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Thread: Musings from a berm dig (with pics)

  1. #1
    Boolit Master
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    Musings from a berm dig (with pics)

    It was a nice spring evening. So I sat out and sorted through my skimming from my first berm mine.

    Got permission to get in an old dirt berm. (Private). Used to be used for defense classes or something I am told. Plenty in there.

    Things I learned.

    1). Staples are not enough to hold hardware cloth to 2x4. Have fitted metal supports now.

    2). Harder work/effort than wheel weights. My berm came out with mostly full (non-broken) bullets.

    3). Start the top of the smelt on fire. Speeds things up and saves propane. Paraffin wax helped tremendously. Learned this on my second half of the cool.

    4). Flux... a lot. Then scrape some more. And scrape again. I had a ton of dirt/dust had to come off the top. The wood chips that came from the dirt were helpful here

    5). After my melt. I went back through after screening my dross. Pulled out better than 10 pounds of full jacketed or Plated bullets. Jury is out if this was worth it. I guess depends if I get access to berm again.

    6). It was fun. But very hard work. Probably >6-8 hrs work all said into my smelt by time I am finished. I did it for the experience of having done it. (Why we do any of this isn't it?).

    Some pics.

    Probably equivalent to 3-4 5g buckets?



    50x 2# muffins. Estimate an additional 50# left



    'Rescued bullets and lead containing dross from smelt yielding first 100# of ingots. Totaled just over 10#. My postage scale stops at 10.




    Mystery projectile. Found 5 of them. Anyone know what these are ? They have center strands with a helix around them.




    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

  2. #2
    Boolit Master Forrest r's Avatar
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    I've used nothing more than range scrap for decades. It's pretty much 150# of junk in and #100 of lead out. Don't know why it took you 6 hours to do 100# of ingots. Perhaps you should change your smelting pot. I use a old #20 lp tank for a pot. It holds 150# of range lead @ 1 time (around 5 gallon bucket).
    [IMG][/IMG]

    I cut the brass shutoff valve off flush on the top of the tank. This leaves 2 1/4" holes that I use to not only vent the tank while smelting. I used them to fill the tank with water so I could cut it in 1/2. I used a 4 1/2" angle grinder with a thin cutoff blade to cut the tank in 1/2. When you cut just below the center weld it leaves the welded center ring on the top of the tank (lid). The end result is a tight fitting lid.

    I'll typicall put #150 of range lead in at 1 time, crank the heat up and come back in 1/2 hour and everything is melted. I use a long handled stainless serving spoon with holes in it and a small french fryer basket (1 qt) and spoon the jackets int the ff backet and shake the lead out of the jackets. Then I use the spoon to remove all the dirt/junk that's floating on top, this usually takes 5 to 10 minutes. Then I flux the melt and pour ingots. I used to use multiple ingot molds to pour ingots. Too time consuming!!! Now I use 1 lyman 4-cavity ingot mold, a set of vice grips & an upside down garbage can lid full of water. Fill the ingot mold & lower the cast iron part of the mold into the water in the garbage can lid. Takes less then 10 seconds for the ingots to harden & dump them in a pile. Then it's wash/rince/repeat until the posts empty.

    I typically do/use 500# of range scrap to get 300# of ingots this way. It usually takes 4 to 5 hours to do #00# of clean ingots.

    I save the jackets.
    [IMG][/IMG]

    And sell them to the local scrap yards (#2 copper).
    [IMG][/IMG]

    The money pays for the propane ((around 1/2 tank to smelt #500 of range lead). The rest goes into molds/dies/brass/powder/primers etc.

    Range lead likes big pots with a lot of volume. The more it starts to melt the faster the rest of the lead will melt.

  3. #3
    Boolit Master Sasquatch-1's Avatar
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    The bullets in your last picture appear to cintared (sp) bullets which are compressed copper with a binder, I believe.

    If you are going to try to sell the jackets to a scrap yard buy a good magnet from Harbor Freight or Amazon to get the steel jackets out. The last time I took jackets to the scrap yard I got 97 cents a pound and I had three buckets. I could have gotten more if I had separated the copper from the brass.

