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Old February 18, 2019, 12:13 PM   #1
Venti30
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Indoor range scrap

Soon, I’ll be able to get a load of a few, up to 5 buckets of indoor range lead scrap. This will be my first batch of lead recovery/ingot making.

Are there any special considerations relating to range recovery lead?

Seems from my research, there are fewer and fewer sources of lead available. This is my home range, owned by some great folks. It won’t be free, but it won’t be retail either.

My motivation for getting into casting is:

I’m a generally curious person
I like tinkering hobbies
I think I’d be able to make really good projectiles
I’d like to have a personal stockpile of lead, just in case
Ingot making will be phase 1, casting bullets later once I have a decent supply.

So, really for now just curious if indoor range scrap for melting lead presents any unique challenges?

Thanks in advance
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Old February 18, 2019, 12:31 PM   #2
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Wear a really good dust mask while collecting it, and if it's anything like the bullet trap I collected from, strip off your clothes when you get home so you don't track lead dust in the house.

It does cast very good projectiles. Bring a two-wheeler to move the buckets, each 5 gallons is well over 100 lbs. Or bring lots of buckets and only half-fill them. Make sure your tires are aired-up to whatever the max says on the sidewalls.
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Old February 18, 2019, 01:04 PM   #3
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Be sure to cut into bullets that are completely jacked, they can explode when smelted !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!. I use range lead alloyed with wheel weights and 95/5 solder all the time. hdbiker
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Old February 19, 2019, 05:07 PM   #4
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I agree with zxcvbob -

Don't use full 5 gallon buckets. Unless they are new they are FAR more likely to break under the weight - you're not likely to get them off the range intact.

If you do use 5 gallon buckets, only fill them 1/3rd of the way.

If you need more cheap buckets - Firehouse Subs sells their pickle buckets for $2.

I've never had a FMJ projectile "explode" - but I do cut into each one to break the jacket when smelting out the lead. I know of no reason for a FMJ to explode unless it has moisture within the jacket which is extremely unlikely. You are far more likely to come across a JHP with a drop of moisture in it.

Smelt the lead in a metal pot. This can be done outside on a cheap electric hot plate using a home depot hand propane torch to help it initially melt or on propane.. Flux it with a clean handful of sawdust and/or a piece of candle and/or a tablespoon of borax detergent available from walmart. Keep your smelting away from any food prep areas - not on the stove, not on your grill.

A cheap ingot mold is a 12 to 15 cavity small aluminum muffin tin often available at goodwill or walmart. This step is to clear gsr / grime / dirt / the copper jackets etc. I use a scrap metal spoon to get the crap out of the rough smelt pot as I go.

I like the muffin tin because the ingots are smaller and lighter making them easier to manage and easier to place into a bullet smelter later.

Avoid any casting or smelting activities in the rain or soon after rain as water and smelted lead inevitably lead to disaster or at the VERY least, pitted castings.
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Old February 19, 2019, 05:32 PM   #5
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Wilton Baking Co. makes an aluminum Mini-Muffin pan , 12 cavity is handiest to use.
the more cavities ...the more weight. Mini muffins are light...lead muffins are heavy.
They make a 24 cup pan also but that might be too flimsey for the weigh of lead... the one that does 12 mini-muffins is OK .

The Mini Muffin size ingot is much more handier than regular muffin size and Wilton is the only company I know that makes the aluminum pans.
They fit well in my Lee melting pots .
Gary
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Old February 19, 2019, 05:57 PM   #6
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2 or 2.5 ounce stainless steel condiment cups are good for making ingots. But a couple of years ago I switched to a cast iron corn muffin pan. (the ingots look like corn cobs ) The corn ingots stack better than you'd expect, and they fit well in the casting furnace.

Don't use a cheap steel muffin pan from the dollar store. I don't know what they are coated with, but the lead sticks and you'll have to destroy the pan to get the ingots out. Or so I've been told...
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Old February 19, 2019, 10:56 PM   #7
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Be sure to cut into bullets that are completely jacked, they can explode when smelted !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!.
Somebody will have to explain this one to me. I have never seen a FMJ bullet that does not have an open base...is there such a thing, and how do they construct them? The only way I can envision such a thing (FMJ with no opening), is plating and then those bullets are usually referred to as plated lead bullets, not Full Metal Jacket bullets. Am I missing something here?
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Old February 20, 2019, 08:57 AM   #8
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Im mostly just echoing here. I clip open most of the FMJ/plated bullets, this also eliminates any solid copper bullets, there are a few around. I made my own ingot molds, the throw a nice rectangular ingot that I can get to come out at 5 pounds. Just right. I like to set the ingot molds over the pot so they pre heat. Just like with bullets this makes for no wrinkles, Im sure youll find the same with muffin tins etc. All of my ingot stuff, as well as my ingots all go in 5 gallon buckets with lids, this keeps em together and not floating around to get lost or accidentally mixed up elsewhere and, here in humid land, keeps the lead from oxidizing, which is one of the worst sorces for lead contamination, along with dust.

