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Thread: My range mining/sifting experience

  1. #1
    Boolit Master
    Join Date
    Feb 2012
    Location
    N. IL. Kankakee County
    Posts
    548

    My range mining/sifting experience

    I just built a sifter and mined my ranges dirt/clay/rock/clay pigeon berm.
    Short version- the sifter ver. 2.0 worked great.
    4 five gallon buckets in a little over an hour, total about 300lbs yielded about 150lbs of range scrap.
    I need to refine my sorting process at home, but it sure beats hand picking off the berm.

    This is my setup, sifter 2’x2’ with 1/4” hardware cloth screwed to the bottom, cut to size with a dremel cutoff wheel.
    3 sides are 2x3, the other(back) is a 2x4.
    Didn’t plan it that way, just had 3 2’ cutoffs of 2x3 laying around.
    Actually works good having a taller back piece when pouring into the bucket.
    Use a leaf rake to pull loose material down the berm into a pile and a snow shovel to place it onto the sifter that is sitting on a ruber made tote.
    The sifter is larger than the tote, but no big deal if any of the spoils fall on the ground.
    Slowly drop the material from a foot or two in as large an area as possible, so if feeds through the sifter on its own as much as possible.

    Just use the shovel or your hands to gently move the material around until all the spoils fall through the screen.
    Then dump the remaining material in a 5 gallon bucket.
    Repeat.
    I quickly abandoned the idea of picking up the sifter and shaking it around, too dusty, too much like work.
    Taking smaller bites made things go much easier.
    Once there is enough spoils in the tote, carry it back up the berm and dump it.
    Once again more lighter trips is easier than lugging a heavy tote back up the berm, and then having to dump it while standing on an angle, trying not to get too much dust and dirt on you.
    I worked a row the width of the rake at a time, I figure I only worked about 1/6th of our berm, so there is plenty more still there.
    The only part that was work was hauling the full buckets back to the van, and loading them.
    The heaviest was only 80lbs, but I was sore when I started, so that was enough.
    I would like to have more buckets and load them less, I do not trust the handles, and my back would like me better.
    Ibuprofen sure helped.




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  2. #2
    Boolit Master
    Join Date
    Feb 2012
    Location
    N. IL. Kankakee County
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    548
    Sorting at home-
    The first two buckets I hand sorted dry. It took an hour or two per bucket.
    My yield per hour was about the same as hand picking the berm, maybe 30lbs per hour vs 20lbs hand picking.
    But I could do it at home, at my leisure. And I figured I could set up a table and sort more while a batch was heating up to smelt.
    So it was still a win.
    I sure am jealous of those with nice sandy berms with no clay or rocks.
    I didn’t want to mess with water sifting for a variety of reasons, mostly I wanted to return the spoils to the berm, the clay doesn’t dissolve that well and I don’t have a hose outlet (apartment).
    But then McFred offered a tip in another thread, add 1 cup of baking soda to the water/clay mix will dissolve the clay, allowing you to then sift it out, as it just pours through the screen.
    I just tried that today and it worked great.
    I think I will take some jugs of water and a box of baking soda to the range with me next time and try it there.
    Get there early in the morning, fill a few buckets up before shooting time, add water and baking soda. Let sit for 10-15 minutes. Pour into another bucket to mix up more. Repeat a few times until well dissolved.
    Place sifter on another bucket, sift the water into the bucket and then pour the dirty water back on the berm.
    Rinse in a bucket of clean(er) water another time or two.
    This way I can shoot while the mud/clay is dissolving and bring less material home.
    Sounds like a win/win type of situation to me.
    Now if the rain would stop so the berm can dry out, that might be a week or two.
    Right now the plan is to wake up around 4:30 and check the radar, if it is clear then I will smelt my latest haul.
    Then head to the range later to dump all my spoils and shoot a little.
    Free lead like this is a lot of work, it would be easier and probably smarter to just buy it.
    But I have some extra time right now, and it is another excuse to drive to the range.


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  3. #3
    Boolit Master dikman's Avatar
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    May 2013
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    Sth Oz - A Land Downunder
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    My pistol range uses a sandy clay stuff, in Summer it's easy to sieve (but dusty) but once Winter starts and it gets wet it's impossible to sieve. I take a folding sack truck with me to move the full buckets back to the car as they were getting too heavy for my aging body!!

    I also wash and re-sieve my stuff at home as it helps reduce the gunk that goes into the pot.

    There is something strangely compulsive about getting the lead once I know there's a source available.

  4. #4
    Boolit Master
    Outer Rondacker's Avatar
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    Mar 2014
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    NY in the Adirondacks
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    My range is full of broken clays. You are lucky. Looks like a good score. Good job.
    Stop being blinded by your own ignorance.

  5. #5
    Boolit Master
    Join Date
    Dec 2013
    Location
    St.Germain, WI
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    435
    How deep is the mother load?
    The only amendment the Democrats support is the 5th.

  6. #6
    Boolit Master
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    Feb 2012
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    N. IL. Kankakee County
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    Just to be clear even after washing there is a lot of hand sorting. Still tons of clay pigeon pieces and some rocks.
    I am still not sure it even saves time yet, but it is nice to have no dust and seems easier to pick the bullets out of the clays without all the dirt.
    I have changed my mind and would love to build a sluice type arrangement to quickly separate the heavy lead from the broken clays.