    After cooling smash the full metal jackets with a hammer to split and melt again.
    A vote for anyone other then the conservative candidates is a vote for the liberal candidates.

  4. #4
    Boolit Buddy WickedColt's Avatar
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    Thanks for the tips, I'll be looking to try this soon
    Si vis pacem, para bellum

  5. #5
    Boolit Master fredj338's Avatar
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    There is a lot of krap in most berms. I kinda sort thru what I pull out, don't want any 22lr rounds or such going into the pot. So all the rocks & small jacketed bullets & empty jackets get tossed. A 230gr FMJ has a 200gr core, worth the effort of melting & skimming. I use an old turkey frier & cast iron pot with lid. Leave the pot 1/4 full for the next melt, it melts pretty quick. The waste depends on how much small caliber jacketed stuff you keep, but with range scrap for me, about 10% goes into the trash, better than ww & a lot less smoke.
    EVERY GOOD SHOOTER NEEDS TO BE A HANDLOADER.
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  6. #6
    Boolit Master
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    Thank You Forrest!!!

    I did another 60# worth of yield tonight (probably 80# dirty?).

    I did more waiting before initial stirring, higher temp. Much more efficient this time!!! Also, jacketed bullets were much cleaner. I still have maybe 20# now of plated/TMJ that didn't open up, but I don' tknow if it is worth getting after (depends if I am invited back to any berms).

    I guess it was the fear of zinc left over from WW that caused me to melt to low temp. Cranked her up, and came back 25 min later (HF dutch oven). Started stirring... much cleaner scrap. I need to get one of those fryer strainers, that will make much quicker work of cleaning dross off. I will see what the yard will give me for the jackets. I am assuming some type of 'dirty copper' rate... ( i hope)

  7. #7
    Boolit Master 308Jeff's Avatar
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    Thanks for posting this. Enjoyed the pics.

    I've only processed about 18lbs of range scrap so far, but it was fun.

  8. #8
    Boolit Man
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    All the yards here just give you range lead price. $.50/lb, that's it.

  9. #9
    Boolit Master fredj338's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by adam_mac84 View Post
    Thank You Forrest!!!

    I did another 60# worth of yield tonight (probably 80# dirty?).

    I did more waiting before initial stirring, higher temp. Much more efficient this time!!! Also, jacketed bullets were much cleaner. I still have maybe 20# now of plated/TMJ that didn't open up, but I don' tknow if it is worth getting after (depends if I am invited back to any berms).
    ( i hope)
    Unless the plated bullets are broken in some fashion, they may not melt. I smash the whole ones with a sledge, the melt just fine. I use a large slotted spoon for removing the crud, smaller slotted spoon for removing final dross then with a ladle start pouring ingots.
    EVERY GOOD SHOOTER NEEDS TO BE A HANDLOADER.
    NRA Cert. Inst. Met. Reloading & Basic Pistol

  10. #10
    Boolit Master
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    I plan to pick up a small sledge. Dykes were not time efficient for the return. I figure pouring them out on the ground and smashing will be easier

  11. #11
    Boolit Master Sasquatch-1's Avatar
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    The easiest way would be to have access to a small asphalt roller!

    Quote Originally Posted by adam_mac84 View Post
    I plan to pick up a small sledge. Dykes were not time efficient for the return. I figure pouring them out on the ground and smashing will be easier
    A vote for anyone other then the conservative candidates is a vote for the liberal candidates.

  12. #12
    Boolit Master Oklahoma Rebel's Avatar
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    that or one of those hammers with the checkered design on the hitting surface, i would think that would weaken/ pierce the jacket enough to leak instead of explode like super-popcorn, might still squirt, keep a lid on it! lol
    Norinco SKS
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    S&W 15-2 combat masterpiece
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    heritage 22lr/22mag

  13. #13
    Boolit Master

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    I have a framing hammer with a surface like that. It works good on fence staples but boy does it make a mess of your thumb, if you miss!

  14. #14
    Boolit Master Oklahoma Rebel's Avatar
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    lol, that'd be me right there!
    Norinco SKS
    mosin nagant est 1937
    S&W 15-2 combat masterpiece
    Remington 597 22lr w/30 rnd clip
    12ga NEF single shot
    heritage 22lr/22mag

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