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Thread: Plate Rack Lead Recovery

  1. #1
    Boolit Buddy

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    Jan 2012
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    Oregon
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    Plate Rack Lead Recovery

    Has anyone recovered lead from a standard Steel Plate Rack?

    My club has 3 plate racks with 6 plates per rack. Eack rack has impact ditches caused by the pancaked bullets hitting the ground. The ground around all these racks is minus 3/4 crushed gravel. I can see flatten lead under the racks.
    The problem is all the gravel mixed in.
    Is it worth my time to get 2-3 gallons at a time.
    I've smelted lead before with gravel from a rimfire range, 50% was gravel.

  2. #2
    Boolit Buddy Tazlaw's Avatar
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    Dec 2019
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    Conway, AR
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    What’s the size of the gravel? Maybe you could build a sieve out of maybe 1/2 in hardware cloth and sift out the lead over a bucket and then toss the gravel back down-on a different spot of course.
    Just knowing enough to do it, is not enough to do it right! -Taz

  3. #3
    Boolit Master
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    Sep 2016
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    It might be a low yield, high effort sort of situation.

    The falling plate racks at my club spatter the lead radially on hits on the plates proper. The plate hinges are welded to a solid steel bottom with a deflector shield angled in front. Only low misses deflect down into the gravel. There's not much to collect there. High misses end up in the berm. The steel bottom plate collects some of the hit spatter, but most goes up and to the sides, falling all over the range, including the flattened part of the slug that represents the largest intact part of the bullet.

    We've hosted big GSSF matches where each rack will handle more than 150 shooters with a minimum of 24 shots each. Call it 4000 shots, maybe 75% hits. So 3000 plate impacts. There most certainly is not 3000 bullets worth of recoverable lead around each rack after the match.

    Even if your club's racks are fixed in place so there is a lot of lead in that impact ditch, I'm guessing it is fairly fine stuff. If it has worked its way down below the gravel it will be mixed with dirt, which will insulate the lead against heating and melting if left in what you recover and try to process the lead out of. It might take some effort to remove it first (washing, sifting or gravity separating).

  4. #4
    Boolit Buddy
    Join Date
    Feb 2019
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    New Market, Iowa
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    I have similar targets in my backyard range. Depends on the hardness of the bullets whether you can harvest enough lead to make it worth your time. Bullets cast from Lyman #2 lead will mostly just shatter and turn into shards. Nothing left to pick up. Bullets cast from 1-16 lead mostly just flatten out and make for easy harvesting. Bullets cast from 1-20 lead are even better.

  5. #5
    Boolit Buddy

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    I think I can take up some pancake lead slugs. Maybe a rake and dust pan.

    The hard lead that breaks into a million pieces and is mixed with sand and gravel, that might be to much trouble. The cost of propane to heat it all that rock. Plus a covered pot.

    Sent from my HTC One M9 using Tapatalk

  6. #6
    Boolit Grand Master

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    Oct 2009
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    England,Ar
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    Sometimes the required effort to recover is more trouble than its worth. Steel plate recovery is for me. The plate rack at our range pretty much destroys the bullet and all we find is dust. But it depends on how bad you need lead and how much time you have.

  7. #7
    Boolit Master
    Plate plinker's Avatar
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    Think you would need a gold miners sluice to recover what you really want without the trash. What comes off the angled deflector on the bottom of most racks should be better (larger chunks). If you can mine the berm where the USPSA/IDPA sets paper targets that should be the honey hole.

  8. #8
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    JonB_in_Glencoe's Avatar
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    You could devise a vibratory gravel sifter (electric or manual), but there would probably be so much powdered lead in the mix that could become airborne, I would think it would be too risky (healthwise), for the reward.
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    “If someone has a gun and is trying to kill you, it would be reasonable to shoot back with your own gun.”
    ― The Dalai Lama, Seattle Times, May 2001

  9. #9
    Boolit Master
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    Sep 2016
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    I know my blood lead levels went up significantly during the time I mined lead from my club's berms, which then dropped when I quit that and started using more PPE with other lead handling activities.

  10. #10
    Boolit Grand Master fredj338's Avatar
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    Side note, having gravel under the plate rack is kinda dangerous as the flattened piece can richochet off the uneven gravel surface. I have seen some bad injuries from such things.
    EVERY GOOD SHOOTER NEEDS TO BE A HANDLOADER.
    NRA Cert. Inst. Met. Reloading & Basic Pistol

  11. #11
    Boolit Master
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    Sep 2016
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    Hadn't thought of that risk. Fortunately, the foot of our sand faced berms covers the gravel where the racks usually go. I think that serves to bury the spatter and prevent ricochets. I think we have had more stuff coming uprange from pitted steel targets (caused by idiots with rifles who have been told better) than anything else.

  12. #12
    Boolit Buddy
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    Jan 2008
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    One of the ranges I shoot on is a dedicated Cowboy Action range. Nothing but steel targets, No jacketed boolits allowed and mostly low velocity loads. Lots of nickel sized mushrooms laying about. Not hard picking either, no gravel to contend with. I can't force myself to spend more than 10 minutes picking them up.

    I've got a decent stockpile and know where to find more given time, but if I didn't, I'd be hitting that range pretty hard on hands and knees with some kind of homemade sifter. It would be a last option thing for me.

  13. #13
    Boolit Master
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    It's exactly like any other natural resource. The easy to access, high yield stuff is the sensible first approach. Only when that is depleted and the need and price go up is it worth extra time, expense and effort to utilize the lower yielding sources.

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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