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Thread: A question of lead

  1. #1
    Lt Rabbit is offline
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    A question of lead

    Hello Forum,
    I am wondering if you guys use pure lead or a mix, like 20-1 for bullets for the Smith carbine?
    Thanks,
    Rabbit

  2. #2
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    It is really up to what you push it with and what your gun likes.
    I have shot hard lead and also soft.

    Rule of thumb for me is more powder equal harder lead.
    Also look at the barrel, factory rifled or lined barrel.
    Just try what you got see if it likes it. Or what ever lead is cheaper to find easy.

    Just remember newer wheel weights are not all lead. Lots of stuff mixed in or even all zinc.
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    When it comes to wheel weights, you have to sort them before smelting. Yes, some are zinc. Some are steel. Some are even plastic and aluminum. The "Lead" ones are actually a mix of lead, arsenic and antimony, and probably a bunch of other trace elements. The arsenic and antimony, especially the antimony, do a good job of hardening the lead, especially if you quench them in water when dumping the mold. BUT....you don't need that for black powder.

    For Smith, I use 50/50 pure lead and wheel weights. I have a lot of wheel weight ingots and 2-3 buckets of wheel weights yet to be smelted, so I find them handy for making carbine bullets a little harder and also don't use as much pure lead which costs more than wheel weights.

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    Carolina Reb is offline
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    Some wheel weights these days have a plastic coating that really stinks when you throw them in the pot. If you are doing a wheel weight melt, it goes better if you are outside.

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    For ease of use, I use pure lead in the muzzleloaders and an alloy of 3 parts pure lead to one part wheel weights for any breechloaders.
    Mr. Veral Smith from LBT taught me years ago that there are (or rather were) only about 3 manufacturers of wheel weights in the country, one of which was almost exclusive to Sears Tire Centers. This meant that the metal was VERY consistent when smelted down and cast into ingots in large lots. I smelt them in 100 lb lots to clean out the odd alloys and mounting clips, flux them with beeswax and pour them into about 2.5 lb ingots for use when it's time to cast. I smelt, clean and flux pure lead into the same ingots so my hard alloy is easy to duplicate almost any time.
    One thing about water quenching your bullets. A metallurgist taught me that quenching will harden your bullets, but the effect is temporary. If you leave quenched bullets set for a period of time (I remember about 2 weeks but don't hold me to that) the lead will return to it's original hardness. Guys who were casting and quenching a whole season's ammunition were not gaining anything with the extra step. My alloy stays the same as far as I can tell.
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    Bob,

    What I had read on Cast Boolits was that they actually harden more over about a 2 week period, then start to soften again, and that some folks like to "Age" them. I forget what the time was to soften back to their original state, but it was several months, if not years. Of course, this is just what someone put on the internet, so some real life testing would tell the tale.

    I probably should not have mentioned the quenching, as it is really useless for what we do. Before I got into N-SSA, I was shooting cast bullets in WWII military rifles for fun. Hardening them is a lot more useful in that realm. Bad thing about hardened ones is that they turn to dust when they hit my bullet trap. I like to recover my lead and melt it down again. That works a WHOLE lot better with musket and carbine bullets than it does with .30 cal that have been quenched.
    Last edited by Hal; 02-12-2020 at 07:13 AM.

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    Lou Lou Lou is offline
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    I have a ton (128 lbs) of minies a teammate made up in 1996. Never got around to using them, till now. Used my LBT tester and they tested out at 10. Re-melted and re-cast them and they test out as 5, dead soft. Should work like a charm.
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    I have always used soft lead for both my Smith and my Maynard and since it works well I haven't changed anything.
    Mike Santarelli 03635V, Adjutant
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    Lt. Rabbit is offline
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    Thanks guys, I will try both, and see if the Carbine has a preference.
    Lt Rabbit

  10. #10
    jonk is offline
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    As said of course, try both hard and soft to see what works best for you. Personally in my Pietta, soft works better. This surprised several guys on the team who have always had better luck with hard lead, but each gun is unique unto itself.

    As for the question of wheelweights, even just 10 years ago if you got a bucket of them most were good hard lead of fairly consistent compsition, with the occasional stick on weight tossed in. Now I find easily half the weight is zinc or stainless steel or even plastic. If you melt it down, make sure to use a lead thermometer to verify that the temp does not exceed the melting point of the zinc, or the batch will be ruined. (One or two zinc weights melted in a big pot of lead won't hurt it but more than a few will mess it up and the batch becomes hard to pour and get good fill out with).

    One thing with smiths too, it is hard to get a good bore measurement due to an odd number of grooves. There are formulas online for this. Mine seems to like .517 but have heard of guns all over from .507 to .520+. That may also impact what hardness your gun likes.

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