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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Many speak of shooting hardcast lead bullets. If one is not punching paper or ringing gongs at what point will bullets break up or shatter. I am wondering about being able to penetrate hide and bone on animals? I have seen many article talking about hardness and what happens from adding tin, antimony, and arsenic in terms of hardness but not ductility. Thanks in advance for any advise!
 

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If you don't have it, get a copy of Lymans Cast Bullet Handbook. Within is a great chapter on the issues of which you speak, to include cast bullets of various hardness compared to standard jacket 30-30 loads. I drive relatively soft and ductile .35 bullets to around 1900fps for game with great results, and the accuracy is good. I add tin and a fair amount of soft lead to WW, ductibility is very good. Take a look under reloading bullet test, focus on 190 hawk and 35 Rem, the last cast bullet was WW with about 15% soft roofers sheathing and 5% soder with high tin content. That load was "harder" than I like, but would ideal for tough game. Normally I use WW with about 25% soft lead and the soder, which mushrooms nicely on game. No expert here, I just mix up lead, cast it and test it, keep what works.
 

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Keep in mind that bullet hardness is not necessarily a direct indicator of brittleness. Whether a bullet is ductile enough to stay together upon impact has to more to due with the molecular structure of the bullet alloy than it does the hardness. In cast lead bullets, antimony will significantly increase hardness in an alloy. Tin will also drive up the hardness but only to a point. It seems that bullets with more than 4-5% antimony can show to be brittle. If hardness is derived with less than 4% antimony, in my experience, the bullet will tolerate a very high shock load and stay together. Working with bullets that have around 2-3% antimony and keeping them in the 16 brinnell area seem to work very well for me. I haven't found no reason to drive the hardness beyond that and have pushed some 30 cal. gas checked bullets to 2,500 fps.

I have cast some pure Linotype bullets that have shot well but are a bit on the brittle side at 22 brinnell. I have water quenched bullets with 1-2% antimony and achieved a similar hardness as Linotype that were more ductile and would tolerate a lot more abuse before coming apart.

From my experience hardness is not a good indicator of how well a bullet will stay together. Keep in mind that Copper is about 80 brinnell and brass is around 200 brinnell. They will both stay together quite nicely. I wouldn't let hardness alone convince you that the bullet will stay together or break apart.:hmmmm:

Keith
 

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If you want a hard, ductile bullet which will stand jacketed velocities and expand with 80% weight retention, mix 2 pounds of wheelweights to 8 pounds of plumber's lead. Run the melt hot enough that bullets are uniformly frosted. Let the bullets slowly air cool and inspect at your leisure. If bullets require sizing, do so without lubing or installing gascheck. Lightly lube bullets with soapy water for sizing, then rinse in clean water.

Calibrate your oven by placing a LINOTYPE cast bullet inside,and initially set the oven to 475 degs. F. The eutectic isotherm at which ternary lead alloys melt is 473 degs. F. You want to determine the highest setting at which you can leave a Linotype bullet for two hours without melting. You then want to determine a setting slightly above this, at which the surface of the Linotype bullet begins to "sweat" and the bullet begins to lose its shape, like melting ice cream.

Your oven heat treat setting for diluted wheelweights is between these two points. Place your sized, but not lubed or gaschecked bullets in the oven. Cook them at maximum heat treat temperature for 6-8 hours. This puts ALL of the antimony into solution. Quickly remove the bullets from the oven without delay, within 3 secs. quenching in room temperature water. This freezes the antimony into a SOLID solution. Gather the wet bullets into a plastic bag and then place the bag in a freezer and cold soak them for 14 days. After the cold soak, then you may dry, lube and crimp gaschecks on the bullets.

If gachecks are crimped onto the bullets before heat treatment, the gc heel and gc will snap the base off the bullet from hoop stress.

Bullets so prepared can be loaded to full jacketed velocity in the .30-'06 or .375 H&H and will perform on game equal to factory loads. Read George Martin's article in the NRA Cast Bullets book, "Cast Bullets in Africa."
 

