View Full Version : Wheelweight of soft lead?
03-27-2010, 05:06 PM
For those of you that occasionally live fire, do you prefer minies from wheelweight or soft lead? Any particular reason?
03-27-2010, 05:28 PM
Only soft lead for minnies. Hard lead will not allow the skirt to expand into the rifling, making for poor shot groups. Hard lead is fine for carbine cartridges.I believe wheel weight lead is used mostly for Henry rounds. - Kevin Hanson
03-27-2010, 05:48 PM
Friends that do a lot of their own bullets say that wheel weights are a no-no for muzzle loaders. Too hard. keep up the soft lead.
03-27-2010, 06:12 PM
"Pure" lead is ideal.
"Tire weights" are hard lead, made hard with alloy additions such as antimony (IIRC).
"Soft" lead can be gouged with a thumbnail, altohugh with experience some lads can tell it by the ring it makes when it hits a concrete floor.
If you cannot gouge the lead with a thumbnail or slightly squeeze the skirts of the Minie between your thumb and index finger, it is too hard. The mechanics of a Minie require its skirts to expand with the force of the powder to get spun by the rifling grooves. If the lead is too hard, the skirts to not expand, and the undersized Minie bounces down the bore causing no accuracy downrange.
03-27-2010, 10:51 PM
Wheel weight lead is too hard. There are some in the NSSA that believe that shooting bullets made from wheel weight lead are responsible for the lead rings sometimes found in the breech of muskets. The lead is too hard to expand properly and breaks off in the breech. Knew a fellow that had 6 of these rings recently removed from a musket he bought. The ramrod would not seat properly and he had the breech plug removed to find out why and there they were. Stuck to the inside of the barrel. That is why one should never use a barrel that has been live fired to reenact with. These lead rings can break loose when firing a blank charge.
04-02-2010, 02:04 PM
I get my lead from an indoor gun range. They normally have to pay hazmat fees to dispose of the spent rounds. I'll take a hundred pounds at a time from them for free. It does take a little more effort to melt the lead out of the copper jackets and reminants of the frangible rounds but copper can be recycled for money and the frangible dust goes in the trash nice and easy. I've fired a couple hundred minnies and no problems yet. I usually have a nice grouping too.
I use a small cast iron deep frying pan I got from Walmart for $12 and a old propane cooking burner to melt down the lead. The frying pan has little spouts on the sides so it pours into my ingot mold real easy.
04-02-2010, 02:42 PM
There was an accidental shooting at the May 1996 (?) Spottsylavania event directly related to wheel weights being used. A soldier live fired with wheel weight lead over the off season. He didn't do a good job of cleaning his musket. At the event, the AM fight in the woods was about 1/2 hour old with lots of shooting. His unit flanked ours and fired point plank with leveled muskets into us. A cpl in our unit, standing at the ready took a dime sized lead washer slug in his left shoulder. It knocked him over and gave him a two stitch cut and a heck of a bruise.
The guilty party admitted what he had done, that's how we know. Apparently, the wheel weight alloy filled the grooves, melted with the heat, solidified and then got blown out. The distance shot was only about 40 feet, it was foggy and smoky and they may now have actually know exactly where we were. Anyway, don't use wheel weight lead.
04-02-2010, 10:04 PM
Thanks guys... will stay with the buttery soft stuff.
04-02-2010, 10:48 PM
You definitely want to use the soft lead. The purer the better. The higher percentage lead with less tin and other impurities is what you want to use.
04-05-2010, 01:22 PM
it is my experience that cleaning a firearm will eliminate any problem you have with it (aside from those things that are not cleaning related- ex: a worn tumbler or mis-constructed lock).
Can't these goofy rings be removed by cleaning? (ie. breech scraper, worm, and bore brush) Also, if you use soft lead (and inspect your ammunition) shouldn't you be able to avoid the problem altogether?
Point in case: if you clean your gun carefully and maintain it, why the need for a seperate barrel?
04-05-2010, 01:34 PM
Wheel weights are fine for modern weapons (I cast them by the thousands for my .45 ACP) but they too need to be cut with solder to soften them a tad. However, only as pure a lead as you can get for your black powder arms. The thumbnail test is a good way to tell. On the NSSA site they have periodic sales on lead. Also, the recycling center may have some. And, I have found a good supply at a gun shop (that gets theirs from the recycling center).
Melting spent modern rounds may not be safe. You can never be sure what was sent down range and most modern jacketed bullets have a lead alloy core.
In order to have the skirt on the Minnie to expand fully and engage the rifling, you need soft (pure) lead.
04-05-2010, 04:17 PM
"Can't these goofy rings be removed by cleaning? (ie. breech scraper, worm, and bore brush) Also, if you use soft lead (and inspect your ammunition) shouldn't you be able to avoid the problem altogether?"
In brief and to over-generalize...
The common cause for lead rings and fragments comes from poorly cast Minies. This is caused by the mold being too cold, or the lead being to cold so that when it is poured into the mold it does not flow and enter the mold as a complete liquid. Instead, teh stream of lead cools and hardens which creates a segmented "ripple" or layer effect in what is supposed to be a solid projectile.
The greatest weak area for a ring or segment to be torn from the Minie ball is the thin skirt area.
Being "behind" the mass/bulk of the bullet, the segment or fragment can be blown backwards toward the breech and NOT exit the muzzle.
"Cleaning" with a patch covered jag or tow covered wiper can simply push the lead bits down to the bottom of the barrel and not remove them.
This is a potential serious problem for lads who shoot the same gun (or barrel) for live fire as well as reenacting.
Many lads "dabble" in live fire and do not have the supervision or the experience in casting bullets to inspect and reject rippled or flawed castings. Plus, many dabblers buy commercially cast Minies which can have a reputation for being poorly cast.
04-07-2010, 11:39 AM
My knowledge of the specific casting properties is not that great, but from what I understand:
A: If I understand, you say cleaning with a patched jag etc. will simply push the fragments to the breech, wouldn't the same action (ie, basically scraping off the stuff) also make it possible for the fragments to exit the barrel simply by inverting the weapon?
B: By the same tokien, would't a sufficiently stiff bore brush (for cleaning after an event/skirmish/hunt, etc.) be able to remove lead fowling from the groves of the rifling?
I would be getting my minies (as I have decided to also shoot somewhat competitively with the ACWSA- are you familiar w/them?) from a local who custom sizes and casts all the minies for our musket team. I'm trusting he has his act together.
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