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Thread: My range lead recovery experience

  1. #1
    Boolit Buddy
    Huskerguy's Avatar
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    My range lead recovery experience

    I have melted several pounds of range scrap in the past, usually while cleaning up some wheel weights and some other softer lead. I wanted to track the weight and yield to see how it actually came out after reading some accounts on this site.

    First, it is pretty dirty stuff. Lots of jackets, paper, and fibers from the belting we use at our range to trap bullets. Our range is 50' with a metal backstop. There is everything from whole cast, complete jacketed to lead dust in the mix. I have an old plumbers pot and heat source that works well, not overly big or fast. I sometimes work with a buddy who lives several hours away and he has a turkey cooker that really gets with it. There is a lot of junk on the surface that needs to be cleaned off. I would put three scoops with one of my wife's garden hand digger, put my 6" cast skillet over the top and walk off for a few minutes and do some other work around the house. I did find I had to stir it because the junk would hold solid lead above the molten lead and unless I stirred it, it didn't all get melted in. The debris I removed would probably burn all day if I let it. The interesting part for me was after I cleaned off the waste, the lead was really pretty clean. I assume some of the waste product acted like a flux in some way, I don't know the science. I would flux with small pieces of wax with my stir spoon and my pouring ladle. If I put too much wax in I had a black liquid to chase around the top of the pot so it didn't take much.

    I did three different buckets and these are my yields.
    95.2 lbs of range lead - 66.4 lbs of lead yield - 70% - 75 ingots with a Lyman mould
    64.6 lbs - 46.6 lbs lead - 72% - 48 ingots
    87.4 lbs - 62.2 lbs lead - 71% - 63 ingots

    So, out of 247 pounds of scrap I drug home, I ended up with 175.2 pounds of lead. I still have 2 1/2 buckets to go once the rain lets up here. I would add that I have no idea what the hardness of this stuff is. I have shot it before and never a problem either with Alox, Alox mix, or PC which I am doing mostly now, but I do not push anything real hard and fast. Is it worth it? If I can spend a day making a mess and stink to come up with 2-300 lbs of lead, it is probably worth it to me. Wheel weights are getting much harder to find in my area. My local scrap dealer will sell lead at $1.00 a lb that I would still need to melt down and work with. I would add that I don't real excited about the beauty of my ingots, if they are a bit wrinkly, that is OK with me, just tells me I am not getting my lead too hot.

  2. #2
    Boolit Grand Master

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    Its been a while since I used range scrap but your results pretty much mirror mine. I figure I get a little more that 85% from sorted wheel weights.

  3. #3
    Boolit Buddy Tazlaw's Avatar
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    I’ve been getting about 65% yield out of my range scrap. It has a lot of dirt from outside berm. I’ve found I can re-cook the dross and get some more lead out after I wash it. I was the scrap, cook it, clean the copper jackets and debris and then re-cook to get another 5-10%. I’ll save up the cleaner jackets and dross and recook about 100lbs at a time and yield another 10 lbs of lead. Might not be worth it but scrap yard told me they won’t even consider the jackets if it has any lead in it.
    Just knowing enough to do it, is not enough to do it right! -Taz

  4. #4
    Boolit Man
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    I've salvaged quite a bit of range scrap from my club's indoor bullet trap, very similar backstop and similar results to the OP. At our club, quite a few plated bullets get used (Canadian made Cam-Pro) and it's surprising how many of them make it through the backstop almost completely intact. Unless the plating is ruptured, they just float on top of the molten lead. I've had to resort to splitting hundreds of them with a large pair of bolt cutters, to get the lead out of the copper shell.

  5. #5
    Boolit Master
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    I harvest the range scrap from my own shooting range only. Mostly cast lead bullets, but a few jacketed 9mm occasionally. I don't worry about the hardness because all of it started life as a lead bullet.

  6. #6
    Boolit Master
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    Used to harvest range scrap at my last club, sifted it through 1/4 in hardware cloth. Backstop was sand but there was a fair amount of broken clay birds and wads as it was also used for the weekly sporting clays event. Usually sorted out the worst of the trash before dumping in my buckets. Yield was about 65-70% after smelting but I did not try to get every drop of lead from jackets and probably lost a bit when skimming. Moved to KY and my club range is mostly dirt and rock and I don't find it practical to harvest scrap. Fortunately have enough on hand to last til I'm gone and still give my kids a hernia moving it.

