on where I measure on the bullet. Should I be sizing these bullets? Once again "They shoot great" and they fit in the cylinder.

Thanks again
Attached Images
File Type: jpg Bullets.jpg (91.8 KB, 40 views)
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Old January 31, 2013, 04:08 PM   #6
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From the above wiki;
"There are many Babbitt alloys in addition to Babbitt's original. Some common compositions are:

90% tin, 10% copper
89% tin, 7% antimony, 4% copper
80% lead, 15% antimony, 5% tin
76% copper, 24% lead
75% lead, 10% tin
67% copper, 28% tin, 5% lead"

LE-28, I don't know where you got the info that babbitt contains arsenic. Yes, arsenic is poisonous, but so is lead. Shotgun shot and many other lead alloys also have arsenic in them. Normal precautions for casting lead will keep you safe. Many casters have used arsenic bearing lead alloys for years with little/no problems.

MJES92, that metal is probably some sort of balance weights, I doubt it's babbit. Babbitt is highly sought after for adding to lead as a hardening agent. But care must be taken to avoid the copper bearing babbitt, too much copper is bad for bullet casting.

From the looks of the recovered bullets, it's quite hard. If you air cooled them, meaning dropped on something, then allowed to cool, then they should be as soft as the could be. Age/time will allow then to gain hardness as well. What do they weigh?
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Old January 31, 2013, 07:19 PM   #7
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The slight case bulge is ok when loading cast bullets. It shows that the lead bullet is oversized. That is great thing with cast lead. If it chambers keep it like it is. As for the lead at the forcing cone sounds like too hard of an alloy to me. When bullets are hard it takes more to deform the base enough for a good seal to the bore. Softer alloys will get a better seal most times.

Oh and for the sake of saying so. Use a copper Chore Boy wrapped around a cleaning brush to get the lead out. If it is just a small amount there. After that find some softer lead to alloy what you have with. Try a little bit. Then shoot them and see.
No matter how many times you do it and nothing happens it only takes something going wrong one time to kill you.
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Old January 31, 2013, 07:50 PM   #8
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That would be great alloy to cast rifle boolits with ; )

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Old January 31, 2013, 09:53 PM   #9
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LE-28, I don't know where you got the info that babbitt contains arsenic.
From the Babbitt Bearing Alloys reference guide that was approved by ISO9002, QS 9000, Ford Q-1.

I can't put the whole 32 page pdf on here but here are some paragraphs from it.
babbitts commonly contain
copper and antimony following the
pattern, though not necessarily the
proportions, of Isaac Babbitt’s
original alloy. They have hardness
up to 32BHN which gives them
excellent load-carrying
characteristics. They show low
friction resistance, low wear, good
run-in properties and good
emergency behavior in the
absence of adequate lubrication.

lead-antimony-tin alloys are not
the equal of tin-base alloys but are
fully adequate for lower loads and
moderate temperatures.

The lead-antimony-arsenic alloys
are the equal of tin-base alloys in
their ability to retain hardness and
strength at elevated temperatures.
In this respect they are superior to
conventional lead-base alloys

This is from the "Practical Machinist" Read the last paragraph

Most (older?) railway car axle bearings are Babbitt. Babbitt with lead is less likely to develop cracks and has a tendency to conform to the journal a little better. Old stationary engines, mostly use leaded Babbitt bearings as did other agricultural machinery and other industrial machinery.

Lead is nothing to be afraid of, just don't eat it. Be concerned about arsenic. Arsenic is a metal and was melted into some Babbitt alloys as it increases the fluidity in some applications. Some old Babbitt I remelted years ago left my pot with an orange lining, it had so much Arsenic in it. Pure arsenic is a bright orange color.

End quote.
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Old January 31, 2013, 10:40 PM   #10
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Babbitt makes some good bullets.
Many years ago my uncle worked at a machine shop, he was the parts man, and would get me some broken babbitt castings from time to time. Chunks of metal coated with oil, in card board boxes to absorb the oil.

As I remember the bullets cast with it did not shrink as much as those with more lead and were a pain to run in my sizer/lubricator. A friend of my dad was a Doctor and he gave me the pure lead cylinders that NUCLEAR medicines came in. I mixed the two to get a more useful alloy.

I would suggest that you check the diameters of some of your bullets, they could well be larger than you thought/want.

I don't remember any 'orange' coloring when casting with any of that babbitt. Must have been a different mix.

Be safe,

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Old February 1, 2013, 12:01 PM   #11
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Thanks for the info guys.

I will be loading a few test rounds this weekend. Ojectives are as follows.

1. Weigh bullets
2. Loan my buddy's chronograph
3. Build hardness tester
4. Shoot
5. Report test results

It's going to take me a week to get this done.

Some of the babbitt dicussion is jaring my memory. I actually remember seeing some railway car axle bearings. (Don't ask why) They were much less dense that lead. No signs of orange discoloration in the pot. I did notice this batch of lead was slightly more shiney in color.

I will report back in a few days.

Thanks all the info. I appreciate it.
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Old February 10, 2013, 08:26 PM   #12
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Test result

Loaned a Chonograph & went to the range.
Loading .38 Special
I'm casting Lee 158 grain .358" SWC tumble lube,
3.0 grs. Clays, CCI small pistol primers

Two different C.O.L & two different revolvers
6" barrel
1.475" average velocity = 702 fps
1.445" average velocity = 754 fps

2" barrel
1.475" average velocity = 645 fps
1.445" average velocity = 690 fps

I was suprised to see the 50 fps increase with only a difference in the depth I seated the bullet. I seated them shorter than spec only becase the crip ended up on top of a tumble lube ridge. Why the diiference?

Any opinions on the bullet velocity?

By comparison Winchester (white box) 158 grain copper jacket
6" barrel Ruger
average velocity = 779 fps

2" barrel Taurus
average velocity = 680 fps

Lead fouling seems minimal
Bullets are dropping at 160 to 153 grains.
Still working on the hardness tester.

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