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J Miller
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Posted: January 11 2007 at 8:31am | IP Logged Quote J Miller

Lead has been the metal of choice for most bullets since the days of the match lock.

Currently we have mostly lead bullets, but there are other non toxic materials that have been used. Sintered metal bullets that disentigrate for indoor range use, and others I can't think of right now.
Shotgunners have had bisthmouth (sic) and steel shot forced on them by the tree huggers, and now they are trying to ban lead shot for all shotgun hunting. I wonder how long till we cartridge shooters loose our metal of choice? California is already trying to ban lead bullets, Vermont just banned lead fishing sinkers so the lead ban is coming, sooner or later.

Since it seems that anything we shooters use is becoming either scarce, restricted, or banned lately, my question(s) is/are;

>What soft castable metal or metalic alloy might replace lead for our bullets?
>Is there something else we can use in our existing moulds?
>Or are we going to end up with a new alloy that requires new moulds?   
>Or will we just end up scrounging and hoarding supplies of a contaband material - lead?

Joe
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Rigmarol
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Posted: January 11 2007 at 11:45am | IP Logged Quote Rigmarol

I'm not worried about it. I have enough lead to last the rest of my life and I'm still scrounging it for my descendants. I might even start selling my pure lead ingots (from stick-on WW) on ebay just to get some of it out from under foot.

I think for hunters as long as the bullet companies keep coming up with wonder bullets that can correctly claim a high percentage of weight retention in recovered game shots, there will always be hunting bullets.

For us casters, I don't think we are a large enough group to worry about. I think the sellers of lead bullets need to keep their heads up and their ears open to the winds of political change in order to stay in business but the hobbyist casters will dwindle or stay in small numbers.

I saw a Bonanza episode recently where Little Joe was hand loading some 45colts and Hoss (in a bad mood) remarked, "what, you too good to buy bullets you gotta make yur own?".

The direction seems to be going towards Copper. Either in a pressed form that closely equals leads density and weight or an injection method that is more costly but yeilds fragible projectiles that work good for close quarters Tactictal work.

http://www.dtic.mil/ndia/2001smallarms/kelly.pdf

For the hobbyist I believe if Lead is outlawed (god forbid) we will have to learn to swag or bullets out of the politically correct materials, which look to be a form of copper or copper and tungsten, or a copper powder, etc.

I've seen some dies can be used on our single stage presses but for the widest availability, a new press will be needed. No casting but still free bullets.

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stuffit
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Posted: January 11 2007 at 11:59am | IP Logged Quote stuffit

LOL I can see it all now. A couple of Federal agents on a ridge with binoculars looking at some smoke winding up through the sky out toward the horizon from a wooded area. "That's got to be one of them pesky lead bullet casters, Hank. The smoke from those old wheel weights they smelt is a dead giveaway every time. Call in the helicopters and we'll put that poluting punk out of business, pronto."

Yep, it's a changing world.

stuffit

Edited by stuffit on January 11 2007 at 11:59am


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bam4k
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Posted: January 11 2007 at 3:59pm | IP Logged Quote bam4k

stuffit wrote:
LOL I can see it all now. A couple of Federal agents on a ridge with binoculars looking at some smoke winding up through the sky out toward the horizon from a wooded area. "That's got to be one of them pesky lead bullet casters, Hank. The smoke from those old wheel weights they smelt is a dead giveaway every time. Call in the helicopters and we'll put that poluting punk out of business, pronto."

Yep, it's a changing world.

stuffit



The sad thing is that could actually happen.

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joed
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Posted: January 11 2007 at 5:21pm | IP Logged Quote joed

We were just talking about something similar the other day. OH just went with a smoking ban. I'm a non smoker but could care less if someone wants to smoke.

But the conversation came up of what next? It was suggested that one day it will be salt because it's no good for you. The lifestyle police are everywhere.   I have no doubt I'll see lead banned in my lifetime.

JoeD
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turbo1889
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Posted: January 11 2007 at 5:25pm | IP Logged Quote turbo1889

     Barnes copper bullets work very well and with a hot enough heat source it may be possible to cast copper bullets in steel molds.

     I'm new to the whole cast bullet thing but I've done copper brazing and I think it could be possible to cast bullets from copper -- and yes you can get it scrap. I've probably got 50 pounds of old copper propane tubing from when I used to work on campers and motor-homes.