Grab a slotted spoon from goodwill or the likes, dont try to save every lottle atitch of lead, you’ll pull your hair out!
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Old February 20, 2019, 11:57 AM   #9
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So, really for now just curious if indoor range scrap for melting lead presents any unique challenges?
No local scrap yards in your area? Personally, I stay away from range lead and go for more known alloys. Makes it easier to dial in an alloy with a known BHN. In any case, the average alloy for range lead is said to be 0.17% tin, 1.00% antimony, and 98.83% lead. At the very least, you are going to need a source for additional tin, and I would suggest you look for some solder for that. Hope that helps.

Don
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Old February 20, 2019, 02:25 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by Chainsaw. View Post
I like to set the ingot molds over the pot so they pre heat. Just like with bullets this makes for no wrinkles, Im sure youll find the same with muffin tins etc.
My muffin tin ingots tend to get pits when the air is too humid for casting. A tiny bit of moisture will create a steam pocket when molten lead is added.

I prefer the mini muffin molds for ingots too as I can easily pick up an ingot with a large needle nose plier to place it into the bullet smelter without risking a burn.

Someday when I'm bored out of my mind I may design an ingot mold that makes an ingot have an easy spot to grab with pliers..... Haven't yet come across a good ingot mold that does.
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Old February 20, 2019, 03:16 PM   #11
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Egg cups, ladles and spoons

Quote:
Someday when I'm bored out of my mind I may design an ingot mold that makes an ingot have an easy spot to grab with pliers..... Haven't yet come across a good ingot mold that does.
When we were kids we use various sizes of measuring spoons to make sinkers it worked out very well and just tap the spoon into a board when the lead set and it did not take long. Now then, for ingots there are a couple of home use ways you can go.

1) They make or use to make and egg poacher, that had an insert plate that had large holes where a small round bottom cups fit down into the holes. Each egg cup has a slotted metal tab that you can insert a kitchen knife into the tab and remove the cup. Again, we lay the cup onto a board, ladle some melted lead into the cups and when set, grab the tab with your plyers tap out the ingot onto the board to cool off. Again does not take long. ……
Although mine were not like this, it will give yo an idea of what I'm talking about.....
https://www.ebay.com/itm/4-CUP-EGG-P...toT:rk:35:pf:0

2) Take a SS soup ladle, dip out some lead, barely touch the bottom of the ladle into a bowl of water. When set knock out the ingot. ….

The Egg cups are made of SS as well as the ladle bowl. ….

Quote:
Be sure to cut into bullets that are completely jacked, they can explode when smelted !!!!
I've never seen this happen but who knows ???!!!

Be Safe !!!
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Last edited by Pahoo; February 20, 2019 at 03:29 PM.
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Old February 20, 2019, 05:24 PM   #12
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Someday when I'm bored out of my mind I may design an ingot mold that makes an ingot have an easy spot to grab with pliers..... Haven't yet come across a good ingot mold that does.
I'm afraid I don't quite understand this. I have the RCBS cast iron ingot mould, and it has a "lip" on it. I pour the lead in, wait for it to solidify, then grasp the lip with a pair of vise grips, turn it upside down, and give it a slight whack with the vise grips and the ingots come out. It ain't rocket science.

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Old February 20, 2019, 05:53 PM   #13
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Are there any special considerations relating to range recovery lead?
You should consider its usefulness for its intended application. What you are likely to get from range recovery is a relatively soft alloy of uncertain composition. Nevertheless, in this day and age of no more lead smelters in the U.S. (the last was closed), lead will become increasingly scarce as the traditional sources dry up (no more lead alloy wheel weights, Nuclear Medicine containers required to be sent back to shipper, etc.). Therefore, ANY lead alloy that will fill out a bullet mold should not be disregarded.

But, range lead likely being relatively soft (lots of commercially swaged wadcutters, jacketed bullet cores etc.), you will likely find that alloy to be of more use for an application such as mild loadings in something akin to a .38 Spl. at low velocities. The range recovered alloy may be less suitable for higher pressure applications like 9MM, .40, 38 Super, .44 Mag., etc. or the postal matches for cast rifle bullet competitions of the Cast Lead Bullet Association...which generally require a very hard alloy (or heat treating).

