Non-lead cast bullets?


July 12, 2005, 01:21 AM
Hello, I'm wondering if anyone knows of other alloys that can be used for bullets, say when you pour the liquid metal into a mould? For instance, tin or copper? Even if they're mixed with 50% lead or something that would be ok.

I just read another thread (I'm new but I did search!) where it was said that cast lead bullets don't work well in AR-15's, because they can't handle the velocity.

So I'm looking for another way.

BTW as for melting temperatures, yes it might be tricky, but I won't mind. If I get to be different and be the only guy with my own secret recipe for bullets, then I'll gladly spend an hour to make a couple dozen!

So, to summarize, does anyone know of good recipes for alloys to make bullets?

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July 12, 2005, 07:13 AM
Tin is the most commonly used metal to alloy with lead. You could use 50-50 (tin-lead) solder for bullets, and although it would be harder than lead it would be lighter. Copper and silver would be hard to cast. Gold would probably work well. It's very dense. I'm not sure how well it casts. It would also have the advantage of bringing more women into the shooting sports. :D

July 12, 2005, 08:44 AM
If you did need a source of tin - lead alloy, stained glass shops sell solder by the pound (or on-line) in both 50/50 and 60/40 percentages (tin/lead). Cost is $6 to $9 for a 1 lb spool.

July 12, 2005, 09:09 AM
Thanks! I also considering melting down a tin can just to see how easy it is:) If I get new filters for my gasmask I'll let you know how it goes!

Jim Watson
July 12, 2005, 09:30 AM
Tin actually lowers the melting point in alloy with lead. All tin really does in casting bullets is improve the flow and give better filled out bullets, it does not increase hardness much. A linotype or heat treated wheelweight bullet can be driven over 2000 fps in a good barrel with good lube. I don't know if it will cycle a gas gun, though.

The only thing I have ever heard of that you can cast in hobby equipment to load to full power is zinc. Zamak "pot metal" zinc alloy works well. It will melt in an ordinary pot and cast in a regular bullet mold. Density is about 64% of lead so if you had a 70 grain mold it would deliver a 45 grain zinc bullet. The equipment must be completely free of lead and it must be completely free of zinc if you want to go back to casting lead in it.

Or so said the NRA about 50 years ago. I haven't tried it, too much like work.

July 12, 2005, 01:22 PM
Excellent, I think I will try some zinc too, why not! Technically I'm going to search around a bit, see if it has bad properties that would be unexpected, and then try. But I've already got a price on the raw stuff, and that's easier than a bunch of reading, so I'll do step #2 first, as usual:)


And in probably a month when it all comes together I'll tell how they work.

July 12, 2005, 03:17 PM
Lucky: tin cans are not made of tin they are made of steel and used to have a tin coating. They may still have a tin coating on the outside but a large number of cans have a plastic or lacquer coating on the inside to resist deterioration from the cans contents.

July 12, 2005, 08:38 PM
Good to know! I searched from and the companies that had tin cans looked like paint cans and automobile products. But I bought some scrap evestrough that they said was tin, if I try it. It doesn't seem tin will add much to anything, and it's not as common as the other 3 elements, so most likely I'll figure to hell with it.

I actually got 300 lbs of lead, and 15 of each copper and zinc, and a couple of tin. I'm going to try and find a mould to make ingots, and see if I can melt copper safely with an oxy-acety torch. If so I might try making a bullets out of each material stand-alone, and in combinations! It'll be a fun long-term project now!

...Once I get a chronograph, figure out a target medium to measure penetration, and make the ingots and bullets... :uhoh: Oh well :o

Jim Watson
July 12, 2005, 08:52 PM
Copper's melting point is 1980 F. No doubt you can melt it with an oxy-acetyline torch, but it will destroy an aluminum bullet mold and likely ruin an iron one.

July 12, 2005, 08:54 PM
Not to try and dissuade you! But I think you will find copper is way too high an MP to allow you to do much (1083.0 C (1356.15 K, 1981.4 F)) - apart from the hazards of molten metal at high temperatures.