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Rigmarol
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Posted: January 11 2007 at 5:56pm | IP Logged Quote Rigmarol

At corbins.com I read a lot about swaging today. Very interesting. I think if it comes down to using copper, I don't think it will be a matter of melting and casting because of high temps needed. But Swaging seems to make more sense if lead isn't allowed. If I understand it right, the copper bullet swaged using copper POWDER, makes a bullet very close to a lead bullet in weight and performance. Of course Corbins claims it's superior to cast lead. Equipment isn't cheap but not so far out it's not reachable.

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BAGTIC
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Posted: January 11 2007 at 7:05pm | IP Logged Quote BAGTIC

I believe the only commonly available metal that is relatively easy to cast and doesn't cost an arm and both legs is zinc. It is close enough to copper in density so that the difference shouldn't be a big consideration. For bullet swagers copper will undoubtedbly be he metal of choice because of its ductility.
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454PB
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Posted: January 11 2007 at 7:26pm | IP Logged Quote 454PB

THE SMOKING BANS:

I see the day coming when you'll need a prescription from your doctor for certain foods, to protect fat people and those with elevated cholesterol or blood pressure from themselves. The reasoning will be that they can become a burden to society and the health care system (same one they used on smokers).

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Ed R
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Posted: January 15 2007 at 3:33am | IP Logged Quote Ed R

I would think zinc and tin to be able to cast in quantity for target shooters.

Look at the price of copper and other metals.

We maybe priced out of our hobby before the bans take effect.
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Leftoverdj
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Posted: January 15 2007 at 6:29am | IP Logged Quote Leftoverdj

I'm one of those with a lifetime supply of lead hoarded.

To my knowlege, there is no other acceptable casting substitute. All the heavy metals are toxic to some degree, and most have too high a melting point for existing moulds. Zinc comes close, and has been tried, but it is way too hard to get any expansion and fouls bores badly. It also has only about 2/3 the density of lead which hurts downrange performance a lot.

A few folks are already playing with an interesting alternative to casting by machining bullets. Small programable screw machines can turn rod stock into bullets at a reasonable rate. Copper and brass are the materials of choice although they are expensive. Mild steel can be made to work although there are issues with various laws.

One more possibility is the plastic bullet with a heavy insert. This has already been done commercially with lead cores, and would seem to be the way to go with materials too hard or abrasive for bore contact.
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GunNutJuell
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Posted: January 15 2007 at 9:36am | IP Logged Quote GunNutJuell

Maybe it's a little off topic, and obviously not practical, but I've always wondered about aluminum projectiles. I understand it wouldn't really get any long distance whatsoever, but so far as short range accuracy, I've always wondered. Probably about 5 feet?

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BAGTIC
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Posted: January 15 2007 at 11:27am | IP Logged Quote BAGTIC

Aluminum (aluminum core) bullets have been used before in the CETM assault rifle.

Ballistic coefficients are, all other things being equal, proportional to the sectional density of the projectile. Aluminum is 23% as dense as lead so an aluminum bullet would have a BC equal to 23% of a lead bullet of identical shape.

As an example, a lead SWC 240 grain .430 caliber bullet with a BC of .151 would when made of aluminum weight +/-55 grains and have a BC of +/- .035.

The Ballistics Calculator on this site can provide approximate exterior ballistics. Quickload indicates that 14.9 grains of Bullseye would produce 2300 fps from a 4" barrel.

Range Velocity Impact Drop ToF Energy Drift
0 2300 -0.5 0 0 646 0
10 2023 0.32 0.07 0.02 500 0.6
20 1807 1.07 0.21 0.03 399 1.05
30 1607 1.7 0.46 0.05 315 1.83
40 1427 2.2 0.85 0.07 249 2.98
50 1273 2.53 1.41 0.09 198 4.55
60 1148 2.65 2.18 0.12 161 6.56
70 1058 2.49 3.22 0.14 137 8.98
80 991 2.03 4.57 0.17 120 11.76
90 939 1.22 6.27 0.2 108 14.83
100 896 0 8.38 0.24 98 18.18
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Leftoverdj
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Posted: January 15 2007 at 11:52am | IP Logged Quote Leftoverdj

Exposed aluminum turns into the extremely abrasive aluminum oxide very rapidly. While coatings can prevent this, any time the coating is scraped away, the possibility returns.
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BAGTIC
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Posted: January 15 2007 at 12:02pm | IP Logged Quote BAGTIC

Leftoverdj. "I'm one of those with a lifetime supply of lead hoarded."

Me too, depending on how long I live.