  7. #7
    Boolit Buddy RoGrrr's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Froogal View Post
    I harvest the range scrap [SNIP].
    I don't worry about the hardness because all of it started life as a lead bullet.
    Someone asked me Sunday about hardness of my cast boolits.
    When I said "I don't know and I don't care. NO matter what the hardnesss, they will shoot better than I can. That got a lot of laughs. Someone mentioned leading but I replied with velocity is what promotes leading and I shoot 'bunny-fart' loads so I don't have a leading problem.
    Having enough lead from my scrounging to cast a quarter of a million boolits makes it all worthwhile to me. I can load a box of centerfire ammo for under $2, less than what we buy 22s for.
    It's a hobby so the time I spend mining the berm is therapeutic for me. Somebody said that mining the ore is dirty. My response is simple - GOD invented this stuff called SOAP AND WATER !
    I also get plenty of (free) therapy when I:
    built my smelting furnace and ingot moulds;
    Wash the dirt from the 'ore';
    smelt the 'ore' and cast my ingots;
    cast my boolits;
    size/lube those boolits;
    load my ammo;
    shoot my ammo;
    police my brass after the shooting session;
    inspect/tumble the brass;
    REPEAT.

    Heck, I might just be one of the most "therapied" person in this area, with all the personalized therapy I get, now that I've retired.

    Remember this - it's a HOBBY !
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-TC2xTCb_GU

    Have you ever heard of an anchor holding SLOW ?
    As far as some of us on this forum, we don't bite; We shoot !
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  8. #8
    Boolit Master
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    I found that whacking plated slugs set on concrete or a steel plate would split the plating enough for melting. I used a waffle faced framing hammer.

    Yield out of my club's berms was 60 something percent of alloy at two percent Sb, no tin. Hard and dirty work. While free, I've since moved on to paying for scrapped isotope containers: much less physical effort and propane, much higher yield (close to 100%) with minimal dross and scrap waste, no dust exposure from digging in the berms.

  9. #9
    Boolit Buddy RoGrrr's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kevin c View Post
    [SNIP]
    Yield out of my club's berms was 60 something percent of alloy at two percent Sb, no tin. Hard and dirty work. While free, I've since moved on to paying for scrapped isotope containers: much less physical effort and propane, much higher yield (close to 100%) with minimal dross and scrap waste, no dust exposure from digging in the berms.
    Like Kevin and others, the yield is consistent at about 65-70%
    Yes, it's hard and dirty. However, being an athlete I don't mind the work. And, I'm retired so I have plenty of time for all of my HOBBIES. I also try to work on breezy days which blow the dust away. However, I recently tried on a day that the berm wasn't dusty dry. I didn't get any dust but did get plenty of dirt clods and clumps. However, I typically wash my ore in my dump bed trailer which gets rid of that crep. There's a creek at the end of my lane so I have an unending supply of water and a trash pump I'd bought from Horrible Fright. Oops, I meant harbor freight.
    I built a sifter box with 1/4" machine screen which rids most of the dirt.
    Go here and see a lot about mining and reclaiming.
    For those of you who want to mine and shoot for FREE, here are some threads which might prove invaluable.
    http://castboolits.gunloads.com/show...e-scrap-shovel
    http://castboolits.gunloads.com/show...y-at-the-range!

    More mining/sifting
    http://castboolits.gunloads.com/show...ghlight=186lbs
    This thread is over 70 posts but has MUCH good info for those of you who want to mine berms.
    Mine starts at post #21 and I have a few posts in the thread.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-TC2xTCb_GU

    Have you ever heard of an anchor holding SLOW ?
    As far as some of us on this forum, we don't bite; We shoot !
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    sign in as BOOLITCASTER
    password - 123456789

  10. #10
    Boolit Master WRideout's Avatar
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    For several years now, I have been using lead recovered from range scrap plus a little tin for all my pistol boolits. They work fine with no leading in everything from 32-20 to 357 Mag. They appear to be harder than pure, softer than COWW. I also have a pretty good supply of smelted and cleaned COWW which I have reserved for rifle boolits, of which I don't shoot so many these days.

    Wayne
    What doesn't kill you makes you stronger - or else it gives you a bad rash.
    Venison is free-range, organic, non-GMO and gluten-free

  11. #11
    Boolit Grand Master fredj338's Avatar
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    When I berm mine I usually leave rocks & a lot of the smaller jackets tuff behind. this reduces my waste by 50%. It takes a bit of time, but worth it to me vs heating up scrap I am throwing away.
    EVERY GOOD SHOOTER NEEDS TO BE A HANDLOADER.
    NRA Cert. Inst. Met. Reloading & Basic Pistol

  12. #12
    Boolit Master


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    I have done range scrap from an indoor range that only permitted .22's and cast bullets. It was a very high yield but never recorded it.