Sure an Oxy flame will melt it but, you'd have to keep it in a sustained molten state long enough for casting - and that into hot moulds. This really needs proper stuff like ceramic crucible etc.

I personally would not bother with the Zinc route either, as much as anything due to the contamination of my lead pot - tho some say a Zinc bullet makes a good frangible.

With std approaches - lead/tin/antimony - just beware the risk of water contacting the molten metal - it vaporizes into steam double quick and can lead to an explosive spray of molten metal out of the pot. Wear eye protection.

July 12, 2005, 11:47 PM
Thanks for the heads-up. I was actually planning on wearing welding gear, with the dark lens replaced for clear, (and imo thick suede is great for not starting on fire, gauntlets, apron).

The thing about the copper was that I'd heard if you add tin you lower the melting point. Well, I sort of assumed it worked that way, that if you melt the copper in an iron pot, then add tin to it, then it would have a lower melting temperature after that. Or One could just buy brass! But they had all this copper wire, I couldn't resist.

BTW I'm looking at this cheap little lyman reloading kit at cabelas for around $100 (includes everything, seems like a good deal) anyone know how much past 700F they can go? If I get crazy and play with copper I'll probably just spend $20 and but an iron pot, though, anyway.

July 13, 2005, 11:43 PM
Sorry to reply to myself, but I checked and the mould is steel, not one of those aluminum jobs. So in that regard it should be able to 'take the heat'. I'm still shopping for handles, though.

July 14, 2005, 12:11 AM
keep in mind if you do manage to score some homemade bullets, that you take care with the initial load. you're not going to find a lot of staring suggetsions for a bullet with the shape of a 70 grainer and the weight of 45 grain. (using hte previous example)

the shape of the bullet and weight both effect pressure.

i've got some ballistic software, but not any of the cool ballistic software. anybody reading this know if any of the common programs acommodate non-lead bullets? or if you can change the density and shape somehow?

i think mine actually has the ability to input custom dimensions and mass, i'm just not sure i trust it :)

July 14, 2005, 01:14 AM
I think you are trying to reinvent the wheel here. If you want copper or steel bullets check out SWAGING , this is how modern bullets are made. Do a search of " CORBIN SWAGING EQUIPMENT". You can vary the weight by how much lead you put in the tubing before you form it to a bullet shape.

July 14, 2005, 03:42 AM
I thought that there was a company making all-copper bullets already, though?

July 14, 2005, 04:54 AM
Molten zinc is very volatile and zinc fumes are toxic !!!!There has already been one death from that this year [ welding galvanized pipe] ......Barnes makes all copper bullets .You can get loaded rounds from Corbon as their DPX . These I assume are swaged , not cast .

July 14, 2005, 05:40 PM
Yes, and thank-you for the warning about zinc. As I understand it welding galvanized steel creates mustard gas, but a good respirator should handle that, if that even happens. Actually, after 1.5 second consideration, it'll be a good idea to do a lot more research into the results of liquifying metals before heating any of them. enduring mustard gas sounds unreasonable for the task of making a bullet. I think my mother would slap me for taking 1.5 seconds!

But over the months I see no reason againt slow and cautious experimentation, see if brass-lead alloys can be made, and so-on.

July 20, 2005, 09:29 PM
now, far be it from me to rain on anybody's technical parade, but might it not be better to buy bullets for 223, and cast for rounds where lead is more appropriate?

i mean, playing metalurgist sure is fun, but...

July 21, 2005, 01:22 AM
Lucky, nobody has brought this up yet, but any metal you can cast at home is going to require a gas check( requiring a tool to crimp it on) for use in a gas operated semi auto. Otherwise, metal burning off the base of the bullet will foul the gas system and lock it up. As an aside, why would you want to use cast bullets in an AR ? I can buy .223 ammo for about what it costs me to reload it, and I don't have to spend my time reloading.

July 21, 2005, 08:01 PM
Personally, I use cast bullets only for pistols and handguns.

However, it would be good practice for the day when perhaps that was the only way to get bullets for my .... (hmm, which one?) favorite rifle.

