View Full Version : Mining lead from range

11-09-2006, 11:17 PM
So as not to highjack another thread-----

What are some good tips for mining lead from an outdoor range? Dirt backdrops. I need a faster way of collecting than picking them out one at a time. I need to figure out a way to strain out everything but the good stuff. I bought the largest kitchen strainer I could find but it was too fine to let the dirt out.

Thanks, Cloudpeak

11-09-2006, 11:28 PM
Go to a gold mine shop, or a shop like a pawn shop that has metal detectors and gold pans, cause what you need are classifiers.

You can make your own with different sizes of hardware/rabbit wire cloth, and wood frames. The poly plastic round ones are nice because the fit a 5 gallon bucket.

Shovel and shake and sift to retrieve your treasure.. :mrgreen:

11-09-2006, 11:33 PM
Hardware cloth on a wood frame, but pretty much anything small enough to catch the lead is going to be a pain to shake the dirt through.

11-10-2006, 12:27 AM
I've prefer just a pail or bucket. Pick them like picking blackberrys. I've found the sieves and sifters to be too much aggravation and hassle.

You will get less dirt and debris by just picking the slugs up as they lay. a rake will help to turn over the soil and dislodge any covered slugs.

You will do less disturbance to the berms this way also. I like to go just after a rain as is it washes away a lot of the loose soil.

Melt the recovered lead and mix with wheel weight or your mix will be a bit on the soft side.

11-10-2006, 10:23 AM
I have done two approaches. When the ground is very dry, the sifter; the dirt comes through very quickly. When damp, I just take the bucket home and dump it in a bit wire mesh strainer, capable of holding about 2.5 gal. of dirt/lead mix, step back about 10 feet, and blast it with a pressure washer until all the mud is through. Then let dry a day or so.

Either way, your alloy will be rather dirty, full of small stones, pieces of plastic from shotshells, etc., and require a final comb through. Not to mention having to pick out all of the copper bullet jackets. Generally more trouble than it is worth, I find.

11-10-2006, 12:43 PM
I had the guys at work make up a hand held sifter with some mesh screening that is triangular shaped and maybe 3/8" at the widest opening and a handle to hold it. I scrape the dirt and all into it and sift right where I took it out so as not to disturb the backstop too much. Using this I can get about 250-300 pounds of stuff in about 30 minutes. I empty it into 5 gallon buckets but learned real quick it's too hard at my age to pick up one that's even half full so I load them to about 1/3 full.

I then melt it down in an iron pot to clean out the dirt, copper jackets and whatever else is in it. I end up with about 75% lead from what I pick up. I then cast them into ingots using cast iron muffin tins of either fish or corn cob design. Have to keep people away from the fish ones as everyone wants a sample.


11-10-2006, 01:27 PM
Do not forget the hazards of lead. You would think that sifting through dirt etc would cause airborne lead dust.

11-10-2006, 01:40 PM
I use a 7.62 X 39mm ammo crate with 1/4" wire mesh on the bottom as a sifter.

Use a garden rake to rake the loose stuff and a shovel and at our range, I can fill a couple of 5 gallon buckets as full as I want to carry in abouit 10 minutes.

Wash off then dry. I sort the cast from the jacketed and melt seperately.

No hassles. I'd do it more but I'm lazy./beagle

11-10-2006, 01:51 PM
I don't see how this would generate airborne lead. I don't know how any lead striking a dirt backstop would generate any lead small enough to become airborne when handled. I do wear gloves when melting it down though and wear both heat resistent gloves over latex gloves when casting bullets.

Also, I don't find the range lead too soft that requires me to add wheel weights or any other hardener. The were bullets once anyway.


11-10-2006, 03:11 PM
don't try this at the range I use. You will be ASKED to leave and not take the lead either.I've been to several ranges both public and private that do not allow "mining" the berms.The state hires a recycler to reclaim the lead and split the profits from one range.

11-10-2006, 05:14 PM
In the winter build a couple of snow men back to back and put your targets in front of them. Come spring you will find all your handgun bullets in neat little piles. Doesn't take much snow to stop a bullet. Worked for me last winter. So far all we got is rain!

Take Care


11-10-2006, 06:38 PM
In the winter build a couple of snow men back to back and put your targets in front of them. Come spring you will find all your handgun bullets in neat little piles. Doesn't take much snow to stop a bullet. Worked for me last winter. So far all we got is rain! Take Care

Over the last 5 years, I'd have enough snow to build a small rabbit. Don't think it would wok for me:???: I even missed this years rain---one day.


11-10-2006, 08:37 PM
I take lead from the range every time I go shooting just cant resist it----wash it when I get home---and I do find it to be on the soft side---I add WW and a Little Babbitt---It melts quicker than WW----we are all just lead junkies enjoying life----Mag

Cisco you want Gold---No Poncho-- lead--- lead

Bent Ramrod
11-10-2006, 08:40 PM
I use two sieves that nest together. The top one has a mesh of about 3/8", the bottom about 1/4". The top stops most everything .38 caliber and above and the bottom one most of the mushroomed .22's and the rest of the .32's.

Yes' it's dirty, messy and inconvenient. But a lot of "free" stuff ultimately is. (It's still Free, though:mrgreen: .) I would say there is some danger of breathing lead-containing dust, but I stay out of the dust generated, which is the siftings below the sieves. Good tip on coming out after a rain, as the stuff accumulates on the surface and can be skimmed off the top rather than dug for.

11-10-2006, 08:56 PM
Man next time I read a Zane Grey novel and read "JIm slides his horse down a canyon in December buffetted by driving snow, into a smal Wyonimg mining town", I'm just going to turn the page! You just destroyed my winter image of Wyoming.

Take Care