    I made a bullet trap last year for my range but have not processed any. The bullets from it will be mostly .22's and 92-6-2 alloy with some jacketed bullets. I am not going to bother cutting up jacketed bullets as I doubt it will be worth the effort.

    I figure it will take about 3-4 hours to screen and melt 50 lbs of alloy. With alloy at $1.25 and up, it seems worthwhile for me. I am not doing it as a hobby but to save money. Not having to deal with a "mystery" alloy or possible zinc contamination has its advantages for me. I have a bunch of alloy purchased on this site, and that I got in a trade, that I might wind up selling so that I know all my lead comes from the purchased 92-6-2 alloy I got a few years ago.
    Don Verna

    NRA Endowment Member

  13. #13
    Boolit Master dikman's Avatar
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    I recover range scrap from a pistol range, no jacketed allowed and virtually all of it is commercially coated (Hi-Tek coating) .38/9mm. There is a smattering of pure lead from BP shooters and lots of .22, but most of the .22 falls through my sieve, so the hardness is fairly constant. After sieving I soak it for a couple of days and try and wash off all the dirt. Even with all this there is still about 15-20% of crud that comes off when I smelt it!!!

  14. #14
    Boolit Grand Master


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    I have and continue to use range scrap. The range I still go to sometimes can yield a five gallong bucket of scrap in just a few minutes with the sieve I made and an E tool. It's mostly FMJ scrap, but it melts down easy enough and is harder than I'd have guess, definitely harder than pure.

    Now, the vast majority of my shooting is into a berm on land I own. I have a good supply of lead and have been shooting up thousands of cast bullets from my dad's stuff (it'll take years for me to shoot his up let alone mine) Probably 95% or better of the rounds I shoot are cast. One day, I'll mine that berm if I live long enough to run low on lead, not in any hurry to do it, but it isn't going anywhere.

  15. #15
    Boolit Master
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    I just went and got 300+ pounds of range scrap from a huge pistol range. Never done range scrap but here we go!! Might be good, might be a exercise in being able to say “ yeah, I did it” we shall see!
    I firmly believe that you should only get treated by how you act, not by who or what you are!!

  16. #16
    Boolit Buddy
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    I mine the berm at a Local PD range. I get about 3-5 gallon buckets each time I go. I get quite a bit of dirt that I skim off after sifting out the jackets. Save the jackets as they are worth 1,00-1,35 for scrap. I am up to about 10 buckets of copper scram to turn in.
    Never done a yield comparison, I just melt it down in a dutch oven and pour into ingots.

  17. #17
    Boolit Buddy
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    Right now I am fortunate to be able to remove scrap from our local club range. Who knows how long that will last before someone declares it unsafe.

    Also, as I read the many replies about mining lead from outdoor ranges, I wonder how long that will be allowed as well. Here in my area of central KS, a long time public rifle range was closed and lead close to a water supply was ONE of the reasons cited.

    Yes, its a pain to do, stinks, takes some time (which I have a lot of right now) and storing it is another issue all together but in the end everyone who does it I assume will be glad they did.
    Last edited by Huskerguy; 03-21-2020 at 02:57 PM.

  18. #18
    Boolit Master
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    Update; pistol range scrap
    Completed!! 118 pounds in the bucket of clean alloy!! Boy this stuff is soft!! Might be time to make some #2 alloy as I have some Linotype now!! It should cast good with just 2% SN also!! Off on another adventure!! Be safe
    I firmly believe that you should only get treated by how you act, not by who or what you are!!

  19. #19
    Boolit Buddy
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    Wow, reading this thread and some of the provided links makes me green with envy. I mine a berm at the small rural public range here, at one time back in history it was part of an military air base. It usually takes me an hour or better to fill a 2 lb coffee can, whether picking by fingers or sifting. It's heavy clay based dirt so it has to be bone dry to make sifting work well. Way too much 9mm and smaller stuff out there. I did manage to pull around 600 lbs of finished alloy out of it last summer. Testing I've had done shows about .2%Sn, 1.4% Sb on average. I do luck into some cast stuff once in a while.

  20. #20
    Boolit Buddy
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    If I lived in the country, I would use a sand pile for a backstop and use my lead over and over.

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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