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Thread: 9mm: Help me troubleshooting my leading problem? (and recommend me a solvent?)

  1. #1
    Boolit Bub
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    9mm: Help me troubleshooting my leading problem? (and recommend me a solvent?)

    TL;DR: I have done my research and lots of tinkering here, and I'm hoping to get confirmation/refutation of my working theories on how to solve my 9mm leading problem once and for all. Also need help finding a good lead solvent so I can get my barrel back to "like new" condition.

    I have been casting for my 9mm for about 6 months or so now, with good success. I have tried a few different powders, lubes, etc. Most recently I've been shooting Lee 124gr RN TLs powder coated on top of 3.9 grains of Bullseye. It's a good load and quite accurate.

    Unfortunately, ever since I switched from W231 to Bullseye, I've been getting some leading, particularly in the muzzle end of the gun. Lyman's cast bullet handbook says leading only in the muzzle is often an indicator of "running out of lube." I don't think that's the case since I'm powder coating instead of using 45/45/10 these days.

    After lots and lots and lots of reading, I've come up with and tested various working theories of what's contributing to my leading:

    1. First guess was that my cases were swaging my lead down, either due to improper sizing, not enough mouth bell, or too much taper crimp. My barrel slugged at .357, so I size to .358 after PCing. I purchased a bullet puller and checked several bullets from mixed brass after my normal belling, seating, crimping routine. I bell liberally and crimp conservatively. Turns out I was not getting any swaging, so I ruled this out.

    2. Next guess is that my alloy is too hard to fully obturate, leading to gas cutting. My bullets are all cast from 100% mixed clip-on and stick-on wheel weights. I don't have a good source of pure lead to alloy them with for that ideal 50/50 mixture. I don't have a hardness test available (or $60 to blow on one right now), but I'm guessing my air-dropped bullets are probably somewhere in the neighborhood of 15 BHN after they have hardened a week or two. If someone else has a more informed estimate, I'm all ears. I'm thinking I may be able to help fix this by sizing to .359 so less obturation is required to get a good bore seal.

    3. I have been guilty of letting friends shoot j-word factory ammo through my gun at the range, in between my normal cast handloads. I'm reading now that any amount of copper fouling in the bore can act as a "seed" for leading to really stick. I've been very good about cleaning my gun using Hoppes #9 and CLP in between range trips, but I also think I've left bits of leading in the muzzle that have also acted as a start point for future leading on the next trip. So this leading is the gift that keeps on giving--even if I solve all the other factors causing this, I need to get my bore CLEAN and back to shiny new or I'll just keep riding this lead train into the station.

    4. Examining my notes on leading while I was developing loads with both W231 and Bullseye, I noticed that my go-to load of W231 (4.0 grains) did not lead my bore. When I decided to try out Bullseye hoping for better accuracy, that's when my leading problems began. Bullseye burns significantly faster than W231, and I think that's causing higher pressures and making the gas cutting and bullet-base-melting a lot worse. Luckily, I can't get Bullseye to shoot as accurately through my M&P as W231 anyway, so I'm switching back. The slower-burning W231 should hopefully help me control leading.

    So I need to get my bore spotless. Last night when I got back from the range, I hit the bore with a soaked Hoppes #9 patch, let it sit for 15 minutes, and scrubbed it for a good 20 minutes with a worn out bronze brush wrapped in copper Chore Boy. I made some progress, but there are like 2 grooves in the muzzle that just will not come clean. They have some really ironed-on-looking leading that I can't budge with any amount of solvent or elbow grease. I gave it another 30 minute soak in Hoppes #9, scrubbed again for 20 minutes, and made almost no visible progress. I ended up soaking in Hoppes #9 overnight and scrubbed again this morning. Still barely any progress. I had to leave for work, so I soaked it in CLP before leaving since the Hoppes #9 doesn't seem to be making much of a dent. When I get home I'll scrub again, but I'm thinking I need to pick up a good lead solvent.

    I've done some reading and seen proposed magical lead-fixing solutions ranging from "didn't work" (i.e. Hoppes #9) to "will 100% destroy my barrel" (i.e. soaking in hydrogen peroxide + acetic acid overnight).

    Is there a good lead solvent that I can use to get out these last stubborn vestiges in my muzzle? Preferably something that won't mess up my bluing and stuff, but I'm taking all recommendations under consideration at this point.