In other words, don't throw it away...but use it within its hardness limitations.
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Old February 20, 2019, 10:51 PM   #14
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Someday when I'm bored out of my mind I may design an ingot mold that makes an ingot have an easy spot to grab with pliers..... Haven't yet come across a good ingot mold that does.
What about a downrigger mold? They come in all sizes and have a flat "handle" that you could grab with pliers. I don't exactly know how you'd stack them.
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Old February 22, 2019, 06:36 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by dahermit View Post
Nuclear Medicine containers required to be sent back to shipper,
So lead dust isn't potentially dangerous enough - you want radiation too?.....

I won't touch battery lead due to the damage the acid does to gear & limb - but nuclear residue - na - I'd never consider ever going near such a container.....

As for factory bullet lead being too soft, you can amend that yourself with either tin or scrap solder and/or cold water quench the round coming out of the mold to harden it a bit.
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Old February 22, 2019, 08:00 PM   #16
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Grey_Lion,

You need not worry. The half life of the medical isotopes that come in the containers is measured in hours and days. The small containers are for the most part 95% pb, 2.5% sb, and 2.5% sn - darn near perfect for casting bullets. I'll take all I can get.

Don
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Last edited by USSR; February 23, 2019 at 08:31 AM.
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Old February 22, 2019, 10:12 PM   #17
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So lead dust isn't potentially dangerous enough - you want radiation too?.....

I won't touch battery lead due to the damage the acid does to gear & limb - but nuclear residue - na - I'd never consider ever going near such a container.....
Yes I agree...if you don't know what you are doing, you should leave it alone.
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Old February 23, 2019, 11:46 AM   #18
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Inasmuch as the very last lead smelter in the U.S. has now closed and lead supplies will diminish, dedicated bullet casters may have to be more creative in regard to what sources of lead alloy they will have to deal with.

Specifically, the lead in automotive type batteries. Firstly, modern maintenance -free batteries have Calcium instead of Antimony in the grids that form the basis for the battery plates. Maintenance-free batteries are readily apparent by their sealed cells that cannot be opened to add water as was required by the older type of battery. Lead-Calcium lead alloys are not usable as a bullet casting alloy due to the fact the casting will shrink from the sides of the mold as the allow cools. Unfortunately for we bullet casters, almost all modern automotive batteries are now the Calcium based, maintenance-free type.

If you should find the old type of automotive battery that has removable covers which to periodically add water, the lead grid is of the Lead-Antimony type and can be used for bullet casting. That type of battery is still being produced today for use in the old 6-volt antique tractors and some other applications that I may not be aware of.

The Lead-Antimony grids that form the plates have Manganise Dioxide pressed into the grid, which can be removed by bending and tapping with a hammer or such.

The Sulphuric Acid in the battery can be salvaged by pouring it into a glass jar and recycled. The remaining acid on the plates may be dealt with by neutralizing using a solution of water and baking soda. Anyone with rubber gloves, safety glasses and a knowledge of handling acids learned in a high school chemistry class, should have no problem with the acid. I have dealt with the plastic battery cases in one of two ways...broken them with a sledge hammer after removing and neutralizing the acid, or less environmentally sound, burning outside in a shallow pit (the lead alloy pools at the bottom of the pit.

In short, to deal with battery salvage (add water type), you will have to decide whether or not it is worth you while and/or trouble. But, as lead supplies dry-up, you may find you will either have to give up casting, pay the higher price for imported lead, or become more resourceful as to your lead supply.

If you cannot handle it, don't do it.
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Old February 24, 2019, 12:10 AM   #19
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One of the most consistent sources that shows up at my favorite scrap yard is the lead heads off roof plumbing vents. Its easy to cut up with aviation snips and paint residue fluxes out easily.
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Old February 24, 2019, 09:47 AM   #20
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One of the most consistent sources that shows up at my favorite scrap yard is the lead heads off roof plumbing vents. Its easy to cut up with aviation snips and paint residue fluxes out easily.
"Lead heads" Also known as "roof flashing". ( "Lead heads", where I am from are fishing jigs.) That source of lead will dry up soon also inasmuch as there has not been any new Lead roof flashing available at building yards for several years. It is all Aluminum now, so as roofers continue their business, they will replace the lead flashings with aluminum. To sum, ALL the available, traditional sources of lead alloy (and Tin) suitable for casting bullets have greatly diminished including automotive wheel weights, all the various printing alloys, the Tin tubing from soda fountains, Tin based toothpaste tubes (yes, I am that old), Babbitt bearings, Pewter, etc.
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