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Thread: Tips on Salvaging Range Lead

  1. #1
    Boolit Buddy Andy_P's Avatar
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    Tips on Salvaging Range Lead

    I've seen some good tips here and there, but little in the way of pics, and a number of questions unanswered.

    We have an outside berm that has been shot into for years and has never (to the best of my knowledge) had any lead salvaged from it. I dug around in it and came up with a few pounds of scrap, but I'd like to go with real gusto and not re-invent the wheel in refining a method. The berm is made of very sandy soil and at 100 yds. Here's few questions:

    - where will I find most of the bullets? What height and depth? Do they migrate downwards from gravity?
    - what's the best method to separate soil from scrap? Pics
    - any special tips onm the smelting of it?

  2. #2
    Boolit Grand Master

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    If the range has been shot allot, there should be a pretty good indintation in the backstop. The place where it is deepest should have the most. Get some heavy metal screen like the diamond shaped stuff with small holes. Build a frame to hold it at about a 45 degree angle and throw the dirt on it. the loose dirt should go through and the bullets roll off. You will have some rocks and stuff but thats ok. Pick out the bigger junk and melt it all in a big pot. The non lead stuff will float. MAKE SURE IT IS ABSOLUTLY DRY WHEN YOU DO THIS OR IT WILL EXPLODE!
    Aim small, miss small!

  3. #3
    Boolit Master
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    Do not fill the five gal. bucket up or you will need a fork lift, about half is all I can load into my pick-up so I take two buckets.

  4. #4
    Boolit Master
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    from my exerpience. it does take a more energy to melt range lead than ingots or wheel weights.
    Some where between here and there.....

  5. #5
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    ive tried many ways and just about have given up on it. Its to me more work then its worth. You usually will do alot better for lbs of lead for time invested cruising the tire shops for wws
    Soldier of God, sixgun junky, Retired electrical lineman. My office was a 100 feet in the air, closer to God the better

  6. #6
    Boolit Master

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    With the price of scrap on its way out of sight, it's small wonder you would want to try mining the berm. Do resist the temptation however. Lloyd's advice is sound. And besides, this is the sort of thing you need to get the permission of the Board for before hand, especially if you're a short timer.

    Ken

  7. #7
    Boolit Master
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    When I'm he only one there I just walk around the berms, especially after a rain, and pick up the slugs laying on the top of the ground, May only get a couple of pounds, but it bets nothing and no one is getting upset.

  8. #8
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    For the first time i picked up some range lead, smelted it with some WWs and learned what to do with FMJs..Lucky i had a cover on the pot. Watch out they explode.

  9. #9
    Boolit Master

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    Andy,

    Our old berms are out in the desert where the rain falls seldom and the wind blows a lot. The lead seems to get concentrated on top of the soil down to within a few inches of the surface out here. Skimming off the top and sieving the dirt back into the place skimmed, and then moving on to the next outcropping seems to work best for me. A few months or a year later, that place has another outcropping of lead to repeat the process on.

    I keep out of the way of the dirt as it goes through the sieve, so as not to breathe the dust. Have had no trouble with water explosions because everything is so dry; however, large jacketed slugs, like .45 hardball, will sometimes squirt lead for several inches as the insides melt and expand.

  10. #10

    Saving range berm lead

    Quote Originally Posted by Lloyd Smale View Post
    ive tried many ways and just about have given up on it. Its to me more work then its worth. You usually will do alot better for lbs of lead for time invested cruising the tire shops for wws
    The use of ww's now is more productive, less the "PC" Zinc wts that seem to becoming the wt of the future. Back in the early 1970's when my dept. still issued M19s and cast SWC 38 Spec. ammo for pract, the lead build up became a safety issue in our berm. One of the Honor Farm maintenance guys built a hand crank sieve out of 1/4 inch expanded metal that had a cylinder 14 inches in dia by 20 inches long that was mounted on a stand. It looked like a mini cement mixer that was turned with the crank. The Dept's blt & fishing wt casters could mine all the lead they wanted. Then we went to 9mm's with jackets and it became a major problem to melt the lead from the copper jackets. I found that if you start with a 1/2 full pot of melted lead then add the jacketed stuff slowly it melts faster. BUTTTTT then you have almost pure lead core metal to deal with.... So after a long story, use WW's if you can get them. Mike

  11. #11
    Boolit Grand Master

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    Low Yield

    My shooting buddy and I have been mining for range lead as our sources for WW has dried up. We asked the range caretaker and he said it was okay as it was for our personal consumption, and he knows we both use a LOT of cast boolits

    I takes a lot of propane and there is a mountain of scrap jackets, rocks, wads, ect. It is also soft as it is closer to a pure lead. We use it for pistol bullets and save our WW for rifle boolits. Adding about 15%-20% magnum shot and water hardening would give a good product though.

