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Thread: Bullet weight used to identify gift lead

  1. #1
    Boolit Buddy
    Join Date
    Apr 2021

    Bullet weight used to identify gift lead

    I was given recently a block of “lead”, with no idea of what it might really be, other than scavenge. It was probably intended for fishing sinkers before it came my way. Sheet lead? Wheel weights? Battery? Most likely candidate was salvaged sheet lead.

    Batteries are of course a no-no for bullet casters. The fishing sinker crowd don’t seem to know about that though.

    One reason for testing was to consider the battery possibility.

    The test was going to be density. I have a Lyman #32359 mould for my .32-40. With dead soft lead it casts 122.5 gns. If that was the weight I got out of the test material, I’d call it sheet lead. If it was a few grains lighter I’d call it suspicious.

    In the event, the bullets came out at 122.5 gns, and were variable quality typical of straight lead. So the lead is a keeper. Now to make it useful.

    I was also given by another friend some material that looked like it was cut in ” strips from a black painted sheet approx. 3/8” thick. My benefactor thought it was solder, and the exposed sides lacked the tarnish I would expect from lead. IF this was solder, a 4% addition to my new lead (looking for about 2% tin) would shift the bullet weight by about a grain.

    And yes, the new bullets were 121.6 gns, so I’ll call the other stuff solder. The new alloy casts well and made good bullets, so I kept casting and made the 200 or so I’ll need for a few more rounds of Lever Action competition. My planned weight for these bullets is actually 121.5 gns, so I was almost right on the money without any further need for alloy adjustment.

    My point is that with nothing more than a knowledge of expected bullet weights I was able effectively to identify both the gift lead and the purported solder.

    In a more general sense, I control my bullet alloys by blending to a previously established weight/alloy – add linotype or hardball to make bullets lighter/harder, or soft scrap to make them heavier/softer. For both the linotype and the soft lead I already know my bullet weights, so just have to calculate the amount. I am currently using two alloys, based on bullet weights, a soft alloy for subsonics and a much harder alloy for hunting and for LAS Ram loads. Before I melt a pot of “unknown” I weigh it so I can calculate how much of the adjusting metal has to be added once I have a bullet weight for the melt. When I finish casting I make the leftovers into ingots and label them with the bullet weight. All of this is done with an open pot and dipper.
    Last edited by Wilderness; 08-02-2022 at 05:54 AM.
    It'll be handy if I never need it.

    Insomniac, agnostic, dyslectic - awake all night wondering if there is a Dog.

  2. #2
    Boolit Master 243winxb's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2005
    Bullets become Lighter & larger in diameter as the % of antimony is increased.

    My test -

    Molds are regulated to different alloys, by different manufacturers
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    Last edited by 243winxb; 08-02-2022 at 10:48 AM. Reason: Problem posting photo. Not normal?
    Pure lead contains no arsenic. Its been removed by law.

  3. #3
    Boolit Master
    Hick's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2015
    Winnemucca, NV
    the other fairly simple thing I do is take a piece of the unknown alloy, a piece of my own known alloy (such as Lyman #2) and squeeze a ball bearing between the two of them in a vise. Measure the diameters of the dents in the two pieces. The hardness is inversely proportional to the diameter of the dents. That is, if the dent in the unknown alloy is larger than the known piece it is softer than the known piece. Smaller dent is harder.
    Hick: Iron sights!

  4. #4
    Boolit Buddy
    Join Date
    Jun 2013
    I use a very similar method. I have a large supply of foundry type and I buy soft lead from the scrap yard in sheet form. I have seen a huge range of tests for foundry type from 18-28% antimony,, 8-12% tin, and 0-2% copper. Through weight analysys like you have done I have determined that my foundry type is on the upper end. I have a decent supply of XRF tested pewter for when I want my tin and antimony to be equal in my alloy for weight retention and malleability. Since I am using the same three base ingredients, I can re-create an alloy from the past with pretty decent precision.

    A few years ago I cast my favorite 357 rifle bullet in about a 30 pound batch of 2-2-96 where the alloy was mixed in a large melt session before I casted, then I water dropped after powder coating. This alloy turned out very good in terminal performance with low-moderate expansion at 2000 fps and 100% weight retention. It was perfect stuff for deer drives when you shoot deer up close on quartering-to or quartering-away shots. Nosler accubond for hillbilly pistol caliber lever actions. Swift A-Frame was snooping and taking notes. When I air cooled the same stuff after powder coating it mushroomed a little too much up close for deer-drive penetration (still 100% weight retention), but the AC bullets mushroomed out to at least 150 yards.

    I recently tried to re-create that same alloy using the same three ingredients and I used the spreadsheet to predict weights to get the right ratio. When I cast a few they were a half grain lighter than the previous all star batch. I assumed that it was a little heavy on the antimony so I added a small amount of soft lead and pewter. The next batch tested right on the money for weight.

    I cast those bullets and water dropped them about 8 or 9 months ago and I finally got a chance to test them for terminal performane. They ended up performing different! This new batch must be a little short on tin and high on antimony because I had a small amount of fragmentation. Two different pieces of the mushroom broke off, each one weighing about 10 grains which made 87% weight retention instead of the 100% I was expecting. A nice side effect for deer driving is that I got 20% more penetration because of the smaller mushroom. Penetration went from 5 jugs to 6, which is a bonus for deer driving. This test was 2000 fps impact velocity. I still need to test 1750 and 1500 fps. I bet that weight retention goes to 100% at 1750 and penetration goes back down to 5 jugs. I bet weight retention is 100% at 1500 and it mushrooms to 45-50 cal and penetration is back at 5-6 jugs but I need to test and verify.

    5 jugs is good for Texas heart shots on 200 pound deer. I have seen twice with this particular batch of cast bullets and a 5 jug penetrating load that you can shoot them in the rear ham and the bullet will end up between the shoulder blades where the backstrap meets the neck meat with 100% weight retention and same expanded diameter as my jug tests. 6 jugs would give a little bit more, possibly exit a Texas heart shot in deer under 200 pounds.

    So, this is a long rambling post but the main point is that if you match your weights you will be really close, but if you have some past terminal performance goal in mind you should still test them in jugs/gel to verify that you have the same mix as last time. In my example, I had the perfect mix, 2-2-96 and I got a certain bullet weight. Then my second big batch was probably something like 1.75-2.25-96, and even though the weight of the bullets ended up the same, the alloy was ultimately slightly different.

    That particular alloy I keep yawning on about was jug tested at 3 different impact velocities, then I killed 6 or 7 deer with it, then I recovered bullets out of two Texas heart shot deer that looked identical to my jug bullets, and a third bullet recovered from a neck shot deer that was facing me that busted a bunch of neck vertebrae at 98% weight retention. The rest of the deer shot broadsideish had pass throughs. Like I said, an all star batch of bullets. That's why I like to cast big batches. When you get great boolits they are better than anything else you can get. I checked all the ammo cans and I still have 200 more loaded out of that batch that I will ration out till Putin shoots his nukes and I run out of potatoes.
    Last edited by mnewcomb59; 08-04-2022 at 01:00 AM.

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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