July 22, 2005, 02:47 AM
Yea, I guess it's not really practical to cast for .223, but I really want to get into making the whole cartridge myself. I've been looking at getting a shotgun, maybe I could cast slugs.

If a person were going to experiment with the metals for slugs, then they'd need a barrel without choke, right? In case the slug was slightly harder than pure lead and didn't compress easily?

July 22, 2005, 08:10 PM
If your goal is to make the bullet, you could try swaging your own jacketed bullets. I don't think it would be a way to save money, but it can certainly be done. There is a company that sells tooling for the task, but I forgot the name.

July 22, 2005, 08:25 PM
There is a company that sells tooling for the task, but I forgot the name. IIRC Griz that'd be Corbin.

July 23, 2005, 07:28 PM
The reason cast bullets will not work in an AR-15, is because they will foul the gas port....this is true of any gas-operated weapon, rifle or handgun. Cast bullets require lube, and mixed with the lead deposits, it will quickly render an AR-15 inoperable. Besides...I don't think you can drive them fast enough to cycle the action, unless they were super hard. Besides, jacked bullets in bulk are a lot less trouble and less expensive, and less risky than the strange alloys that you are considering.

July 23, 2005, 09:46 PM
Yea, I'm sold, just going to buy bulk 5.56 bullets. Thanks for all the info!

July 23, 2005, 11:19 PM
Well, I might try some time in the future, still, but for the foreseeable future I'm convinced too. It's just not practical or worthwhile then.

July 24, 2005, 11:54 AM
You can always just machine pure copper bullets from bar stock...

July 24, 2005, 06:45 PM
That's what I read in the first place that piqued my curiousity! And now you come and do it again just when I'm cooled off? Damn you!

So, please go on. I'm resigned to not doing this, but I have to know what it is and how it's done.


July 24, 2005, 07:36 PM
yes,but making copper bullets by machining them wouldnt that foul the bore of the rifle? barnes x bullets are solid copper and their also heat treated.correct me if im wrong but solid copper bullets that barnes make are heat treated for a reason,arn't they?

July 24, 2005, 07:56 PM
You can buy copper in various hardness grades (usually soft, 1/4 hard. 1,.2 hard. 3.4 hard. and hardened). It can be a PITA to machine the harder grades and get a good finish. If you really want to try machined bullets I would use the soft and then harden them. It is not difficult to harden copper but non-ferrous metals do not harden the same as steel.
Any good metallurgy text should have copper hardening protocols.

July 24, 2005, 07:59 PM
thanks ;) i didnt know that myself. :)

July 24, 2005, 09:12 PM
In general, any mixture of 2 metals will have a melting point that is lower than either, if the proportions are close to equal.
Copper can be mixed with Lead and Tin, there are or at least were Babbitt alloys that had Copper, Phosphorus and Silver.
Some Babbitt is still used, but when car engines stopped using poured rods, the amount of Babbitt rapidly diminished.
Some industrial supplys still have it and you can contact them for formulas.
A friend sent me some Babbitt and I have made and shot bullets of it, the BHN was 18 and I easily shot 2000fps gcs with no leading.

July 25, 2005, 02:23 PM
And the machining process? I'm really not knowledgeable on this.

July 25, 2005, 03:12 PM
And the machining process? I'm really not knowledgeable on this. Let's assume you have no CNC then this is a hand turning op'.

From closest plus size bar stock, you'd need to put bar thru headstock spindle and 3 jaw chuck and probably do one at a time. Turning down to exact diameter axially and then make some form of profile cutter to form bullet nose. Once that is done part off at exact point required for given weight. Oh and add canelure after stage one if desired!

Then do it again -- and again -- and again ....................... :uhoh: :D

July 25, 2005, 03:55 PM
Thanks a million guys!

I'm going to have to agree on the 5.56 stuff, I just need to find some place that will ship 1000 rounds 55grn fmj to Canada, at those $150 prices. Barring that I'll just buy the little fmj buggers and use my new reloading press.