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Wind +1 on the Laser Cast bullets! Quality product at a great price!

Unique powder is so versatile and gives the most bang for the buck!

What can I say...It's Unique!
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Thanks all that replied! I am waiting on Beartooth bullets to try. I will also be casting and sizing my own shortly. I guess I will experiment some along the lines suggested. Thanks again!
 

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Elmer Keith promoted hard cast bullets for 44MAG. He found that a flat nose bullet transferred energy quite well. You should consider reading one of his books.

In contrast, I've had very good luck with Hornady hollow tips for deer sized animals. Ghastly wound channels and excellent energy transfer.

TR
 

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Sindbad,

"hard cast" is a greatly over used term, without much meaning.

If someone in the know would begin a system or scale of hardness as to what might be called hard cast or soft or??? and the Brnnell hardness of each and then start to use and promote that scale they would do us all a favor and help do away with the meaningless term, "hard cast".

If a well designed bullet profile is used in cast bullets, expansion which is always a so so thing with cast bullets, is barely needed at most.

The bullets with a large meplat, commonly called Wide Flat Nose (WFN) or Long Flat Nose (LFN) are highly effective in taking game and providing they are not overly hard and prone to fragmentation will simply get er done.

In fact, higher velocities with the WFN will not only decrease penetration, but will also cause excessively large wound channels and meat loss. Been there and seen that with a 355gr WFN at 2300fps.

The ability of jacketed bullets to reliably and predictably expand took lots of experimentation and years of development to come to the point where we are today, so at best, a non-jacketed bullet which is highly dependent on alloy and impact velocity for expansion will always be to at least some degree unpredictable.

For that reason the WFN where expansion is not a great issue, needed or desirable, has proven to be very reliable.

The maker of my 465gr WFN bullet mold recommended an alloy of 50/50 - Wheel Weights/lead - cold water quenched as the bullet drop from the mold, and this bullet at 1650fps has proven to be highly effective on deer AND elk.

This would not, or should not be considered a Hard Cast bullet, but is plenty hard for this application.

Crusty Deary Ol'Coot
 

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Reading the FAQs on the websites of both Missouri Bullet Co and Beartooth Bullets, seems like they take a different approach to hardness. Missouri places an emphasis on achieving the right amount of obturation so that the expanding base fills up the barrel and reduces gas cutting and leading and increases accuracy, which means having to work up a load that creates the right amount of pressure, not too much or too little, to create the optimal obturation. Seems like their BHN 18 405gr. cast bullets then end up with typical trapdoor loads, not much more than 1600fps and pressure in the 20-23,000 range. On the other hand, Beartooth says slug your barrel and get the right diameter bullet to fit in the first place and you won't need to rely on obturation to seal the bullet to the barrel. Makes sense, as you can get custom sizes at Beartooth, but only one size and hardness at Missouri, which are .458 diameter and could run on the small side for some rifles so obturation becomes more important. I mostly see MO members talking about slugging the barrel and not about achieving obturation through the right combination of Brinell Hardness Number and pressure. However, those Missouri Bullets are nicer on the wallet, even compared to the Oregon Trail's!
 

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For those interested, I contacted Oregon Trail Bullet Co about the BHN on their laser cast bullets, as it was not published anywhere that I could find, and they said their laser cast bullets are at 24 BHN.
 

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Darkwater,

24 BHN IS pretty hard, in fact harder then is needed for MANY/most uses.

I wonder if testing would show that hardness to be prone to shattering if hard going such as heavy bone were encountered. Would be interesting to find out what tests might show.

I do not have a hardness tester, but have sent bullets and ingots to some forum friends in Ohio, both of whom have testers and the Wheel weight alloy bullets I have used for years are softer then the hardness you quote.

The one friend first tested some air cooled and water quenched bullets on July 28th and then again on Aug. 10th.