  2. #2
    Boolit Master



    Buzz64's Avatar
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    J-B 'non-embedding bore cleaning compound (got mine at Brownell's) works. I shoot 124 tc lee sized to .358 over 3.9 bullseye in all of my 9's (Ruger, S&W, Springfield Armory, CZ) without leading so can't recommend a solution to that. You covered the obvious suspects so good luck but don't believe it is the powder. Lube mine with White Label Carnauba Red.
    Last edited by Buzz64; 01-05-2018 at 12:24 PM. Reason: Added lube info

  3. #3
    Boolit Master
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    I had the same problem with a 9MM and was so desperate that I even tried steel wool (with no success). Finally bought the Outers Foul Out. That took care of it.
    The only amendment the Democrats support is the 5th.

  4. #4
    Boolit Master

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    "1. First guess was that my cases were swaging my lead down, either due to improper sizing, not enough mouth bell, or too much taper crimp. My barrel slugged at .357, so I size to .358 after PCing. I purchased a bullet puller and checked several bullets from mixed brass after my normal belling, seating, crimping routine. I bell liberally and crimp conservatively. Turns out I was not getting any swaging, so I ruled this out."

    Something to think about! If your PCing. the as cast boolits then sizing to .358, there is little powder left on the drive bands!!
    What ever amount that is left isn't enough and runs out before the boolit reaches the muzzle!!
    To test this theory, take some PC'ed boolits and apply a thin coat 45/45/10(if you have some left),
    load an go shoot them, if there is no leading then your ? is answered.
    If you still get lead, then you may need to size the boolits to .355, PC to .359 then size to .358, that puts more powder on the drive bands.
    If all else fails, go back to 231.
    Calamity Jake

    NRA Life Member
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    Shoot straight, keepem in the ten ring.

  5. #5
    Boolit Bub
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    Quote Originally Posted by Calamity Jake View Post
    .

    Something to think about! If your PCing. the as cast boolits then sizing to .358, there is little powder left on the drive bands!!

    <snip>

    If all else fails, go back to 231.
    This is a good point. My bullets still look very well covered by the PC after sizing, but it's worth a try to size first and PC after. If nothing else, I might be a little closer to .359 if I'm not sizing after PC.

    And don't worry - I'm going back to W231 anyway. Leading issues aside, the 231 was just more accurate for me.

  6. #6
    Boolit Bub
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    Quote Originally Posted by Buzz64 View Post
    J-B 'non-embedding bore cleaning compound (got mine at Brownell's) works. I shoot 124 tc lee sized to .358 over 3.9 bullseye in all of my 9's (Ruger, S&W, Springfield Armory, CZ) without leading so can't recommend a solution to that. You covered the obvious suspects so good luck but don't believe it is the powder. Lube mine with White Label Carnauba Red.
    Thanks for the insight and recommendation. I'll pick some of that stuff up and give it a try.

    Switching away from Bullseye anyway, but I will temper down my optimistic hope that W231 will cure my leading woes on its own

  7. #7
    Boolit Master
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    I have some leading in all 4 of my G42 barrels, not terrible, but I can tell it's there. I have been casting 95g coww and coating with Hi-Tek. Really like these bullets but have some scuffing looking stuff in the barrels. I don't have this with my 9mm or .45acp loads, only the .380. Sizing at .357I've tried the Lewis Lead removal, ChoreBoy method, Boresnake, and a few other methods without complete success.
    I've tried the electrolysis method that works pretty good. It will definitely clean out other fouling. Link for youtube where I got my plans for my barrels is here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RVKp0h9no3o&t=13s
    Only way to completely get it back shiny like a new barrel is kinda unorthodox. I put the barrel in a vise and put my wife's craft heat gun over the muzzle end and blow heat through it for about 3-5 minutes. This heats it up really hot. Have to use a thick pair of leather gloves while doing this. When I take off the heat gun I immediately run the Lewis Lead remover through it and it will pull out little chunks of lead. I then put the barrel under a fan to cool. Has worked so far with no apparent damage to any of the barrels. I can shoot a couple hundred or 3 before I do the cleaning. I can't recommend this to anyone else, only that it is what has worked for me. Sometimes I pull a .40 cal boresnake through it too and that helps.
    I'm using W231 also but have used Bullseye and get the same type of dull scuffing as I call it. Never have seen a big build up or streaks. Wish I could conquer this as I love the 95g Hi-Tek coated bullets.
    I'm watching this thread with great interest in hopes of learning something better.

  8. #8
    Boolit Bub
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    I can't say for sure since I haven't seen your barrel in person, but if you're using pure COWW alloy, you might be getting "antimony wash" rather than lead.