    Four 5 gal. buckets 1/2 full will yield about 2/3 bucket of smelted lead "Muffins"

    Shiloh

  12. #12
    Boolit Master hunter64's Avatar
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    I was thinking more on the lines of building some kind of bullet trap that I could haul out to the range with me every time I go. Just has to stop handgun speed lead bullets so I would think a 1/2" of steel at 45deg. angle with another one angled at 45 deg back towards the front and both sides covered in would work. Bullet would hit the first plate then bounce (splat) forward and hit the second one and then end up in the bottom of the trap. Have a metal sliding tray that you just take out and dump in a bucket after an hour of shooting and you have it. That way you can just keep recycling the lead you already have.

  13. #13
    Boolit Master
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    AndyP, I also scroung range lead. I have an old 14x10 wooden box with a screen with 1/4 inch holes on it. I just scoop a shovel full of dirt and shake it. What ever stays goes in a 5 gal. pail. Then when I get home this is dumped on the drive way and fiest picked throu. Then gets washed with a hose. Let dry in the sun, and put away till I smelt some time later in the year.

  14. #14
    Boolit Master
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    different kind of range

    I was on a long term job near Asheville,N.C. a couple of years ago, and was able to shoot IDPA at the local range every Tuesday night. This range had a slanted backstop that was covered with chunks of truck tires. They had just recently brought in a bobcat loader, and scooped out the bullet and tire mix, and piled it all up outside. I asked if I could have a few buckets full and was told to take all I wanted.
    To separate out the rubber, I stopped of at the local grocery store that sold non iodized table salt in the 50 pound bag (rediculously cheap compared to the 1 lb. container) and mixed up a saturated brine solution in a 5 gallon bucket. I poured the rubber/bullet mix into the brine and the rubber floated to the top (it will sink in plain water) and skimmed it off. I then poured the brine into another bucket and repeated the procedure etc. The bullets were then rinsed of salt, and the rubber chunks became part of the gravel driveway. There was still some rubber caught in the cavities and jackets of JHP's but for the must part it was clean. After smelting I got 10, 2-1/2 gallon KrispyKreme icing buckets full of ingots cast in a Lodge cornbread pan (round pan divided into 6 pie shapes). The ingots fit the bucket perfectly, but even at half the size of a 5 gal. bucket, they are about all you can lift without pulling the handles off.
    Just thought y'all might be interested in another mining/separation technique.
    You have the right to force me to pay for the feeding, housing, clothing, education, and medical treatment of yourself and your children when I have THE RIGHT TO FORCE YOU TO PICK MY COTTON!

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  15. #15
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    Pipehand,

    I found that the rubber sinks in plain water also, which surprised me. I thought that salt water might be able to float the rubber, but hadn't tried it. Thanks for confirmation!

    John

  16. #16
    Boolit Master


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    MMMMMMmmm maybe it wouldn't be a bad idea. Get mining rights to all the ranges now for the future. You could even charge a small enviromental clean up fee. >>>i like the salt water trick and the rubber

  17. #17
    Boolit Master at Heaven's Range 2010

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    sometimes you people come with new great ideas.the salt was fantastic idea.the back stops need redesigning to improve the ability to mine them before the wackos make life miserable.

  18. #18
    Boolit Buddy redbear705's Avatar
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    Our range is going to mine the shotgun fields.

    I asked a knowledgable person about using the shotgun pellets for making bullets. He told me that it is not a good idea to use shot as there is too much arsenic and antimony in it and it doesnt make good bullets......

    Is there any truth to this?

    I would like to know before I go talk to the miners about buying a couple of tons of the stuff.

    Thanks....JR
    Member Migigan Gun Owners www.MiGunowners.org
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  19. #19
    Boolit Master Scrounger's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by redbear705 View Post
    Our range is going to mine the shotgun fields.

    I asked a knowledgable person about using the shotgun pellets for making bullets. He told me that it is not a good idea to use shot as there is too much arsenic and antimony in it and it doesnt make good bullets......

    Is there any truth to this?

    I would like to know before I go talk to the miners about buying a couple of tons of the stuff.

    Thanks....JR
    I thought you said he was knowlegible... Just add 1 or 2 per cent tin and it will work fine. I'd buy a half ton if it was around here.

  20. #20
    Boolit Buddy redbear705's Avatar
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    I am going to buy a ton of this lead if The contractor will give me a good price on it!

    I figure that even if it is too hard I will cast rifle boolits with it or thin it out with pure lead or wheel weights.

    Hmmmmm.....maybe I should buy more.....or ask for a discount because some of the recovered lead is mine!?

    JR

    Anyhow I have to wait till they get there to do the recovery so I can talk to them about the purchasing of the recoved lead......
    Member Migigan Gun Owners www.MiGunowners.org
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Abbreviations used in Reloading

BP Bronze Point IMR Improved Military Rifle PTD Pointed
BR Bench Rest M Magnum RN Round Nose
BT Boat Tail PL Power-Lokt SP Soft Point
C Compressed Charge PR Primer SPCL Soft Point "Core-Lokt"
HP Hollow Point PSPCL Pointed Soft Point "Core Lokt" C.O.L. Cartridge Overall Length
PSP Pointed Soft Point Spz Spitzer Point SBT Spitzer Boat Tail
LRN Lead Round Nose LWC Lead Wad Cutter LSWC Lead Semi Wad Cutter
GC Gas Check