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Thread: Melting plated bullets

  1. #1
    Boolit Mold
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    Melting plated bullets

    I have a stash of plated bullets out of my bullet trap that I want to reclaim the lead out of. My trap is a 55gal drum set on its side that is filled with rubber mulch. I use a piece of rubber horse stall mat in the front, there is nothing "hard" that the bullets must pass through. The only reason any of my bullets deform is if they hit a cluster of other bullets that are already in there so I'd say 40-60% of the bullets do not have a break in the plating. I melted some today and the plating will crack but the bullets will squirt hot lead and then not drain completely. Now I can rupture the plating with my metal spoon but that seemed to result in a hard squirt that could travel 3-4 feet, more than enough to hit me. I got lucky and did not get hit, but it's only a matter of time. So here is the question how do I get the lead out safely? I'm thinking maybe a potato masher type deal, it should keep things from squirting but if things line up just right I could still get lead all over something I don't want covered (like me). I guess the other option is to hammer them but I'd rather avoid the time spent doing that. Suggestions?

    Swamp

  2. #2
    Boolit Master

    Hickory's Avatar
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    I've done this once with a bunch of plated 45 bullets.
    What worked the best was to smash them flat on a very hard surface -anvil- to get lead exposed and give the lead a way to run out of the brass plating.
    Do this before melting the lead.
    Last edited by Hickory; 08-05-2018 at 06:16 PM.
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  3. #3
    Boolit Master WRideout's Avatar
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    About the only way to do this is to rupture the plating somehow. I get a similar thing when I smelt down range scrap; there is some squirting, but mostly the hardball just doesn't open up and let the lead out. After I skim all the hardball and let it cool, I will eventually go through with a hammer and chisel and break them open.

    You could possible devise some type of machine that resembles a grinder; just enough space to let big chunks through, and sharp enough to cut through the jackets and plating.

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  4. #4
    Boolit Master
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    A jaw crusher seems an easy solution for this, designs are all over the web. Or a simple stamp mill, if you like things maybe louder than the jaw crusher

  5. #5
    Boolit Master
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    I use side cutters to cut half way through the jacked bullet, or smash with a hammer but neither way is fun.

  6. #6
    Boolit Master Tripplebeards's Avatar
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    Sounds like a lot of work. Blast them with some lead bird shot a few times and see if that open them up.

  7. #7
    Boolit Master

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    Like the others have said, you have to rupture them in some way. About the same way with totally sealed FMJ bullets. You don’t have to smash them individually, you can lay them on a hard surface and go a little crazy with a hammer!

  8. #8
    Boolit Man Wheelguns 1961's Avatar
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    Maybe a small pair of bolt cutters will work?

  9. #9
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    Keep them in a pile and when you have enough, smash with a small sledge.

  10. #10
    Boolit Master
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    I have processed more than a half dozen 5 gallon buckets full of range lead in the last couple of years

    I started off with a minimum effort at trying to pierce the copper plated & FMJ bullets. I was not happy with the results.

    Going through what was supposed to be empty jackets found lots of bullets still containing more than minimal lead. Some are probably Ok with loosing around 10% for lead recovery, but not me.

    I now take more time up front. I go through the batch by hand. Any bullets that are not sure to "fully drain the lead" get separated out.

    I then slice these in half (usually a lengthwise cut) with an anvil style lopping shear.

    I tried other methods, but they all seemed like more work and/or less effective.

    If you use this method, you can get good results for lead recovery, but it is tedious and you do need to watch your fingers.

    I did a quick search & found Wally world has them for less than $17.

    My shears have needed an occasional trip to the anvil to hammer the cutting edge back flat. You can expect the same if you go through a lot of heavy copper jacket rifle bullets or a lot of heavy steel fmjs. A better quality shear would probably hold up better, but I have only used the el-cheapo version that I have owned for many years.

    If anyone has a better solution for those of us that process range lead once in a while, please share.

    If I did higher volumes, I would want to come up with a better (motorized) method. Ideally it would be some kind of shreader that you just dump bullets into and get small pieces out of.

    With the motorized shreader before the melt and with a regular magnet for the steel and a brass magnet for the darned yellow stuff after the melt and you could get some really good returns on your copper jackets at the scrap yard
    Last edited by P Flados; 08-06-2018 at 10:58 PM.

  11. #11
    Boolit Mold
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    Well while Tripplebeard's idea certainly sound like the most fun! I think my initial thoughts seem echoed by most and that is to open the rounds up manually. If I had a serious supply that needed to be worked I'd definitely be building a machine. Looks like my elbow is getting a workout. Thanks everyone.

    Swamp

  12. #12
    Boolit Master Swede 45's Avatar
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    When processing range lead from sand/gravel backstop most plated bullets are cracked open. After cleaning the haul I lay it out on on a big plywood sheet to dry. During that time I sort thru it to get rid of stone and other crud I don't want in my pot. Especially keeping an eye out for live rounds! I keep a pair of sturdy pliers at hand and give any undeformed bullets a firm squeeze. The lead is often soft and plating is thin.. Easy to crack the plating.

  13. #13
    Boolit Master Swede 45's Avatar
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    If I had such amount of plated bullets to process, that the work would be motivated, I would try to manufacture a hopper fed mini shredder.

  14. #14
    Boolit Master
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    I melted some and missed a few, good thing I had a cover on my dutch oven as a started to hear them explode open. Be mindful and careful. I once missed a tracer round I was melting in a ladle with a torch, that was a surprise. Either smashing or cutting works.

  15. #15
    Boolit Master fredj338's Avatar
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    I have a shooting buddy that gives me his plated rejects/pulled bullets. I smash then a bit to get the plating to crack. I get a better result when melting them down. I do this because of the little explosion you sometimes get from one.
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  16. #16
    Boolit Master
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    Maybe you can add a steel plate inside the boolit trap so the next batch gets flattened by themselves.

    I have lined them up in a vise and hit them with a chisel, but I don't get that many to deal with.
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  17. #17
    Boolit Buddy
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    I'm thinking of trying a 28oz framing hammer with the waffle face on the head. Have to see if I can find a small piece of I beam from work. Toss a handful in the I beam on it's side and whack 'em with the hammer. I see no reason it shouldn't work.

  18. #18
    Boolit Master
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Dar View Post
    I'm thinking of trying a 28oz framing hammer with the waffle face on the head. Have to see if I can find a small piece of I beam from work. Toss a handful in the I beam on it's side and whack 'em with the hammer. I see no reason it shouldn't work.
    This is exactly what I do. So far it's working.

  19. #19
    Boolit Master
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    I used a 2lb sledge and just bashed them on concrete.
    For me it is a pain, I will just get another shovel or two of scrap at the range.
    And toss any unbroken ones back down to get shot some more and picked up next time.
    But I donít get many that arenít cracked already, maybe just a handful or two.

    And I learned real quick to just keep a lid on the Dutch oven, fire up the heat and let it do its thing.
    It is scary how far that lead stream can travel, no more heating the top of the pot with a torch for me.


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BR Bench Rest M Magnum RN Round Nose
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