  9. #9
    Boolit Master

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    Try a soak with Kroil and then either tight patch or Chore Boy.
    God Bless, Whisler

  10. #10
    Boolit Master
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    I have been fighting leading with the Lee 120 TC in 9MM also.

    I agree with BHuij's conclusion a faster burning powder can make a big difference and in the wrong direction. I did have some loads where "just enough to cyle the action" loads with Titegroup or Promo leaded but switching to Unique resulted in little or no leading.

    My loading is with softer lead (Range lead from an outdoor range) and I feel that the biggest improvement for me was a 0.3577" expander plug. The brass springs back down a little after the expander is removed and still has enough grip on my 0.358" boolits. Pulled boolits are very close to 0.357".

    The other item that I recommend is being picky about brass. I have a bucket of Speer, Blazer and Federal that I consider to be my "best" brass. I have a container of WW and RP that I consider "OK". The rest of my range pickup are "rejects". Early on I found that some 9 mm brass was sizing boolits down more than other brass due to thicker/harder cases walls. Also, when I was using all of my range pick up stuff, I was getting inconsistent primer seating. I am pretty sure it was caused by some of the Non US and some of the off-brand US stuff.

    With the bigger expander plug and with the sorted brass, I am getting minimal leading even with Promo powder. I am going to keep working at it to try go from minimal to negligible without going back to Unique for my bulk loading efforts. Currently I have a test batch where I dropped the charge from 3.9 grs to 3.6 grs. I am not confident this will pass the "reliable cycle test", but it will not hurt to try.

    When leading occurs it is generally from mid barrel to the muzzle. And yes, at times it is a bear to remove. Most of the time I have removed it by wrapping enough bronze wool around and old 0.35 wire brush until it was very hard to push through the bore. That along with lots of elbow grease. On some occasions, cleaning has taken around an hour of scrubbing. Eventually I made myself a 35 cal equivalent to my 45 cal Lewis lead remover. Still not easy.

  11. #11
    Boolit Master


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    If you have any mercury fill the barrel and let sit for an hour. NO more lead.

    I think you need to water drop your bullets out of the mold and size right away. I thin most of your problems will go away. I think what is happening is the bullet is skidding. By the time it reaches the muzzle the PC has been torn off. Water drop and size the bullets then let them sit at least a week before you load them and see what happens.

    You can make your own outers lead remover. Just need a battery charger, piece of carbon steel, bucket, bailing wire, Arm and Hammer washing soda. Look up electrolysis rust/lead removal.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LDF7BJRn02o

  12. #12
    Boolit Master
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    Shooter's Choice Lead Remover does work better than most solvents on lead, Lewis Lead Remover for really heavy leading is best or brass wool wrapped around a brass/bronze brush. JB's Bore Cleaner cleans powder fouling, copper and lead, JB's Bore Bright polishes. Hoppe's #9 does little but remove powder solvent like Ed's Red, ATF, Kroil. Fire polishing to smooth the throat can reduce metal fouling, lead or copper.

  13. #13
    Boolit Master
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    After my previous post, I went scouring the web looking for actual testing that compares leading removal techniques.

    I found some testing that showed Hoppes #9 to be as good or better than the rest for solvents. Removing the loose stuff first and then getting the bore wet with solvent and letting it sit for a couple of hours can not hurt and could help with getting the rest out.

    I found one reasonable good test of sovlent vs. Lewis Lead remover vs. an outers lead removal electrolyis unit.

    https://www.gun-tests.com/special_re...l#.WlDzRVWnFp8

    The guy was testing on 45 cal cowboy action stuff and found the Lewis lead remover worked much faster than I can get it to work on my 9 mm. If anyone is using a Lewis lead remover, pipe smoking supply stores are a cheep source of the brass screens.

    The electrolysis unit also worked well. I found a bunch of DIY versions on the web, but most seem to lack adequate discussion of what is going on and what not to do. This link is pretty interesting:

    http://castboolits.gunloads.com/arch...p/t-71856.html

    The links below gets you to info on how to make the solution that came with the kit.

    http://www.marlinowners.com/forum/ho...us-recipe.html

    http://castboolits.gunloads.com/show...uters-Lead-Out

    http://www.frfrogspad.com/homemade.htm
    Last edited by P Flados; 01-06-2018 at 01:28 PM.