In fact that rifle is dormant for a while pending paper-work. It's this dormancy which probably caused me to go out and buy a few hundred pounds of lead, and when that didn't quench my thirst I gave in and bought a non-restricted rifle on the weekend :o

So now I have a Winchester 94 in 30-30 I can cast bullets for (and I think I better, $15.00 per box of 20 cartridges), and it will be a lot easier to find a mould on ebay. I think I already saw some, called .309 iirc.

And about the copper rod, the thing is I read a document called 'The Pig Board' about cartridge effectiveness tests, and it particularly mentioned bullets turned from copper or brass drill rod. Flew right over my head, so I've been curious ever since.

If anyone wants I could post the documents some time too.

Thanks again.

cracked butt
July 26, 2005, 12:05 AM
And about the copper rod, the thing is I read a document called 'The Pig Board' about cartridge effectiveness tests, and it particularly mentioned bullets turned from copper or brass drill rod. Flew right over my head, so I've been curious ever since.

You can buy a mini lathe from harbour freight or grizzly for about $500 that you could use to turn bullets on. Brass drill rod is just brass bar stock that is straighter than regular bar stock. I would listen to what P95 said in his post unless you want to spend 1000x as much time making bullets on a lathe than actually shooting them.

July 26, 2005, 01:07 AM
there are steel core pull down 223 bullets for 26 k a pop floating around. if midway ships to canada i really recomend winchester bulk 55 gr fmj. i've had great luck with them and they run about 38 or 39 bucks per k.

just some suggestions.

what is swagging? that is just compressing lead into a form right? do people swag their own or is casting more time and cost effective?

Gary H
July 26, 2005, 02:10 AM
The increasing cost of lead made me take another look at the periodic chart. After that, I'm thankful that we have lead. Not much else that fits the bill. Either cost, melting point, toxicity, or brittleness seems to rain toxic on the reloading parade. Why should I worry.. I'll never figure out how to put individual serial numbers on the darn bullets.

July 26, 2005, 03:10 AM
Swaging just means forming by force, afaik. The stuff where I saw the word involved a technique for using the brass from 22lr's to make the jacket for other bullets.

And sadly ammoman, cabellas, nor midway ship :cuss: No matter how much I try and convince them... Long run it might be worthwhile to just rent a mailbox and forward the ammo to myself, because customs says a person can import a couple thousand cartridges at a time without hassle, just declare it as 2000 5.56 cartridges and they go through... It's the export legislation on the US side that the dealers won't meddle with :banghead:

So there's options:)

And thanks for the hand-turned bullet info, I won't do it soon if every... But you never know, if I get a job somewhere and they have a lathe I might stay late one night.

February 20, 2012, 06:57 PM
Molten zinc is very volatile and zinc fumes are toxic !!!!There has already been one death from that this year [ welding galvanized pipe] ......Barnes makes all copper bullets .You can get loaded rounds from Corbon as their DPX . These I assume are swaged , not cast .
"Zinc fumes are toxic"
Not true as we talkin about meltin zinc not zinc-plated staff
"Molten pure zinc does not cause health problems beyond the obvious burns if you pour it over yourself.

There are two main paths that lead people to think zinc casting constitutes a health hazard: Welding of galvanized (zinc-plated) steel, and casting of brass (a copper-zinc alloy). Both of these activities can make you sick from inhalation of zinc oxide fumes, so people's concern about zinc casting is not entirely unfounded. But these activities differ in important ways from casting pure zinc."


David Wile
February 20, 2012, 09:04 PM
Hey folks,

While I have no first hand experience shooting cast bullets in .223 AR-15s, I do have a lot of experience shooting .30 caliber gas checked cast bullets in AK-47s, SKSs, a Colt AR-15 in 7.62X39, a Ruger Mini-30, and several M-1 Garands. All of these rifles functioned flawlessly, the cast bullets did not foul the gas ports, and cast bullets are very kind to your barrels. I used the same gas checked 155 grain bullet for all rifles, but I sized appropriately for each caliber.

Best wishes,
Dave Wile

February 20, 2012, 09:52 PM
Just a heads up this thread is 7 years old and the original poster hasn't visited THR in 1.5 years...

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