The water quenched WW tested 18 - 19 BNH on the 28th of July and 20BNH on the 10th of Aug.

The air cooled tested 10BNH at the July test and 11BNH on the tenth of Aug.

My bullets, 465gr Wide Flat Nose used in my 45/70, are a 50/50 alloy of Wheel Weights/Lead water quenched as they fall from the mold, so they would be softer then the straight WW bullets cast and quenched as listed above.

I have fired/tested a goodly number of 355gr WFN cast bullets in my 45/70 - WW alloy - at velocities above 2000fps, most of which were fired at 2300 to 2500fps.

These are gas checked bullets, but even at the higher velocity, leading was so slight as to be a non-issue.

The 355gr did not give me the accuracy or consistency I desired, and the deer I took with that bullet - about 100yds and 2300fps muzzle velocity - showed GREATLY EXCESSIVE meat loss. HUGE wound channel from what is basically a non-expanding bullet.

The 465gr at 1650fps is just so much better in ALL respects.

So, guess the point here is. If your bullets are properly fit to your bore, excessive hardness is not needed or possibly even a good thing. EDIT ******* should have said bad thing.

Excessive hardness, with out proper bullet to bore fit has been show to be the cause of bore leading in some firearms.

Crusty Deary Ol'Coot
 

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I invested in a hardness tester and I use it when casting. Nice to confirm the correct mixture. However, I only cast for original Trapdoor and Sharps 50-70 so I run 20 parts lead to 1 part tin. I use pure lead and bar solder for the mix. I have used wheel weights for other guns but now only cast for these two guns. The wheel weight bullets were run up to 1800 fps without an issue.
I shoot commercial cast bullets in the .357 and get more leading from that bullets than I do from my own cast rifle bullets even though the rifle bullets are going faster.
Hard cast seems to be a means of avoiding leading of the barrel, but I have found that a quality lube and starting with a clean barrel goes a long way in avoiding barrel leading. I still prefer a soft lube even though it leaves a bit of grease in the barrel. The grease is easier to clean than the lead.
 

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Bill,

I use a soft lube, and by that I mean one that does not require heat on the sizer/luber.

I found bullet lube to be a pretty simple thing to make for handguns, but I did once make some tooooooooo soft and it was a pain plus not staying in the lube grooves. Way too soft!

However, as long as White Label lube stays in business with their great product at a very reasonable price, for me at least, it is not worth the effort to do the home brew.

Crusty Deary Ol'Coot
 

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Comments by Bronco Archer and Outpost75 are spot on.
Simply stated, cast soft, heat treat hard.
Wheel weights have all the essential trace elements, and when mixed with pure lead, will heat treat to linotype hardness and beyond.
Outpost75's technique reflects the ultimate refinement for absolute heat treatment effect. However, you're on the ragged edge of softness, and need to recalibrate for each bulk alloy batch.
While not on the ragged edge, my heat treat process has evolved to a more simplified procedure which is usable for about any alloy, and still results in bullets 25-28 BHN when alloy constituents are present in sufficient ratios:
1.) Calibrate your oven with a separate thermometer (Wal-Mart or other kitchen supply)... otherwise you may come out with a batch of slumped bullets needing to be recast.

2.) Heat treat one hour at 450 degrees and quench in a 5 gallon bucket of ice water, ( make up some 8x8 wire baskets from 1/4" steel harware cloth and coat hanger wire bail handles as illustratedin the RCBS cast bullets book, and use a pair of welding gloves, ..pick up batch out of the oven and drop basket and all into the quench bucket)

3.) Check and lube the next day in an over sized sizer. ( say, .312 and .460)

4.) Load for velocity- .30 cal at 1800-2000 fps, 45-70 1650-1800 fps...

You can go faster with success, but why beat yourself and your gun?
My experience on big hogs shot through the shoulders with 30-30, or 45-70 at these velocities has been nothing short of fantastic.
Every single animal has fallen in his shadow....and I pass up shots which won't be placed perfectly.
 
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