View Full Version : Bullet casting metal ?

G.A. Ewen
08-19-2005, 06:01 PM
Anyone know what the composition of bullet casting metal is? Or maybe a reloaders BBS?

Lynn Standish
08-19-2005, 06:09 PM
Tire balancing weights are in high demand for bullet casting. Lead and antimony are the components used for bullet casting. The antimony (or tin) makes the bullet harder.

08-19-2005, 06:11 PM
lynotype(sp)& tire weights

08-19-2005, 06:39 PM
Usually 10% linotype to 90% lead will do.

It is all according to the caliber and the bullet speed that dictates how much antimony is needed.

Slow 38's need little to no linotype and fast 40 cal bullets need more. Rifle and hot pistol loads need antimony and a gas check.

I shot 40 cal SW lead high antimony (linotype) for years in IPSC with no problem.


Edited to add:
Unlesw you plan to shoot an awfull lot it's cheaper and easier to buy cast bullets at a gun show. The test I used was to push my thumb nail into the bullet. The farther into the bullet your nail goes the softer it is.

[This message has been edited by meho (edited 08-19-2005).]

08-19-2005, 06:44 PM
The alloy that a bullet mould casts is refered to as a #2 alloy. It has lead, antimony and tin in it and is a specific hardness. If you cast a bullet and it is a percentage light then you need more lead in the pot. If the cast bullet is too heavy then you need more antimony added. Linotype is high in antimony.Bullets used in muzzle loaders should be pure lead. Tin helps the moulds to cast smooth good looking bullets.
The moulds should be smoked with a match flame before using.They should look like they are covered with soot.If a person wanted to use a bullet for silhouette shooting (steel targets)he would cast a lighter bullet for more strength. As a rule wheel weights are high in antimony already.
The lead mix is fluxed with a small piece of bees wax and stired in. The grey matter on top of the hot lead is tin and should not be skimmed off.It should be fluxed and stired in. Moulds must be hot before satisfactory bullet will be produced. So cast 10 or 12 then they will start coming out OK. Then just put the unsatisfactory ones back in the pot. Hope this answers your question.

08-19-2005, 06:45 PM
Lyman publishs the "Cast Bullet handbook" that I found explains things at an easy level. It does depend on what you want the bullets for. The wheel weights &lynotype mentioned are excellant for specific purposes. The Sharps I still haul out occasionally liked fairly soft bullets.

08-19-2005, 07:09 PM
Almost forgot to say there are two types of bullets used. Soft lead swaged from lead wire which are used in most handgun bullets and hard cast which I refered to earlier
which are cast in moulds. I use hardcast in my .44 magnum.

G.A. Ewen
08-19-2005, 11:37 PM
Thanks for the responces. Can lead and tin be used alone without antimony? If so what percentage would by good?

08-19-2005, 11:44 PM
The new style tire weights that are being sold now have no lead because of EPA restrictions.

08-19-2005, 11:53 PM
G.A. Ewen,

Most informative casting forum I've found online is:


mark holycross

08-20-2005, 12:14 AM
My RCBS Cast Bullet Manual says that "it is a waste to go beyond about 4% tin." More does not increase bullet hardness. Gerry

08-20-2005, 12:54 AM
........Lead and tin only can be used for bullets. Most people reloading (who cast their own) for the late 19th century BP cartidge rifles and pistols use this mix.

If not pure lead, mixes seem to be predominately 'by 10's'. Ie: 30-1, 20-1, 10-1. Thats lead-tin. Tin WILL harden lead to a degree. In the old days a 16-1 or 10-1 mix was considered hard. The problem is the very high cost of tin, compared to the rest.

Antimony is much more effective in hardening lead. However tin has an effect like detergent in water, making the melt more fluid and thereby allowing better, more sharply cast bullets to be made. Also a pure lead-antimony alloy casts poorly, plus antimony seperates into crystals as the melt cools allowing pure lead to be in contact with the bore. Only about 2% needs to be added to benefit a lead/antimony mix.

There is no one best alloy for all applications. Wheel weights by themselves probably account for 90% of all cast bullets fired and does a good job. They may also be heat treated from thier normal 11-12bhn up to about 38bhn. Bullets may also be dropped directly from the blocks into water and will be useably hardened. That is, assuming a hard bullet is desired.

BTW, it seems that 'some' arsenic be present for successfully hardening to the highest levels. If in doubt a spoonfull of chilled shot can be added to the pot to assure it's presence.

You can go to www.castboolits.com (http://www.castboolits.com) and then follow to the new domain. I can't cut and paste it here, as the computer at work blocks darn near everything, and we all know how evil and violent guns and bullets are.


[This message has been edited by Buckshot (edited 08-20-2005).]

[This message has been edited by Buckshot (edited 08-20-2005).]

G.A. Ewen
08-20-2005, 01:59 AM

The cost of the Tin will not be a problem for me. I lucked out at a junk store on a recent trip. 16 lbs of pure tin for $10.00 http://bbs.homeshopmachinist.net//biggrin.gif


Thanks for all the info.

08-20-2005, 03:04 AM
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Jesse168:
The new style tire weights that are being sold now have no lead because of EPA restrictions.</font>

What are the new tire weights made from?

When was that requirement implemented? I ask because I still see some new ones that appear to be the same old lead as before. I guess they were already in the 'pipeline'.