  14. #14
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    I'm kinda at a loss here. Every bullet I've PCed acts just like a plated or jacketed bullet a far as leading is concerned. If I use a cast bullet in my 9mms (my favorite is Lee's 124 RNFP) with various lubes I get a little to heavy leading. I PC that same bullet from the same batch/alloy and bullets sized to the same diameter (.357" and for one gun .358") use the same load in the same guns and leading disappears. In a sense, the PCing acts like a protective cover rather than a "paint". Perhaps what you're seeing is PC residue?

    I have PCed bullets for 38 Special, 357 Mag., 44 Special and Mag., 9mm 125 home cast and a couple Hi-Tek 124/147 gr. bullets, 30-06, 303, and 7.63x54r and each has performed as described. Some residue from the PC ( some heavy, most light) but no leading...
    My Anchor is holding fast!

  15. #15
    Boolit Master gnostic's Avatar
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    I use ChoreBoy on a brass brush, with Kerosene and ATF. The lead comes right out. I shoot buckets of 120gr Lee TC 9mm bullets sized .358 with Moly lube without cleaning the barrel. I'm getting zero leading. Unfortunately, with Moly you get a lot of smoke and residual grease on your handgun.

  16. #16
    Boolit Master


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    Another vote for ChoreBoy on a brass brush, plus any solvent will do. (Solvent alone is useless, unless it's a really toxic one.)

    I also have an original pre-Brownell's Lewis Lead Remover, that only comes out for the worst of troubles (like after undersized/over-hard commercial cast boolits in a revolver). Been a long time since I used the Lewis.

  17. #17
    Boolit Master
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    BHuij,
    This first stuff is unsolicited, so take it with a grain of salt. Please ignore if it doesn’t apply to you, I was just writing off the cuff and don’t mean to sound glib. My suggestions for dealing with leading come at the end. You seem like a bright guy and perhaps you already know this stuff, but here goes:

    I spent two years trying to tame the TL356-124 TC in my p226. Here’s what a I learned:
    1) Sell any TL 9mm bullet molds I own. 2)buy a tried and true mold, such as Lee 356-120 TC (standard lube groove) or NOE 358-135 RF. 3) size to .358” all the time. 4) expand the case with a Lyman m-die or the like, and 5) don’t run it through the carbide ring in the Lee fcd.

    I haven’t had a keyhole or leading problem in about 5 years.

    I did the same thing you’re doing with 231 vs. BE-for me it was AA #5 or #7 vs. BE. With the right bullet fit that minutiae goes out the window, and you can load max loads of BE, Red Dot or any other fast powder.
    I don’t like scrubbing lead. I’d rather a couple pass-throughs with a bronze brush and done. Yeah, Shooters Choice is strong stuff if you need it. Don’t leave it in the barrel overnight. You can also wrap a bronze brush with fine copper mesh (don’t know where I got the stuff)-steel wool or a steel brush is a pretty severe option. Lewis Lead Remover is another means, though not one I’ve tried. I have a friend who heats up his 1911 barrels with a torch to remove lead. I believe I will skip that method too.

    Welcome to the game, stay safe and shoot straight,
    BE

    P.S. Ranch Dog’s TL356-95RF is an exception. Shoots great. I also have no problem with TL per se, just those two Lee 124 grain 9mm TL molds
    Last edited by Boolseye; 01-06-2018 at 05:18 PM.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by Boolseye View Post
    BHuij,
    This first stuff is unsolicited, so take it with a grain of salt. Please ignore if it doesn’t apply to you, I was just writing off the cuff and don’t mean to sound glib. My suggestions for dealing with leading come at the end. You seem like a bright guy and perhaps you already know this stuff, but here goes:

    I spent two years trying to tame the TL356-124 TC in my p226. Here’s what a I learned:
    1) Sell any TL 9mm bullet molds I own. 2)buy a tried and true mold, such as Lee 356-120 TC (standard lube groove) or NOE 358-135 RF. 3) size to .358” all the time. 4) expand the case with a Lyman m-die or the like, and 5) don’t run it through the carbide ring in the Lee fcd.

    I haven’t had a keyhole or leading problem in about 5 years.

    I did the same thing you’re doing with 231 vs. BE-for me it was AA #5 or #7 vs. BE. With the right bullet fit that minutiae goes out the window, and you can load max loads of BE, Red Dot or any other fast powder.
    I don’t like scrubbing lead. I’d rather a couple pass-throughs with a bronze brush and done. Yeah, Shooters Choice is strong stuff if you need it. Don’t leave it in the barrel overnight. You can also wrap a bronze brush with fine copper mesh (don’t know where I got the stuff)-steel wool or a steel brush is a pretty severe option. Lewis Lead Remover is another means, though not one I’ve tried. I have a friend who heats up his 1911 barrels with a torch to remove lead. I believe I will skip that method too.