"To my knowlege, there is no other acceptable casting substitute. All the heavy metals are toxic to some degree, and most have too high a melting point for existing moulds. Zinc comes close, and has been tried, but it is way too hard to get any expansion and fouls bores badly."

I have not noticed any problem with fouling in handguns. Ross Seyfried didn't mention any problems in his experiments in rifles. Ironically, zinc has been used as a bore cleaner, ex: Harvey Pro-Tec bullets with zinc washer bases, and others.

Steel isn't going to expand either. Neither will copper or brass unless they are hollow point. Due to lack of ductility HP zinc bullets will probably shatter at the nose instead of mushrooming.

Many cast bullet shooters regularly take game with hard cast lead bullets that for practical purposes do not expand either. I imagine lack of expansion would not be as critical as it first seems if properly designed bulets are used.

"It also has only about 2/3 the density of lead which hurts downrange performance a lot."

As for downrange performance at the ranges 'most' game is killed in the real world zinc bullets should probably suffice. One solution is the one used by hunters in the days of round ball, use a bigger caliber gun. Remember that most of the 'big game' in the existing US was decimated prior to the Civil War and much of it at the hands of the lowly round ball. Another solution is to foresake long range 'sniping' and get back to stalking and hunting. Get closer.

"A few folks are already playing with an interesting alternative to casting by machining bullets. Small programable screw machines can turn rod stock into bullets at a reasonable rate. Copper and brass are the materials of choice although they are expensive. Mild steel can be made to work although there are issues with various laws."

Once we get into the realm of machine tools, especially CNC, we are beyond the financial and technical resources of most shooters. It is then time to forget about 'rolling our own' and rely on 'store boughts'. That is why Barnes, and such others, are around.

"One more possibility is the plastic bullet with a heavy insert. This has already been done commercially with lead cores, and would seem to be the way to go with materials too hard or abrasive for bore contact."

The only plastic 'jacket' bullets I am familiar with are for handguns, or the saboted ones made mostly for muzzleloaders. Plastic sabots have the advantage of not needing to withstand the very high centrifugal forces created by high velocity rifles with fast, relative to handguns, rates of twist. A plastic jacket that must remain intact aand attached to the core until impact is going to be more difficult.

Not many shooters are going to be able to afford sophisticated plastic injection molding machines or the necessary feedstock. If we are going to be dependent on the factories for supplies of plastic jackets we might as well let them made the bullets too.

I still think that for bullet casters zinc would be the best option. For swagers it would be copper.
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Leftoverdj
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Posted: January 15 2007 at 3:22pm | IP Logged Quote Leftoverdj

Bag, my informants on zinc bullets have uniformly reported lengthy break-in/conditioning periods going to zinc and changing back to copper. I'll take their word for it. They also cussed the Harvey bullets with the zinc washer bases right roundly, too.

I've shot nylon jacketed bullets, both lead cored and military practice ammo. The lead cored stuff gave good performance in .357 and .44 Mags. The solid nylon stuff was reasonably accurate within its limited range at 4000 fps.

We're talking future possibilities. When I started reloading, chronographs cost as much as a Cadillac and there were none outside labs. Same story on pressure testing equipment, and computers.

I've met guys who were turning out bullets on screw machines and CNC machines are steadily getting cheaper. I'm not about to discount the possibility of an affordable bullet machine within 30-40 years. I'm also not going to discount the possibility of jacketing cores by powder coating.

We shooters are an inventive lot and generally have technical backgrounds. If there is a viable replacement for lead, we'll find it, and some of us will find a way to do it in the basement.
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BAGTIC
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Posted: January 17 2007 at 7:39am | IP Logged Quote BAGTIC

"I'm not about to discount the possibility of an affordable bullet machine within 30-40 years."

Good luck. Personally, I don't even look that far into the future as I will not be around that long, much less still shooting. For that matter, given likely political trends, there is a good possibility that none of us will still be shooting then.
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Hod
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Posted: January 17 2007 at 8:12am | IP Logged Quote Hod

I have a dumb question. Is it possible to use straight lead free solder for making bullets?

Hod
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BAGTIC
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Posted: January 17 2007 at 9:43am | IP Logged Quote BAGTIC

I don't see why not. People have used lead free pewter which is close to the same thing. Gets a little pricey though.
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454PB
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Posted: January 17 2007 at 1:26pm | IP Logged Quote 454PB

If you have those kinds of quantities of lead free solder, I would certainly trade you other alloys pound for pound
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