08-20-2005, 07:40 AM
I did comercial bullet casting for 12 years and it has been a hobby for 22 years.
Comercial "Magnum" alloy is 92% lead,6% antimony,2% tin.It is usually bought by the
truck load to insure consist mixture.
Wheelweieghts are excellent source but only have 1/2% tin, increasing tin to 2% will make real nice bullets.
the bullet base must deform to make a gas seal so higher pressure rounds need to be harder than lower pressure rounds.
My favorite mixture is 50/50 lead/linotype,that was the mixture I was using before I stopped selling bullets because it is easily repeatable.
Actually,what ever you have acess to is the best because you can make good quality bullets cheap,commercial bullets can't compare to a good hand cast bullet,I know, been there done that.
95/5 soldewr is a good sourcefor tin and antimony.
email me for more info.

08-20-2005, 10:16 AM
I've been casting bullets for 30 years. Good advice to just buy pistol bullets already cast and lubed. Cast rifle bullets are another matter. With the velocities generated with rifle bullets, a hard alloy is needed. #2 alloy in the lyman handbook is about the softest I would recommend.

The amount of tin and antimony affects the way in which the mold fills out when casting, and the temperature the metal needs to be at the time of pouring. Large pure lead bullets (for muzzleloaders) are very difficult to cast without imperfections, visible or internal.

INMHO, the most important thing when casting and shooting cast rifle bullets is the bullet lube and lubri-sizing.

I've used alox/beeswax mix for years and found it good up to about 1900fps. This will probably start a war here, as every cast bullet shooter has his own favourite lube, both proprietary and home made.

I once used Galena(sp?) a bearing lubricant from a railroader friend of mine. I mixed it with a little beeswax and paraffin. Stunk like hell. Used it with pistol bullets. I'd fire a few shots, and other shooters would say, "What stinks?" or "Who died?". Great fun.

Keep your area well ventilated. Lead vapourizes when heated hot enough. I did so much casting indoors when I was a kid, it's a wonder I float at all when I swim.

just my .02


08-20-2005, 10:36 AM

08-20-2005, 10:57 AM
I use pure linotype but I got lucky a few years back and bought 1000# of linotype still in type for 10 cents a pound.. Print shop went out of business.. Use it in handguns and rifles.. Mike in Louisiana


John Lawson
08-20-2005, 10:38 PM
I cast my first bullets over 60 years ago.I hate to stick a pin in anybody's balloon, but when you buy linotype from a print shop you have no clue what the composition is without having a professional analysis, and if it is in the form of lino slugs, chances are it is low on tin content. Most print shops meltedd the slugs and type down time after time without having it analyzed and just threw in a little tin on occasion. Lead testers that rely on a ball bearing and weight are an indicator of HARDNESS, not composition or analysis. Foundry type is the best source of bullet alloy. Many of the ingots sold as "linotype" or "Ludlow" metal by junk yards is actually stereotype metal with ananalysis that isn't very close to lino. More of this was available when printers went to cold type because newspapers used stereotype metal to make curved plates for their presses. It is too brittle in original form for auto pistol bullets.
Wheel weights have zinc in the alloy and are ok for plunking, but if you use them and want accuracy, you will have to weigh them individually and sort them by weight.
Old time (circa 1929) revolver shooters used only lead and tin alloy, claiming that when antimony was added to fill out molds better, accuracy suffered. You can read the whole story in Elmer Keith's book "Sixguns" and "Sixgun Cartridges and Loads" available in reprint.
Wheel weights often contain large amounts of zinc, which will contribute to variations in weight. When you lube and size, keep your scale close by and weigh a bullet every so often. If you shoot matches, weigh each bullet.
Indoor ranges will not allow lead alloy bullets to be fired unless they are jacketed or copper plated because of the very real lead poisdoning hazard, airborne and contact.
If you really must cast bullets, do it under an exhaust hood and wash your hands before eating or drinking.
Next to mercury, lead takes the greatest heavy metal toll of humans. Look up "lead poisoning" on the internet, observe the listed symptoms and if you are a bullet caster and you have symptoms, run...do not walk...to your doctor.
Lead poisoning is very common and it is no joke.
One final warning: Never, ever handle lead or lead alloys with your bare hands; wear gloves. This includes soft solder, linotype and lead ingots or plumber's lead. Use a thermometer, do not let the heat run much over melting temperature and do not even trust your exhaust hood if you run high temperatures for any reason (like mixing in pure antimony).
Always remember that lead...and most other heavy metals...are virulent poisons under the right circumstances.

[This message has been edited by John Lawson (edited 08-20-2005).]

08-21-2005, 07:26 AM
just some cast rambling.....get Lymans book,much info and a great starting point.Buy a Lee aluminum mould cause they're real cheap,heat up quick,cast "OK" and make a few hundred bullets.See if casting is sumthin you want to do.A few very important areas of concern after obvious safety requirements.Hardness/toughness desired.Size or diameter of raw and subsequently finished bullet.Speed at which you'd like to drive them.Internal and more importantly external ballistics.And a few others.The trick is taking above considerations and melding into a workable plan or approach.The fun for me is how quickly can we come up with a bullet meeting whatever criteria put forth for a new gun.IOWs buddy comes over with XYZ firearm and wants/needs cast load worked up for this or that task."I can name that tune in ___ trys".Best of luck,BW