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Thread: Eyeballing lead boolits vs. lead-tin alloy boolits

  1. #1
    Boolit Master

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    Eyeballing lead boolits vs. lead-tin alloy boolits

    I purchased an estate in 2015. I do not know the composition of the caster's alloy (if any) - which are an alloy and which are "pure" (mostly) lead.

    I do "note-by-inspection" (and not the lighting) that those I believe to be "pure" lead are dull silver and exhibit white lead-carbonate "corrosion". Those presumed to be an alloy of lead with an unknown percentage of tin (2%? to 5%?) exhibit as "shiny" silver with no lead "corrosion", which are nice properties.

    These current comparison are for boolits that were cast and "canned" more than 6-years ago. I am thinking I will melt the poorer quality (wrinkled and corroded) lead, as well as the boolits of lead-tin alloy in the calibers that I do not shoot, some of which are wrinkled too.

    Last edited by Land Owner; 07-21-2021 at 06:49 AM.
    If it was easy, anybody could do it.

  2. #2
    Boolit Master
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    You might consider a destructive test of one sample bullet per container. Side cutters will cut smooth and easy through pure lead. Harder or larger bullets require more force and might break just at the final part of the cut.
    Sometimes you can guess close enough as to which mold they might have come from and the weight difference might give a clue as to the alloy. Last method, if you find a bullet that really shoots well, melt off a drip and have an XRF scan done so you can repeat it.

    Nothing wrong with the original plan, unless you find something really interesting.

  3. #3
    Boolit Master
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    Cheapest is to get a set of lead drawing pencils. Each hardness of pencil will indicate a hardness of lead. Not super accurate but good enough for bullets.

    Or, spring for one of the hardness testers.

    Or, if you have the tools make a hardness tester. Not that difficult if you have the right size ball bearing type material and some good magnifier (for measuring the indent size).

  4. #4
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    You could just shoot some.

  5. #5
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    I've found that a lead hardness tester is very helpful if you are gonna be playing with unknown lead alloys.

    with that said, aged Pure lead boolits will have a blue/grey oxidation on them.
    After I learned that, I started adding 1/2% tin to my pure lead boolits, so they don't corrode.

    Metal containers and lube can influence oxidation rate and the color...honestly, without a hardness tester, you have a pig in a poke.
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
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  6. #6
    Boolit Master
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    Quote Originally Posted by dondiego View Post
    You could just shoot some.
    Bingo!
    First cull anything with obvious 'quality issues," next would be anything in a diameter/weight/style that you have no use for. Turn them into ingots and mark them as 'scrap' if they're unknown or 'pure' if you're sure.
    Shoot the rest, if accuracy sucks or you get leading, make more ingots.
    Warning: I know Judo. If you force me to prove it I'll shoot you.

  7. #7
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    I don't think you'll ever be able to tell composition by eyeballing it. Pure lead boolits can be very shiny, as well as boolits with high tin content. As mentioned, load some of em' up and chootem'.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by JonB_in_Glencoe View Post
    I've found that a lead hardness tester is very helpful if you are gonna be playing with unknown lead alloys.
    .
    BINGO! The Lee Hardness tester is functional and if used properly, reasonably accurate. They are not expensive. Guessing is not the path to success.

  9. #9
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    Are they the calibers you shoot? If so, shoot them. The pencil test is an inexpensive way to get an idea of their hardness.

  10. #10
    Boolit Grand Master

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    I might melt a bunch together and check hardness. Pencils and Lee tester are inexpensive methods and for now you don't need a +/- 1 BHN accuracy in testing. I have my "Mystery Metal" that runs around 11 BHN but I have no idea of the composition of the alloy, but it makes excellent hand gun fodder...
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  11. #11
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    I prefer shooting my own cast boolits so I just smelt them down and use the lead

  12. #12
    Boolit Grand Master fredj338's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mdi View Post
    I might melt a bunch together and check hardness. Pencils and Lee tester are inexpensive methods and for now you don't need a +/- 1 BHN accuracy in testing. I have my "Mystery Metal" that runs around 11 BHN but I have no idea of the composition of the alloy, but it makes excellent hand gun fodder...
    ^^THIS^^^ I wouldnt be too concerned about bhn if it is just low pressure/vel stuff. Other wise melt & combine everything into one alloy & start casting.
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  13. #13
    Boolit Master Traffer's Avatar
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    Send one of each batch to BNE for XRF testing. If they have a lot of tin, you can melt them, mix them with WW or pure lead to get the tin content down to 2% or less. Otherwise tin is too valuable to use to harden bullets nowadays.

  14. #14
    Boolit Master
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    Make sure that you follow the instructions that BNE has given in order to get the samples tested. He does not test a whole bullet. He gets too many samples that are difficult to handle so he has stated follow the rules or they will not be tested.

  15. #15
    Boolit Grand Master

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    Quote Originally Posted by ShooterAZ View Post
    I don't think you'll ever be able to tell composition by eyeballing it. Pure lead boolits can be very shiny, as well as boolits with high tin content. As mentioned, load some of em' up and chootem'.
    You mean ... use the TAL test method ( Troy A. Landry) ... Choot Em' ...
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  16. #16
    Boolit Master

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    All great ideas. I have pencils. I'll test for hardness as another "data point". Shooting the calibers I load is the Rule, not the exception.

    I am thinking to melt all culls together in one batch. Melting them together will "average out" the unidentifiable constituents. Then send a sample to BNE.

    I guess what I was observing with this post is pure(er) lead boolits seem to gray in age with time, tarnish, become dull, and corrode, and over the same time alloys with "some amount" of tin remained vibrantly silver, untarnished, "ageless", and did not corrode. Is that the preponderance of evidence others are experiencing?
    If it was easy, anybody could do it.

  17. #17
    Boolit Master
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    I think it also depends upon the conditions of the container. Cardboard will pass humidity and oxygen where an air tight container keeps lube fresh and little oxide forms on the lead.

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