    Welcome to the game, stay safe and shoot straight,
    BE

    P.S. Ranch Dog’s TL356-95RF is an exception. Shoots great. I also have no problem with TL per se, just those two Lee 124 grain 9mm TL molds
    This is worth rereading as it is gospel, IMO.
    Shoot somewhere you can recover a bullet and see if your coating is intact.
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  19. #19
    Boolit Master
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    Quote Originally Posted by mdi View Post
    If I use a cast bullet in my 9mms (my favorite is Lee's 124 RNFP) with various lubes I get a little to heavy leading. I PC that same bullet from the same batch/alloy and bullets sized to the same diameter (.357" and for one gun .358") use the same load in the same guns and leading disappears.
    MDI,

    A bunch of us have found that PC "fixes" leading for everything we shoot, except the 9mm.

    I have been fighting this pretty hard for a while and made lots of improvement.

    See post 13 below.

    Also, you may wish to browse the thread below (my posts are at 53, 56, 60, 62, 67, 74, 76, 77, 81):

    http://castboolits.gunloads.com/show...18-9mm-leading

  20. #20
    Boolit Master

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    I've been shooting the Lee 125 RN through every 9mm I've owned for eh, 33 years. I never knew that so many people had problem with 9mm because I never did before. Dad taught me to cast and reload 43 years ago so when I started with 9mm I just treated it like a 38. I started out casting for the nine but didn't have a lube sizer but pan lubed and used the OLD Lee push through die that wasn't press mounted. I did read about how sometimes the case would resize while seating so I loaded a few without sizing and they were fine when pulled. I had also read where someone was loading the Lee 105 SWC sized to .358 and they were fine. After that, I didn't resize at all because my Boolits ran .358 as cast.

    A while later, I got a Lyman 450 and nought a .358 die. Still groovy. It was not until about 5 years ago, I bought a .357 die to see how that would do. Holy Moly! Keyholes at 15 feet! but still no leading. BTW, Glock 22, Lone Wolf conversion barrel. They didn't lead my buddy's G17 either, but they still keyholed. Lube was Javalina. Then I started PCing with a gun, then later by tumble lubing, sized to .358, accuracy of course restored. My buddy calls and says his reloads had horribly leaded his barrel. I had sent him some PCd Boolits to try with a promise to teach him how to powder coat. I told him to load some up, run a magazine through, and check the barrel. clean as a whistle after one mag.

    The one thing you did not say was what brand of powder coat you were using? Did you store the cartridges base up, or base down? Not all powders are all alike. Some become degraded by the powder compound which ate away the base. Another member here did a test by placing PCd Boolits in different powders and checking them later. In 24 hours, he could see the powder flakes eating into the coating. I don't remember which powders were worse.

    I use 5gr of Unique for my go to load. I tested it against the powder I get from Prismatic Powders out of White City, OR. No degradation. I have some ammo loaded 5 years ago that still shoots through the aforementioned Glock22/Lone Wolf conversion, Taurus 709 Slim, Glock 43, and 2 AR 15 9mm carbines. Prismatic Powders coat like the dickens with their solid colors. Their copper looked like a tarnished penny, not shiny like new. To get an FMJ look, I had to experiment by mixing a few colors, and using a PC gun to apply. When I tumble coated, they looked sort of like desert cammo. Ugly, but they shot. the following colors I know hold up: Ink Black, Black Jack, (these two looked dripping wet when cured) Satin Black (looked shiny not satin), Tecate Green (think Zombie), Sparkle Pink (Barbie Boolits), Royal Purple (Barney Boolits) and a few other colors from creme to peach trying to get the elusive copper.

    It could be you PC is not holding up to the compounds in your gunpowder and or your flame and gas volume from that powder is blowing past the base and plasma cutting your Boolit. As a note, I have also used Black, Purple and Zombie on a NOE 224 62gr RN Plain Based Boolit at 2300 fps, using 50/50 Wheel Weight/soft lead without problems. I'm thinking your PC and gunpowder may be working against each other. I have shot Copper and PCd lead through my 9mm and .223 without an issue. As another note, PB gas check made from soda can aluminum works pretty good for clearing fouling. PM me
    Last edited by fcvan; 01-07-2018 at 03:52 AM.
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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