    And as for how deep the mother load is I have no idea, I am only taking what is fairly loose on the surface.
    The berm has only been in place 3-4 years, so I don’t expect it to be too deep yet.


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  7. #7
    Boolit Master
    Outer Rondacker's Avatar
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    Mar 2014
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    NY in the Adirondacks
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    I did the same thing early this spring. Brought home bucket after bucket. Ended up getting 3 to 1. I had to dry it by the fireplace and screen again. Then hand pick clay birds and large rocks. Still have lots of little rocks but the way I see it is nothing else to do during mudd season.
    Stop being blinded by your own ignorance.

  8. #8
    Boolit Master Grmps's Avatar
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    Jul 2016
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    ?? couldn't you pulverize the clay so it shifts

  9. #9
    Boolit Master
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
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    The deep south,... of Vermont!
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    I pick out the big stuff, the rest floats and is skimmed.

  10. #10
    Boolit Master dikman's Avatar
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    Yep, you reach a point where it's better to just throw the lot in the pot and let the crud float to the top. It doesn't matter how much time I seem to spend sorting there's always a lot of small stones that magically appear!

  11. #11
    Boolit Master
    Join Date
    Feb 2012
    Location
    N. IL. Kankakee County
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    Grmps, great idea.
    Now I really can’t wait for the berm to dry out to try pulverizing it.
    I may even try a trial run with some of the spoils I have left.
    And I will try some water based ideas too.
    Being able to easily clear out the pigeons would be a great time saver


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  12. #12
    Boolit Master duckey's Avatar
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    Dec 2011
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    492
    Pick out the big stuff (rocks, shotgun hulls, wads etc) Melt, skim and flux. Thats all I do and I get nice shiny lead ingots.I use a slotted spatula and bend it into a V and it works great and skimming.

  13. #13
    Boolit Master
    Join Date
    Feb 2012
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    N. IL. Kankakee County
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    I have thought about just smelting it all, but have read that it stinks/smokes real bad.
    I have neighbors and try to keep the smell down.
    Plus I am visible from a main road in town, always joked that someone would call the cops on me for cooking meth.
    I have been considering trying it


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  14. #14
    Boolit Mold
    Join Date
    Apr 2017
    Location
    NW IL
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    5
    With all the rain we been getting here, bullets are really exposed at my club's sand pistol berm.
    Me and a grandkid took our sifter, buckets and shovel and got 160+lbs in a little bit. 3 buckets with about 4 or 5" of loot in each one. Heavy enough for me!

  15. #15
    Boolit Master dikman's Avatar
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    mjw, I see your point as mine does give off quite a bit of dirty smoke while it's melting. All the stuff I get is Hi-Tek coated and while it reduces to ash pretty easily it does give off smoke while it's burning.

  16. #16
    Boolit Man
    Join Date
    Oct 2013
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    139
    Normal clay pigeons are 20 to 40% petroleum-based pitch (asphalt, tar) which smoke and stink when burned.
    Kind of like burning an asphalt shingle or tar paper.

  17. #17
    Boolit Master
    Join Date
    Feb 2012
    Location
    N. IL. Kankakee County
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    I ended up with about 110lbs of ingots.
    It was a lot of work, but rewarding.
    Now to finish my new bench.
    I cast some lee 356-95rf last night and found the new bench was too high for that.
    I was sore to start, and it got uncomfortable real quick, plus I couldn’t see into the part of the pot closest to me.
    I built it high, figuring I could cut the legs down if necessary.
    Just took 4” off before dinner.
    Need to finish some cross braces and add a shelf and I feel another casting session coming on.
    Probably not tonight, but early in the morning before it gets hot in the garage.
    Which happens quick as there is nothing but a bean field to the east of it, starts warming up in there by 7.
    As much as I wanted to keep all my benches even, I think I will stay higher with the reloading benches and just have this 4’ bench shorter for casting.


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  18. #18
    Boolit Master

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    Oct 2009
    Location
    England,Ar
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    It sounds like a productive days work. Your reward of a shiney pile of ingots is worth it! Your idea of sifting smaller loads is a good idea. Also try to find more buckets and load them lighter. A full bucket is really heavy to carry and load. Around here, 5 gallon buckets are easy to find. Farmers buy oil for their equipment and drip oil for their wells. If you have any tractor/implement dealers near you, check with them. If you have any logging activity near you there are always a pile of buckets laying around the area where they load the logs. Sheet rock mud and paint also come in 5 gallon buckets but the sheet rock mud is hard to clean out of the bucket.

  19. #19
    Boolit Master
    Join Date
    Feb 2012
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    N. IL. Kankakee County
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    I plan on getting more buckets.
    At worst people have them for a dollar or two around here.
    Buckets are a funny thing, one day your looking at stacks of them, wondering why you keep so many, the next day you are wishing you had a couple of dozen more.


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  20. #20
    Boolit Man
    Join Date
    Jan 2008
    Posts
    104
    I've been trying to talk myself into doing some bullet picking on a steel range. Lots of boolits just laying on the surface. No busted clays to deal with.

    Maybe if your shifter box was deeper and filled more the busted clay bits would shake to the top being lighter than the lead. Then then could be scooped off the top, reducing the picking.

    Water washing at the range would be ok, but I wouldn't do it at home and dump the waste on my property.

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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